Archive for: October, 2011

#scibloggers4students: This is going to get me to avoid procrastination how exactly?

The DonorsChoose Board of Directors rewards your procrastination... but only if you manage to actually make a donation before the end of the drive!

The DonorsChoose.org Board of Directors is excited about the success of the ongoing Science Bloggers for Students challenge. But, between now and the end of the drive Saturday, the Board of Directors thinks we can do more to connect public school classrooms with the resources they need to make education come alive. So, to encourage you to give -- especially of you've been putting it off or letting someone else do it -- the Board of Directors is matching all donations to Science Bloggers for Students placed between the first moment of Thursday October 20th and the last moment of Saturday, October 22nd (midnight to midnight, Eastern time).
 
Here's how the match works:

  • At the end of the three day period, all dollars donated will be totaled, and the Board of Directors will match those dollars. If the donors put up $100, the Board of Directors puts up $100. If the donors put up $10,000, the Board of Directors puts up $10,000. For every dollar you give, you are soaking the DonorsChoose.org Board of Directors for a dollar! Maybe that kind of power to double your impact will help you find a few spare dollars to give.
  • The number of dollars given by the Board of Directors will be divided by the number of people who donated, and gift codes will be issued to every donor (via e-mail) for an equal share of the matching dollars. So, if 100 people donate a total of $10,000, each donor will receive a $100 DonorsChoose.org gift code.
  • Individuals will, in turn, have the chance to apply the funds to whatever classroom project they choose.

This is a great opportunity to spend someone else's money to help kids learn about electricity, or to help a biology classroom get microscopes, or to fund a field trip to a science museum (all projects you can support through my giving page) -- or to choose some other classroom project that is dear to your heart and that needs funding.
This is also a good time to show the world that Scientopia blog readers love science so much that they want to help public school classrooms get the materials and experiences in place so students can find their love of science, too. The Scientopia leaderboard is holding steady on the challenge motherboard in the number two slot, ahead of Discover Blogs and behind Freethought Blogs. With the match now in place, donations in any amount, even $10, or $5, or $1, will make a difference while giving those freethinkers something to think about.

(And remember, if you make a donation in any amount to my challenge giving page, you get to assign me a topic for a blog post. You know you want to ...)

2 responses so far

A Possibly Useful Tip on the Process of Writing a Dissertation

Oct 19 2011 Published by under Academia, Personal, Teaching and learning

Fair warning: if you joke around about dissertations with someone who has written more than one, that someone is likely to share a Possibly Useful Tip on the Process of Writing a Dissertation. But, possibly it will be useful.

It started when, after passing his Ph.D. oral exam, Eric Michael Johnson tweeted:

I passed! Now there's just a little matter called the dissertation. This is the first I've heard of it. Are those hard?
ericmjohnson
October 18, 2011
@ericmjohnson If someone tells you the 2nd dissertation is easier, she's lying.
docfreeride
October 18, 2011
@docfreeride You mean, you can't just copy and paste from your first one?
ericmjohnson
October 18, 2011
As it turns out, you are often better off not copying and pasting from an earlier draft of the same dissertation.

In the process of writing a dissertation, you spend a lot of time grappling with a theoretical approach, or an experimental design, or a concept -- whatever kind of intellectual heavy-lifting your subject requires.  Then, you need to use words (and sometimes also graphs or charts or other visual representations) to communicate what you've been grappling with to an audience that probably hasn't been grappling with it as actively as you have.
What I found (in dissertation #2, the philosophy one) was that my grappling generated a lot of words on the page, and that the generation of those words was crucial to figuring out the stuff I needed to figure out.  However, not all the words on the page advanced the goal of communicating what I had figured out to an audience not already in my head.
My very smart advisor, noticing that I had become too precious with some of the elaborate examples that had helped me crystalize my own view as I revised draft N to draft N+1, gave me a writing tip that made all the difference to the task of communicating that view.  He said, "For the next draft of this chapter, start a brand new file. You are not allowed to copy and paste anything.  Whatever you want to carry over from the last draft verbatim you need to retype."
I followed that advice and lo and behold, my chapters became quite a bit shorter and quite a bit clearer, simultaneously.  However, I'm pretty sure that the longer, less clear drafts were a necessary step on the way to get to the optimized final form.
Happy disserting, Eric!

9 responses so far

DonorsChoose #scibloggers4students: I am a donor.

When I was in school, my science teachers had the materials they needed for hands-on teaching.

