The past 4 weeks have been unsettling. As above, so below. At my school where I’ve spent 8 years heavily engaged in governance, planning, and accreditation work I’ve come under a severe personal and “political” attack that has put the open learning project I’ve led at risk. I didn’t see that coming. Yet, three weeks ago I participated in my first Lilly Conference. I felt comfortable and surprisingly (to me) confident. I’ve never thought of myself as having much pedagogical expertise. I always thought I was just an economist, an unconscious competent when it came to teaching. I started to realize that even though I don’t have any degree in “education”, I’ve got something to contribute and I feel comfortable with these “teaching experts”.
Then two weeks ago it was OpenEd16. I’ve already written about that. I found my people. Never have I have felt more at home with some academic group. I went to OpenEd hoping to tell the story of what we’ve done with open learning and a domains of one’s own project at my community college. I seriously hoped to get a kind of “that’s a good job, there, little bro” from all these thought leaders and big research schools that pioneering this movement. What I got was a welcome and interest as a peer – people thought I had something interesting to say. My voice was welcomed. And it was welcomed on a stage much larger than I pictured. It’s an international stage.
And then election came day. Trumpland. I didn’t see that coming either, but in retrospect this week, I should have. I’m still an economist. I teach not only macro principles, but econ history and comparative econ systems. But I listened to pollsters instead of relying on my own analysis as economic historian. So I’ve been deeply buried in trying to figure out what Trump + Republican congress means. How will things change. How do I explain it. And I’m trying to figure all that out while sorting out my own feelings of grief for my country and society and my realization that I have to help protect all those that are so threatened by this coming new administration. I am fortunate enough to be older, hetero, white married male. I am not as vulnerable as so many others are. That’s a privilege.
But with great privilege comes great responsibility.
So what to do? I realize that I’ve let my blogging and writing languish in recent years as I got more and more involved in governance and politics inside the little campus where I work. I got tied up in a silly anxiety over whether I should use this blog, which originally started as just explanations of economic news for my students and somehow gained some followers, or use a different platform for topics that weren’t directly economic analysis: open learning concepts, pedagogy, management and leadership of higher education, and just broader social commentary. I realize I’ve let my voice get too quiet. I also realize that while I don’t have all the answers, I can offer some unique perspectives. What’s felt like an unfocused jack-of-all-trades-not-expert-in-anything career with corporate planning, strategic & technology planning consulting, teaching economics, economic analysis, college governance, economic history, rhetoric studies, and pedagogy might actually be an advantage. I can connect dots that others can’t even see. I’m also now in my sixties. I’ve seen many things those that are younger haven’t and were never taught.
So I hereby commit to write more. I’m going to contribute my voice more and quit hesitating. The role I’ve come to play on campus needs to step up to a larger stage where more across long distance can hear and where I can amplify their voices.
I’ve developed a bad case of blogstipation*. Specifically, you the reader can expect more and more frequent posts about the following themes. I promise there will be more of not only the original reason for this blog,
- More macro policy analysis – As we shift from Obama’s inadequate policies based on broken mainstream macroeconomic theories to Trump’s likely to be volatile and failed policies based on a free-market fantasy, there will be much to explain.
but also more about what I’m doing and experimenting with pedagogically.
- Open Learning – the nuts and bolts of what I’m doing, what I (we) are learning about learning, and the odd insight
I now see that I these aren’t entirely different worlds of thought. They’re connected. So I’ve got some pieces in the works that make the big picture connections.
- It’s the End of the World, except It’s Not. Brexit. Trumpworld. Putin. Europe seems to be turning to the right. I read and hear way too much commentary that sees this as the end of the world but sees it in older 20th century right-left, free market capitalist vs. socialist, cold-war or WWII terms. It is possibly the end of a dominant system in the West, but that system is globalized neo-liberalism (don’t reach the verdict yet, the Empire has yet to strike back). That view also ignores the heavily colonized vast rest of the world. What comes next? There’s a lot to talk about.
- Sub-Prime US. Gardner Campbell planted this seed. The financial crisis of 2007-09 that started in the U.S. with the sub-prime mortgage mess wasn’t an accident. It was a feature of the system and not bug. When seen as part of a globalized, neo-liberal, hierarchical system, we see that sub-prime is a class thing. The “student success” and “completion” agendas and efforts in higher education have much in common with Wall Street’s embrace of sub-prime mortgages. The corporate restructurings and shift of the US economy from manufacturing to finance & entertainment is part of a class system: the blue-chip 1% and the elite-educated struggling to become the 1%, and the rest of us reduced to sub-prime status. Sub-prime us.
But I also have ideas about how we can lead, react, and fix this mess. I need to document and share these ideas so they can be pollinated.
- Flipped College – How we manage, organize, and lead higher education must change. Much has been made in recent years of the need to “flip” the college classroom (I hate the simplistic moniker BTW). But the classroom pedagogy is but a reflection of the institution itself. If we don’t want the classroom to be top-down content-delivery, we have to flip the college itself away from top-down hierarchical structures and practices.
- some more that I don’t have cute little names for yet.
Stay tuned. I have work to do.