Week in Review – Summer Reflections on Education, the Outdoors, and the Mind

This week’s Week in Review includes possible ways to address the shortfall of America’s schools, to keep pace with textbook technology, to enjoy the outdoors through reading, and more!  If you’d like to contribute to next week’s Review, add your link(s) in the comments, or send them to Tom or Mike directly.

From Tom

Five Ways to Fix America’s Schools (Harold O. Levy, NY Times Op-Ed, 06/08/2009):  Any comments and/or recommendations?

The biggest improvement we can make in higher education is to produce more qualified applicants. Half of the freshmen at community colleges and a third of freshmen at four-year colleges matriculate with academic skills in at least one subject too weak to allow them to do college work. Unsurprisingly, the average college graduation rates even at four-year institutions are less than 60 percent.

6 Lessons One Campus Learned About E-Textbooks (Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, 06/12/2009):  What do you think about going all e-textbook?   Personally, I must confess a preference to taking notes in/on printed books.  Not to mention the concerns of programming, navigating, battery life, etc.

Northwest Missouri State University nearly became the first public university to deliver all of its textbooks electronically. Last year the institution’s tech-happy president, Dean L. Hubbard, bought a Kindle, Amazon’s e-book reading device, and liked it so much that he wanted to give every incoming student one. The university already runs an unusual textbook-rental program that buys thousands of printed books for students who pay a flat, per-credit fee. Mr. Hubbard saw in the gadget a way to drastically cut the rental program’s annual $800,000 price tag, since e-books generally cost half the price of printed textbooks. …

Reading Dickens Four Ways:  How ‘Little Dorrit’ fares in multiple text formats (Ann Kirschner, Chronicle of Higher Education, 06/12/09):  A number of friends have recently told me that audio book in some format is the only way they have time to continue reading.  Do you have a favorite format for non-traditional book formats?  Do you think certain forms are better for different types of literature?  I must confess that I’m still in favor of the printed version whenever possible, but maybe I should be playing audio books around the clock.  Note:  At present I listen to Mars Hill Audio when washing the dishes. But maybe instead of adding Mars Hill Audio‘s On Books and Reading to my list, I should pick-up an audio book.

From Mike

Universities Are Corporatized Because They Are Secularized ($) – John Sommerville, the primary speaker at this month’s Midwest Faculty Conference, writes in the Chronicle that the drift toward corporate culture in academia is due to its exclusion of religious ideas and values from the university:

It is a commonplace that market ideology is undermining other values in the American university. Secularist universities are powerless against corporate values because they are professionally embarrassed at considering ultimate perspectives. Ultimate concerns inevitably evoke ideas associated with religion or religious philosophies. To put it another way, all discussions of values quickly involve one’s ultimate values, and that, by definition, is the area not of philosophy but of religion.

The essay is worth reading, but it’s largely a summary and slight update of his 2006 book, The Decline of the Secular University.

From the Community

Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Bookstore posted on Wilderness, Memoir and the Outdoors Life, linked to a larger annotated bibliography in his Reviews column.  Enjoy the spring/summer reading!

Your Mind Matters 1: Mindless Christianity kicked off the ESN Book Club by exploring the forewords and Chapter 1 of John Stott’s Your Mind Matters.  On Tuesday, we’ll dig into Why Use Our Minds? (Chapter 2).

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Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

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  • kpenguinz02@yahoo.com'
    Kelly commented on June 12, 2009 Reply

    1) I think it is somewhat unfortunate that our society (economy?) seems to think college is the logical next step for everyone after high school – at least those who want to be “successful” in life. This is not because I have anything against higher education, but I think that not everyone is immediately cut out for college. A close relative went to college immediately after high school, and ended up dropping out. Now that they have worked for a while, they see the benefits of a college education, have work experience, and have a better idea of what they want to do with their life. Consequently, they have more motivation and drive to succeed, even in areas where they are academically weak.

    Good apprenticeship programs or shadowing/mentoring opportunities would give those who aren’t as qualified or motivated for college the ability to succeed and explore potential careers firsthand, thus when they do go to college, they have an appreciation for the worth of their education, along with practical life/work training and skills.

    2) as far as e-textbooks, I really don’t like the idea! Probably I’m too old-fashioned, having been raised on books 🙂 The Kindle though does seem like an interesting alternative – I’d like to see one for myself someday.

    • mikehickerson@gmail.com'
      Micheal Hickerson commented on June 14, 2009 Reply

      Good point about the idea of seeing college as an automatic next step. Though the reasons and dynamics are very different from the experiences of the average person, you see this same habit in major college basketball and football as well, where even one year of college is seen as a bizarre inherent good (at least, bizarre to me).

      As far as e-textbooks go, Amazon recently released a feature that makes your bookmarks and annotations on your Kindle available to you on the web, so that you can easily process them. That would be a pretty big advantage to me – I always struggle with getting my underlinings and margin notes into another form that I can more easily search or store.

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