The Texas Board of Education on Friday approved new history standards that have angered many historians, The Dallas Morning News reported. Critics have said that the standards inject political views into most consideration of modern history, elevating the role of President Reagan above others, for example, and offering a much more positive assessment of Sen. Joseph McCarthy than many scholars find justified. In a victory for the critics, the board returned Thomas Jefferson to the list of political philosophers considered worth studying.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A poll of professors at Kean University, commissioned by the faculty union but managed by an outside group, found that 83 percent expressed no confidence in President Dawood Farahi. Farahi has been involved in a series of disputes with professors, the most recent over a reorganization plan pushed by the administration to eliminate most departments and merge academic programs into larger schools. Kean officials did not respond to requests for comment on the vote.
Betty White won a spot guest hosting "Saturday Night Live" after a massive Facebook campaign was begun on her behalf. While academics were not instrumental in that effort, they are very much a force behind a new Facebook campaign to have Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek named as a guest host of SNL. While the philosopher and sociologist has something of a cult following, why SNL? "Let's face it: Å½iÅ¾ek is hilarious. The man will surely shine as host of Saturday Night Live," says the campaign's home page, which suggests Britney Spears as the musical guest for the show. Posts on the campaign's wall feature fans' favorite Å½iÅ¾ek moments, and some alternate suggestions for musical guest (Lady Gaga, of course, although others argue for the Slovenian group Laibach).
The campaign was created by Alexander Hanna, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Via e-mail, he said that the idea came to him during an IM discussion with a friend at 3 a.m. one day last week. While Hanna acknowledged that Å½iÅ¾ek probably lacks Betty White's fan base, "there's some pie-in-the-sky vision I have of enough non-academics learning of the group to dig and find out who he is, then joining the group, leading to some kind of grand introduction of public intellectualism in the U.S." Should Lorne Michaels call for skit ideas, Hanna suggested "a rambling monologue about how the decadence of late capitalism has culminated into this one moment" or possibly a Å½iÅ¾ek discussion of applying the ideas of his Pervert's Guide to Cinema to live sketch comedy.
Students at San Diego State University, who have for years taken advantage of their proximity to Mexico for various education and research programs, are protesting a California State University System decision shutting down all joint programs in Tijuana, the Los Angeles Times reported. While Cal State officials say the move was necessary in light of a surge in drug-related violence, the students say that parts of Tijuana are quite safe and that valuable projects are being stymied. On Saturday, 35 students and faculty members went to Tijuana to take part in everyday activities -- hoping to draw attention to the normal functioning that is evident in the city.
The U.S. Education Department on Friday awarded $250 million to 20 states to develop or expand longitudinal data systems to track students throughout their educational systems and into the workforce. The funds, for which all states and the District of Columbia applied, were made available through the American Recovery and Restoration Act. The states and their allocations are: Arkansas, $9.8 million; Colorado, $17.4 million; Florida, $10 million; Illinois, $11.9 million; Kansas, $9.1 million; Maine, $7.3 million; Massachusetts, $13 million; Michigan, $10.6 million; Minnesota, $12.4 million; Mississippi, $7.6 million; New York, $19.7 million; Ohio, $5.1 million; Oregon, $10.5 million; Pennsylvania, $14.3 million; South Carolina, $14.9 million; Texas, $18.2 million; Utah, $9.6 million; Virginia, $17.5 million; Washington, $17.3 million; Wisconsin, $13.8 million.
A year ago, the actor James Franco pulled out as commencement speaker at the University of California at Los Angeles, amid complaints from some students that he lacked the stature appropriate to their graduation day. This year, some students are organizing against the appearance of Gustavo Arellano, who is author of a syndicated column "Ask a Mexican," LA Weekly reported. Arellano posted a YouTube video of a phone message he received from a parent saying she was "disgusted" by his selection and asking him to withdraw.
Laramie County Community College went to a Wyoming judge last week and won an injunction to block The Wyoming Tribune Eagle from publishing an article about the conduct of Darrell Hammon, the college's president, on a 2008 student trip to Costa Rica, the newspaper reported. The Tribune Eagle has obtained a leaked copy of a college report on the trip, and is appealing the ruling. The college claims that publication of information based on the report would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which is known as FERPA.
Faculty members are warning that the University of Alabama at Huntsville is "in peril" because of flawed priorities, falling applicant interest and deep budget cuts, The Huntsville Times reported. Fifty-two faculty members issued a letter about their concerns last week, arguing that while the administration makes major investments in some areas, key academic fields face debilitating cuts. The university released a statement saying that while it would discuss these concerns with professors, it would not "debate these issues in the media."
California State University campuses lost 10 percent of their collective teaching force in the last year, according to data released by the system's faculty union, the Los Angeles Times reported. The vast majority of lost jobs were held by adjunct lecturers, not by tenure-track faculty members. California State administrators said that while thousands of sections were eliminated due to budget cuts, the system hopes to restore many of those sections.
New Jersey's Senate approved legislation Thursday that would require government workers -- including faculty and staff members at public colleges -- to live in the state, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported. The version of the measure that passed Thursday has been softened considerably from previous iterations, giving workers a full year to move and providing an appeals process. But given the nature of academic (particularly adjunct faculty) jobs, and the geography of New Jersey, which draws workers from nearby major metropolitan areas like New York and Philadelphia, the legislation, if it passes the Assembly and becomes law, could cause major headaches for public colleges in the Garden State.