Since my kids have been in school, there has never been a year where parents were not asked to provide the most basic school supplies -- even paper and pencils.

Materials for science experiments have become a luxury item -- and so has hands-on learning.

All our kids deserve better, so I AM A DONOR.

donorschoose.org/sciencebloggers

* * * * *

If you're a grown-up who's into science, chances are that some teacher or mentor-like person in your childhood did something to spark your interest, to expose you to cool experiments or patterns of scientific reasoning. Maybe it was a trip to see dinosaur skeletons at the natural history museum, or that baking soda and vinegar volcano, or the year your class grew fruit flies or silkworms. Maybe it was learning something unexpected about clouds, or about the digestive system. Maybe it was looking through a telescope for the first time, or discovering what the math you had learned was good for.

Kids today will have a better chance at having that kind of "a ha!" moment if their teachers have the materials and funds to make those moments happen.

If you can spare a little money, you can help make that happen. And, in the process, you can tell the current generation of school kids that their educational experiences matter to you. After all, these kids are going to be the scientists, doctors, engineers, teachers, voters, parents, and decision-makers of the future. What they know about science -- and how they feel about science -- will affect us all.

If you've already donated through Science Bloggers for Students, tell the world why you are a donor. Post a photo on your own blog (please drop a link in the comments), or email me a photo and I'll share it for you. I'm guessing there are even more reasons to be a donor than there are donors ... so far. (As I type this, the leaderboard shows 286 donors to the drive. By Saturday, can we bring that up to 500?)

And remember, if you donate through my giving page by the end of the drive (midnight October 22), you get to assign me a topic for a blog post!

Comments are off for this post

DonorsChoose #scibloggers4students: I'm not above bribing you.

You already know that the science-inclined precincts of the blogosphere are in the midst of Science Bloggers for Students 2011, in which we and DonorsChoose ask you to contribute funds to public school classroom projects which provide books, science kits, safety equipment and reagents, field trips, and other essentials to make learning come alive for students.

You may also recall that the drive this year runs through October 22nd. And, seeing as how that's more than a week away, you maybe have making a donation on the second (or third) page of your to-do list. Or, you figure someone else will do it.

A bunch of other folks (including me!) have donated funds to get the challenge rolling -- the overall total for the drive as I compose this is $13,733 -- but there are so many more classroom projects waiting to be funded. Inertia may be a comfortable default, especially in the face of need so great that its enormity is paralyzing, but if you can spare a few bucks you will be doing something tangible to be a force for good.

And, it's easy. Visit my giving page, check out the projects described there, enter the amount of money you want to give, and check out. It's as quick and painless as buying a book or a T-shirt online.

Plus, I'm prepared to make it worth your while.

Goodies from ThinkGeek:

As I type this post, just over 24 hours remain in this week's challenge (which ends midnight October 13th, Eastern time) to get the most new donors to one's giving page. ThinkGeek will be awarding $50 gift certificates to the five bloggers in the drive who picked up the most new donors this week. If you make me one of those bloggers, I'll be giving away a $50 gift certificate, a $25 gift certificate, and a $10 gift certificate from ThinkGeek to randomly drawn donors to my giving page.

But, you have to put me in the top five for number of donors to make the drawing happen. So seize that window of opportunity!

Set my blogging agenda:

Owing to the vicissitudes of my semester (and the youth soccer season, and the eldest Free-Ride offspring's first year of junior high), I haven't been posting as much as I might be. What do you want me to blog about here? What ethical issue in science should I explore for you? What scientific topic demands a sprog's-eye view? What questions would you like to ask me about my misspent scientific youth?

Until the end of the drive (October 22nd), if you make a donation of any size to my giving page, you get to assign me a blog post. Think of the power! Mwuahahaha!

OK, you know the facts. You know what to do.

4 responses so far

#scibloggers4students social media occupation

Have you ever watched your Twitter feed only to see a virtual community come together to effect positive change in the three-dimensional world? It looks like this:

The science bloggers prepare their DonorsChoose giving pages for Science Bloggers for Students 2011 and start tweeting it up ...

