Destroying or eliminating General Education classes is barbaric. The Visigoths are at the door!

General Education Classes are at the Heart of Higher Education

“The first act of the Islamic State was to kill the people with knowledge of Religion.” Zaid AlFares

For more than two decades at my last job at a state university, I had to fight tooth and nail to preserve the Religious Studies programs. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog, politics on campus can be quite complicated and visceral. Our greatest opponents were professors and administrators in fields other than normally found in General Studies programs.  They argued that our university did not need General Education. Other universities have walked down this path, where they have attempted to become majors only institutions. From my point of view, destroying or eliminating General Education classes is barbaric.

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking helps to foster success in a person’s life!

I met a student who lives in Columbia the other night. He argued that General Education classes were a waste of time. Students should not be required to take classes they don’t like or don’t want to study. Universities should eliminate those worthless classes.  This point of view is both reductionistic and destructive.  The consequences of eliminating General Education classes would undermine our colleges and our country as a whole. And my reply to this student is that he should seek out a technical or for-profit school that does not include the classes he does not like in his program.

If you are a privileged human being who has grown up with lots of cash, traveled the world, and been tutored all of your life by high-end educators, then perhaps some of the General Education classes would seem to be a bit stifling. But many students in the state of Missouri, and especially at the institution where I taught, were first generation college students.

General Studies

General Studies enhances critical thinking skills and awareness of the world in which we live!

All students need to survey topics that they have never even considered studying in their lives. Those classes can open doors to possible careers and avocations. They lay a foundation that helps link students to all sorts of other people and careers. They can give “meaning” to a person’s life. You begin to understand the world around you, and interact with it in a more intelligent way after studying in a General Studies class.  What would life be like if we did not study history, art, theatre, literature, creative writing, sociology, psychology, communication, women’s studies, languages, music, and even religious studies? We would all become automatons or mechanical people without hearts or brains. And isn’t that the point, and the goal, of those who would eliminate General Studies?

Music

Music Adds to Our Lives

At the moment I am enrolled in a Music Appreciation class.  (Yes, I am retired.) It is true that I do not like all of the music we have studied, but on the other hand, I have discovered other music I love.  In Zumba classes I now can hear melodies in the Zumba tunes that were written hundreds of years ago.  The class has made me very aware of all of the music around me, and I can read and understand the newspapers and advertisements about music about which I knew nothing. This is all thanks to a General Education class.

Most humanities courses help students to learn how to be critical thinkers. They help students to learn how to express themselves clearly and to speak with passion and care. Many of the professors who did not teach General Education courses at my university, complained that they should not be held accountable for their student’s lack of good writing or critical-thinking skills. As long as they knew content in the discipline of a class, the other skills were not needed. This argument harms students.  They are not teaching in the best interests of students.  Their point of view is skewed and narrow.

Students may even need General Studies classes to determine what types of professors they want in their major area. I remember one of my students who had taken Greek from me, asking a question in one of her major classes, where the professor was misusing, misunderstanding, and mispronouncing Greek words. She questioned him and he did not like it.  And there were many other religious studies students who went on to challenge professors on campus who did not engage in critical thinking.

When you want to obtain control over a people, you eliminate the thinkers who have the knowledge to speak out, to be critical, to help others. We have seen this time and time again in Communist Countries, even yesterday with the murder of a high profile official in Russia. In Cambodia and Vietnam, thousands if not millions, of educated people were murdered because they had the knowledge.

Greek Symbol

This is a Greek symbol employed to protect Christians.

Knowledge is precious and can be life-saving. Education is more than getting a ticket to find a good job. Life is more than a paycheck.  Without General Education classes, and especially without religious studies classes, people cannot well assess their lives, their futures, their employers, and their own religious traditions. I can’t tell you how many times military people have come to me, and told me that they wished with all of their hearts that they had taken a World Religions class with me before they were deployed. Their lives would have been so much richer. They could have taken advantage of the opportunities that were presented to them in foreign ports of call. They would have understood the cultures and experiences better.

Shame on the student who carelessly complains about General Education classes. His mindset is similar to ISIS. Destroy the educated, so we can rule!

(The symbol refers to Yeisous (Jesus), Christos (the Christ), Theos (God), Huios (Son), and Soter or Soteria (Savior or Salvation). (The transliteration is mine.)  It was a code that allowed Christians to enter meetings during times of harassment by the government.  It saved their lives!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Posted in Children of Cambodia, Communism, Disillusionment in Higher Education, Higher Education, Hostility and Violence on Campus, Terrorists on Campus | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I Met a Terrorist and I did not Believe Him!

Terrorism and Missouri and Kansas

Before fatwas, before 9/11, before the Danish cartoons, before the war in Syria; before terror in France, Australia, Belgium, before ISIS, I met a terrorist.  

Really, I am not kidding!

