I have a certain way of viewing the world. I cannot turn it off. I guess it is my curse.
Before heading off to class, I show up at the coffee shop in the Union to get my cup of coffee. This morning, on the counter, I notice a ballot being distributed to customers and so I read about the issue under consideration. It turns out that Food Services understands the University commitment to healthy living and wants advice concerning the foods they serve. If customers agree, they plan to eliminate an item from their offerings. I captured a couple of images to bring this to your attention, but I want you to consider what unhealthy choice you would predict is being considered.
If you have read this blog frequently, you can probably guess where this is going. Should the coffee shop stop offering the chocolate glazed donuts? How about the 700 calorie, chocolate muffin? How about the monster cookies (calories beyond calculation)? Nope! The referendum is addressing the dangers of coffee creamer – the regular, unsweetened or hazelnut creamer (35 calories). Evidently, the creamer contains hydrogenated oil.
I know that muffins also contain oil so I checked with Harvard on the dangers of muffins. If you are a muffin muncher, do not try this link. There are options, but none of them look anything like the offerings available in the Union shop.
You probably recognize that I sometimes tell stories to get people to think about larger issues. My university is just now venturing on a campaign to identify university priorities. There are multiple committees and consultants. Much time and resources will be expended to help us focus on important things and issues. It occurred to me the participants may have decided to start small and work their way up. I do acknowledge that those working on this important agenda have offered everyone a chance to weigh in. Now that we all have had a say on whether creamer is available in the union, we can turn our attention to other matters.
It is Spirit Week on campus. Not certain what that means, but count me in.
I can see one of the planning sessions. It probably went something like this. We could set up a booth on central campus just like we do in the summer. We could add a couple of heaters but we probably won’t need them. We could lounge around in easy chairs and maybe pass out hot cocoa. It will be cool!
Cool is right. Evidently -7 and 15 mph winds were too much to overcome. You do have to admire creativity and enthusiasm.
I had hoped to have a quiet and relaxing Saturday morning, but a CNN news story roused me to action. The segment claimed that North Dakota had been named by the Gallup agency as the countries “happiest” state. If this story had surfaced on the Internet, I would have wondered whether it was an Onion story. I even checked but found nothing. So, it must be true.
OK – it is always important to approach these weird news claims with a critical eye. Perhaps I could use the article in class and discuss how we can be mislead by faulty research methods. I would have expected more from the Gallup organization.
The official Gallup announcement provides some detail. North won based on strength in specific categories. ND ranked first in Work Environment and Physical Health. The top ranked states are located in a cluster in the upper midwest – South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota. Job creation growth was proposed as a major factor in the rankings.
ABC was as confused as I was.
BTW – I will soon be moving and selling my house. I know, I know – leaving the happiest state. There is an opportunity for someone here. Take advantage of my foolishness. Come on – Get Happy.
I turned in my notice today. I informed the local administrators that I will not sign a contract to renew my tenured position at UND. It is a little early, but if I wait until I receive the contract the department will find it difficult to fill the position for another year.
It is interesting how quickly the news gets around. There were book reps in the department today and not one paid me a visit.
Standing by the side of the road,
I began to feel invisible.
Maybe you do not read the NY Times, but I am guessing this editorial will catch the attention of many either directly or because the article has been passed on via social media.
I am an academic. The Times editorial is complaining about people like me. Actually, I am probably not a good example as I do blog (since 2002) and make an effort to communicate with practitioners of my discipline (educators interested in having their students use technology). However, I also agree that academics need to do more than try to impress each other or a funding source.
Research is important, but too often it seems to go no where. Academics will suggest that “basic research” is essential. I agree – practical applications build off basic research and when practitioners in R&D do R, they do not invest time and resources in basic science. Still, academics encouraged by evaluation systems that count publications rather than meaningful contributions can become mired in work that allows them to spend most of their time writing up results rather than manipulating real world variables that matter. Survey research obviously annoys me as do simplistic publication counting systems. Such are the foci of second tier institutions and programs.
Just so you not think I am anti research, I am a defender of this university commitment. Some meaningful discoveries do occur. The public likely does not appreciate the professional development and instructional benefits of research. Faculty members should not be educators teaching from books, but practitioners of their discipline. Students are also frequently involved in research activities and such projects encourage a different way of thinking about content.
What would I change? Once tenured, I think faculty members should be able to describe what their work has accomplished. What problems have they solved or at least what progress have they made? Is there a direction in what they are doing? I think some effort at application is important and should be rewarded over continued efforts at what may or may not be trivial. If you take on the challenge of showing your ideas matter, you do not depend on others to discover the significance in what you do.
Writing for the public is a contribution, but again I am not a fan of those who can do nothing else. The individual best in a position to explain is the individual invested in the scholarship. We need individuals who will take responsibility to be scholars and who understand the job is not done until some effort is made to communicate the value of their work to anyone who will listen.
The pseudo anchors at Fox “News” were speaking rapidly and waving their arms again. They are back on the topic of health insurance. I had hoped they would move on to something else, but there are evidently few conservative topics available. Evidently, there was a report that some folks are leaving the job market because they can receive health insurance. Every time they get riled up, I get agitated and have to raise the dose on my medication. The issue is certainly bad for my health.
