Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My "idea" paper on the academic plan

This is a draft of the paper I wrote. Perhaps I'll get some feedback from students tomorrow! Perhaps I'll get a pink slip tomorrow!

"Experiential Liberal Arts" in "Northeastern 2025"

In its draft statement, the Academic Plan working group on “The Essence of Northeastern” (James Hackney, Lori Lefkovitz, and Joanne Miller) call Northeastern “a leader in experiential liberal arts and sciences, entrepreneurship, and innovation.” The use of the term “experiential liberal arts” generated several comments on the discussion board set up to allow the Northeastern community to give feedback on the draft statement. One comment from a faculty member, from February 12, 2016, argues that the sentence needs to add “reference to technology [and] engineering” or risk “leav[ing] out a significant component of Northeastern.” That faculty member’s suggested rewrite removes the word “experiential liberal arts,” replacing it with “experiential education that integrates liberal arts across the humanities, sciences and technology to be entrepreneurial and to innovate.” Another faculty member, writing on February 14, argues that the term “experiential liberal arts” needs to be defined so that “technology and engineering” are not “excluded.” Kathleen M. Vranos, a graduate student, agrees with the questioning of the term “experiential liberal arts.” Posting on March 8, she suggests that “the college is ‘running away’ from its niche” by using the term. Observing that “[t]he literature refers to ‘liberal professional education,’” she suggests that the statement should use the term “experiential, liberal, professional education” rather than “experiential liberal arts.” “This means,” she concludes, “liberal education outcomes are integrated into professional programs and visible and measurable in an applied manner.”
This questioning and critique of the term “experiential liberal arts” is countered by the March 24 post by an NU alum, who quotes Harvard president Drew Faust to argue that “Northeastern is trying to revolutionize liberal arts into uniquely its own form and into a new form of higher education – experiential liberal arts.” The alum provides Faust’s description of liberal arts as “[t]he art of the possible” that is characterized by “improvisation,” “flexibility,” and “contingency” and draws from fields such as philosophy, history, anthropology, math, science, and literature. The alum argues that “experiential liberal arts” is important and revolutionary enough that it deserves “its own section in the academic plan.” The alum’s post is the closest anyone comes on the page to defining what the contested term “experiential liberal arts” is supposed to mean. It also displays the most enthusiastic support of the concept.
Another supporter of the concept of "experiential liberal arts" is, not suprisingy, Northeastern University president Joseph Aoun. In an essay published in 2015, Aoun argues that "the marriage of liberal arts skills with experiential learning yields advanced survival skills for the modern era: creative, critical and analytical thinking, deft communication, and the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity, applying knowledge in unexpected situations." Aoun's examples of how this marriage might work in practice involve an English major who does a co-op with a magazine and a philosophy major doing a co-op at the UN Human Rights Council and doing a research project based on that experience.
Despite Aoun's support for the concept, the term "experiential liberal arts" does not appear in the final version of the "Essence of Northeastern" statement. It has been replaced by a characterization of Northeastern as "a world leader in experiential learning and a thought leader on the frontier of learning science." Without going into an etymological analysis of the words "art" and "science," I would point out the obvious shift in phrasing from emphasizing "liberal arts" to stressing "learning science."  I am not entirely sure of the origins of the term "learning science," but a quick check on Wikipedia (I know, I know) reveals that it is a relatively new term; the replacement suggests a nervousness about using an ancient (out of date?) term like "liberal arts" (even with the more fashionable word "experiential" tacked on) and a preference for a more modern and "scientific" sounding characterization of the school's identity.
Furthermore, the only reference to the liberal arts in the final Academic Plan is found in a section entitled "Learning tailored by enhancements in technology":
Northeastern 2025 will take advantage of technology to connect more quickly with professional networks across industries in real time. This will enable the university to make education, including our liberal arts curriculum, more responsive, with classroom and experiential learning tailored to the demands of an ever-evolving world, a requisite for professional resilience.
The liberal arts curriculum is singled out as being in need of "enhancement" through technology that will make it more able to 'keep in step' with the demands of modern (post-modern? post-post-modern?) life.
Curiously (or perhaps not so curiosly), the implication that the liberal arts curriculum in particular is in need of being "tailored to the demands of an ever-evolving world" is in sharp contrast with Harvard President Faust's depiction of the liberal arts (quoted earlier) as "[t]he art of the possible." Faust seems to be arguing that the liberal arts are always already able to perpare students for "professional resilience."
So the revision of the "Essence" statement has given me new directions for inquiry, both in terms of the immediate context of Northeastern and in a more general "boundary-less" context of twenty-first century higher education. In lieu of a conclusion, I'll raise three points that might be worth considering or investigating further in the future:
  • The role of the humanities at a career- or professional-oriented university. If the “liberal arts” are not part of the school’s professed identity (essence), where do they belong? (I confess that right now I’m equating the liberal arts with the humanities, which is not exactly right. But I’ll try to figure that out in a future project.) In what way are they necessary, and (going back to something I was writing before the Great Essence Deletion of 9/27/16) in what way are actual departments of English, languages, philosophy, etc., necessary as independent academic units in such a university? Perhaps one thing that we could imagine is that the school could combine them into some sort of interdisciplinary “department” or teaching and research unit. Removins such disciplinary divisions would also be in tune with the academic plan's theme of "boundaryless-ness." I have my concerns about such an idea from an institutional and political (institutional political) standpoint because I’ve had experience with working in teaching units that are underfunded and overworked and generally made second-class citizens of the institution. However, there might also be something to be said for, say, a humanities unit or a liberal arts unit that would be properly funded and respected and would not necessarily depend for its existence on educating majors or graduate students in its program. I wonder how that might work and what the practical effects of that would be. Where might we find positive and inspiring models of such programs?
  • Related to this is the fact that I don’t really know what the “liberal arts curriculum” at NU is. I know there’s an NU Core (CORE?) of courses that students can choose from for what I’m guessing is basically a gen. ed. requirement. First Year Writing is one of those courses, of course (which places me in the liberal arts curriculum?). I need to find out more about what this CORE is and how it might be characterized as a liberal arts curriculum. I also could find out more about how it is taught to see if there is a reason it is singled out as being in need to the kind of attention it is given in terms of keeping up-to-date with our fast-moving global society.
  • In all this, I would need to move beyond anecdotal evidence. I know from my own experience, for instance, that I haven’t had that many liberal arts majors in either my FYW courses or my AWD courses (depending on how you define “liberal arts,” of course). I also know that a colleague of mine taught the “Advanced Writing for the Humanities” course last year that is supposed to cater to the needs of majors in the humanities. If I remember correctly, not one of the students in the class was a humanities major. What that means, I don’t know—that students pick courses based on the schedule? That there aren’t that many humanities majors at NU? That humanities majors take courses other than that course for whatever reason? So anecdotes only take you so far in trying to figure out something as complex as this.
Works Cited

