Digital Media · Human-ities · Social/Politics

University of the People – where students get free degrees

Ali Patrik Eid is a happy man right now. A few weeks ago he graduated from a university that he didn’t pay a penny for. He didn’t even have to show up for lectures.

And when his wife gave birth to twins shortly after he started his course in business management, it was no problem for him to take six months off to help take care of them.

He was attending the University of the People (UoPeople), one of a growing number of online universities which are opening new doors to people, particularly in the developing world.

“I have always dreamt about having a degree but I didn’t think I ever would,” the 34-year-old Jordanian told the BBC.

Online learning courses are not new – the University of Phoenix, for example, has been offering 100% online learning since 1987 – but the UoPeople is the first tuition-free online college that grants degrees.

Students are asked to pay a $100 (£58) fee for every exam they take but if they can’t afford it, they can take advantage of a range of available scholarships.

Read Full article at BBC

Human-ities · Philosophy · Technology


Upon his retirement from Yale, Donald Kagan considers the future of liberal education in this farewell speech.

Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University and recipient of the National Humanities Medal (2002), retired in May. In forty-four years at the University, Professor Kagan has served in such varied capacities as Dean of Yale College, Master of Timothy Dwight College, and Director of Athletics. He has been a prolific author as well as a celebrated teacher; his four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War is widely considered to be among the twentieth century’s greatest works of classical scholarship. The following essay on liberal education is a revised version of the valedictory lecture he delivered on April 25 to a capacity audience in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, New Haven, Connecticut.

Donald Kagan: My subject is liberal education, and today more than ever the term requires definition, especially as to the questions: What is a liberal education and what it is for? From Cicero’s artes liberales, to the attempts at common curricula in more recent times, to the chaotic cafeteria that passes for a curriculum in most American universities today, the concept has suffered from vagueness, confusion, and contradiction. From the beginning, the champions of a liberal education have thought of it as seeking at least four kinds of goals. One was as an end in itself, or at least as a way of achieving that contemplative life that Aristotle thought was the greatest happiness. Knowledge and the acts of acquiring and considering it were the ends of this education and good in themselves. A second was as a means of shaping the character, the style, the taste of a person—to make him good and better able to fit in well with and take his place in the society of others like him. A third was to prepare him for a useful career in the world, one appropriate to his status as a free man. For Cicero and Quintilian, this meant a career as an orator that would allow a man to protect the private interests of himself and his friends in the law courts and to advance the public interest in the assemblies, senate, and magistracies. The fourth was to contribute to the individual citizen’s freedom in ancient society. Servants were ignorant and parochial, so free men must be learned and cosmopolitan; servants were ruled by others, so free men must take part in their own government; servants specialized to become competent at some specific and limited task, so free men must know something of everything and understand general principles without yielding to the narrowness of expertise. The Romans’ recommended course of study was literature, history, philosophy, and rhetoric.

Continue at the New Criterion

Science · Technology

What Do Scientific Studies Show?

As any regular reader of news will know, popular media report “scientific results” nearly every day. They come delivered in news reports and opinion pieces, and are often used to make a variety of points concerning important matters like health, parenting, education, even spirituality and self-knowledge. How seriously should we take them?

For example, since at least 2004, we have been reading about studies showing that “vitamin D may prevent arthritis.” A 2010 Johns Hopkins Health Alert announced, “During the past decade, there’s been an explosion of research suggesting that vitamin D plays a significant role in joint health and that low levels may be a risk factor for rheumatologic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.” However, in February 2013, a more rigorous study called the previous studies into serious question. Similarly, despite many studies suggesting that taking niacin to increase “good cholesterol” would decrease heart attacks, a more rigorous study showed the niacin to have no effect.

Such reports have led many readers to question the reliability of science. And given the way the news is often reported, they seem to have a point. What use are scientific results if they are so frequently reversed? But the problem is typically not with the science but with the reporting.

