Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lies, damned lies, and education research

As profiled today in Inside Higher Ed, the Center for Community College Student Engagement (a research center at UT Austin) released a study which shows that students who take full loads at least some semesters (preferably early on) are more likely to graduate than students who are always/mostly part-time. There are at least three plausible reasons why this might be true:
1) The more units you take the closer you are to finishing.
2) Attending full-time produces benefits beyond the accumulated credits, e.g. more interaction with faculty and classmates.  They provide data in support of that.
3) People who attend full-time have the advantage of some amount of financial security and stability in their personal lives, so they can focus on school.

 It appears that they did indeed ask students if they received Pell grants, i.e. they did ask about personal financial situations, but the summary that they provide says nothing about the analysis of that data, and simply says that everyone should attend full-time as much as possible.  When the summary and recommendations say nothing about the analysis of financial information, it's hard to know whether they controlled for the third possibility, so it's hard to know if full-time attendance for all is a good recommendation or not.  But they don't dwell on that.  They just tell everyone to go as much as possible.

Sadly, this is par for the course in much of educational research.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Inclusivity and the legitimacy of class privilege

I've said before that the way academics talk about inclusion feels like a desperate bid for legitimacy.  The Chronicle has a review of a book about the switch to co-education in the Ivy League, and while I don't have time to summarize the entire review (and even if I had the time I wouldn't summarize it; I'd rather read the whole book than summarize a review) I think this line is worth quoting:
Skillful presidents and wardens, she argues, managed to convince skeptical alumni that their all-male alma maters must admit women or forfeit their elite status. Coeducation was necessary to shore up class privilege.
This is consistent with things I've noted in other contexts.  Interestingly, it's not just the elites that see diversity as the guarantor of legitimacy; people in non-elite educational institutions talk about their diversity as a way of deflecting questions about whether they are providing a meaningful educational experience for their students.  Personally, I think that the disadvantaged need their education to be even better, but what do I know?

To be clear, I think that going coed has been a hugely positive thing for higher education, and diversity and inclusion (when honestly pursued, rather than pursued cosmetically for the purpose of feeling good about one's own benevolence) are great things.  However, I think it's also clear that these things get viewed through the lens of preserving one's own status rather than sincere care for others.