April 2009 Archives

"At First Sight, Stereotypes, Then Real People Emerged"

Memphis Journal
28 April 2009

Lance Murphey for The New York Times.JPG
Chicago artist Jeff Zimmerman's "A Note of Hope" mural in Memphis, TN.
Photo by: Lance Murphey for The New York Times

MEMPHIS — Wearing a lilac suit and rhinestone earrings fit for an Easter service, Savannah Simmons made a grand entrance on Sunday at AutoZone Park, a minor-league baseball stadium in the center of downtown. News photographers clustered around her as she smiled broadly enough to broadcast a single gold tooth amid her pearly whites. On the wall behind her, a portrait of Ms. Simmons, an 80-year-old black former factory worker, in a giant mural showed that same gold tooth in a slightly more restrained version of that same smile.

Nowak's 'Coal Mountain Elementary' Featured on PBS NewsHour

PBS: The Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
24 April 2009
BY Mike Melia

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"DRESS REHEARSAL" for the play version of Coal Mountain Elementary.
Photo by: Lizz Clements/The Inter-Mountain

Download Mark Melia's interview with Mark Nowak where Nowak discusses the significant local and global social-economic issues that his new book, Coal Mountain Elementary, exposes.

Click here for NewsHour's article on the book as well as a video clip from a recent performance by Davis & Elkins College of West Virginia.

Click here to go to Nowak's blog, which chronicles daily in numbers and stories coal mining accidents and deaths globally.

"End the University as We Know It"

New York Times
26 April 26 2009


GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).

Widespread hiring freezes and layoffs have brought these problems into sharp relief now. But our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities. Kant, in his 1798 work “The Conflict of the Faculties,” wrote that universities should “handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.”

Unfortunately this mass-production university model has led to separation where there ought to be collaboration and to ever-increasing specialization. In my own religion department, for example, we have 10 faculty members, working in eight subfields, with little overlap. And as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less. Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems. A colleague recently boasted to me that his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations.

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