Prepping by null Science Blogger Donor page. get ready to help #public #science #education excel with community output
DNLee5
October 2, 2011
Great to see @DonorsChoose teachers getting in on the tweeting! Thanks @KinderDude, @DMQUALLS & @suzannemini for sharing your projects w me!
doc_becca
October 2, 2011
When did you stop loving science? New post at Balanced Instability http://wp.me/p1l80q-9g @DonorsChoose
GertyZ
October 2, 2011
They offer their readers reasons to become donors (including prizes) ...
Helping needy classrooms + cocktail named after you = WINNING, people. http://scientopia.org/blogs/drbecca/2011/10/02/its-donors-choose-and-cocktail-sweepstakes-time/ #DonorsChoose
doc_becca
October 3, 2011
Science Bloggers for Education Challenge. Your support may educate another Whizbanger! http://bit.ly/pmZ701
PHLane
October 3, 2011
You know why the #supercommittee should adopt #buffettrule? http://bit.ly/ocSlxu have you seen what teachers need? http://DonorsChoose.org
sundapp
October 3, 2011
Help me bring desperately-needed science materials to classrooms, with @DonorsChoose: http://bit.ly/off1GP #DonorsChoose
JacquelynGill
October 3, 2011
@SteelCitySci is leading SciAm blogs in fundraising for #DonorsChoose. Bloggers make a difference! You can help! http://steelcityscience.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/science-bloggers-for-students-challenge-donorschoose/
SandlinSeguin
October 3, 2011
Pomp, circumstance, and the legendary nipple shirt. Now at Pondering Blather for @DonorsChoose! http://scientopia.org/blogs/blather/2011/10/03/its-time/
doc_becca
October 3, 2011
This classroom needs goggles to practice safe science. Can you help? http://bit.ly/oaYMlo #DonorsChoose (Project: Safety First!)
JacquelynGill
October 3, 2011
I'm not above bribery and stunts to get donations for @DonorsChoose. First donor gets hard back copy of Dawkins... http://fb.me/1aXQom3ao
DNLee5
October 3, 2011
Hey chembloggers, set up your #scibloggers4students giving pages so I can support my old discipline! #DonorsChoose
docfreeride
October 3, 2011
@suzannemini Well, here's mine, part of FreeThought Bloggers: http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/leadershipboard.html?category=274
kyliesturgess
October 4, 2011
@DonorsChoose, a great cause for bringing science to our most needy students - http://bit.ly/mVtUtM 1 Project fully funded, 70 to go!!
LSBlogs
October 4, 2011
Geoscience bloggers, you should join me at the @DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students challenge! Team Ocean & Geoscience needs you.
JacquelynGill
October 4, 2011
Science up the Schools with the DrugMonkey Blog DonorsChoose Drive for 2011 http://dlvr.it/pKKjX
ScientopiaBlogs
October 4, 2011
For every $5 you donate through my #DonorsChoose giving page, you get an entry to win custom science magnets! null
JacquelynGill
October 4, 2011
The competition between networks and disciplines heats up ...
W00t! #SciAmBlogs pulled ahead of the indep bloggers in DonorsChoose donations! We've got @LabSpaces in our sights... http://bit.ly/rmAryL
NerdyChristie
October 4, 2011
Acid and base are four letter words...hooray for biochemistry #scibloggers4students
jotey67890
October 4, 2011
Have you read this >> Science Bloggers for Students Give to my @DonorsChoose campaign & support public school... http://fb.me/I9uI9xiP
DNLee5
October 4, 2011
Did you love the extras in science classes? The experiments, hands-on demos and the dissections? Please help a teacher http://bit.ly/ndMhoU
drugmonkeyblog
October 5, 2011
@DonorsChoose project: Launch a Rocket of Success - http://bit.ly/n2SpTC Please help @h2so4hurts in helping to fund a rocketry project
LSBlogs
October 5, 2011
Will you help these Wisconsin kindergartners learn (and enjoy!) math? http://bit.ly/nxSyEp (Project: Math in the Real World) #DonorsChoose
