Friday, July 31, 2015

Detroit Free Press: Is a college degree a lost cause these days?

Policymakers are debating whether a liberal arts education or skills-based training for high-demand jobs is the future of postsecondary education in the United States. Most pundits agree that a liberal arts degree no longer cuts it in today’s global economy. But is this viewpoint really true? Brian Dickerson asks the readers to consider these questions:

But should a perfect match between employers’ needs and graduates’ skills be the ultimate objective of higher education in Michigan? Or, to put it another way: When is training workers for specific jobs the responsibility of colleges, universities and taxpayers, and when is it a cost that should be borne mostly, or exclusively, by employers themselves?

Fareed Zakaria, author of In Defense of Liberal Education, argues that favoring job-specific training over a broad-based curriculum (keyword: well-rounded) is not only shortsighted and “un-American.”

The solution is not that more students need to major in marketing or engineering, Zakaria, argues, “but that their liberal education should be more structured and demanding,” with greater emphasis on reading and writing.

Zakaria, a native of India who emigrated to the U.S. to attend Yale University, also warns that “Americans should be careful before they try to mimic Asian educational systems, which are still oriented around memorization and test-taking.” He credits the Asian model for generating impressive test scores, but adds that it’s “not conducive to thinking, problem-solving or creativity” — the skills that have allowed American workers to maintain their productivity edge.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

NYTimes: Poll Finds Most in U.S. Hold Dim View of Race Relations

Since the Charleston massacre at Emanuel AME Church, there has been a growing divide on race. According to a New York Times/CBS poll, there are stark differences in discrimination and race relations between whites and blacks. Furthermore, most Americans think race relations in the U.S. are generally bad, and blacks hold a particularly negative view of the nation’s racial climate – the worst since the country’s first black president took office in 2009.

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad, and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.

How the Poll Was ConductedJULY 23, 2015 The swings in attitude have been particularly striking among African-Americans. During Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, nearly 60 percent of blacks said race relations were generally bad, but that number was cut in half shortly after he won. It has now soared to 68 percent, the highest level of discontent among blacks during the Obama years and close to the numbers recorded in the aftermath of the riots that followed the 1992 acquittal of Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The New Social Worker: Achieving Racial Equity through Social Work

The New Social Worker magazine has a new column on racial equity called Achieving Racial Equity through Social Work. The column focuses on three principles: Undoing Racism, Learning from History, and Sharing Culture. The column is written by an alliance of anti-racist social workers from the Northeast who are committed to dismantling structural racism in American society.

Update: As of October 2015, there is a new article to the series called Developing Leadership & Maintaining Accountability.

Update: As of July 2016, there is a new article to the series called Gatekeeping and Manifestations of Racism.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Low-Income Students and Pell Recipients Underrepresented at Top Colleges

The concept of "undermatching" has gained a lot of attention in the media. That is, high-achieving students from low-income students are less likely to apply to (or even enroll in) highly selective colleges and universities. This phenomenon has major consequences: it isolates lower-income students from opportunities they lead to upward mobility-- higher salaries and expanded social networks with students from privileged backgrounds. Furthermore, the value of the Pell Grant has eroded over the decades as the cost of tuition has skyrocketed. A Pell Grant Pell is a partial scholarship provided by the federal government up to $5,775 awarded to students from the lower 40 percent of American household incomes. The future of the Pell Grant is precarious because the amount alone does not cover tuition and fees at top institutions. We need better policies that ensure that lower-income students have access to the same educational opportunities (and the means to achieve them). Otherwise, low-income students are being further left behind.

From the Hechinger Report:

Pell Grants were created by the Johnson Administration through the Higher Education Act of 1965 to encourage colleges to provide ladders of educational opportunity that would help both low-income students and our larger society.

Sadly, 50 years later, the value of the Pell Grants has eroded greatly, and lower income students are dramatically underrepresented at America’s finest institutions — from Ivies to state flagship institutions to top private colleges — where the graduation rates are highest and the financial aid packages strongest. One study showed that only 14 percent of American undergraduates at the top 250 institutions come from families making less than $50,000 per year.