Friday, November 30, 2007

Op-Ed: Flawed Logic, Flawed System

I found Charles Fleming's article “In Praise of Year-Round Schooling” an interesting take on the issue of implementing a year round school schedule. This issue is key when looking at education in an urban setting. Some, like Fleming, feel it is necessary for schools in the Los Angeles area. I on the other hand feel that it is a system that should not be used and a traditional school schedule should be reinstated.

Fleming poses a good argument in favor the year-round system. He cites reasons like study abroad opportunities, being able to take classes at other institutions, as well as various work opportunities. The reasons that he cites, as enticing as they may seem, come with major drawbacks. One major flaw with this reasoning are the financial aspects. All of these opportunities are great for a child, but who is able to fund all of them? To the parents who are fortunate enough to grant these opportunities, a year-round schedule looks very enticing; but what about those who are not fortunate enough to grant their children these luxuries? Fleming even states himself that, “I have often wondered how single, working parents work around L.A. Unified's scheduling oddities like ‘professional development days,’ ‘pupil-free days,’ ‘shortened days,’ ‘minimum days’ and ‘reverse minimum days.’”

Another problem I found with Fleming’s article is that he downplays the negative aspects of a year-round system. His daughters say a downside is that because there are students in the school all year the school can not get the maintenance that it would receive during the summer break. Mr. Fleming fails to recognize that this is a massive problem. How can a parent who puts tax dollars into these schools be satisfied with substandard conditions? Even as a student, I do not feel that I could work to my potential in a dilapidated school. Another problem that Fleming downplays is the intermixing of the different “tracks.” Fleming states that there are territorial disputes over issues like who sits at what lunch table. How can a parent condone a system that results in fighting? It makes no sense that he be behind a system where issues like these are occurring and ignored.

In the end, Fleming makes a good argument as to why he is happy with the idea of year-round schooling. But that is his fatal flaw— it is why he is happy with the schedule. He barely concerns himself with why it would not work for others, and when he does he downplays it to the point where he barely seems to care. The fact is that if someone has the luxuries that Charles Fleming has, than year round schooling is great. But herein lays the problem: most do not. That is why year-round schooling has a major fundamental flaw: it caters specifically to the wealthy.

Jorge Barroso, editor

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tales from a University: Why Say Yes, When You Can Say No?

Noah Gentele presents a case in The Yale Herald that has received quite a bit of publicity over the last few years: the increasingly hyper-selective nature of elite universities. Anyone with a chance to glance at the New York Times or with a family member or friend going through the college application process is well aware of the harsh reality that is now college admissions. This is, of course, not to suggest that this is a new revelation. The number of colleges high school seniors apply to has been increasing for years, but the last four years have produced a massive escalation not seen by admissions officers before. The advent of online applications is most certainly a contributing factor in this development, but there is one actor that stands well above the rest: there are far too many qualified applicants out there these days, and college is more accessible to people who may not have considered it ten or even five years ago.

Accompanying the grand influx of college applicants is the problem facing universities throughout the country: what to do with all these applicants. According to Gentele,
"Last year, Harvard rejected more than a thousand students with perfect scores on the SAT math section...The same is true at Yale."
Sentiments being echoed by admissions officers suggest that this trend can be seen at many institutions throughout the country. The key question is what is being used to differentiate between candidates who are seemingly equal on paper? In many cases it may be interviews, but perhaps the recent development of universities striving for a more "diverse" academic community intimates that nationality or race may play a factor. The fact is that we can posit all we want about what drives admissions decisions to no avail. What is essential to take away from this issue is that a bachelor's degree is becoming the standard. No longer can a high school diploma offer what it did fifteen or twenty years ago. Despite the potential for limited access for a great deal of people, I see this as progress (inevitable progress, yes, but progress nonetheless...). The fact that more people are determined to attend higher-education facilities and further their education is always a positive in my eyes. The negatives (lack of accessibility to minorities, costs, cutthroat admissions practices and processes) clearly need to be addressed. Simply stated: the risk of taking the first step towards progress is stepping on toes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mary Jo Kilroy, US House candidate from OH

In one of the most sought-after seats of the upcoming election, Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio is poised to complete the Democratic sweep of the state. Scandal and mistrust have slowly caused the state to grow further from it's GOP roots and support the Democrats. Kilroy appeared to have won the House seat in 2006, but a re-count gave the win to Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce. Pryce has since announced her retirement, and a clear replacement for the seat is yet to surface for the Ohio GOP. Many see this race as quite winnable for the Cleveland, OH native.

Kilroy attended Cleveland State University for her undergraduate work, and attained her JD from The Ohio State University. Following her time in private practice as a partner at an Ohio law firm, Kilroy proceeded to serve on a public school board and county commissioner. The 2006 election found Kilroy and opponent Deborah Pryce sparring quite heatedly on any and all issues, especially at the second and final debate between the two held at The Ohio State University. In the end, Kilroy lost the election by 1,062 votes (50.2% to 49.7%). Clearly Mary Jo has shown her ability to win in the state of Ohio, and the lack of any strong opposition yet is ringing quite well for her. In fact, the female candidate advocacy group, EMILYs List, is currently including her as one of the primary candidates to contribute to.