JacquelynGill
October 5, 2011
#DonorsChoose is the right thing to do. RT @ScientopiaBlogs: Support Science in the Schools... http://dlvr.it/pWVny
drugmonkeyblog
October 5, 2011
RT @docfreeride: Day 7 of #scibloggers4students drive with @DonorsChoose and we're really close to $7000. Spare a few bucks? http://t.co/7n8Lu6Wb
lblanken
October 8, 2011
ThinkGeek gets in on the action by offering prizes for the bloggers who get the most new donors during Week 2 of the challenge ...
RT @docfreeride: And thru midnight 10/13 @DonorsChoose #scibloggers4students blogger who gets most new donors wins $50 @thinkgeek cert.! http://t.co/7n8Lu6Wb
cuttlefishpoet
October 8, 2011
RT @docfreeride: Help @sciencegeist fund a "Cooking with Chemistry" classroom project - just $71 to go! http://t.co/uo2aNRNf #scibloggers4students
DrRubidium
October 8, 2011
This #DonorsChoose project has <48 hours to go-- help bring microscopes to Ms. Lee's class! http://bit.ly/qXuZWs (Seeing is Understanding)
JacquelynGill
October 8, 2011
RT @docfreeride: Help @DNLee5 fund "Our Trash Goes Where?!" classroom project - just $172 to go! http://t.co/t9RLFR1r #scibloggers4students
lualnu10
October 8, 2011
Help @GertyZ support "Scientific investigating!" classroom project - just $202 to go! http://t.co/HW2pLSyr #scibloggers4students
betterbio
October 8, 2011
@betterbio @docfreeride thanks ladies for helping spread the word #scibloggers4students @DonorsChoose
DNLee5
October 8, 2011
RT @rachelpep: No chemicals, test tubes, or lab coats? Let's help classrooms get what they need to teach chemistry: bit.ly/qMvGJx #donorschoose
Chem_Coach
October 10, 2011
.@DonorsChoose! - http://t.co/K88sa5jI We're still looking for donations for our projects. Every little bit helps!
LSBlogs
October 10, 2011
@cenblogs @razibkhan @BadAstronomer jump in to #scibloggers4students! Help them raise $ for public school science! http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/motherboard.html?motherboardId=21
docfreeride
October 10, 2011
The competition gets personal ...
Please donate to Sci's Giving page of Awesome!!! I want the childrens to LEARN! http://bit.ly/pMQ38h
scicurious
October 10, 2011
Ok, Now It's Personal: http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/?p=755 Stomp Scicurious, for the sake of children. Please, won't someone think of the children!
cuttlefishpoet
October 10, 2011
Phil Plait unleashes a juggernaut of citizen philanthropy ...
RT @docfreeride: Whoa! @BadAstronomer pulls Discover Blogs ahead of @sciamblogs in #scibloggers4students. Step up, #SciAmBlog readers! http://t.co/7n8Lu6Wb
BoraZ
October 10, 2011
RT @docfreeride: And now, @BadAstronomer pulls Discover Blogs ahead of @LabSpaces in #scibloggers4students. #Sciento... http://t.co/pNHfgMaF
DonorsChoose
October 10, 2011
RT @docfreeride: @BadAstronomer unleashes army of donors in #scibloggers4students Not even Freethought Blogs' lead is safe! http://t.co/WsrYNjdV
scicurious
October 10, 2011
RT @docfreeride: And now, @BadAstronomer pulls Discover Blogs ahead of @LabSpaces in #scibloggers4students. #Scientopia 's lead at risk. http://t.co/7n8Lu6Wb
drugmonkeyblog
October 10, 2011
Give to @donorschoose via your favorite science blogs! http://t.co/l9aKLeQp #scibloggers4students #fb
Comprendia
October 10, 2011
And now, @BadAstronomer pulls Discover Blogs ahead of @LabSpaces in #scibloggers4students. #Scientopia 's lead at risk. http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/motherboard.html?motherboardId=21
docfreeride
October 10, 2011
@docfreeride @DonorsChoose We're trying as hard as we can 🙁
LabSpaces
October 10, 2011
@LabSpaces @DonorsChoose Don't give up! Rally your readers! Highlight a specific project or two! Tug heartstrings! #scibloggers4students
docfreeride
October 10, 2011
New post: Donors Choose! Help Students Learn About Science http://t.co/ZigcvX1X #sciamblogs @donorschoose
