As the soufflé of an overleveraged economy collapses, it's easy to focus on the negative.
I spent most of December writing variations on "now maybe we can finally start to rethink how we do business" posts, so I won't rehash that. I'll just note that it would be criminal to let a perfectly good crisis go to waste, and leave it at that.
Instead, this one's about psychology.
When I'm not on campus, I farm.
As a result, for the last 25+ years, I've lived a ways from pretty much everything. I believe in that time I've lived within 8 miles of precisely one small store, not counting the occasional crafter selling out of her house. For my family and me, shopping isn't a pass-time, it's a pain in the neck. And my commute to Greenback is over 20 miles, each way. My family probably drives 40,000 vehicle/miles per year, or more.
A new correspondent in a humanistic discipline writes:
I'm now three semesters into a permanent position at a lower-mid-range research institution with aspirations to become something better. Said institution has no strength in my specialty, but gives me an absurdly low teaching load (2-1), generously supports research travel, and is even located in a nice town. One can always find something to kvetch about, but I'm basically delighted.
There is a commercial for some over the counter medicine that talks about “Dr. Mom.” Already being “Dr. Mom”, in the sense of “Mama, Ph.D.”, it is interesting to stop and realize that we are as mothers also asked to assemble information and make decisions on medical issues on a daily basis. From the initial weighing-in of an infant that is given in percentiles to the lawyer voice at the end of many drug commercials, we quickly realize that taking care of a family’s health is no simple matter. To do this often requires a working knowledge of statistics as they relate to medical issues.
I was in the dentist's office, waiting to get my teeth cleaned. The remarkable thing about this situation was that most of the magazines in the waiting room were actually current issues. I picked up the copy of Time, since it had a cover story on energy efficiency. (I didn't get a chance to finish the story, so I still don't know how it comes out.)
Our fable begins with the recognition that everyone is in favor of change, that magic word for all of higher education. Few things in college and university life capture such universal admiration as the prospect of change. If we become tired of such an ordinary word, we can prefix it with other magical words with high value like transformational and accountable. We know that the good change for universities involves more money to do the things that we want to do. Bad change involves less money. We know we usually do not like change that makes us work harder.