Dome of the Rock in Israel

Dome of the Rock in Israel

Early on in my career, at my last teaching position, a handsome man from the Middle East walked into my office one day.  He said that he had heard about my programs on Women in Islam, and wanted to borrow some of my books.  I had worked hard to bring different voices and different points of view about religions to campus, and this gentleman, who was attending KU in Lawrence, had heard about my work.

In programs on Islam we had addressed the touchy issue of the status of women in the Quran and in Islamic cultures.  We had discussed the veil and the phrases in the Quran that seem to justify beating your wife (wives) if they do not fulfill your needs as a male.  But at the same time we wondered about the Mothers of Believers who may have c0pied/written the words of Muhammad, and Khadijah, Muhammad’s first wife.  She hired him in her business, fell in love with him, and married him.  Was she twenty years his senior?  Anyway, these females were foundational to the beginnings of Islam, but somehow their stories and voices  seem to be less important than the stories of the males.

Covering in Islam

Covering in Islam

I talked with this man and would only loan him my books if he gave me his name and phone number.  He did.  I asked him what he did for a living and how he heard about me?

Apparently Muslims in Lawrence were talking about the points of view I was taking regarding females within Islam.

He told me that he was a student but his real job was to be a terrorist.  I laughed at him.  This made him angry.  I said there are no terrorists in Lawrence, and he said that I was wrong.  He told me that he was considered to be a “cell” and that he was just waiting to be activated.  I was so naive at that time.  He eventually returned the books to me, and I never heard from him again.

At that time, I kept a log of all phone calls because I had been harassed by people who did not like pluralism on campus.  After the shock of 9/11 I went back to my old log of phone calls and found his number.  I called him.  He answered.  I told him who I was, and asked him how he was doing.  He told me that his wife was dying of cancer.  And that was it! I never called the police.  I never called anyone or told anyone about this man.  I did not have evidence that he was a terrorist, only his word.

After I retired, I threw away all of my logs and all of the numbers in them.  And only yesterday, I began wondering, whatever happened to this man?

The Quran

The Quran

 

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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How to Kill a Professor!

A Friend of Mine Passed Away the Other Day

Harassment can Kill!

Harassment can Kill!

Darlene (not her real name) was from Malaysia.  She had made her way to Australia where she worked to obtain her Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems.  When she passed, she was supporting her husband who was ill, and her son in Medical School.  She was a valiant and strong lady who did not deserve to die at 56.  Let me tell you her story!

Darlene was gorgeous.  She had dark perfect skin, the biggest eyes, curly hair, nice and thin, and wore Fifth Avenue suits to class.  She was dedicated, engaging, innovative, and competent in everything she did on campus.

From the time she landed a job at the university, she was harassed.  In the beginning it was only words from her chair or colleagues like, “How can a colored girl make as much money as I do.”  “Or, how come a foreigner can come here and take away jobs from us?” The boys did not like her because she was beautiful and competent.  They could not have her, nor did they like it that her light was brighter than theirs.  And she was the wrong color.  The girls saw her as competition and would not advise her or help her in any way.  She was on her own!

I think the bureaucrats got together and decided they did not want her on campus.  Her chair changed the numbers on her student evaluations so it would look like she was not doing a good job.  She was assigned overloads to keep her busy, and given mindless tasks like writing General Ed Proposals.  Her chair allowed students to bring up charges against her that went to Human Resources.  She was grading international students fairly but they wanted their grades changed.  The bureaucrats forced her to change the grades.  They did not want to lose the very high tuition the international students paid.  It was a daily battle for her.  How does one keep integrity in classes while trying to please the bureaucrats and lazy students?

Around her fourth year at the institution, it was time for her to apply for tenure.  Her college passed her but her application stopped at the Provost’s office.  He accused her of misappropriation of a huge grant she had received.  The charges were bogus.  She had to argue her case for weeks.  Finally, she appealed to the sensible President and received tenure.  The Provost lost.

In about her seventh year at the institution, she was came up for promotion to Full Professor.  This is when I came to know Darlene.  We worked together on a program where we brought speakers to campus.  We became friends.  In the process, she began pleading with me to help her with her dossier.  I made suggestions and edited her document.  She had accomplished more than most of the professors in my college.

Darlene was working day and night trying to please the bureaucrats.  They denied her promotion.  She took it all the way to the President again.  This argumentation is very strenuous and stressful.  They had promoted one of their male friends who had poor student evaluations and had not published.  It was a blow that knocked her down.  This is the very moment that she developed cancer.

For the past, approximately, two years she has battled cancer.  She never gave up. Even when she could barely stand or talk, she went to class.  She had to have a microphone installed at her desk so she could teach.  She was in hospice care and still teaching online.  She was remarkable in many ways.

I visited her and she showed me all the self-help books she was reading.  She had created very positive signs that she plastered on the mirror in her bathroom, like  “I am going to live! I am going to beat this!”  She adjusted her diet, exercised more, and worked very hard to stay alive.

