The Elections, Education and a Path to Reality

Steven S. Volk

It’s been a while. Some months have passed since I last posted to “After Class.” To those who have written wondering whether I’ve been stricken with COVID, fallen into a ditch, or just tired of writing: thanks for your concern. I’m fine, and actually have spent these last many months writing a book with my colleague, Beth Benedix of DePauw University. The Post-Pandemic Liberal Arts College: A Manifesto for Reinvention (Belt Publications) came out at the end of September. The book reaffirms our intense pride at having taught a (combined) half century in liberal arts colleges and seen generations of our students, regardless of their myriad career paths, remain engaged with their communities and devoted to what in Hebrew is called tikkun olam, repairing and making the world a better place. And, holy crap, is that ever needed now!

At the same time, we express our concern that, rather than taking advantage of their small size and residential nature, our colleges are replicating the departmental structures characteristic of much larger universities and holding fast to traditional pedagogies and curricula that do not adequately prepare students for the world they will enter. What is more, we have become increasingly frustrated by how these colleges, including our own, reproduce wider structures of economic exclusion and systemic racism. Although they are hardly alone in this, they have frequently become engines of inequality, using selectivity as a mask for elitism. Our “manifesto” suggests how, coming back from the COVID-19 pandemic, as we will, small liberal arts colleges should reimagine, reinvent, and redesign themselves to address these problems.

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The New Information Literacy: Clearing the Fog of “Alternative Facts”

Rosalinda H. Linares (Information Literacy & Special Initiatives Librarian, Oberlin College) and Steve Volk

January 23, 2017

A recent humor piece by Marika Seigel in McSweeney’s lists the “Action Items on Your Radical Professor’s Liberal Agenda.” About a third of the way down, one finds: “Painstakingly write another comment explaining why this particular claim needs to be supported with a credible source and that it needs to include a parenthetical citation formatted — as specified in assignment guidelines — according to APA style…” Another “action item” comes fast on its heels: “Wonder whether supporting ‘claims’ with ‘credible sources’ is even still a ‘thing’ in 2017?”

NPR, in announcing its coverage of the inauguration, noted that it would be “live fact-checking” the inaugural address online.  Was that also an attempt at humor?

Women's March, Washington DC, January 21, 2017. Steve Volk photo

Women’s March, Washington DC, January 21, 2017. Steve Volk photo

Contemplating what it means that a major media outlet is even thinking about live fact-checking an inaugural address is truly dispiriting…but unfortunately necessary. Two days after the inauguration, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Mr. Trump, argued that the White House had offered “alternative facts” to the media when it stated, untruthfully, that Trump’s swearing-in was witnessed by “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.”

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