In both the above examples, earlier studies had shown a correlation but not a causal connection. They had not shown that, for example, taking vitamin D was the only relevant difference between those whose pain decreased and those whose pain did not decrease. Perhaps, for example, those taking vitamin D also exercised more, and this was the cause of the pain decrease. Typically, the best way to establish a cause rather than a correlation is to perform a randomized controlled experiment (R.C.T.), where we know that only one possibly relevant factor distinguishes the two groups. In both the vitamin D and the niacin cases, there was an R.C.T. that showed that the earlier results had been merely correlations.

Excerpt from an article written by GARY GUTTING at NYT. Continue THERE

Design · Human-ities

Visualizing Women as Academic Authors, 1665-2010.

A visualization of women as academic authors over the years, based on the percentage of academic papers published on JSTOR, by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

See the full infograph HERE

Art/Aesthetics · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Philosophy · Science · Theory

Thinking through the Body: Essays in Somaesthetics

This book provides a richly rewarding vision of the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of somaesthetics. Composed of fourteen wide-ranging but finely integrated essays by Richard Shusterman, the originator of the field, Thinking through the Body explains the philosophical foundations of somaesthetics and applies its insights to central issues in ethics, education, cultural politics, consciousness studies, sexuality, and the arts. Integrating Western philosophy, cognitive science, and somatic methodologies with classical Asian theories of body, mind, and action, these essays probe the nature of somatic existence and the role of body consciousness in knowledge, memory, and behavior. Deploying somaesthetic perspectives to analyze key aesthetic concepts (such as style and the sublime), he offers detailed studies of embodiment in drama, dance, architecture, and photography. The volume also includes somaesthetic exercises for the classroom and explores the ars erotica as an art of living.

Text and Image via Cambridge University Press

Education · Human-ities · Science · Theory

What Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) Can Do for Teaching

Discipline and sub-disciplines in Mind, Brain, and Education Science. Source: Bramwell for Tokuhama-Espinosa

Evidence-Based Solutions for the Classroom

How do we learn best? What is individual human potential? How do we ensure that children live up to their promise as learners? These questions and others have been posed by philosophers as well neuroscientists, psychologists, and educators for as long as humans have pondered their own existence. Because MBE science moves educators closer to the answers than at any other time in history, it benefits teachers in their efficacy and learners in their ultimate success.

Great teachers have always “sensed” why their methods worked; thanks to brain imaging technology, it is now possible to substantiate many of these hunches with empirical scientific research. For example, good teachers may suspect that if they give their students just a little more time to respond to questions than normal when called upon, they might get better-quality answers. Since 1972 there has been empirical evidence that if teachers give students several seconds to reply to questions posed in class, rather than the normal single second, the probability of a quality reply increases.[1] Information about student response time is shared in some teacher training schools, but not all. Standards in MBE science ensure that information about the brain’s attention span and need for reflection time would be included in teacher training, for example.

The basic premise behind the use of standards in MBE science is that fundamental skills, such as reading and math, are extremely complex and require a variety of neural pathways and mental systems to work correctly. MBE science helps teachers understand why there are so many ways that things can go wrong, and it identifies the many ways to maximize the potential of all learners. This type of knowledge keeps educators from flippantly generalizing, “He has a problem with math,” and rather encourages them to decipher the true roots (e.g., number recognition, quantitative processing, formula structures, or some sub-skill in math). MBE science standards make teaching methods and diagnoses more precise. Through MBE, teachers have better diagnostic tools to help them more accurately understand their students’ strengths and weakness. These standards also prevent teachers from latching onto unsubstantiated claims and “neuromyths” and give them better tools for judging the quality of the information. Each individual has a different set of characteristics and is unique, though human patterns for the development of different skills sets, such as walking and talking, doing math or learning to read, do exist. One of the most satisfying elements of MBE science is having the tools to maximize the potential of each individual as he or she learns new skills.

The following was an excerpt from Mind, Brain, and Education Science: A comprehensive guide to the new brain-based teaching (W.W. Norton) a book based on over 4,500 studies and with contributions from the world’s leaders in MBE Science. Continue HERE