Thursday, March 18, 2010

Check out For the Latest

Hey folks,
it's book launch season.

From now through the summer I'll be blogging at,, and the Huffington Post, (roughly in that order of frequency) and Twittering at Anya1anya. Come by and see me!


Monday, March 01, 2010

The Jobless Millennials

This month's issue of The Atlantic contains a long thoughtful and downcast article about the possible effects of long-term unemployment on the American national character.

One section in particular is very much up my alley: about how the shifting job market and how it might affect the Millennial generation. Graduating into a recession, it turns out, can afflict your income for a lifetime. "Seventeen years after graduation, those who had entered the workforce during inhospitable times were still earning 10 percent less on average than those who had emerged into a more bountiful climate."

As my sister Kezia, a 2009 Yale graduate, commented on Buzz: "UM....scary for peeps my age :(" And her friends chimed in , "Schnikies." " i had this article mentioned to me today during a job interview. needless to say, there was no real job being offered."

The article argues that Millennials are
especially ill-equipped to deal with this unprecedented era of long-term joblessness because of their (supposed) crippling high-self esteem, and because they don't understand the meaning of hard work. It also argued that there are widespread socially negative effects of long-term joblessness--especially for men--include depression, alcoholism, and broken families.

But...I think there's a hole in this logic. It crystallized for me yesterday when I was part of a panel (including this technologist, this simplicity expert, and this social media maven) speaking to Professor Kyra Gaunt's Anthro 101 class at Baruch College. This was a very diverse group of 19 and 20 year olds and we were talking to them about hacking their way through the system to get what they need.

I realized that it's exactly this generation's unreasonable optimism that gives me the most hope for our future. Millennials aren't full of despair if we don't get the "perfect" job right out of college--our expectations are already adjusted. Young men are free from the demand that they automatically be breadwinners. Young people are learning to cultivate other values outside of work, and to take risks to seek work that meets their values. All that time we're spending inventing and building social networks and new ways of communicating with each other will translate into social capital and will serve us to build a society that doesn't depend on income to buy happiness. We will increasingly turn to each other to get what we need and to make what we want.

Yes, we still need to figure out better ways to get people health care and housing and education. The legacy problems of an economy in decline are not going away any time soon. But I have confidence that past performance does not have to guarantee future results. And this generation might just be the perfect people for this time.

Obama Announces $100 Million to Prepare Students for College

Crossposted from I'll be moving most of my posting over there for the next few months around the book launch.

Chronicle of Higher Ed
One in three students drop out of high school. America's Promise, the campaign that hosted Obama today, says just 12 percent of the nation’s high schools generate half of the nation’s dropouts.

Obama proposals such as early-college high school and dual enrollment are based on evidence that high school students will be more motivated to stay in school and finish if they see that their classes are related to a valuable credential and to jobs. The more straitened circumstances that students are in, the more important the economic motive for further education.

I'm a bigger fan of dual enrollment and career academies than early college, because I like the idea of students having a right to free public education that connects them to jobs.

However, if we don't stop underfunding our community colleges, creating new programs isn't going to get any more students through them. California's community college enrollment dropped by 1 percent this year thanks to budget cuts.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Catch me on the Brian Lehrer Show 2/22 at 10:45 am

I'll be talking about the new CARD Act which has special provisions to protect college students
among other rules designed to halt abusive practices of credit card companies, like retroactive rate increases, late-fee traps (like moving the due date around from month to month), hidden fees, and double-cycle billing (calculating interest based on last month's balance).

Shout out goes to the PIRGs for tirelessly pursuing this important bill among a variety of other issues affecting college affordability and Americans' precarious financial security.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Americans are Sick and Tired of How Colleges Are Run

From the NYT:

According to the study, “Squeeze Play 2010: Continued Public Anxiety on Cost, Harsher Judgments on How Colleges are Run,” a growing share of Americans believes that college is essential to success — 55 percent, compared with 31 percent in 2000. But at the same time, a dwindling share — 28 percent, compared with 45 percent a decade earlier — thinks college is available to the vast majority of qualified, motivated students.

Americans believe colleges could accept more students and charge less tuition without compromising educational quality. They're also increasingly dissatisfied with college leadership that claims it's impossible.

The public is right. DIY U explains exactly how this can be done.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What does DIY U Mean for Libraries?

In response to my DIY U excerpt posted on Chelsea Green and Scribd, Bruce Harpham writes:

the prospect of “unbundling of educational functions” could be bad news for libraries. If the academic experience is broken down into a set of experiences unrelated to each other, much will be lost including some of the historical reasons for academic libraries...Kamenetz sees a future with a greater emphasis on outcomes, skills and projects. I think librarians are well posed to meet that change.