"Academic Plan: Northeastern 2025." Northeastern 2025. www.northeastern.edu/academic-plan/plan/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2016.
Aoun, Joseph E. "A Complete Education." Inside Higher Ed. 20 Apr. 2015. www.insidehighered.com/views/2015/04/20/essay-calls-ending-divide-between-liberal-arts-and-practical-education. Accessed 28 Sept. 2016.
"Essence of Northeastern." Northeastern 2025. www.northeastern.edu/academic-plan/essence-of-northeastern/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2016.
"Essence of Northeastern (Draft)." Northeastern 2025. www.northeastern.edu/academic-plan/essence/. Accessed 27 Sept. 2016 (no longer available).
Faculty Member. Comment on "Essence of Northeastern (Draft)." Northeastern 2025. 12 Feb. 2016. www.northeastern.edu/academic-plan/essence/#discussion. Accessed 27 Sept. 2016 (no longer available).
Faculty Member. Comment on "Essence of Northeastern (Draft)." Northeastern 2025. 14 Feb. 2016. www.northeastern.edu/academic-plan/essence/#discussion. Accessed 27 Sept. 2016 (no longer available).
"Learning Sciences." Wikipedia. 26 Sept. 2016. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_sciences. Accessed 27 Sept. 2016.
"Liberal Arts Education." Wikipedia. 19 Sept. 2016. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_arts_education. Accessed 27 Sept. 2016.
NU Alum. Comment on "Essence of Northeastern (Draft)." Northeastern 2025. 24 March 2016. www.northeastern.edu/academic-plan/essence/#discussion. Accessed 27 Sept. 2016 (no longer available).
Vranos, Kathleen M. Comment on "Essence of Northeastern (Draft)." Northeastern 2025. 8 March 2016. www.northeastern.edu/academic-plan/essence/#discussion. Accessed 27 Sept. 2016 (no longer available).

