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“With A Little Help From My Friends” was composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1967. The familiar song pronounces the power and necessity of friendship: What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me? lend me your ears and ...
Students are always already being "formed" in our online classes, whether we mean to have incorporated "formation" into our course designs or not. In this ineluctable process of formation, do the communities of inquiry designed into our online classes align with the norms and values of the communities into which ...
My journey into online education was indirect. I started out as a missionary-graduate student who was working on a Master of Arts degree from overseas. My first distance learning class was on cassette tape, but soon after our school developed online courses in which the primary interaction was through listservs. ...
Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data
Date Reviewed: April 16, 2019
In this highly accessible book, Julie J. Park lays out current debates surrounding affirmative action regarding race on campus. The subtitle of the book, Debunking Myths with Data, conveys the direct approach Park takes: chapters focus on a particular topic associated with discussions about race on campus, such as “the problem of mismatch,” and makes the argument with data for why such language is problematic and inaccurate.
For instance, in the chapter on “The Problem with the ‘Problem of Mismatch’,” Park lays out current debate surrounding whether race-conscious campus admissions should end. She highlights the work of authors such as Richard Sander, who in his book Mismatch (Basic, 2012) suggests that race-based affirmative action leads to students going to schools where they are mismatched, and who would have benefited from going to other (and less prestigious) schools. Park draws on data to show how the information Sander presents only looks at a particular set of examples, and ignores the larger and more positive impact that race-based affirmative action has had for persons of color. Parks lifts up statistics that show underrepresented minorities doing better at some schools than others, arguing that rather than blaming the individual or group of students for their lack of academic success, entire institutions need to reevaluate their role in contributing to or preventing the success of their underrepresented minority students. Parks points to support systems in place at particular top-tier institutions that help students excel. Park also reveals data showing that Asian American and white students struggle similarly in college, and focusing too narrowly on underrepresented minority students like African American students ignores the fact that college can be challenging for all students, and yet no one is suggesting that white students go to a lower-tier school for reasons of mismatch.
Other myths Park debunks include the complaint that black students are self-segregating by sitting together in the cafeteria or in student organizations. Park points to the ongoing racial segregation of historically White Greek Life, the sororities and fraternities that remain highly segregated across college campuses, showing that these groups have deep historic roots in intentionally racist exclusionary policies.
Ultimately, Park makes several suggestions for how to think about race on campus. First, being race-conscious is still important, not only to support racial diversity on campus but also to support economic diversity. Park lifts up data that shows Asian American students benefited more from policies that looked at race and class, rather than just class alone. Park also advocates for supporting underrepresented minorities students in interracial contexts as well as promoting intra-racial organizations. Finally, while diversity and inclusion are both terms that hold value for the work that needs to be done, neither are states or destinations where institutions can say they have “arrived.” Park underscores the need to continually work towards these goals, particularly in light of the resurgence of alt-right white supremacists. Antiracism is the work we need to be doing, and diversity and inclusion efforts are part of that larger and ongoing struggle.
Teaching Readers in Post-Truth America
Date Reviewed: March 21, 2019
Many teachers have had cause in the last few years to ponder questions around teaching in a “post-truth” culture. How do reading, writing, and thinking change in a world in which groups cannot or will not agree on essential facts and rules of evidence? How can we teach meaningful reading in an overwhelmingly information-rich landscape? How can we heal the divisiveness that pervades so much of our culture, and how can we help students discern true from false? This book is written primarily for instructors in first-year college writing courses, but much of it will prove useful to frustrated teachers in any discipline. It does not give many specific recommendations for classroom strategies, but it does set out thoughtful ideas about how to think about teaching reading.
The book begins with a chapter on “theoretical first principles.” Chapter 2 considers the ways in which standardized tests (and teachers in turn) encourage an unthinking reverence for text by dismissing the role of the reader. Carillo provides convincing evidence of negative outcomes from this approach. These two chapters set the stage for an argument in Chapter 3 about reading and writing as embodied, affective acts, as this writer is firmly against the devaluing of emotion and engagement so common in a world that prizes objectivity. In Chapter 4, Carillo argues that modeling and imitation have been given short shrift in reading instruction. She gives several useful tips for developing imitative exercises that help students see good reading and writing practices, and she especially trumpets the power of annotation, illustrated with a case study from her own teaching. The problems highlighted in Chapter 5, specifically targeting writing and composition instruction, are common to other fields as well: focus on reason over emotion; focus on traditional essay forms; and lack of focus on psychological studies that can enhance both teaching and learning.
This book’s title promises more than it delivers, although it delivers a lot. Carillo’s insistence on redirecting students away from claims and argumentation and “toward stylistic elements that contribute to a text’s meaning” (41) will strike many teachers trained in other modes as difficult to attain. “Reading for argument” is, for Carillo, a problem: students only read for a relatively simplistic argument and miss so much that could make them stronger readers, such as inquiring about the how and why, not just the what. Yet many teachers find that students can’t even read for argument, a fact this book glosses over.
That said, a call to encouraging more affective and empathetic reading is timely and needed. The use of Peter Elbow’s doubting and believing game (47-50) will be familiar to many in religious studies, as will the call to look outside one’s own discipline for expertise. This book helps teachers think about ways to mitigate aspects of culture that revere text and steer students “away from the language of negotiation and compromise” (114).