Myrna Fuentes’s Post on Shaughnessy’s “Errors & Expectations”

As I started to read the Introduction of the article, I asked myself when was Errors and expectations written?  I was taken by surprise when I saw 1979 and not a year closer to 2016. Upon reading the following, in some, the numbers were token: in others, where comprehensive policies of admissions were adopted, the number threatened to ‘tip’ freshman classes in favor of the less prepared students. Four such colleges, this venture into mass education usually began abruptly, amidst the misgivings of administrators, who had to guess in the dark about the sorts of programs they ought to plan for the students they had never met, I felt that although 37 years have passed since these words were written, they are so true today. Administrators are making decisions that from a pedagogical perspective do not make sense.  I would love to continue with examples, but there would be so many and we need to make short provocation points.

As I continued to read, it was totally amazing how I could relate to the problems that Mina was writing about in 1979 to problems in 2016 in the admitting process. Accept as many numbers possible and we will try to fix them later so that they can catch up philosophy. It reminded me of a comment I heard at a Departmental meeting once, basically, “just make it work.” I was taken back because I had not met my student’s yet, and was concerned as the type of student I would be having in my classroom and that I would have to make adjustments because I had to make the situation work without question.

Mina spoke about the importance the teacher’s for the success or failure of these young adults whom arrive to their Freshman year of college with many errors and it is teacher who is confronted by what appears to be a hopeless tangle of errors and inadequacies, must learn to see below the surface of these failures the intelligence and linguistic aptitudes of his students. And in doing so, he will himself become a critic of his profession and begin to search for wiser, more efficient ways of teaching young men and women to write.

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How to improve your students’ writing/learning experience

Writing assignments have always caused me many struggles, not only as a student but also as a teacher. Personally, I had to learn how to write academically in English and Spanish (two completely different worlds), so I am aware of the challenge when I am assigning and responding to my students’ writing.

I find that students enrolled in language classes benefit greatly from low stakes writing; having a blog for the class where students contribute on a weekly basis with their ideas and thoughts about many and different topics covered in class (identity, language, ethnicity, etc.) allows them to freely participate and get actively involved. However, I think that the high stake writings are more challenging. I find it useful to elaborate the rubrics as a whole class and assign two drafts before the final version is due. How many drafts do your students submit before the final version? What techniques do you use to improve your students’ writing? On the other hand, I have attended several workshops and read about peer feedback in class. What do you think about it? Does it work with your students? I have tried to integrate it into my class several times but I have not been successful.

Language classes, as many other subjects, are a requirement for College students in which grammar based pedagogy does not have room for critical thinking. Students’ expectations and department policies restrain instructors and adjuncts to use different methodologies – a final common exam must be distributed to all the sections. What can we do to improve our students’ learning experience?

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Provocation: On Freirien Pedagogies for Liberation in the academy and our movements

It’s an understatement to state that the opening chapters of Freire’s Pedagogy of the oppressed resonated with me on multiple intersecting levels; a reflection of my own philosophical underpinnings and life experience growing up in a working poor family in Newark, NJ, as a long-time organizer of low-wage workers and presently as a non-traditional doctoral student with aspirations to engage in critical “big-picture” labor and working class education – like many others with ambitions to foster  “critical reflection” as the basis for praxis, “reflection and action upon the world in order to change it.” (51)  It is difficult to hone in on just a few points about a treatise as essential as Freire’s but here are some observations from my standpoint both as a long-term organizer and experience and aspirations as an educator within labor and social movements and in the academy.

Freire delineates the painstaking process through which the oppressed may overcome norms and structures of dehumanization and attain genuine agency; for the oppressed to be able to “wage the struggle for their liberation, they must perceive the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform” (49) Making  this consciousness-raising (conscientizacao) possible requires overcoming internal and external obstacles faced by the oppressed.  Internal obstacles include their own self-depreciation, humility and fatalism, the tendency to assume the interests of their oppressors as their own and to compete with rather than join together with others of the oppressed in the effort to elevate their own status.  At the same time as the oppressed may fatalistically accept and blame themselves for their own lot, for the oppressors, “having more is an inalienable right, a right they acquired through their own “effort,” with their “courage to take risks.” (59)  And as Freire observes even those of the “oppressor” class that seek to stand on the side of justice often adopt an approach more of charity than solidarity – believing themselves better situated to assume leadership rather than trusting the ability of oppressed peoples to possess knowledge, engage in critical reflection and take ownership over their own movements.