Throughout all of this ordeal, not one other person from the university visited her.  At the beginning of this semester, as she walked to a class, one of her colleagues said to her, “Oh, I didn’t think you were coming back.”  When she called her colleagues, and asked if any of them would help her in her classes, when she had to go to the hospital, not one of them would substitute for her.  Last week her department sent flowers, finally.

Stress can kill.  There are many articles on the Net that give evidence of the effects of stress on the body.  I know because I developed a disease due to stress, but I saved  my life by leaving the university.  Darlene could not leave.  She had too many responsibilities.

There are many more twists and turns to this story.  But you get the picture I am drawing.  In the end, the boys and girls won,  they did not want to tenure or promote her — they killed her instead. It took some time, but they won.  The war is over.

P.S.  In the very last days of her life, they promoted her to Full Professor.  It was a kind of sick gesture to me.  They knew she would never collect.

Peace at Last!

Peace at Last!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Posted in Disillusionment in Higher Education, Education not War, Higher Education, Hostility and Violence on Campus, Killing a Professor, Misogynism in Higher Education, Strategies to derail females, Stress and Professors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Recipe #1 for Positive Change in Higher Education

Professionalize Teaching in Higher Education

Professionalize Professors

Teach professors how to teach!

For the past six months I have been ranting about all the problems I faced in Higher Education.  I am going to change my tune a bit and focus on how we can change Higher Education so that it becomes more user-friendly and helpful.

Recently I met a chair of a department in another college who said that she would not recommend a career in higher education to anyone.  The pay is low and the support is non-existent.  She said that when bureaucrats or would-be professors are interviewed for a job, they should ask them the following question:  “How much would you pay for this job, because we pay for our jobs every day of the week?

What did she mean?  She meant that as professors we have to support our own programs, because bureaucrats have other goals when they land their jobs at a university.  There is no direction or help when it comes to issues that affect the classroom, tenure and promotion, or collegiality.  Bureaucrats hire professors and send them off to sea, to swim alone.

In the next few blogs, I will offer suggestions on how to improve working conditions, teaching, and organizational structure, etc. within Higher Education.

Professionalize Doctoral Programs

Obtaining my Ph.D. was very challenging.  I had to test out of four languages, in addition to classes, the dissertation, and the comprehensive exams.  It takes a long time to climb that steep mountain.  Most Ph.D. programs ignore the fact that many students who make it through their programs are going to be teaching in Higher Education.

Toward the end of my Ph.D. program, I took classes in Higher Education Administration that were not required in my program.  These classes helped me throughout  my career.  Those classes included:  Law and Higher Education, Personality Theories, Counseling in Higher Education, and more.

License Professors to Teach

Professors should be certified to teach!

Professors should be certified to teach.

It is assumed that if you have obtained a Ph.D. that you  must be smart enough to teach.  Wrong!  I have watched faculty attempt to teach classes and fail to fill a 45 minute class.  They simply did not know how to teach.

All would-be professors should be schooled in teaching methodologies (or whatever the current buzz words are)  for engaging and helping students to learn.  They should be required to teach before they are given that golden contract at a university.  They should obtain a license to teach that guarantees that they know what they are doing in the classroom.

Certify Professors in Technology

They should also obtain certifications in the newest technologies. I have watched bureaucrats give new hires the responsibilities of developing online classes.  Those new hires had no knowledge of Black Board or any other online software.  Students suffer under these conditions.

Require Courses in Higher Education

Most professors are naive when it comes to politics on campus.  They know nothing about organizational structures, development of courses, committee work, public work, and more.  At a recent university where I taught, chairs would open departmental meetings with prayers.  A vice-president of students advertised a single religious organization in order to raise funds for that organization.  One director invited a lecturer to testify about her personal religion.  A criminal justice course included films and handouts that denigrated non-Christian religions.  And a President hired a Provost because he/she was of the same faith.  All of these activities violated the separation of church and state rules.  And there are many other issues that could be addressed here.

None of the bureaucrats who were my supervisors knew anything about law and Higher Education.  They made decisions based upon an empty bucket.  All professors and bureaucrats should take courses in Law and Higher Education.

After the Hire, Assign a Guide 

Good ole' boys take care of their own.

Good “old boys take care of their own!

Faculty need tremendous help in order to adjust to a university system–and to become successful in it.  Universities should assign a guide that helps professors through committees, bureaucratic systems, hard and soft technology (What good is software if you can’t work the machines?), benefits, grant opportunities, support groups, and, of course, teaching in the classroom.  This guide should remain with the new-hire until they land tenure.  The tenure process is daunting, and every college and university has different requirements. (The “good ole’ boys” still reign in  many institutions, so no matter how good your student evaluations or publications are, they will promote their friends first.)

