New approach for gauging quality of teacher education programs

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A new national commission will set accrediting standards for schools of education, with the hope of producing better, more well-rounded teachers.

Half of all tenure-track faculty in STEM fields leave in 11 years

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Research universities must replace half their STEM professors every 11 years, according to a new study.

Essay puts spotlight on uneasy relationships between faculty and adopted states

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Iowa professor's critique of small town life in his adopted state reflects tensions many faculty members overcome as they take jobs in places they never imagined would be home.

Faculty opposition ends Republican politician's bid to teach business course

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Tom Emmer, who lost race for governor in Minnesota last year, loses shot at teaching spot at Hamline University, too. The reason, he says: his conservative views.

The terrorist attacks in Paris and American academe (essay)

The wrenching dramas that descended on Paris with the German occupation in World War II, the plastic explosives of Algérie Française 20 years later, the uprisings of 1968 and now the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan massacres have elicited extraordinary waves of empathy in this country. Certainly no other country that does not share a common language with the United States seems so close to this nation’s sympathies, and none has been an ally for longer -- as many people observed in the days following the slaughter of Nov. 13.

Both the historic and recent events have resonated especially deeply with American academics of a certain generation (mine, it goes without saying).

Even Americans little exposed to French literature know something about expatriates like the James Baldwins who gravitated to Paris, and the Ezra Pounds and Ernest Hemingways who lived there for years. Doubtless George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” (1928) helped enshrine the image (and in reincarnation, one still being celebrated on Broadway) of the American visitor beguiled by the city’s ineffable charms. When good Americans die, dixit Oscar Wilde (way back in 1890), they go to Paris. World War II also took many soldiers to and through Paris, which, thanks to the North American Treaty Organization, remained a major crossroads in the years following.

Paris seemed in that era to be the capital of everything: fashion, cinema, cuisine, literature and art. The war years had helped lift the rising major voices of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and others, and it was as if everyone, especially the young, had to visit Paris to find out what it meant to be “existential.” The lofty presence of Charles de Gaulle lent the country an international prominence that belied the humiliations of the wars. The theater rang with Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, Gérard Philippe, Jean-Louis Barrault and Madeleine Renaud, and the cinema effervesced with avant-garde of many stripes. The seemingly contagious influence of numerous maîtres à penser -- besides Sartre, think of Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Fernand Braudel, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan -- extended into many disciplines and around the world.

Whether we were studying literature, philosophy, history, art, sociology or anthropology, it was essential to expose oneself to these writers and then to the place where they were concentrated. For a while French was almost, as it had been two centuries earlier, the lingua franca of the intellectual, and Paris the intellectual center of (it seemed) the world.

So it is little wonder that a particular relationship came to exist between the French capital and many American academics and their students. The junior year abroad was practically invented for Paris. There still are many such programs, dating back to the 1920s with the University of Delaware (later Sweet Briar College) program. It was an incredible adventure to set foot in the awe-inspiring corridors and auditoriums of the Sorbonne (since fragmented into many universities), “Sciences Po” and the École Pratique des Hautes Études. After class one honed one’s mind on the sometimes ponderous columns of Le Monde.

There was so much, it seemed, to see, to hear. And to smell: most of America in those days was accustomed to Wonder Bread and had no idea what a bakery was like.

Nor was it just that particular historical moment -- the postwar decades -- that felt cozily ancient but was, below the surface, anything but immobile. The prewar minimalist auto, Citroën’s Deux Chevaux, by its persistence on French streets and roads a sort of symbol of postwar austerity, was rapidly replaced with the sleek, fast and low-slung DS. The ageless smoke-blackened façades of the city’s most venerable monuments were restored to their gleaming original glory by de Gaulle’s cultural affairs minister, André Malraux. The ungainly exclamation point that is Montparnasse Tower (1969-1973) ushered in a new skyscraper era (which Paris subsequently held to the perimeter). And an entirely different version of the emerging postmodern sprung up, where the old Halles had been, in the extravagant, inside-out box called the Centre Pompidou (1977). A renaissance of the technological image of France came with such highly visible innovations as the Concorde (built with Britain, 1976) and the TGV (1981), which was (and still is) light-years ahead of railway in the United States.

It is hard, of course, to say precisely in what way Paris is more enthralling than any other great city for scholars, as well as so many others. It helps that it kept its physical profile low (four or five stories maximum) and that it is relatively compact -- that is, if you limit yourself to the 20 arrondissements. As a consequence is an eminently walkable city. From the Arch of Triumph to the Place de la Concorde is only a kilometer, and you can go by foot, if you want, to Vincennes or even to Versailles. (Whole crowds did it in 1789.) The Seine, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the domes: so many landmarks are visible from anywhere that orientation is easy.