jgold85
October 10, 2011
A bugologist enters the fray ...
Right--I'm in the DonorsChoose Science Challenge. Let's fund some classroom bug science. http://t.co/ljT2CPiE
bug_girl
October 10, 2011
Show other science bloggers what bugologists are made of: Yep, it"s time for the yearly DonorsChoose Science Cha... http://t.co/xKryUwTr
mod147
October 10, 2011
Tweeps root for their team in the challenge ...
Main page for Science Bloggers for Education: http://t.co/V9hGr7jZ; I recommend TEAM OCEAN/GEOBLOGGERS, naturally http://t.co/9oyNUd64
stomachlining
October 10, 2011
... or highlight projects dear to them ...
A mere $130 to go on the classroom rug #DonorsChoose project..can you spare $10 Tweeps? http://t.co/LZqHhtUJ via @donorschoose
drugmonkeyblog
October 11, 2011
Enable science education with DonorsChoose! http://t.co/1ZDuwvge
microdro
October 11, 2011
RT @stomachlining: IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN! Go support science education! Science Blogger DonorsChoose Challenge. http://t.co/wB59SrrY #DSN
MiriamGoldste
October 11, 2011
... propagating warm fuzzies ...
The feel goodest thing you can do today. RT @microdro: Enable science education with #DonorsChoose! http://t.co/W2DBewsf
drugmonkeyblog
October 11, 2011
Improve science education with DonorsChoose! http://t.co/1ZDuwvge
microdro
October 11, 2011
Your warm-fuzzy moment of the day: Support science education by donating to a @DonorsChoose classroom project: http://t.co/NJ2vVUtw
JacquelynGill
October 11, 2011
Phil Plaits Bad Astronomy #Blog is promoting http://t.co/vhYdL9QV -a #nonprofit that #donate s money to kids classrooms http://t.co/bKvXgCfK
gabrielpark1970
October 11, 2011
RT @jgold85: Mr. Vizthum needs just $58 more dollars to get supplies necessary to teach evolution to his students http://t.co/ZigcvX1X @donorschoose
kzelnio
October 11, 2011
New post: This Earth Science week, help @maitri raise money for good geoscience education with #DonorsChoose! http://t.co/LSfD4CBx
Allochthonous
October 11, 2011
We watch as projects are funded before our eyes!
We got Mr. Vizthum his evolution books! His project is funded! @donorschoose http://t.co/ZigcvX1X
jgold85
October 11, 2011
RT @DonorsChoose: Yippee! RT @CSCpittsburgh: RT @SteelCitySci: you could help us spread the word: Science Bloggers for Students 🙂 http://t.co/kAAX6OyY
SteelCitySci
October 11, 2011
We funded one of our @DonorsChoose projects! Ms. Lee's students are getting microscopes! http://t.co/SzdblrpP
JacquelynGill
October 11, 2011
Geobloggers for Donorschoose: Maitri Erwin: Continuing our campaign to promote geoscience education during Earth... http://t.co/BKhAfqmY
SbExpats
October 11, 2011
RT @therealdjflux: RT @BadAstronomer: Please help kids in need learn about math and science: http://t.co/dZ6SZroV #DonorsChoose #fb
Catahouligan
October 11, 2011
But we recognize how great the need still is ...
Imagine a future without nephrologists. Don't let that happen! http://t.co/BLFToXea
PHLane
October 11, 2011
RT @LabSpaces: .@DonorsChoose project: Launch a Rocket of Success http://t.co/g7FUCYxq We still need some help to fund this project! Every little bit helps
SpaceGurlEvie
October 11, 2011
#scibloggers4students update: @MeinHermitage is in! "Let's brainwash kiddies in the name of SCIENCE" http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/viewChallenge.html?id=199514&category=282 @DonorsChoose
docfreeride
October 11, 2011
Hermitage arrives fashionably late to DonorsChoose http://t.co/9jkZT3hJ
ScientopiaBlogs
October 11, 2011
And we bow down to our readers' generosity!
WOOHOO! Some super generous person just donated $680 to @CdnGirlpostdoc 's project http://t.co/yLvN14KV @DonorsChoose
LSBlogs
October 11, 2011
You don't need to give hundreds of dollars to help (although if you can, don't let us stop you).