I agree.
Yes, some of the historic reasons for academic libraries will be lost, along with some of the historic reasons for classrooms, dorms, and dining halls.
However, I actually think libraries represent an ideal for the future of education:
* they are designed as sites for independent, self-directed exploration;
* they are places where many different types of learners in different disciplines, academic level, etc come together;
*they are already positioned as resources valuable to the community at large, far more so than other places on campus.
*And the way the librarian acts as a Virgil for learning resources is far closer to the future of teaching practice than the sage on the stage model.

Monday, February 08, 2010

For-Profits Step In Due to Public College Cutbacks

Kaplan University is offering students who have been squeezed out of CA community colleges the opportunity to take online classes toward their degree under a new agreement.

The agreement also allows California community college graduates to transfer to Kaplan to complete online bachelor’s degrees at a reduced tuition rate.

a) Innovative. b) Troubling. c) Emblematic of the future. d) all of the above.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Kevin Bruns Replies!

From My Inbox:


Just when I thought I was fading into obscurity, you send me a cyber-greeting for the world to see.

Do you happen to know the Yale fin aid director who was interviewed in the Times article? He's being crucified in the blogosphere. I was actually surprised he was allowed to talk on the record.

The Times headline and hundreds of angry blog comments notwithstanding, if SAFRA fails, it won't be because of lobbying. It will be because a) it eliminates jobs in a period of high unemployment, and b) it does so unnecessarily since there are alternative proposals that save just as much money as SAFRA without impacting jobs.


Kevin Bruns
Executive Director
Washington, DC

a) If you guys are so concerned about saving money, why are you spending millions to defeat this bill?
b) How can you claim that you'll preserve all those private-sector jobs and save "just as much" (not quite, $67 billion, vs. $80 billion) money at the same time? It's the subsidies that fund the jobs.
c) The most laughable argument for keeping the lenders in business, by far, is "that students will forfeit the individualized service that private lenders are better able to offer."

Service like this?

America's Student Loan Providers Object to Being Cut Off at the Public Trough

Here is the propaganda website of Sallie Mae and the other jerks (Hi, Kevin Bruns!) who want to keep collecting public subsidies for the favor of giving out student loans.

Here are the stories of students who have been victimized by their wholly unreasonable borrowing policies.
Here's a picture of Al Lord, the former CEO of Sallie Mae, who got so rich off students' backs that he built his own golf course and tried to buy the Nationals.

The bankers are whining today because their special sweetheart subsidy program is on the verge of being canceled. This would save the taxpayers as much as $80 billion over 10 years, money that the Obama administration wants to use for Pell Grants and other good things. President Obama has called this idea a "no-brainer."
In fact the bill has already passed the House. The bankers are spending tens of millions of dollars to buy Senators so that it doesn't pass the Senate. Sallie Mae alone has spent $8 million.
If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, go to this website, Students Over Banks.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

College Funding Cuts; New Programs Hang in the Balance

The Obama administration is preserving some higher education programs even in the midst of the spending freeze. The Pell Grant, in particular, is protected and even increased.

But the fate of the American Graduation Initiative, a major proposal to increase community college graduates, depends on the passage of a bill in the Senate that has already passed the House, to eliminate bank subsidies from the student loan program. This move is supposed to save $95 billion over 10 years, much of which is already spoken for (like $10.6 billion for the American Graduation Initiative). If the bill falters, or if government accountants adjust their calculations, these programs, too, may fall victim to cuts.

At the same time, private colleges like Williams are backpedaling from promises they made a few years ago to eliminate student loans, thanks to the recession.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Reader Question:How Will DIY U Affect Traditional Tutoring

Unedited and uncensored, from the Chelsea Green video shoot yesterday...enjoy!

Friday, January 29, 2010

How the iPad Could Drive Up College Tuition

(crossposted from

The below video, by e-textbook company CourseSmart, is a neat demo of the educational advantages of the iPad: keep all your textbooks in one slender, elegant package; highlight and make notes; watch embedded video and multimedia; browse the web for supplementary material; chat and collaborate with classmates and teachers as you read. These innovations are exciting for colleges that want to be tech savvy. "I do see our university replacing our [standard undergrad-issued] laptop computer with this new iPad," wrote one CIO of an Oregon university.

A bigger question is whether they can cut costs at the same time. Textbooks cost the average college student more than $1000 a year,; electronic content can be much less, especially when it's open-source. The open-license textbook company Flat World Knowledge estimated it saved students a collective $3 million just this past fall. The iPad uses the open ePub format for electronic books, which should be a boon to the burgeoning open education movement.

However, Joshua Kim, a technology blogger at Inside Higher Ed, asks whether the iPad is a "sustaining" rather than a "disruptive" innovation. The danger is that colleges spend even more money and faculty time on purchasing and developing content for these new gadgets, as they have on the generations of tech that came before, without making cuts elsewhere. This is one reason tuition keeps growing faster than inflation. "The possibilities for learning, student interaction and
enhanced campus services that the iPad unleashes will all come at a
price. Nothing about a tool as wonderful as the iPad will lower the
cost of constructing or delivering education."