Teaching methodologies differ from school to school.  When I first arrived at my last job, I gave essay tests. I, soon, learned that the majority of professors did not give essay tests.  If I had a class of thirty students, after grading an essay test, I would have thirty students at my door demanding a change in their grade for being unfairly graded.  No matter how well I schooled the students in how to take an essay exam, or how the exams were to be graded, they came streaming and sometimes yelling at my door.  The harassment was intentional, and I soon fell in line with the rest of the professors in order to protect my sanity.

And some universities put too much power in the hands of students when it comes to tenure and promotion.  So often, obtaining good student evaluations, which underlie tenure, means playing the happy politician with students and grade inflation explodes.  Education suffers when professors are forced to dummy down the curriculum in order to obtain tenure and keep their jobs.

To be continued …

As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Posted in Disillusionment in Higher Education, Higher Education, Misogynism in Higher Education, Strategies to derail females, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Academic Presidents Want to See Their Names in Lights

Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Spent on Frivolous Buildings

Egocentric Presidents

Egocentric Presidents

Egocentric Presidents, Provosts, Deans and other bureaucrats long to have their names splattered all over a building on a campus.  It is a kind of immortality or everlasting life. “They won’t forget me!”  In addition, since they are who they are, they qualify for two-million dollar residences to be built for them.

To that end they amass great sums of cash to build stadiums and party houses and to redecorate, re-purpose, or  renovate buildings that will shout their names to passersby.  At one of the universities where I taught, they spent $32 million to renovate a recreation building.  They also spent about $35 million to build a library where students rarely check out a book and faculty don’t even know where it is located.  Then they renovated the old library into stellar quarters for bureaucratic offices and other buildings to house technology and the business school. They spent millions on a new golf clubhouse and are now spending additional millions on renovating a golf course that hardly anyone uses.  Need a T-time?

Stadiums are the real reason for the existence of Universities

Stadiums are the real reason for the existence of Universities

Most recently they knocked down a beautiful building, (nothing wrong with it) that was enhanced with rebar.  It took months to bring it down because it was so well built.  It was so sad.  On the empty ground left behind, the President is building a party house where alcohol can be served.  The new residence/party house faces the football stadium, of course.   These projects are so important and needed on campus if your goal is to turn the university into a frat house.   The President had to move all of the plant personnel out of this building, so he bought a crumbling elementary school across town and moved all the equipment and people there.  (Stories say he paid $800K.) Who knows how much that move cost?  All hail the intelligence of the chief! Does this make sense?

Now he is back in his office asking for cuts in academics, office personnel, and faculty to back another one of his hair-brain schemes. He would like to streamline majors and colleges so that the university is not so complicated and diverse.  Little does he understand that he is destroying pluralism and future student enrollment.  Or, maybe he is willing to sacrifice all of this so that his name is splattered across the front of a building? Does this make sense?

20770299.thbMeanwhile, back at the REAL university, roofs leak, fixtures in restrooms are broken, and the women’s restroom in my building was not renovated in 25 years.  So I think it is at least 50 years old without any renovation.  Buildings periodically flood because of frozen pipes.  They turn off the heat and air to save money to support the President’s grand ideas.  Asbestos is still hidden underneath paint, in the ceilings, and behind closed doors.  Heating and cooling don’t exist in older buildings that house academic activities.  Does this make sense?

Classrooms look like they were built in the fifties and technology fails you most of the time. My office would heat up to 94 degrees in the summer and never got warmer than 55 degrees in the winter.  I had to open the door to the main hallway to feel any real heat. Students wore gloves to class.  Does this make sense?

Ghetto-like conditions of Professors

Ghetto-like conditions of Professors

Professors often work in tenement-like conditions.  There are no break rooms and no upgrades to furniture that is falling apart.  I had to purchase my own microwave and refrigerator.  I had to purchase my first desk and all the bookcases.  About ten years later, I negotiated to buy a new desk for which I had to pay one half of the price.  Does this make sense?

Student housing was in the same condition.  Pipes froze, fires broke out, the electricity failed, and infestations abound.  The Pres had cut the maintenance budget by half, some say, and they could not keep up with the problems.  How can a university take money from students and ask them to live in such conditions?  Does this make sense?

The other day I saw one of those sports teams from a previous university tooling down the highway in a Class A Motorhome.  I could not believe it!  And, even in my old age, I don’t understand how Boards of Governors or faculty allow bureaucrats to send sports teams all over the country while academics languishes in the ghetto.  Faculty often have to pay for their own copying, teaching tools, and tools to be used in the classroom.  Does this make sense?

In my career at a recent university, for most of my sentence, I supported the department in which I taught from my own salary while bureaucrats spent money like it is flowing like gold.  I can only remember four or five times in a quarter of a century where faculty were given a one or two percent raise.  Faculty are not important to them.  They would eliminate them if they could figure out how to run an institution without professors.  Does this make sense?