Ah, what it means to discover, to internalize the verb flâner! The life of a flâneur is all about shop windows, from the great boulevard department stores to sixth- or eighth-arrondissement haute couture to small neighborhood shops everywhere. With time, too, for sitting in the iron chairs of the Luxembourg garden or the wicker chairs at a sidewalk café, watching Parisian life go by, basking in the aromas of pâtisserie, roasting chestnuts or pralines (caramel-coated almonds).

If you look at an 18th-century map of Paris, it is much the same, thanks in large part to that retention of a low skyline. It was much smaller, of course, extending west hardly farther than the Tuileries or east much beyond the Bastille. In fact, its perimeters then are essentially what Baron Haussmann was to turn into the Grands Boulevards during the Second Empire. Ten centuries of buildings sit side by side and, at the same time, assimilate the modern world in ways that no New World city can imitate.

American historians of France have wrangled over the concept but not the experience of what is sometimes rightly or wrongly labeled “Frenchness.” I don’t quite believe in it. (The French are awfully like us.) But then what is it that keeps tugging at -- if you’ll pardon the sentimentality -- the heartstrings?

Philip Stewart is the Benjamin E. Powell Emeritus Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University.

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Student activists want more black faculty members. But how realistic are some of their goals?

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Student protesters on a number of campuses want to see many more black faculty members. But how realistic are some of their goals?

Leonard Cassuto responds to Marc Bousquet on alt-ac careers (essay)

I had just finished teaching my freshman composition class one day not long ago when I learned that I was an enemy of my own work. In a recent article for Inside Higher Ed, Marc Bousquet accuses me of dismissing teaching-intensive positions, or “low-caste teaching,” as something that no graduate student really wants. As for full professors like me, well, our contempt should go without saying.

Bousquet, a well-known academic labor activist and a professor of film and media studies at Emory University, was addressing my position on alternative academic (alt-ac) careers for Ph.D.s. That position is laid out in detail in my new book, The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It. I call on graduate school professors to teach career diversity in graduate school along with academic specialization. Bousquet says, in essence, that when we promote nonprofessorial jobs for graduate students, we divert attention from the exploitation that’s built into the graduate school system.

Bousquet imagines me as an adversary, but in fact we agree more than we differ. To begin with, we both see the academic workplace as deeply and structurally irrational. Attrition rates are unacceptably high -- 50 percent -- from doctoral programs, and few Ph.D.s find the professor jobs that they have been specifically trained to do.

Too many graduate students and Ph.D.s find cold comfort in the harsh world of contingent labor. They work belowdecks in introductory courses for low wages that sustain the bottom line at many public universities. Public and private university administrators alike opt for the flexibility of adjunct and off-ladder term labor to staff their classes.

For some reason Bousquet seems to believe that I disdain those laborers and the work that they do. But readers of The Graduate School Mess will know that I value introductory teaching -- and I do it myself. (Freshman teaching, including freshman comp, is a regular part of the teaching load at my campus.) In fact, I argue in the book that only through renewed respect for our teaching mission can we begin to reform our workplace.

Bousquet has long advocated for collective action to challenge these conditions -- and I agree with him. We need to push for tenure-track jobs over contingent labor. When labor and management can’t recognize their shared interest in stable, well-supported intellectual work, it’s time to organize.

But -- and here’s where we disagree -- I don’t think collective action is the only answer to the problems we face. As I tell my graduate student audiences around the country, individual action is important also. That means realism.

If you decide to go to graduate school in the arts and sciences, first make sure you get a fellowship that guarantees a full ride. Once you’re there, don’t imagine that a professor’s job is waiting for you when you graduate. Join the union, by all means. But also prepare for the full range of possible outcomes that await you. Isn’t that just common sense?

Bousquet has staged this as an either/or proposition: to contemplate alt-ac careers would compromise the struggle against injustice in the academic workplace. I don’t think these two alternatives need to be pitted against each other. After all, the union hall used to be a place for job training and skills acquisition along with agitating.

But there’s more to it. The idea that Ph.D.s should all wind up as professors distorts historical reality. Yes, full employment for any graduate student who could finish the doctorate once existed in the academy. That was true for just one generation, during the 1950s and ’60s. Burgeoning baby-boom populations and Cold War investment swelled higher education to sizes never before seen on American academic earth.

Before and after that brief period, Ph.D.s worked both inside and outside the university walls. Partly because that fully employed generation was the biggest in the history of American academe, it gave the whole profession a case of nostalgic amnesia: we thought that time of plenty was normal when, in fact, it was a historical anomaly.

There are lots of reasons -- political, social, administrative -- that higher education fell from that postwar paradise, but fall we did. The beneficiaries of that one generation of unprecedented academic prosperity are now in their seventies and eighties. It seems high time that we changed our assumptions to reflect the realities of our students and not their grandparents.

