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Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 17-18, 2012: Crowd-sourcing Public Scholarship

[This week marks AmericanStudies’ two-year anniversary (I began the blog, not coincidentally, right after the 2010 elections). So I’ve celebrated that occasion by highlighting five posts in which I’ve considered some of the reasons, possibilities, and issues related to public scholarship, blogging, and related work. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from other AmericanStudiers’ responses to those questions—please add yours!]
Lito Velasco links Monday’s post on Beck University to “how many of the textbooks in America are just plain full-of-crap. I compare the books I used in high school to those used by some people I know (my wife's, for instance) and it amazes me to see the liberties, exaggerations, and really...flat out lies being espoused and taught to kids by some of those books. But...if they're being used by an educational institution, people take it as ‘truth.’ When really, it's a ‘version’ of the truth being spread to hundreds (if not more) of kids because of the agenda of one group of people who wish to partially rewrite American and even global history.”
Mike Parker responds to Wednesday’s post on attitudes toward universities by writing that “Since the election, I've been viewing my college experiences with a renewed appreciation. It's interesting watching so many white newscasters and politicians expressing their surprise at the ‘new’ America that emerged out of this election, referring of course to the impact the minority vote had on the outcome. Some are dumbfounded, some are saddened, some are outright scared. And yet, thanks to the Liberal Arts education I received in Comparative Literature and Spanish, which exposed me to diverse American and international works of literature and allowed me to interact with a wide array of young American and International students, I'm free of the above-mentioned struggles others are having with this so-called ‘new’ America. The fact is my education had me prepared for this ‘new’ America even before it became a mainstream story. In attending a multicultural university, where Affirmative Action had ensured a diverse student population, and where professors were committed to teaching diverse voices and perspectives, I was able to address many of my own negative emotional reactions to diversity and shared power at a time when my mind was still open to new ideas. I guess what I'm saying is that this election, and the struggle many whites are having with it, is a vindication of higher education in the Humanities and the Liberal Arts, where professors have been way ahead of the game in preparing students for the future, and providing students with the tools to function in this world with understanding and empathy, and without fear or hatred.”
Jeff Renye follows up Mike’s thoughts, adding, “I quote from the end of Chapter 8 of Diane Ravitch's book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, the latest edition, 2011 [This quote is a mix of Ravitch and citations from a 1988 statement made by the National Academy of Education on the value of the National Assessment of Educational Progress]: "'While these competencies [reading, mathematics, and writing, which the NAEP test is meant to measure] are important prerequisites for living in our modern world and fundamental to general and continuing education, they represent only a portion of the goals of elementary and secondary schooling.' They represent neither the humanities nor the 'aesthetic and moral aims of education' that cannot be measured. The scholars warned that 'when test results become the arbiter of future choices, a subtle shift occurs in which fallible and partial indicators of academic achievement are transformed into major goals of schooling...Those personal qualities that we hold dear--resilience and courage in the face of stress, a sense of craft in our work, a commitment to justice and caring in our social relationships, a dedication to advancing the public good in our communal life--are exceedingly difficult to assess. And so, unfortunately, we are apt to measure what we can, and eventually come to value what is measured over what is left unmeasured.'" To play off of a title from a book written by the scientist and historian Stephen Jay Gould, here is the mismeasure of education. And the miscalculation of what it is and what it is worth.”
11/17 Memory Day nominees: A tie between two unique, influential, and very impressive American educators and activists, Yung Wing and Grace Abbott.
11/18 Memory Day nominee: Wilma Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation and a lifelong activist and voice for Native American rights and communities.

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