21748965.thmBureaucrats have tanked academic goals in colleges and universities.  They have been seduced by sports and dreams of their names in glittering lights above the football or basketball stadiums.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Posted in Aid to education, Disillusionment in Higher Education, Fraternities and Sororities on Campus, Higher Education, Misogynism in Higher Education, Stealing Money from Universities, Students at risk, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Academic Deans are Ruining the Future of our Students

Overbearing Dean

Overbearing Dean

Anatomy of Academic Deans –Power Addicts

Courage and greatness eludes them! Petty concerns fill their days. Their hollow spines and hearts follow the whims of others. The mind-baffling reasons for attempting to change and grow the lives of students is not a plausible outcome for them.

Why baby Why?

Why is it that they are always shorter than me? Why do their decisions haunt you as death rolling over a corpse? Why do they always wear dark suits with starched shirts? Why do they always make you wait, and wait, and wait to be in their holy presence? Why do they demean you for excellence? Their weekly errors and omissions cost you months of your life.

Building a Stable

Why do they fill their offices with assistants? What do they do?  They don’t like sharing the work of those assistants. They might be needed by the Dean in charge for some important project, like filling out his calendar or making pom-poms. I pleaded with my Dean for help. He had used our academic area as a bargaining chip to obtain one of those assistants. Her time was to be shared with our department. After using us in the “grow your stable” game, he would not allow her to help us unless there was nothing on his docket or he was out of town.

Talent and intelligence are items to be purchased. Deans rarely possess them. Are they all tokens? They have achieved their lofty goal of joining the ranks of bureaucrats, but what now? Their baskets are empty? They can’t re-tool, it would make them seem less powerful. They pretend to know everything and fear learning new skills. They may have the power but not the conscience or strength to lead or inspire.

Dean's use various forms of abuse to control you!

Dean’s use various forms of abuse to control you!

Plantation Owners with a Whip

Like rich plantation owners, they feed on the talent around them. Pompously — they gorge themselves in front of everyone. In one deal after another they “buy” the talent of professors and others. They can use a whip as easily as chocolate cake. In one moment they can curse and imprison you with others of like-mind, in the next, they can offer you tea and a respite from your chores. They are fickle, lost in their own worlds, and following a pipe played by someone else.

Greed drips from their eyes and lips. They covet your time, your savings, your talent, your intelligence, the savings of others, excess tuition, donor contributions, and funds from the state. They want the cash to support playing games. Their lust for material things is insatiable and they manipulate people and budgets and state laws to fit into their empire-building goals. They are power-addicts!

Someday they want to rule an empire that has co-opted the brilliant souls that surround them. This will prove that they should have the chair where they sit.

And in that empire, their word will be divine. Everyone will bow when they enter the room.

Deans think they are Divine!

Deans think they are Divine!

Reality

President Obama, if you want to improve higher education, cut the budgets of universities. Governor Nixon, please address the issue of the over abundance of incompetent bureaucrats in higher education.  Politely ask 75% of the bureaucrats to find other kingdoms in which to reign. They are voices that are placing the future of our country at risk. They do not want to foster critical-thinking compassionate leaders. Like everything and everyone else in their lives, the students are viewed as a source of revenue for the next grand pyramid.

Of course, I am not speaking of all bureaucrats here. I am speaking of the ones in my long career that fit the above anatomy. Perhaps you would argue that I am too harsh. You might say that I am using them as a scapegoat for a failed system. No, they are not scapegoats. This is the way they are. And their reflections are mirrored in Provosts and Presidents. You might also argue that I am projecting my own “failures” upon them. No. Our department was not a failure. We climbed to the top of our college in a matter of only five years in spite of the lack of support, only to be met with derision and harassment.  I am not biting the hand that fed me.  In truth, they starved us and hoped for our demise which never happened!  The dream kept me alive!

We never needed a Dean. He was placed in his position because the bureaucracy needed a buffer. He took up space and our time that could have been used for the students, for the classes, for our research, for creative and uplifting experiences. I wish I possessed  eloquent words that would tell the world how awful life as an academic has become for many professors across the United States. Dilbert, the cartoon by Scott Adams, attempts to capture incompetent bureaucracies in big business. In the academy, you could multiply those incompetencies by 100.

As always this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Posted in Disillusionment in Higher Education, Education not War, Higher Education, Hostility and Violence on Campus, Misogynism in Higher Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Malala is Correct! Children need an Education!

Winner of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Winner of 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Education is a Key to a Better Life!

Malala Yousafzai, the very young winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize has reminded me of how important an education is for all of us.  Anita Price Davis and I are updating our book on Women Nobel Peace Prize Winners.  One of my chapters is on Malala.  She escaped an assassination attempt only to become a world favorite advocate for the free education of children.  Her story is compelling and the stories of brutalized and used children around the world, are even more compelling.

She reminds us that twelve year old girls can be sold to a suitor and bear a child by the age of  fourteen.  She also reminds us that children are among the homeless displaced people bellowing out of Syria, and other wore-torn places in the world.  Children should be allowed to be children and to go to school and choose a life for themselves.  They should not be kidnapped or taught to be a soldier or used as prostitutes or harnessed to a loom, as I witnessed in some Asian countries.

