English majors fare just fine on the job market, but in what jobs?

by David Alm October 14, 2014

A few days ago, a friend of mine with a tenure-track English professorship at a large southern university posted an article on Facebook that argued, basically, that humanities majors fare no worse in the job market than other majors. The data came from a study conducted by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, and covered […]

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Those pesky “whining adjuncts”

by David Alm August 27, 2014

Two days ago, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a letter to the editor by one Catherine Stukel, who teaches at a community college in Cicero, Illinois. The point of Stukel’s letter was simple: She thinks that adjuncts whine too much about low wages, insecure employment, and not being able to find full-time jobs. In her […]

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Is the university over?

by David Alm August 16, 2014

Minerva — hardly a word you’d associate with higher education. It sounds more like a brand-name medication designed to treat anxiety — Minimize your nerves with Minerva! Or maybe a South American root that generations of indigenous populations have used to cure everything. But no. If a 39-year-old entrepreneur named Ben Nelson has his way, the word Minerva will not only […]

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Confessions of a standardized test writer

by David Alm March 7, 2014

In the fall of 2011, I was invited to prepare an essay for the American College Testing exam, better known as the ACT. If you live on the East or West Coasts, you’ve probably never heard of it; if you live in the Midwest or the South, it hangs over your future like a guillotine […]

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To save the humanities, try a little tenderness

by David Alm December 4, 2013

Did you know that only 8 percent of undergraduates major in a humanities discipline like English or philosophy? Or how about the fact that more than half of college professors today are adjunct, or so-called “contingency” faculty? Or what about the hard, cold reality that people who study English or philosophy enter their working lives […]

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Writing your way into college

by David Alm October 1, 2013

Bard College announced this week that it was introducing a new admissions option for prospective students, one devoid of GPAs, test scores, and other stone-cold metrics that, some say, do little to represent a complete human being or how well they’ll actually do in college. Starting next year, smart high schoolers who might not look […]

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You don’t need to study the arts. Or do you?

by David Alm September 20, 2013

He was the last person you’d expect to say that people don’t need to study the humanities. He’s made an entire career out of them — as an educator, as an organizer of public programs, and as a widely published essayist and literary critic. But a little more than a week ago, over a couple […]

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The disillusioned and the lost, or, Frances Ha’s life lessons

by David Alm June 7, 2013

Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Frances Ha, takes us into the world of a young woman a few years out of college. The effect is startlingly accurate, at times painful, and generally brilliant. The subject is familiar territory for Baumbach, who has built a career exploring the existential angst of young, educated, well-meaning people who were […]

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The fallacy of the 10K B.A.

by David Alm February 1, 2013

In an Op/Ed for today’s New York Times, Arthur Brooks offers himself as evidence that cheap, zero-residence higher education not only works, but is a moral imperative. The moral imperative has less to do with the correspondence part of the equation, and more with the low cost that correspondence (i.e. online) education allows. See, Brooks […]

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Can we love fiction once we’re no longer seeking answers?

by David Alm December 26, 2012

I once asked my father, who had majored in English, gotten his master’s degree in English, and for years had dreams of being a full professor of English before he decided (wisely) to pursue a more stable career instead, why he no longer read novels. I was in college at the time, and just discovering […]

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Bill Gates on the higher-education crisis

by David Alm December 10, 2012

While state funding for higher education plummets, tuition soars to make up the difference. As a result, young people are often being saddled with insurmountable debt, all in the name of getting that all-important college degree. So they drop out along the way, presumably because it’s too expensive to do all at once (at least […]

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The ironic death of postmodernism

by David Alm October 11, 2012

I am currently teaching a class at Hunter College titled Journalism & Society, which analyzes the impact of journalism on culture and vice versa. We discuss corporate consolidation, the so-called “independent media,” the real import of “fake” news, and the ultimately limited ability of any news organization to tell us everything we need to know. […]

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The endless, perplexing, and ultimately essential question of whether writing can be taught

by David Alm October 8, 2012

In this month’s Atlantic, Peg Tyre writes about a school on Staten Island that has “revolutionized” writing pedagogy: by going back to basics. Judith Hochman, who originally developed the very old-fashioned approach to writing pedagogy that New Dorp High School is now using, told Tyre that “kids need a formula, at least at first, because what […]

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Your thoughts on Adrienne Rich, please

by David Alm March 29, 2012

I first learned about Adrienne Rich, who died on Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, CA, at the age of 82, in college almost 20 years ago. I was 18, and many of my professors adored Rich. They taught entire courses about her, or at least included her poems on their syllabi, and by […]

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The audacity of Udacity

by David Alm January 30, 2012

Much of education is aesthetic: The architecture, the “look” of the student body, the general vibe of a university. Such considerations may be superficial, but they aren’t trite. The feel of a school has a huge influence on one’s experience of it. There’s something about strolling through a centuries-old campus that compels you to excellence. […]

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