To find out more about Mary Jo Kilroy, visit her website here.
To donate to Mary Jo Kilroy through EMILYs List, and to find an informative summary of the candidate, go here.
To learn more about EMILYs List, go here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Op-Ed: The Gender Gap

A recent article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette discusses an "imbalance in the number of male and female college graduates." I feel compelled to bring this dialogue to the attention of others, as the tone of the article suggests that academia must scramble to either balance the aforementioned "imbalance," or return things to a male-dominated world of higher-education. Both notions are not only ignorant but detrimental to hundreds of years of female progression in society.

The article goes on to suggest ways to "counter the gap" and ameliorate the situation going on on campuses throughout the nation. The only shining light in the article is presented by Linda Sax, an associate professor at UCLA (Sax is also affiliated with their Higher Education Research Institute). Sax is quick to refute any inclination that 'the gender gap' will result in fewer marriages, which it appears is a major concern for the author of the article and her audience. In addition, the author touches on an idea presented by Tom Mortenson, a higher-ed analyst that gender-specific teaching is necessary to amend the gap. Thankfully, Linda Sax is able to nix this thought, arguing that better preparing men for college is a cause worth taking, any sex-specific education initiative may be detrimental to the progress experienced by women.

My main concern with some of the sentiments posted in this article are that there is some level of concern simply because women are now in the majority of degree-holders:
"In 2005, women made up 57 percent of the 17.5 million students enrolled in degree-granting institutions throughout the country...In 2005 there were 213,000 more bachelor's degrees awarded to woman than men nationally."
This should be a cause for celebration, or if nothing else further study. Is this such a dangerous problem because it threatens the male-dominated hierarchy that has subsisted in this country for so long? Perhaps. What is alarming is that such a great deal of emphasis is placed on marriage. While it may be noteworthy as a hypothesis for an externality of 'the gender gap,' why not explore more? Maybe 'the gender gap' will result in more stay-at-home dads. I'm sure that would please the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette audience. What I feel is most outrageous is that this article is written by a (wait for it) woman. What's more is that a simple search returns quite a few articles written by Ms. Tubbs for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Wouldn't it make sense for a professional woman to want the most for not only herself but for future generations of women? Why produce an article that, in my opinion, offers no semblance of progress for women?

Stephen Feldman, editor

Monday, November 19, 2007

Today in History:
- The University of Notre Dame is founded
1922 - Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon enter King Tutankhamuns tomb-- they are the first to enter it in over 3,000 years

1949 - The Indian Constituent Assembly adopts India's first constitution
1965 - The French launch Asterix-1, a satellite, becoming the third nation to enter space
2000 - Katherine Harris, then Florida's Secretary of State, declared George W. Bush the winner in the state's presidential ballots by a total of 537 votes.

"The untouchables of academia"

Higher education in America is yet another member of the suffering contingent of those realms of being in the country that is underfunded. A recent New York Times article addresses the concern that the tenure-track position is on the decline, as universities can cut corners (read: save money, hire and fire much easier) by instead hiring professors part-time. Many of these professors, like Elaine Zendlovitz, end up teaching a number of courses at more than one institution, often ending their days at 10 p.m. Zendlovitz teaches at both the University of Michigan, Dearborn, and Oakland Community College, among others-- she actually teachers "six courses at four institutions." In addition, she occasionally has a 10-hour teaching day.

Teachers like Zendlovitz are complaining that because they are forced to spread themselves so thin, "It's harder to spend time with students. I don't have prep time, and I know how to prepare a fabulous class." The fact is that these professors are at quite a disadvantage. By not having the freedom and time to publish, tenure-track positions will remain out of reach for most in situations similar to Zendlovitz. In addition, according to a letter to the Times in response to the article from a former adjunct professor in New York City, adjuncts are provided with "no health care, [or] retirement benefits..."

In the end, the students are the ones who lose. By providing students with teachers that aren't available to discuss items from class or adequately prepare for one of their myriad of classes, a void grows in the education of the students subjected to these conditions. According to the New York Times, a psychology major enrolled at Florida International University can go their whole academic career without attending a class taught by a full-time faculty member. Plus, students can tell when a professor is part-time. Mike Brennan, a sophomore at Michigan argues that because "[t]hey have so many classes that they give tests that are easier to grade." Carly Matkovich, also at Michigan, states that she feels "cheated" because "[t]hey're never around."

What is to be done? Perhaps the tenure-track position is dying. Perhaps security is simply a casualty of the times, and underfunded public universities will eventually ax them altogether. Some believe that raising salaries or at least offering benefits will offset the damage done to the adjunct professor contingent. Eventually, the effects of this will certainly be felt. Most noteworthy of all is the fact that the elite universities like Harvard and Princeton are the least likely to have adjunct faculty, while the lower-tiered public institutions (and community colleges), FIU for example, are naturally put in the position where underfunding forces the position they take. Regardless, it is quite apparent that the effects of this higher education epidemic will be felt soon enough.