That is, costs won't come down unless universities act, boldly, to fully replace part of the butts-in-seats classroom model with mobile, wireless, open-source education.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

DIY U: Coming in April 2010

Galleys are going out soon. Here's the temporary cover; I'd love to get your reaction.

From the press release: The price of college tuition has increased more than any other major good or service for the last 20 years. Nine out of 10 American high school seniors aspire to go to college, yet the United States has fallen from world leader to only the tenth most educated nation. Almost half of college students don't graduate; those who do have unprecendented levels of federal and private student loan debt, which constitutes a credit bubble similar to the mortgage crisis.
... Our choice is clear; radically change the way higher education is delivered, or resign ourselves to never having enough of it.

The roots of the word "university" and "college" both mean community. In the age of constant connectedness and social media, it's time for the monolithic, millennium-old, ivy-covered walls to undergo a phase change into something much lighter, more permeable, and fluid.

The future lies in personal learning networks and paths, learning that blends experiential and digital approaches, and open-source educational models. Increasingly, you will decide what, when, where and with whom you want to learn, and you will learn by doing. The university is the cathedral of rationality, and with our whole civilization in crisis, we are poised on the brink of Reformation.

That's Why I Chose Yale/That's Why I Chose Kaplan

While it's been maligned as "best Harvard prank ever," this campy all-singing, all-dancing recruiter spot actually shows a lot of the best my alma mater has to offer--yes, the camera lingers on the green lawns and baronial splendor, but the video spends the longest time talking about the sense of community found in smaller residential colleges, and the vibrant cultural life of the community, with dozens of chances to perform, play sports or debate.

This Kaplan commercial from last year shows the opposite picture: an intellectual community united, and freed, by technology.

The first ad is for a $140,000 product that is available to only a few thousand students at a time. The second ad is for a product that costs 40% of that ($353 per "quarter credit hour") and is available to tens of thousands, while most importantly, not requiring a full time commitment.

Both versions, I think, have their appeal, depending on your individual interests and needs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Americaland in Bad Decline: Thoughts on the Loss of the Supermajority in the US Senate

I don't normally comment on politics writ large, but here's what's going through my head on the election of Republican Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat today:
American democracy doesn't work very well anymore. I'm not the only one concluding this. It fails on its most basic terms: it can't manage to enact the stated will of the majority of the people, even when that will is in accordance with the judgment of the designated experts (as it is on health care). America, as a nation, doesn't seem to be working that well either.

Obama is probably one of the best Presidents our current system could produce. But that's a very qualified statement. He is abundant in the qualities of charisma, charm and communication skills, with an impeccable sense of the symbolically apt gesture. This are the qualities that the mass/social mediapoliticosphere demands. He doesn't seem to be as strong in moral courage--the devotion to fight like a bulldog for ideas that are right, but unpopular. Or even when they are popular, but there is opposition to them.

The charming, symbolically apt thing to do was to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, on the occasion of conducting two wars, and give a really great speech about it. The morally courageous thing to do would have been to refuse it.

Anyway, so American democracy: worn out. World government: not yet ready for prime time (cf Copenhagen). Yet people are suffering tragically and the world faces huge threats looming on the horizon. How then is the conscientious person to try to make change?

I think it's a good idea generally to try to work through institutions that are more functional than our national government/Congress and to build new kinds of institutions/groups/ bodies to get things done:

The courts. Nongovernmental organizations, charities, and philanthropies. Some state and local governments. Mass movements and coalitions. Science labs and research organizations. Social media. Social networks. Mainstream media. Spiritual and intentional communities. Even the marketplace.

Work with what's working. Work with what we've got.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Faculty on Food Stamps

Brian Croxall, an adjunct professor, writes about how he could not afford to attend the Modern Language Association conference, his field's biggest conference, in order to try and find a job.

"Landing a job in the professoriate has been difficult for well more than this decade, but the recent economic crisis has necessitated (or allowed, if we’re feeling cynical) administrators trimming budgets so that less and less tenure-track faculty are hired. What this means is that more and more contingent faculty are employed to teach the increasing number of students who are matriculating at the nation’s universities. So…perhaps it’s not that employment is going down for humanists with the PhD. Rather, it is sustainable employment that is evaporating."

Tad Friend writes in the New Yorker about the California budget crisis and student and faculty resistance, Berkeley-style. The tactics haven't changed much since the 1960s, but the reality on the ground has: This is the end of the 1960 Master Plan, the original template for public mass higher education in the United States. I've heard more than one person say that, one of whom is quoted in my book.