We therefore need to prepare our graduate students for the actual jobs that are waiting for them: not only professors’ jobs but also a whole diverse range of opportunities. Our graduate students know this. They want their graduate education to prepare them for the real world of experience that they -- and we -- live in. We have to do this for them, because they’ve trusted us with helping them to shape their professional lives.

So let’s change graduate school as well as the conditions of labor within it. The space between activism and pragmatic reform doesn’t have to be a chasm. We waste time when reformers fight each other instead of trying to change a workplace that they agree needs changing.

Leonard Cassuto, a professor of English and American studies at Fordham University, is the author of The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It (Harvard University Press, 2015).

The importance of questioning our beliefs about career success (essay)


We should question the beliefs that we hold about career success, writes Stephanie K. Eberle, and explore how they can sometimes stand in our way.

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How to Survive and Thrive During the Dissertation Process (essay)

Having just completed the process, Ramon B. Goings shares what he wished he'd known when he started.

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Humanities scholars should receive support for research (essay)

ProQuest (an online repository of “information content and technologies”) decided several weeks ago to cancel its group subscription to Early English Books Online for members of the Renaissance Society of America. This decision sparked a huge uproar on Twitter and across social media.

Scholars whose libraries don’t subscribe to this collection of early texts watched helplessly as their research agendas eroded before their eyes. And there were pedagogical implications, too: many academics used the access to these materials to give their undergraduate students the opportunity to do significant research with primary sources.

This furor raises a host of questions about the work of humanities scholars and access to archives and other materials. We know what a scientific lab looks like and requires, but what about the work of historians and literature scholars whose labs are far-flung, overseas, and sometimes even reside in the cloud, in the form of electronic resources?

My colleagues in chemistry and biology can give me the location and physical address of their labs somewhere on our campus. And chances are good that the university has given them funding to help finance that lab. My lab, however, is in Madrid. And London. There I have worked in archives and libraries, reading manuscripts and rare books that I cannot access any other way.

My current research, for example, hinges on a 15th-century manuscript that’s only available for 20 hours a week in the library at the royal palace of San Lorenzo El Escorial, an hour north of Madrid. And sometimes my lab is even in the cloud -- for example, when I rely on electronic resources like collections of digitized books or manuscripts. And certainly I use a host of online collections to aid the research of my undergraduate and graduate students.

All of this, then, should prompt humanities scholars to reimagine humanities research and to frame it within the conceptual model of the sciences, which has greater currency -- and funding -- in the academy.

First, the lab is a physical space, a destination, a place where you go to gather evidence and do research. So when I go to the National Archives in London, I am not simply traveling overseas to look at some things; I am going to my lab. And while I don’t need a lot of materials for that lab (a laptop and a pencil will usually stand me in good stead), I do need an airplane ticket and money for food and lodging. That is my equipment equivalent. And I should be funded accordingly. If my lab is in the cloud and the resources are available electronically, I should also have the financial support to access them.

Second, for academics in all disciplines, the lab is a collaborative space where we engage not just with our scholarship but also with our students. We invite them into our world to help them learn the research methods of our discipline, thereby equipping them with transferrable skills. So if I require access to online resources to make that possible, I should be funded accordingly.

But, some people will be quick to argue, my lab doesn’t make money for the university in the form of external grants -- or if it does, those grants are typically tiny when compared to grants in the sciences. To that, I reply with the following: my lab is remarkably efficient and flexible. The cost of a research trip pales in comparison to the costs incurred in helping a new bench scientist start a lab at a university.

And if you make a small investment in a collection of online primary sources, I can reach a staggering number of students. Because my lab is a flexible, almost virtual space, and students don’t have to occupy the physical space of a science lab, I can expose even more of them to the research opportunities that these electronic repositories create. All 75 students in my Western Civilization survey can begin to learn the transferrable skills of identifying a research question and leveraging the evidence to answer it. All 35 students in my upper-division course for majors can further hone those skills and habits of mind.

So let’s embrace the vocabulary of our scientist colleagues. Let’s talk about our labs and how flexible and efficient they are. I’m no Pollyanna. I don’t think this conceptual shift will result immediately in more funding for the humanities or a greater valuing of humanities research. But I do think we risk the further erosion of the status of our work within the academy unless we come up with new and more resonant ways of talking about it.

And it never hurts to stand up for our labs. The Twitterverse erupted with a quick and pointed campaign when the news of ProQuest’s decision landed. This backlash definitely played a major role in its reinstatement of the group subscription within less than two days after the original announcement. Pretty successful defense of humanities labs, I’d say.

Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt is dean of the Jack, Joseph & Morton Mandel Honors College and Mandel Professor in Humanities at Cleveland State University. She blogs at Tales Told Out of School.

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