Anybody that has spent any time organizing understands these barriers as well as the capacity of people to transcend them.  Freire draws out these processes and the necessity of employing a humanizing pedagogy constructed upon critical reflection, experiential knowledge, and the engaged action of the oppressed as the only means of undoing systems of oppression and making humanization possible.  “It is only when the oppressed find the oppressor out and become involved in the organized struggle for their liberation that they begin to believe in themselves. This discovery cannot be purely intellectual but must involve action; nor can it be limited to mere activism, but must include serious reflection: only then will it be a praxis. Critical and liberating dialogue, which presupposes action, must be carried on with the oppressed at whatever the stage of their struggle for liberation.” (65)

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Platforms for Pedagogy: Transformational or Instrumental

I see both Brier and Waltzer’s respective articles responding, in part, to the larger question: Can DH help transform the university or will the university transform DH? One way both Brier and Waltzer insist on the DH to University trajectory is through highlighting the importance of teaching and learning practices and bringing to the fore DH projects that model particular kinds of collaborative ones.

Whereas we’ve learned from our previous readings on the history of the American University system, how it has become increasingly designed and driven from an administrative/management perspective, a focus on the importance of teaching and learning has the potential to shift the frame towards more “liberatory” and student-centered pedagogical practices (Freire, Shaughnessy and Elbow).

Many of the DH projects that both Brier and Waltzer highlight in their respective articles, from Matthew Gold’s “Looking for Whitman” to NYC College of Technology’s “A Living Laboratory” present new models of collaboration between faculty and students. DH projects like these seem to flourish when the larger institution has already embraced aspects of radical pedagogy as both a philosophy and practice.

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Provocation on “The Disruption Machine. What the gospel of innovation gets wrong” by Jill Lepore

Jill Lapore is a history professor at Harvard University and probably that is why she places “Disruption Theory” in a historical and contemporary context.This article “The Disruption Machine. What the gospel of innovation gets wrong” was and still is quite controversial because “Disruption Theory” is very popular and widely adopted theory as a business model.”Disruption Theory” is based on the idea of disruptive innovation which is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. (definition form wikipedia).

This is a very dense article.The author tries to explain “how established business can be blindsided by hungry startups producing inferior products at a function of the cost for what initially appears to be less profitable market.” She concludes that the disruption’s theory has not predictive power, she gives an example about the IPhone, because basically the theory is based on a weak research method and the theory is circular: “If an established company doesn’t disrupt, it will fail, and it if fails it must be because it didn’t disrupt
There are interesting points for discussion:
  1. The Term “disruption innovation” is frequently overused. And I guess her message is that we need to stop for a moment and think the way we are using these words. Can this term be applied to basically everything?
  2. The idea of connecting “disruption innovation” with fear. ” The upstarts who work at startups, . . are told that they should be reckless and ruthless. Their investors . . . tell them that the world is a terrifying place, moving at a devastating pace. . . . Disrupt or be disrupted.”  Are the disruptive innovators moved really out of fear?
  3. It seems Jill Lepore does not like “upstarts who work at startups”. Lepore is quite harsh on Josh Linker, venture capitalist. She thinks that disruptive innovators are dangerous and needs to be stopped. But isn’t that true that the creators of Google are disruptive innovators?
  4. New means “Innovation” and not “progress” anymore. Innovation before had a pejorative meaning. Cannot “Innovation” and “Progress” be mutually interchangeable ?
  5. “Disruptive Innovation” is based on not reliable evidence because it was based on the study of the disk-drive industry and the steel-industry. “In the longer term, victory in the disk-drive industry appears to have gone to the manufacturers that were good at incremental improvements, whether or not they were the first to market the disruptive new format. Companies that were quick to release a new product but not skilled at tinkering have tended to flame out.”
  6. There is a very good point about the past. We have the urge to look for innovative solutions. We are in a constant search and maybe we are leaving behind insights and lessons fro the past. Things that are really relevant. Even if we need to find new, innovative ways to teach we also need to keep with traditional forms of education. The same applies for journalist or health care. Do we really need to keep the traditional approaches? Can technology substitute the traditional approaches?

Provocation: How the University Works / How does United States Works (Bousquet)

As someone relatively new to the American education system, I am always disconcerted about the corporative treatment of higher education institutions in this country and how politically motivated they are (including public and privates universities).

While this article has been very descriptive as well as critical about the current situation we are facing, I am missing (and I am not sure if it is because the unfamiliarity with the entire background) what type of collaborative action / unionization processes can solve these problems. I feel like there is a need for a more detailed description of the activist movement that Bousquet is looking for when he states “your problem is my problem”: How can student unions get organizational assistance / support to be successful if it does not come from the tenure faculty? What are the alternatives? How it can really work?

I am aware that being at CUNY has given me a specific point of view (and a very narrow perspective) of how the university works in the States. However, just imagining a “renovated future” (even if it an almost impossible future to believe) where only 25% of university staff is non-tenure track faculty (instead of the current 75%), does this future include a coming back to a system where only middle and upper classes had access to the University? What about institutions, i.e. Community Colleges, that serve low-income students? (Being Bousquet a “product” from the CUNY system – City College).

