Fragmentary thoughts at the start of a semester

The semester break at Arizona State University is over. My grand designs to write the Great American Novel during the break never existed, probably a good idea. In the meantime…

  • Stephanie Simon had the most provocative article title of the last week, accusing Obama’s education program of being “pomp and fizzle.” Simon is missing a lot of stuff that will have a lasting impact; while there are plenty of Duncan et al. decisions I disagree with, for the most part they have been consequential. The writing feels like Simon had made her judgment well before starting the article.
  • Sara Goldrick-Rab and Nancy Kendall are the winners of the week in terms of intellectual heft, with an April 2014 policy paper on free lower-division college attendance that David Leonhardt credited as a major inspiration for Obama’s free-community-college proposal.
  • A rewrite of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind Act) is more likely in the next six months than I think most observers thought possible in the last year.
  • One loose end from fall: I have two partial drafts of blog entries on the teacher-education regulations from November. Just in case I finish one of them, I’ll give you a teaser: it’s a tale of three competing philosophies.
  • With more than 20 tenured or tenured-eligible faculty searches in my college, we had faculty candidates galore through November and December. That’s right, candidate visits through December 19, and we had a full house in the candidate colloquium on the 19th; huge kudos to that individual search committee for the attendance that day. The general intensity of searches wreaked havoc on my schedule in the best possible way and will continue to do that for a bit; the first candidate of spring is on campus today.
  • Personal judgment six months in: I made the right decision to join ASU. It’s a fun ride.
  • Except for a week when I took vacation, I had a full month.1 Part of that was the fact that I had a backlog of tasks come December. Part was also that ASU does not really shut down for the semester break. Staff take vacation, but there is no week when the university is closed, and my work rolled on, if at a slightly slower (or less breakneck) pace. Finally, my adult children stayed with us for several weeks. They overlapped during my vacation, and the result was almost a month when at least one child was visiting, a very positive thing on the whole.
  • I am on Rick Hess’s “edu-scholar” list, despite lower blogging and lower reporting contacts in 2014 because of my move. I’m a little surprised that I’m on it and ASU colleague Audrey Amrein-Beardsley is not, as she’s been much more active in blogging, and she has a new book out. So: it’s nice to be recognized, my colleagues who are on it deserve the recognition (David Berliner, Gene Glass, and David Garcia), and also I think Amrein-Beardsley and a number of others are more deserving of recognition as public intellectuals than I was in 2014.
  • I was able to finish some writing in the fall but not start new projects. One of my goals for spring is to find colleagues to start a research group in at least one area of interest, as well as follow up on some loose ends from 2014.
  • I am supporting several courses behind the scenes this semester, if not teaching directly. By writing this entry, I am procrastinating on two tasks due to my colleagues. (I am writing this after 10:30 pm — often that’s when I write blog entries that appear in the early morning.) So: to bed and then attack my obligations to colleagues in the morning.


  1. That week was also full; my family went to Joshua Tree National Park for the first time. Its alien and beautiful landscape is amazing. []

Most Fabulist Edu-Predictions of 2015

Since NPR has seen fit to publish a listicle with education predictions for the year, I need to get in on this. Please be forewarned: I’m an historian, and sometimes it’s hard enough for me to predict the past, so there are no guarantees that these are going to be possible, let alone likely.

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Jeb Bush and me

Well, no, not really. While he was governor, Jeb Bush and I had one short e-mail exchange, about a disability policy issue. That’ll prove disappointingly mundane if it’s in the cache of emails that Bush’s office has already released or will soon be releasing.

But I do have a written record of comments on Jeb Bush as an education policymaker. An incomplete list of relevant blog entries:

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University strikes and unforced errors by administrators

From news reports in the past week, it looks like the University of Oregon administration is making some foolish decisions in how to respond to striking graduate students. If the news sources I have read are accurate (see reports from Inside Higher Ed, Oregon Live, and December 6 and December 9 reports from the philosophy blog Daily Nous), the administration has taken the following steps:

  • Refused to make written commitments on several agreements in principle on family leave, the prime area of disagreement remaining in bargaining.
  • Asked faculty to let students receive semester grades based on work completed before the strike, even if assignments with significant weight in the syllabus — and significant student work — were due after the strike began.
  • Asked at least some department heads to become instructors of record or hire non-union graders, including for hundreds of students in courses where they and likely graders have little to no expertise.
  • Threatened international students with deportation if they participated in the strike.

This is happening as the university is led by an interim president whose area of research is precisely around paid leave.

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Observations from a doctoral research forum

ASU’s EdD program students are great in describing problems of practice and focused in tackling them. That’s part of what I learned last Thursday night, when I welcomed dozens of ASU doctoral students, faculty, and several guests to the fall Doctoral Research Forum on the ASU West campus.

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