Her stories reminded me of my own story and the stories of my mother and father.  Their lives were not much different than many of the lost children of the world.  Of course, they were not refugees, but all the same they were not allowed to go to school or finish their education.

Child Labor

Both my mother and father came from large families that lived off the land.  By the time my mother was eleven years old, she had hired herself out as a live-in maid in towns around her home.  Her best friend from Ireland, about the same age, was required to do the same thing, even though they were born thousands of miles apart.

When we would visit her homestead, she would point out houses in the surrounding towns where she worked.  She said she learned how to cook and clean and iron in those houses.  They ate very different foods than my mother’s family.

My grandfather was the sole provider for his wife, five children, his mother and father, two cousins (not sure if they were cousins or sisters) and one of their children.  The house they lived in had four rooms and no running water.  They used an outhouse on the side of the hill later in mom’s life.  They dug coal for heat and had to grow enough food to survive the winter.  There was little if any money for clothing.  During the summer, they would pick berries and sell some of their produce in town.  They were fortunate enough to own a cow and chickens.   But there was not enough food or money to take care of all of them.

They both overcame poverty and made a good life for themselves!

They both overcame poverty and made a good life for themselves!

My mother made it to the eleventh grade in high school.  She says that she could not understand geometry, so she quit.  The real reason is complicated.  Even though she worked as a live-in maid, she had no money.  It did not go to her, it went to her family.  She was a slave.  So, when the eleventh grade school year opened, she needed paper and a pencil, which cost about twenty-five cents in 1938.  Her father would not give it to her.  She also told me that she was so embarrassed at her clothing and, often, lack of shoes.  It was easier to quit high school and go to work so that she could have a better life.  Even when she left home to find a job in Detroit, a great percentage of her paychecks was sent home to take care of her mother and father.

My dad was born in 1912 and lived through the wars and the great depression.  He loved reading and was a great conversationalist on politics or history, and had a lot of negative things to say about religions.  Many times I heard him complain that his father took him out of school to work in the fields.  He was used to work on the farm.  He always bragged about his straight A’s, but they ended when he was in the sixth grade when he was twelve years old. Those horses he held by the reins in the field were spooked one day, and nearly tore off his left arm.  They patched him up but never took him to a doctor, so his scarred arm froze at a 90 degree angle.  It kept him out of the military when his friends signed up to fight in WWII.

Perhaps his love of learning is the reason that I pursued a Ph.D.  He also loved learning about the peoples on earth and so do I.

My story is similar.  By the time I was eight, I was babysitting my brothers.  When I turned ten, I babysat up to five children at a time.  My father had told me that he would no longer purchase any clothing for me and that I had to earn the money myself if I was ever going to have new clothing.  Of course, he didn’t keep that promise.  He bought my dress for me when I competed for Miss Teen America.  And I was fully employed by the time I was fifteen.

This tradition of child labor was taken for granted sixty to one hundred years ago in our country.  One of my aunts married at thirteen and had at least six children.  Her husband was twenty years older and died decades before she did.  She nor her husband were employed.  He worked odd-jobs all of his life. She earned some money making quilts.

The Real Reason for This Post

I spent over forty years as a professor in higher education.  I had the same dreams that Malala has.  I knew that education could better your life.  It had bettered mine.  I did not live at the poverty line.  But as the years rolled by, and the politics became lethal on campus, I think the real reason for teaching escaped me.  I was so busy with abusive and hateful politics that I forgot the most important value in teaching.  Students also forgot that learning could change their lives.  They did not want to apply themselves.  They could not read well or write well.  They attempted to cheat and manipulate their way to the golden prize of a degree.  This was not education.  I retired and escaped this putrid environment but the real value of education will always be there.  It can make your life better and help you to weather the storms.  It gives you a solid foundation upon which to make decisions and communicate with others.  And most of all, it may give you the skills to choose many different types of jobs!

 It frees you to a new kind of fulfilling life.

 

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Power Hungry Fraternities

Fraternities and Sororities Attract Students Who Want Power Over Others

Students Abusing Students

Students Enjoy Abusing other Students and Faculty

Frats have been in the news lately.  They have caused the death of students and gang-raped females.  This is not news.  What is news is that big-name universities are admitting that it is happening on their campuses.  Johns Hopkins University, Cal State Northridge, MIT, and the University of Virginia top the list.

During my career at several colleges and  universities, Greek societies dominated the social scenes. They even dominated academics.