Even five dollars can get a classroom project a little bit closer to happening in the three-dimensional world.
The warm fuzzies you'll get from knowing you've helped are totally worth it.
If you can't spare five bucks, we understand. The economy is bad. But maybe tell your friends and family members who can spare five bucks about DonorsChoose, or about one of the specific projects in the challenge, and see if they can help.  (That entitles you to a share of their warm fuzzies, right?)

I'd be honored if you chose my giving page to supply your warm fuzzies.

Comments are off for this post

On fairness.

Because, it seems, the younger Free-Ride offspring and I have different ideas of what counts as fair.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: (noticing a song on the radio) Hey, it's "Poker Face". That song is really old.

Dr. Free-Ride: Yes.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: It must be like 15 years old.

Dr. Free-Ride: No, it's not.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: Yes, it is!

Dr. Free-Ride: Do you want to bet?

Younger Free-Ride offspring: OK, I'll bet you a dollar.

Dr. Free-Ride: You sure now? I'm going to fire up Wikipedia to verify the date. And I'm quite sure that the song is no more than five years old.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: Go ahead and check. And if I'm right, lets make it two bucks?

Dr. Free-Ride: What?

Younger Free-Ride offspring: Just look it up. If it's older than five years, I win, if it's less, you win.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK. See, it came out in 2008, which means it's only three years old. Will you be paying me my dollar now or later?

Younger Free-Ride offspring: That's no fair! You knew it was less than five years old.

Dr. Free-Ride: Yes, I did. That's why I was willing to bet on it.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: But I didn't know that you knew.

Dr. Free-Ride: But I told you I was certain.

Younger Free-Ride offspring: I thought you were wrong that you knew it. And it wasn't fair for you to bet me if you knew the answer for sure.

So, apparently, taking a gamble with too little uncertainty attached to it is unfair. Or maybe my crime is having absorbed some facts about young-person music.

* * * * *
Speaking of fairness, I don't think it's fair for public school kids to bear so much of the brunt of failing state and local budgets. If you agree, it would be awesome if you could donate even a few bucks to one of the projects in my giving page for the DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students 2011 drive.

And, for the next week, through the very last moment (Eastern Time) of Thursday, October 13th, bloggers in the challenge will be competing to get the most new donors to their giving pages. The five bloggers in the challenge who pick up the most new donors during this window will each receive a $50 gift certificate for ThinkGeek stuff.

I love ThinkGeek stuff, but I love reader participation even more -- which means, if you all can help me get to the top five so I can win that gift certificate, I'm going to turn around and give each of my donors a chance to win one, too! I'm prepared to give away a $50 gift certificate, a $25 gift certificate, and a $10 gift certificate to randomly drawn donors to my giving page (because that would be fair). Just forward me a copy of the email DonorsChoose sends you to confirm your donation to my giving page and you're in the drawing.

There may be some other incentives for your participation, too ... stay tuned!

2 responses so far

College students face a crummy future: Occupy Wall Street inspires campus activism.

Inside Higher Ed reports that college students across the U.S. have been staging protests in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations:

In true Occupy Wall Street fashion, the campus protesters didn’t have any specific demands. Instead, they spoke out against the general issues that have long plagued students: high debt, rising tuition, the privatization of public education and uneven distribution of wealth.

At the State University of New York at Albany walkout, about half of the 300 or so protesters managed to secure an hour to express their concerns to President George Philip in an open forum in the administration building. He reportedly agreed with some of their qualms, but upset many when he told them, “I’m not giving you back my pension.” The president of the New School, David E. Van Zandt, meanwhile, issued a supportive statement that encouraged students “to devise peaceful, practical solutions to longstanding problems of inequality.”

The article considers how many students at various campuses did (or did not) walk out of classes or turn up for demonstrations, and why that might be (e.g., it's easier to indicate on Facebook that you'll attend an event than it might be actually to attend it -- especially with midterm exams looming). Still, in an age where we old farts tend to shake our heads at student apathy, there seems to be growing a palpable sense of discontent that may bubble into action. From the article:

Lettie Stratton, a St. Lawrence senior, said that regardless of who turned out to protest, many could relate.

“Our overall goal was really just to create a dialogue and get people talking about what matters to them,” Stratton said. “As students, we’re part of the 99 percent," she said, referring to the Occupy Wall Street slogan describing the vast majority of the American population who aren’t super-rich. "Crippled with student loans, we’re already behind before we even have a chance to set foot in the real world.

“I think a big part of this is speaking out against ignorance and realizing that 99 percent can make a change. We also want to make sure that it doesn’t stop today – we want people to keep talking about it. It’s not just like, ‘Oh, the protest is over, so let’s go back to doing nothing.' ”

For those of you who aren't dealing with college students on a daily basis, it is important to recognize the context in which students are raising these objections. These are not the perennial student gripes about not having a plan for what to do after graduation, or not being able to find a job immediately after graduation that feels like a career, if not a calling.

As much as the economy has not been improving for those of us who are not CEOs, it has been even worse for college students.

It's not just that the so-called "job creators" have created precious few jobs, but that employers are now explicitly seeking to hire job applicants who already have jobs. (The logic of this strikes me as of a piece with banks that only want to lend money to people who already have money.) The young people who went to college to prepare themselves to enter the work force are, of course, less likely to already have jobs (since they went to college to acquire the skills and credentials and such to get jobs). In most cases, the jobs they're working while they are students are not the jobs they hope to be working for the rest of their adult lives.

Basically, we have a generation that has been urged to go to college because it was purportedly a reliable route to a middle-class standard of living. No one warned them that the middle class might be squeezed nearly out of existence.