Multiverse: Egalitarian Frankenstein

The ends are already given—the preservation of the eternal truths, the creation of new knowledge, the improvement of service wherever truth and knowledge of high order may serve the needs of man. The ends are there; the means must be ever improved in a competitive dynamic environment.

Although to me, the term “multiversity” seems uninspired, almost an off the cuff term, Clark Kerr in the Chapters 1 and 3 of his monograph The Uses of the University makes a compelling argument for the inevitable rebranding of the institution of higher education we continue to call the University. The university, he writes “is so many things to so many different people that it must, of necessity, be partially at war with itself.” Tracing the history of higher learning from its medieval roots to the well-known cloistered institutions of Oxford and Cambridge, to the modern university seated in Berlin, onward to the American system, Kerr tactfully brings us to the cusp of our current system and stops there. He covers so much ground in the process, I found it was useful to start grouping his metaphors and key terms into blocks.

Idea of a University:
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Provocation on Chapters 2 & 3 in Part I: The Political-Economic Context of Public Higher Education, in Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier, Austerity Blues: The Crisis in Public Higher Education

Fabricant’s and Brier’s Chapters Two and Three from Austerity Blues accomplish two remarkable goals. First, they succinctly describe and contextualize the development of the public university system during the latter half of the 20th century. Second, and more importantly, they analyze how post-war economic and political challenges shaped the development of public universities, particularly CUNY (and UCAL). The reading ends with the observation that public universities after the tumultuous 1960s and 70s would come under attack from austerity and neoliberal policies.  These two chapters tackle wide-ranging issues but three stood out the most to me. (The questions for the provocation are within the following three sections; I apologize if there is any confusion.)

First, the post-war fears of veteran unemployment and subsequent unrest and interest in molding citizens, employees, and scientists of the future drove the state and federal governments to heavily invest in higher education. It was a matter of furthering American excellence at home and dominance abroad. In light of this goal, what type of education would be privileged/sought after by the state? If the purpose was to grant educational opportunity to veterans, then how did public educational institutions respond to the influx of students who were different than the target population? What happens if these students are not interested in the aforementioned goals and values of public education? Did aiming to solve the particular challenges presented by nearly 8 million veterans/new college students limit how public universities approached latter challenges?

Second, the comparison between the creation and growth of the UCAL and SUNY/CUNY, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s demonstrates how institutions react to internal and external pressures. There are two developments I thought were crucial to each system. One was the development of the UCAL “multiversity” system and the other the CUNY BHE’s master plan. Can the multiversity program be considered a bridge to the later neoliberal/austerity policies? How does the multiversity impact how and what education receives money and attention? For CUNY, the emphasis on maintaining tuition-free education seemed to have backfired as the university attempted to grow. Now we have an emphasis from politicians and activists on affordable education (and from some quarters, tuition-free higher education). What does the development of the public university system in New York tell us about where funds should derive? Should the state bear all or most of the burden or should students share some if it for the good of all?

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Provocation on Christensen, The Innovative University

It seems like much of Christensen’s approach conforms to the category of what is called (specifically in business, tech, and Silicon Valley) ‘design thinking’. Bearing similarities with pedagogy as a practice that seeks to differentiate information from knowledge (including [assignment] scaffolding and outcome assessment), design thinking “is a formal method for practical, creative resolution of problems and creation of solutions, with the intent of an improved future result” (

I learned a great deal from Christensen’s piece. The text does important work not only on the level of exegesis and prescription, I would also say it has a certain performative pedagogical function. As a graduate student myself, the text works as a kind of ‘unveiling’ of structural forces that—as CUNY students—we are uniquely subjected to. Part of any field of practice is not only competence in discipline-specific knowledge, but also familiarization with the political economic (and discursive-metapragmatic) constraints within which that work is being done. While I’ve often heard appeals from faculty and fellow graduate students about the structural forces Christensen discusses, I benefited a great deal from his historical contextualization and ‘disruptive-innovative’ (not to say cyborgian) solutions. I say ‘performative’, then, because I at once recognized his call and was also emotionally and ethically engaged in the solutions he proposed, as well as the ethical model of the University he is advocating.

Any institution recognizes its goals, its challenges, and its possibilities for desirable transformation in terms of broader social notions of value that change along with social paradigms (in our time, primarily technologically-driven). While Christensen’s advice is quintessentially practical, I therefore wonder about the risks to the kinds of qualitative, unquantifiable ‘values’ that Christensen names as one of the University’s niche strengths. While Christensen paints with a broad brush, there is still a certain myopia here.

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