Symposium: the University as a Business

by Ingrid Robeyns on October 18, 2010

Anyone interesting in debating the future of the (European) universities may be interested in knowing about a symposium on “The University as a Business: Disaster or Necessity?”: This will take place on the 18th of November in Brussels. I will be there, with some of my students.

On the same topic, Chris just posted a link on FB to a paper by Bruno Frey, called “Withering Academia”:, which is well worth reading too.

Lynd Ward

by John Holbo on October 18, 2010

It’s nice to see Lynd Ward getting full Library of America treatment [amazon]. Steven Heller’s piece in the Times brings it to my attention. [click to continue…]

Could Busting Unions Fix America’s Schools?

by Harry on October 18, 2010

(Preface: if you, sensibly enough, want to avoid my rambling and get straight to the point, just go and read Richard Rothstein on the Rhee/Klein manifesto now. Update: a nice related post, which will now be followed by interesting discussion, at Laura’s).

I’ve managed to resist seeing Waiting For Superman so far. The trailers promise me that I won’t like it much. My wife gets a free showing on Wednesday, so she can report to me. Ironically, the book on which it is apparently based, Paul Tough’s Whatever It Takes, is really not at all bad. It is true that, as a friend of mine said, “He has drunk the Kool-Aid”. But unlike many Kool-Aid drinkers (and there are a lot of them, I gather), he displays pretty clearly all the evidence you need in order to judge its toxicity. His account of the social science around low-end academic achievement is pretty careful, and entirely readable, and the narrative is well paced, and the story informative. For Tough, urban school districts need more Promise Academies and KIPP schools. I tend to be in the, “lets try it and see if it works” camp myself, though with an emphasis on actually trying to figure out whether it really does work. More than any academic study I have seen, Tough’s book makes me sceptical. He makes clear that Geoffrey Canada, the CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, became obsessed with driving up test scores. Remember “test scores” means “math and reading test scores”. From a low base it is not that difficult to drive them up — simply restrict your attention to driving them up and allow math and reading to be the more or less exclusive focus of the curriculum. This is what he did, with modest effects on reading scores (which are harder to manipulate by teaching to the test) and greater effects on math scores. It really may be that for these kids improving their math skills somewhat and their reading skills slightly is the best thing for them (though, whereas there is a correlation between test scores and later success, we don’t have any evidance that improving children’s test scores improves later outcomes, and we have lots of evidence that these bumps in test scores from grade-specific interventions typically fade pretty quickly). Maybe, maybe not. Whether any child in that school actually learned more, or anything more useful, as a result of this, we have no way of knowing.

Back to the movie.

[click to continue…]

Edna Ullmann-Margalit has died

by Henry Farrell on October 18, 2010

A friend tells me that Edna Ullmann-Margalit, the well-known philosopher and political theorist has passed away.


by Kieran Healy on October 18, 2010

I have an interview over at The Setup, for those of you who are interested in cursor-gazing.