Depending on your views about the point of a college education (here's how I described mine five years ago, in the shadow of the dot-com bust), you might extend special sympathy to the students who opted for the "prudent" route of selecting some practical major that helped them acquired a focused set of skills and credentials that could plug them right in to some existing career path. They might have wanted to major in something less practical, like philosophy or history or English (or even a more theoretical science), but they wanted to know that they'd be employable immediately after graduation.

The lack of even such well-defined jobs must make recent graduates feel pretty cheated.

Well, we older people might reply, at least they (or their liberal arts major compatriots) got the enrichment of a college education, which is something a lot of working stiffs (and unemployed folks) never get. Indeed, you might expect me to say something like this, given my earlier defense of "impractical" majors:

A job is nice. So is political power, a fancy chariot, hangers-on. But you can have all these things and still not be happy or fulfilled. And, if your happiness depends on having such things, you're pretty vulnerable to sudden reversals.

So how can a human find fulfillment that isn't all about having lots of stuff, or a high-paying job, or a top-rated sit-com?

Well, what do you have that's really yours? What is the piece of your life that no one can take away?

You have your mind. You have the ability to think about things, to experience the world, to decide what matters to you and how you want to pursue it. You have your sense of curiousity and wonder when you encounter something new and unexpected, and your sense of satisfaction when you figure something out. You have the power to imagine ways the world could be different. You even have the ability (the responsibility?) to try to make the world different.

This is what I think a college education should give you: lots of hands-on experience using your mind so you know different ways you can think about things and you start to figure out what you care about.

I still think a college education should give you experience using your mind in lots of different ways, and that this does impart skills (although broad ones, not just narrow ones) that can be of use in the workplace as well as in life.

However, I also wrote:

There is always the danger of going overboard with the idea that the life of the mind is the only life that matters, which could be used as an excuse to get people to pipe down about truly horrible material conditions. And, a mind is not invulnerable to certain kinds of threats, whether natural or man-made. Still, I'd rather have a supple mind than a whole bucketful of skills so specialized they might only be useful for another six months.

Now, we have a situation where even the most practical majors cannot count on employment at graduation. We've created an economy where people who have taken all the prudent steps to enter the world of work -- often while assuming significant debt to earn their degrees -- cannot find jobs!

(Even at public universities, student debt is a big deal. When state budgets get tight, student fees go up. Cutting instructional staff means fewer sections of courses students need to graduate -- which means more years in school and more term bills to pay. Plus, more and more of those courses needed to graduate are being shifted outside of the regular academic calendar to summer sessions and winter sessions. These special sessions don't receive the same level of support from the state, so students have to pay a lot more to take the same classes in them -- essentially, privatizing some of the instruction at public universities.)

It strikes me that we, as a society, owe college students and recent college graduates more.

We should want our government, and our society more broadly, to take care of its members (including its youth) at least as well as its banks.

It is reasonable for the youth to want people in government, in the private sector, in the media (hello corporate ownership) to hear their voices, their grievances, and their hopes for the future even if they can't spare thousands of dollars to make campaign donations, or to incorporate.

If Mitt Romney is right that corporations are people, what he didn't mention is that many of them are legal persons that suck -- sucking all the attention of our policy makers, all the best tax benefits, all the reflexive good will of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, what have these legal persons done for young people lately besides jacking up the interest on their student loans and the fees on their debit cards?

Young people are entitled to their anger and frustration, and they are reasonable in recognizing the need to go outside normal channels to get the attention of those with the power to change things. I'm hopeful that this leads them to pursue some concerted action when election time comes around -- to hack our system and start dismantling the structures that currently ensure that no matter which of the two major parties wins, the corporations can keep on keeping on.

So ... where do the faculty stand in all of this? Where should we stand?

I think we need to be committed to delivering the highest quality education we can to our students given the resources we have. (We do have to recognize, though, that with the resources we have right now, we may not be able to deliver the education we think our students deserve without hurting ourselves.)

We need also to be honest with our students about how crummy the economy is, and how dismal their job prospects may be.

Further, we need to do what we can to change the conditions that make the economic future our students face so very dismal. That responsibility doesn't belong solely to the people teaching college students, though -- it belongs to the generations who came before them, especially those who were able to parlay a college education into a middle-class existence.

(We also owe it to people in our society who don't go to college to provide conditions for them to live decent lives ... but at least they're not laboring under the expectation that their education is a ticket to economic stability.)

