Friday, July 24, 2009

Call for Reviewers

The Journal of Educational Controversy is in the process of building a pool of reviewers to assist in evaluating future manuscripts. If you would like to be considered as a reviewer, please e-mail a vita indicating your discipline and areas of interest to: Please include "Potential Reviewer" on the subject line.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Richness of Experiences

During her confirmation hearings last week, Sonia Sotomayor repudiated her now-famous earlier statement that “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life”. Of course, political pressure makes confirmation hearings no place to stick to a nuanced point, but I’m still sorry that Sotomayor had to back away from that point rather than explaining some things about experience, perspective, and education.

The key phrase is “with the richness of her experiences”. Experience is educational; judges who have had richer experiences are better educated and may therefore reach better, decisions than judges with less understanding of the way the world and people are. Hardly problematic, it seems to me. Whether the experiences of Latinas are indeed richer than those of White men would then become the question. Not always, I’d guess, but given the dynamics of race and social class probably true of most Latinas and White men who become judges.

I hear Sotomayor echoing Dewey’s argument about growth and burglars. Cliques of all sorts, including the company of elite lawyers, and the educational situations in which many law-school bound students grow up, are inimical to education that reaches beyond the limitations of school. Rather than criticize Sotomayor for this point, we might all want to think again about what factors enable White men to lose touch with the wider experiences of humanity. And not only White men, of course, or all White men -- there's no need to slide into an essentialism that I don't read in Sotomayor's original comment. Richness of experience matters. That's the main idea.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Betting the University Endowment on the Market

A small Canadian university, St. Francis Xavier, made the headlines last week when it revealed that it lost a staggering 43% of its $100 million endowment in the past year. Unlike most universities, which use a mix of assets in their investment portfolios, St. F.X. placed 90% of the endowment in Canadian stocks, and the rest in "U.S. equities."

It sounds like a housecleaning is in order on one particular university committee. The Globe and Mail article notes:

St. FX also is on the hunt for new members for the volunteer committee that oversees the university's investments. “A number of them are in their 70s,” Mr. Duff said, and the school needs to do some succession planning.

One interesting thing about this whole case is that St. F.X., like most Canadian universities, is a public institution. Granted, the endowment money doubtlessly came from private donors, but the university still relies largely on public funding. Perhaps, given this reliance, some light government regulation is in order in terms of how public universities manage their endowment.

I find it difficult to believe that a university could pursue such a risky strategy. However, as we've been finding out steadily over the course of the past year, there are many aspects about the whole financial meltdown that have beggared belief. It may be that St. F.X. is an isolated case, but as the financial crisis continues to unfold, we may yet see some more "interesting" financial news coming from higher education. Let's just hope that no one decided to invest their endowment in derivatives...