"Idea" paper assignment from my two First Year Writing courses

As I've mentioned before, I've been trying some new/old things with the FYW courses I'm teaching this semester. One thing we're working on is a semester-long project that will be based on a topic of student interest that grows out of our class's reading of my university's new ten-year academic plan. Last semester, as my faithful follower(s) know, I asked students to contribute to the development of the academic plan by adding their thoughts to discussion boards set up to collect opinions about various aspects of the proposed plan. This time we're going to develop research projects based on the materials on the plan's website.

I've divided the project into three parts: portfolio one, portfolio two, and portfolio three. I planned for the students to start doing research for the second portfolio and finish it up for the third. Originally I was thinking of having students write a more-or-less formal proposal for the project for portfolio one, but then I read a quote from Benedict Anderson (in his memoirs, A Life Beyond Boundaries) that got me thinking about how students might approach the project:
The ideal way to start interesting research, at least in my view, is to depart from a problem or question to which you do not know the answer. Then you have to decide on the kind of intellectual tools (discourse analysis, theory of nationalism, surveys, etc.) that may or may not be a help to you. But you have also to seek the help of friends who do not necessarily work in your discipline or program, in order to try to have as broad an intellectual culture as possible. Often you also need luck. Finally, you need time for your ideas to cohere and develop.
So instead of a formal proposal, I decided to adapt an assignment given to me in graduate school back in 1999 by my professor, Louise Wetherbee Phelps. Here's the adapted assignment I gave the students:
Portfolio One Project

Explore an idea related to your responses so far about the academic plan; relate it as much as you can/need to the reading, writing, and discussion you've been doing. As genre, this is an informal global structure and can be meandering and even digressive as long as we can follow the train of thought. But to say that is not to say it can be sloppy or slap-dash--it's not a journal or quick response. It needs to be as rigorously thoughtful as you can make it, and what I would call "textualized" (rather than "formalized"). What that means is that it is acquiring the features of text including intelligible full sentences, explicit connections and order, surface control--enough so that a reader can respond as a fellow writer. It's an effort to externalize nonlinear, rather undifferentiated thought and move it toward sustained reflection. It does not require a traditional thesis statement; you won't necessarily be making an argument (although your essay might contain some argumentative elements). While you can use "I" in this, the focus should be on putting your experiences and thoughts to use in exploring an idea rather than writing an autobiographical piece.

If you're having trouble imagining this, here are some examples of the kinds of topics or ideas you might write about: 
  • What is a "global university?" How does the idea of a global university get expressed and discussed in the academic plan, and how does that relate to what the term might mean to you? What do you think about the concept being discussed there? (Why) Is the concept of a "global university" important to you?
  • What is an academic plan, according to what you see in the NU academic plan? How might it be developed and function for a university?
  • Explore the concept of "lifelong experiential learning"--what does it mean and how would a university support that? (Should a university support it?)
  • Based on your reading and writing about the academic plan, explore your thoughts about the purpose(s) of higher education in 2016 (and 2025?).
Of course, don't feel limited to these topics. In fact, I hope you pursue some angle I hadn't thought of.

In this "idea" paper, you can reuse what you've written before, but I imagine it will be refined and put to use in service of whatever new points you're making.

If you feel the need to go to outside sources to help you think about your topic, you can do some "light" research, but don't overwhelm your text with quotes, paraphrases, or summaries. If you cite or quote (including from the academic plan website), give me references at the end.

Length? While I'm tempted to say, "As long as it has to be," let's go with a number of around 1000 words, more if necessary.

I'll be conferencing with you next week (9/26-28) to check in with you about your process on this. Go to this form to sign up for your conference.
*The idea for this assignment (and some of the wording of the assignment) was adapted from an assignment given to me by Dr. Louise Wetherbee Phelps back in 1999.
We're still in the process of writing and revising these "idea" papers--I'll post my draft next, for your reading pleasure...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A couple of links about expressivism

Might need these next spring when I have to spring to the defense of how I'm running this semester's first-year writing classes:

The other possibility is that Murray doesn’t get read anymore because what he advocates, particularly in terms of who generates knowledge in the writing classroom, remains too radical for rhetoric and composition. With so many first-year composition programs still focused on “academic writing” and the teaching of argument, often through themed courses or standardized syllabi in which students have limited choice about what they write, there is little sense of classrooms that are truly “student-centered.” More than a few composition teachers talk in the hallways about the need for student-centered classrooms, but run courses in which there is no doubt that authority and expertise remain with the instructor. Frankly, I have been and can be as guilty of this inconsistency as anyone. I like being in charge and I often push students toward writing about subjects that I think will be more beneficial to them. Of course Murray isn’t saying that teachers shouldn’t know what they are doing; just that students have knowledge and expertise too that we need to bring into the classroom.
  • James Zebroski. 1999. “The Expressivist Menace.” History, Reflection, and Narrative: The Professionalization of Composition, 1963-1983. Ed. Mary Rosner, Beth Boehm, and Debra Journet. Stamford, CT: Ablex. 99-114.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Even lighter blogging ahead

I don't want to give up on this blog, but I feel I should warn my reader(s?) that since classes have started here (just finished week one), I don't think I'm going to have a great deal of time to post things here. I will try my best, however. I'm joining a faculty writing group again that will meet once every other week. It sounds like we'll be just sitting together writing. Maybe I'll do some blogging during that time (if I can get away with it!).

I see that I posted something about the first week of classes about two years ago. This time, I'm teaching different classes (except for the business writing class). But it was still a hot week!

As I mentioned in some previous posts that I'm too lazy right now to link to, I'm teaching first-year writing this semester and I'm asking students to do some journaling. In addition to that, they're going to be developing semester-long research/writing projects growing out of their readings of our school's academic plan. (Hope that link works until the end of the semester!) I don't know what they'll come up with yet for topics, but it will be interesting, I'm sure.

More later?

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Thoughts and questions about George H. Kerr, Edward Paine, and Formosa Betrayed

Recently I came across a post by Stephen O. Murray that has me thinking again about Edward Paine's role in the authorship of Formosa Betrayed. The post is a revision (update) of a chapter in Looking through Taiwan: American Anthropologists' Collusion with Ethnic Domination (U of Nebraska P, 2005), co-authored by Murray and Keelung Hong. For those who don't know Edward Paine, he worked in Taiwan for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA) after WWII and witnessed the corruption and incompetence of the Chen Yi government that climaxed with the March Massacres in 1947.

Murray writes that after the 228 Incident, Paine and Kerr worked together on a book about what had happened. Murray continues,
Although they had received an advance from a publisher, Kerr stopped work on the book without giving Paine any satisfying explanation, and only much later (1965) published Formosa Betrayed. That book is very critical of Chiang and his subordinates. It would have had a greater impact, however, closer to the time of the events (and closer to the time when it appears to have been written). I wrote to Kerr asking about the sequence of writing and publication of Formosa Betrayed, but in two letters Kerr avoided the direct (and repeated) question of why a book about his observations did not appear much earlier. (My guess is that the virulent attack on American experts for “losing China” in part for reporting the unpopularity of Chiang Kaishek had traumatized and/or deterred him, but this is a surmise for which I have no evidence.)
As I wrote in a comment to Murray's post, I posted some notes a few years ago about the publication history of Formosa Betrayed based on research I conducted in the Okinawa Prefectural Archives. In those notes, I quoted from some 1965 correspondence between Kerr and editors at Houghton Mifflin in which Kerr blames the failure to publish earlier on the McCarthy era. In fact, he implies that it would not have been possible to publish at that time. He does not mention Paine in those letters, however.

In an article introducing the George H. Kerr collection at the Okinawa Prefectural Archives (Chinese; pdf), historian Su Yao-tsung (蘇瑤崇) also cites the WUFI story that has circulated about Paine's role in the composition of what became, almost 20 years later, Formosa Betrayed (see my 2010 notes for details of that story). Su argues that although Kerr used materials that Paine had provided him for book (and thanked him in the acknowledgements), most of the book was based on Kerr's own experience, so Kerr "was without a doubt the first author" (p. 247, my translation).