Some of us have seen already that the folks at the top of the power pyramid will try to play students and faculty off against each other -- to make it look like a forced choice between delivering promised pensions to faculty and raising student fees, for example. We owe it to ourselves and each other to resist this zero-sum-game framing that exempts administrators and corporations from sharing sacrifice in meaningful ways.

Philosophers may have a well-earned reputation for corrupting the youth, but we have no interest in eating our young. We must find a way to go forward and build a society that has room for us all.

* * * * *

If you want to support the younger generations of our society in a tangible way, please consider donating to a project on my DonorsChoose giving page. Even a few dollars can bring a public school classroom closer to providing the kind of engaging math and science education that our kids deserve.

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In which I put Stephen Colbert on notice and announce the kick-off of DonorsChoose Science Bloggers for Students 2011.

I'm putting Stephen Colbert on notice

Now that that's out of the way ...

In the science-y sectors of the blogosphere, folks frequently bemoan the sorry state of the public’s scientific literacy and engagement. People fret about whether our children are learning what they should about science, math, and critical reasoning. Netizens speculate on the destination of the handbasket in which we seem to be riding.

In light of the big problems that seem insurmountable, we should welcome the opportunity to do something small that can have an immediate impact.

This year, from October 2 through October 22, a number of science bloggers, whether networked, loosely affiliated, or proudly independent, will be teaming up with DonorsChoose in Science Bloggers for Students, a philanthropic throwdown for public schools.

DonorsChoose is a site where public school teachers from around the U.S. submit requests for specific needs in their classrooms — from books to science kits, overhead projectors to notebook paper, computer software to field trips — that they can’t meet with the funds they get from their schools (or from donations from their students’ families). Then donors choose which projects they’d like to fund and then kick in the money, whether it’s a little or a lot, to help a proposal become a reality.

Over the last few several, bloggers have rallied their readers to contribute what they can to help fund classroom proposals through DonorsChoose, especially proposals for projects around math and science, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, funding hundreds of classroom projects, and impacting thousands of students.

Which is great. But there are a whole lot of classrooms out there that still need help.

As economic experts scan the horizon for hopeful signs and note the harbingers of economic recovery, we should not forget that school budgets are still hurting (and are worse, in many cases, than they were last school year, since one-time lumps of stimulus money are gone now). Indeed, public school teachers have been scraping for resources since long before Wall Street’s financial crisis started. Theirs is a less dramatic crisis than a bank failure, but it’s here and it’s real and we can’t afford to wait around for lawmakers on the federal or state level to fix it.

The kids in these classrooms haven’t been making foolish investments. They’ve just been coming to school, expecting to be taught what they need to learn, hoping that learning will be fun. They’re our future scientists, doctors, teachers, decision-makers, care-providers, and neighbors. To create the scientifically literate world we want to live in, let’s help give these kids the education they deserve.

One classroom project at a time, we can make things better for these kids. Joining forces with each other people, even small contributions can make a big difference.

The challenge this year runs October 2 through October 22. We're overlapping with Earth Science Week (October 9-15, 2011) and National Chemistry Week (October 16-22, 2011), a nice chance for earth science and chemistry fans to add a little philanthropy to their celebrations. There are a bunch of Scientopia bloggers mounting challenges this year (check out some of their challenge pages on our leaderboard), as well as bloggers from other networks (which you can see represented on the challenge's motherboard). And, since today is the official kick-off, there is plenty of time for other bloggers and their readers to enter the fray!




How It Works:
Follow the links above to your chosen blogger’s challenge on the DonorsChoose website.

Pick a project from the slate the blogger has selected. Or more than one project, if you just can’t choose. (Or, if you really can’t choose, just go with the “Give to the most urgent project” option at the top of the page.)

Donate.

(If you’re the loyal reader of multiple participating blogs and you don’t want to play favorites, you can, of course, donate to multiple challenges! But you’re also allowed to play favorites.)

Sit back and watch the challenges inch towards their goals, and check the leaderboards to see how many students will be impacted by your generosity.

Even if you can’t make a donation, you can still help!
Spread the word about these challenges using web 2.0 social media modalities. Link your favorite blogger’s challenge page on your MySpace page, or put up a link on Facebook, or FriendFeed, or LiveJournal (or Friendster, or Xanga, or …). Tweet about it on Twitter (with the #scibloggers4students hashtag). Share it on Google +. Sharing your enthusiasm for this cause may inspire some of your contacts who do have a little money to get involved and give.

Here's the permalink to my giving page.

Thanks in advance for your generosity.

3 responses so far