Take for instance the time that about eighteen frat boys sat together in one of my classes.  On the first day of class, one of the men told me to “take it easy.”  He did not like the rules of the class and the fact that I was requiring attendance.  During that class the frats decided that they were going to come to my class of 125 students, and sit with their arms folded.  They brought no paper or pens nor would they engage in discussions.  They were protesting the rules of the class.  One student called me on the carpet for his grade and chided me in front of all the students.  This encouraged others to “act out” their frustrations.  I became their scapegoat. Finally, I had to threaten expulsion from the class before students began acting like normal students who wanted to learn.  The main speaker for the frats was eventually taken out of the class.

During rush week, when students are trying to pledge a society, academic work is put on hold.  These societies teach students that conforming to Greek rules is preeminent.  No value is as important as meeting the demands of the society. Students do not study, do not take tests, and skip classes during this week.  They lose academically just to win a spot in a society.

During rush week, students have come to class with hats on their heads, pulled down almost over their eyes.  I asked one African student why people were doing this in class?  He took off his hat and his hair was burned off in spots and he had places where his head was burned.  He explained that he was trying to pledge a society.  I offered to go with him to Student Affairs, but he was afraid and said that they would harm him even if he told me what happened.  I could not go to the Dean without some type of proof!!

Societies are like gangs.  They are secret.  They have their own rules and the protect each other in ways that mimic the Mafia.  Many of them teach a culture of fear, where the group is more important than anyone else.  They punish members that forget that rule.  They think that they are better (more important, more intelligent, more good-looking, more in-the-know) than the rest of students on campus.

One frat student confided in me that his fraternity had files on every class and every professor on campus.  They had tests, research papers, homework,  and information that would help their members to pass the classes.  After that discussion, I no longer allowed students to keep tests.  I went to online testing but discovered that students were also sending questions to their friends who were keeping files.  I have already mentioned in a prior post that two male students missed most of my class but ended up getting a B in the class.  They failed because they did not attend.  Neither one of the men, who sat together when they came to class, came to argue their failure.

Fraternities and Sororities believe in a hierarchical society where they are the privileged few.  They devise ways of promoting themselves and winning a degree on campus, often without the hard work of non-Greek students.  When they graduate, they have a group that they can rely on as good-ole-boys and good-ole-girls that circumvents honest job searches.

I have never appreciated the societies because they set up a class structure that seems antithetical to a democratic society.  I wonder how many frat boys and girls are running the political action committees?  To control, to have power over others is at the heart of the secret societies and rape is a power tool.

 

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

Posted in Fraternities and Sororities on Campus, Higher Education, Hostility and Violence on Campus, Misogynism in Higher Education, Students at risk, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Emmette Till and President Barak Obama

Racism in the 2014 Mid-Term Election

(BEWARE:  Some may think this is a very biased post!)

Yesterday they planted a tree in order to remember the killing of Emmett Till, a young African American boy who was murdered by light-skinned people nearly sixty years ago. It was a symbolic act that acknowledged the racial prejudice, violence, and hate from the past. This act seems ironic if we consider what is happening to our dark-skinned President Obama.

Discrimination

Barak Obama and Emmett Till

The recent election turned much of the United States a very bright red. The Republicans have finally met their goal of achieving power over all of us. Pundits can’t really come up with the reason for their victory. Most point to jobs and the economy. I have another theory.

Throughout the campaigns all over the country, Republicans united in their goal of debasing and destroying the person and image of President Obama. For many Americans, his name conjures up disgust in their minds. They have heard so many negative things about his administration that their response could only be “hate.” People don’t like Obamacare, The Affordable Care Act, but when you press them for the reason, they can’t even articulate one.

Republicans ran campaigns that forgot about the average citizen that makes less than $60K a year. Did they campaign on feeding the poor? Did they campaign on equality for women, minorities, and the gay, lesbian, and trans-sexual communities? Did they campaign on providing just and fair wages to the millions of people who are working but are poor? Did they campaign on fixing our educational system that has been pillaged by bureaucrats? Did they campaign on helping people to have access to medical care that might save their lives and their pocketbooks? Did their campaigns have any hint of justice and care or even love for the people of this country?

In my experience, when the wealthy amass all the wealth they can possibly use they do two things. First, they try to increase their wealth, and secondly, they seek power over others to make the world into a place they can control. And how many wealthy Republicans are finding themselves in this very spot now? They will be able to put more money into their own pockets, the pockets of their friends, and then change the world to fit into their world view, leaving out most Americans.

John Boehner, Speaker for the House of Representatives, let his peacock feathers spread when he strutted, assaulted, and threatened the President. He said, “When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.”

I have been listening to the pundits attempt to interpret the meaning of this very violent statement. What did he mean? If we take a look at the history of the United States we will find that we have burned or killed the people that we fear, or feel as if they are taking something away from us. Many females termed “witches” have met their untimely end by this method. Just take a spin around the “net” and search for the words, “burn,” and “black man.” You will find countless stories of Americans burning people of color or “black” men who they want to exterminate.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching_of_Jesse_Washington

Here is my theory. The Republicans ran racist campaigns all over the country. They did not necessarily include the word “race” in their political attacks, all they had to do was show President Obama’s face. People got the message, it did not need to be spelled out for them. Now the Speaker of the House has conjured up images and threats that go back to  the dog-tearing and hosing (water) days of our country. He knew what he was saying and he meant it. From my view, at the back of the bus, the REAL agenda of the Republicans in the next two years is to reinstate-White Male Supremacy. The hateful attitude that murdered Emmette Till is still alive and thriving in our country today in many of those red states.