Perhaps I can help by offering a personal story. I may be one of those persons leaving the job market. Yep, I am part of the problem, but I would like to explain my situation. The words we use to explain events are important. What the news guys (I guess there was one woman) describe as “leaving the job market”, I would describe as retirement. I hope to be able to retire.
I plan to retire if I can get health insurance (so far their description is accurate). Here is the deal. When I leave my job, I must go on the market and find insurance. I do not have one of those cushy jobs that comes with insurance in retirement. My wife has a pre-existing condition. Some years ago she was denied long term care insurance because of her pre-existing condition. I have already had negative experiences with the insurance industry.
So, before I sign the paper that moves me out the door (no turning back), I am going to find an insurance plan. I assume the Affordable Care Act will make this possible for both of us. I want to leave my job to someone else, but I am not foolish. If I have to continue working to maintain coverage for her, I will have to do that.
So, what do you think? Is the Affordable Care Act a detriment to employment? For whom?
Tomorrow is National Curmudgeon Day. I wanted to bring this to your attention in case anyone wanted to wish me well. Actually, thanks to son-in-law Jim for letting me know that tomorrow was my special day.
So, I prepared for tomorrow by visiting EPCOT. This is a great location to prepare for tomorrow. I had fun criticizing the prices and my feet will likely still hurt when I get up to face another day.
I see myself as an educational blogger and some may be surprised and perhaps annoyed that I comment about political issues. I do not consider these comments as being off target. In fact, I consider the decisions made by politicians and the factors that motivate politicians of greater significance than what technology is used in classrooms and what activities educators ask students to complete. As far as annoyance goes, I am annoyed with those who argue they are focused on learners and learning when they ignore general political issues. What variables do you assume will have the largest impact on learners?
The general issues that have led me to this conclusion are economic inequity and the role of money in the political process. The knowledge and motivation that students bring to the classroom has long been recognized as possibly the most important factors in how effectively they benefit from a group learning experience. The quality of instruction matters, but it matters the most with students who come with the least. Coleman first noted this reality in the ‘60s and I have seen nothing that has disputed this position since. Of course, quality education seems inversely related to existing benefits rather than working in the opposite direction. The incentives do not seem to be there to change this situation. I see this as a political problem educators are not willing to reverse.
It appears that our political system is pretty much available to the highest bidder. Political decisions regarding funding place no effective limits on contributions and those who spend the money expect to be compensated via political decisions for their contributions. The one man (person) one vote mantra exists in getting individuals to office only if the primary process does not cull candidates and politicians are true to their promises once in office rather than give in to lobbyists ready to help with funds for whatever seems necessary once politicians arrive. The growing inequity in wealth and the increasing role wealth plays in political life has created a downward spiral resulting in greater disparity and less political responsiveness. This has to be a spiral we can recover from if meaningful change is to happen.
I had hoped that the Internet would somehow reverse this cycle, but this will happen only if the message from time to time focuses on the major sources of variability rather than personal preoccupations that will produce little change. My concern is that the myopic are worried about their brand and are afraid that negative comments may direct their audience elsewhere. Perhaps, but I also think those who think this way are part of the problem even though they claim to be part of the solution. Perhaps I should name names. Spend some of your time addressing priority problems with your audience.
A couple of links:
The CNN series on money and political influence
Lawrence Lessig’s book (comment here) Republic, Lost
It is likely common knowledge that I have a mixed reaction to Twitter. My common reaction after a Twitter session is that the feed is made up primarily of drivel and self or in-group promotion. I cannot understand even having tried from time to time how groups believe a Twitter chat offers the most meaningful way to interact.
However, having made my personal reactions clear, I obviously make some use of the service. I admit to constantly checking Twitter from my mobile devices. There is likely some useful information in this observation. I assume this is because I use my phone and often one of my tablets to skim. I can quickly thumb past the inane. What I tend to be looking for are links? I think I use Twitter as a discovery and not a learning tool. The discovery process is not sufficient for learning, but discovery does direct me toward content that may be useful. Perhaps there should be a way to hide any Tweet that does not contain a link.
Twitter, here is what I would suggest.. Create an internal mechanism for extended “posts”. You seem to have recognized the value of this strategy for images. Why not with other forms of multimedia content? I think it is fine that I can automatically forward a Tweet that links back to this content, but you may be missing out on an opportunity by allowing your users to do their real learning elsewhere.
We are in the midst of an epic cold snap (according to the weather folks). Those of us living in the upper midwest are experienced in cold and become annoyed when other folks promote their experiences with the cold. Perhaps this is unfair. If you are not prepared and equipped, modest temperatures are cold.
I was supposed to be on my way back to work today. I am not. Minnesota and North Dakota are pretty much shut down and road conditions are dangerous. Sliding of the road would not be a good. Despite national attention, today is not as bad as several days this past week. It was only -24 this morning and we had several days when the thermometer read -27 when I first checked in the morning.
It could be worse, the view out the window is pretty “cool”.