There are some interesting (and frustratingly confusing) twists to this whole tale, though. In no particular order:
  • Articles in two issues of Pacific Affairs, published in Dec. 1949 and Dec. 1951, include references to a book project by Kerr entitled The Development of Modern Formosa as a project sponsored by the Institute of Pacific Relations (the publisher  of Pacific Affairs). The article in the Dec. 1949 issue describes The Development of Modern Formosa as an "extensive report, with particular emphasis on wartime and postwar developments, [that] has now been completed and is scheduled for publication under the auspices of the IPR International Secretariat early in 1950" (p. 410). The 1951 article mentions that the book was supposed to come out in 1952 (p. 421). Neither of the notes about the project mentions Paine as a co-author; this suggests that whatever Paine thought (in 1986) about the book as a co-authored project, Kerr had gone ahead with a book about "modern Formosa" by himself.
  • Su Yao-tsung notes in his article that according to archival documents, Kerr wrote in 1948 that he had a manuscript "in preparation" entitled "Seeds of Rebellion: Formosa under Kuomintang Rule, 1945-1947." What is the relationship between "Seeds of Rebellion" and The Development of Modern Formosa? (Thanks to Prof. Hidekazu Sensui for first raising this question in an email.)
  • In Volume Two of Correspondence by and about George Kerr (Taipei: 228 Museum, 2000), there are several letters to Paine that imply that Kerr and Paine were working on a book together. Evidently Paine had written to several people who had been in Taiwan before and during 228, asking them for information about their experiences and observations. For instance, there's one letter to Paine from Allan Shackleton (author of Formosa Calling) that mentions "your book" (Vol. 2, p. 848), and there's a letter from Muriel Graham (pp. 855ff) in which she writes, "I do wish I could help you and Mr. Kerr more..."
  • Kerr and Paine did evidently work together on a memorandum about Taiwan's situation that they sent to several media outlets. It was entitled "Can Formosa Be Used in Solving Our Dilemma in China?" and can be found on pp. 166ff. in the Collected Papers (Taipei: 228 Museum, 2000). Interestingly, although it appears to have been a collaborative effort (see Correspondence vol. 1, p. 435), Kerr writes on the draft found in Collected Papers, "I prepared this to distribute..." Several questions related to this: Who's the audience for this note? Why does Kerr leave out Paine? (He could have written "Ed Paine and I prepared this...") 
  • Finally (?), there's the question of the phrasing of Kerr's reason (given in 1965) for not publishing: "it was not possible to get a hearing" by the time he got the manuscript back. What exactly did Kerr mean by that? Was it impossible to publish it, or was Kerr "deterred" (as Murray puts it) from publishing it? (This isn't directly related to the authorship issue, but it's related to Kerr's reasons for postponing the publication of the book for close to 20 years.)
Well, I'm left with a bunch of questions. Su Yao-tsung has told me that there are two boxes of Kerr-Paine correspondence in the Kerr collection at the Taipei 228 Museum. Anyone want to do some fishing for me? ;)

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Judging from this email from LinkedIn, I'm a multitalented guy...

Jonathan: International Sewing Club, Inc., Nepris Inc., and National Security Agency are looking for candidates like you.

New year's resolutions, Fall 2016

Tried this 10 years ago. The idea was that the more meaningful unit of measurement for us academic-y types (at least those of us in the U.S. and some other parts of the world) starts in September and goes until May (or December, if you want to do "new semester resolutions"). So it seems reasonable to make resolutions at the beginning of the school year instead of in January.

Anyway, the idea was nice, but I pretty much failed on all of my resolutions, with the possible exception of #7 (though you'd have to ask her about that). But I'm 10 years old now, so maybe I'm mature enough by now both to make achievable resolutions and to successfully carry out those achievable resolutions. (?) So here goes:
  1. Write regularly. (I forget what "write incrementally" meant and the link to Krista's blog is broken.) Keep a journal in which I write at least 750 words a day.
  2. Exercise more--at least do some more walking.
  3. Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks. (Including iced coffee and iced tea.)
  4. Send a polished draft of my GHK paper to a journal. (At least I need to get some feedback on it.)
  5. Spend quality time with the family. (Hopefully this can be combined with #2.)
  6. Spend less time on the internet, particularly Facebook.
  7. "Keep to a schedule enough so that at the end of every day I can look at my daybook and feel satisfied that I accomplished a few important things." (That sounded good 10 years ago, and it still applies.)
  8. "Don't make too many resolutions, promises, and/or commitments that I won't be able to keep." (That's also from 10 years ago. It still seems reasonable.)
That should be enough. And they're mostly pretty vague (except for 1 and 4), so perhaps I can fine-tune them as the year goes on.