We need to take that hate, prejudice, and discrimination and bury it as we remember what they did to Emmett and what they are doing to President Obama!

 

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Study Abroad Programs Can Place Faculty and Students at Risk

Stories from the the Front Lines

Alaska 2011 Marla's pics 292During my last job as a professor, I took students to Ireland, China (Hong Kong), Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and a cruise to Alaska.  All of the trips were in conjunction with classes I taught.  I had visited scores of countries and knew that I could safely navigate the journey for others, I thought.

I prepared the students well for the trips.  I gave them information on the Centers for Disease Control, told them about issues with foods, drinking only bottled water, wearing closed shoes, keeping their faces out of the shower, not eating street food or salads, and so much more.  For our trip to China, we spent three weeks in class discovering how to keep ourselves safe and healthy.  But it was not enough.

Image of Chinese Garden

Image of Chinese Garden

While I had traveled to many countries, my students were making their first trip out of the country.  I realized, as we traveled, that my imagination could not reach the limits of their activities.  When in Xian, China, I walked out of our hotel to discover that my students were dancing with people who lived on the streets.  One of the men who was dancing with a student was fondling her hair and face and I don’t know what else.  I kept thinking, “Those people have diseases and have never been vaccinated.”  And, “I wonder if my students are infecting these people who are not vaccinated?”  My students were so naive.  Yes, it was a wonderful cultural exchange but the effects could have harmed everyone, and maybe it did.

One older student, when in China, went to a spa with a steam bath.  I had told students not to swim in the pools because they were not chlorinated, but never even thought of a steam bath.  She came down with pneumonia because the water was tainted,  and we had to deal with those issues.  On the trip to Thailand, I told students not to order drinks with ice.  I also told them not to engage in sexual activities with the locals.  I had one student who opted out of all the cultural programs we had planned. (When students are 21 or older, it is very difficult to stop them from doing anything.)   He was visiting the brothels and drinking his brains out.  After returning to the university, I never saw him again.  I believe he contracted a life-threatening disease because he was very, very sick on our way home.

109061791On our tour of Australia and New Zealand, and subsequently, the cruise to Alaska, I had to deal with methamphetamine addicts. They were either so high you could not make sense of what they were saying, or they were hiding in their rooms.  One of the students tried to run away for some reason.  He took off running from the bus in Australia.  The bus driver ran after him.  He said, “I know where he is going.”  The student came back to the group.  Upon return to the United States he was eventually arrested and sent to prison for cooking methamphetamines in his apartment using equipment he had stolen from the university.  Another student, on the Alaska cruise, kept himself closeted from everyone else.  And that student, on drugs,  was under suspicion for murder and had just been diagnosed with AIDS.  I found this out later, after we returned from our trip.

When traveling to Ireland, I took a small group of females.  It was their first time out of the country.  One of the students, who was around twenty-five, went into shock.  She was bellowing and crying that she was homesick during our first day in Ireland.  I had to go to her room, sit with her on her bed, and hold her (like a baby) until she stopped crying.  It was a traumatic experience for both of us, but she soon adjusted.  What a relief!  I was so lucky that none of the students were arrested or lost at sea.

During my tenure at a recent university, one of the faculty members took students to a country in Africa.  She had traveled little and was unprepared for the climate and challenges of a tropical country.  While visiting the country, she was assaulted and robbed.  Not understanding the risks of malaria, she took the students on a river trip.  All of them were bitten by many mosquitos, and all developed malaria, and, of course, will have malaria until they die.

I believe in pluralism and cross-cultural experiences and international adventures, I do not believe in placing faculty and students at risk.  Universities need to begin taking responsibility (not placing road blocks) for creating classes for faculty who want to take their students out of the country.  Faculty need to be educated in the physical, financial, personal, and emotional risks.  They should never be allowed to take students to another country without being fully informed of the issues that may arise, and how to deal with them in the specific country where they are traveling.

Women who have received the Nobel Peace Prize

Women who have received the Nobel Peace Prize

My apologies for being tardy with this blog.  Finishing Igor and the Red Elvises took a lot of time and I have been working on turning my book, For the Love of Elvis into an audio CD.  Anita Price Davis and I just received a contract from a publisher who has asked us to update our book about all the women who have received the Nobel Peace Prize, so that project is now under development.  Did anyone say I was retired?

As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Posted in communicable diseases, Disillusionment in Higher Education, Higher Education, Students at risk, Travel Abroad | Tagged , , | Leave a comment