4 - Friday, March 9, 2012
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
4 - Friday, March 9, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
C I he Wchiaan4:)atolv
E-MAIL JEFF AT EMORT@UMICH.EDU
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
AND ANDREW WEINER JOSH HEALY
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS MANAGING EDITOR
So how has
EDITOR IN CHIEF
but I can't help
but feel like I'm
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Imran Syed is the public editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Practice what you teach
'U' should expand massive open online courses
The cost of higher education has been steadily climbing -
especially in recent years due to the economic downturn.
Recently, universities such as the Georgia Institute of Tech-
nology and Stanford University have offered courses online. On
Feb. 13, 2011, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology unveiled
an expansion of its OpenCourseWare, which allows students to
take online classes for credit - a system better known as a massive
open online course. The University should follow this current trend
in higher education and explore MOOCs as a worthwhile medium
for the dissemination of its curriculum.
Business, the 'U'and you
The University's mission statement pledg-
es to "serve the people of Michigan and
the world through preeminence in creat-
ing, communicating, preserving and apply-
ing knowledge, art, and academic values."
Though these courses don't ultimately lead
to a diploma, the democratization of educa-
tion stands to benefit a group of students that
are strapped for cash yet driven to succeed.
According to the National Center for Educa-
tion Statistics, the cost of tuition at a four-
year institution has tripled since the 1980s,
and more than 700,000 students turned to
distance learning to earn their degrees after
the recession that began in the fall of 2008 -
the number accounts for about 4 percent of
all college undergraduates.
The University has its own MOOC avail-
able as of last month, a course titled "Model
Thinking" taught by Scott Page, a professor of
complex systems, economics and political sci-
ence. The University should expand its aims of
profitable research to make education for all a
priority, and MOOCs are a natural start. Such
an initiative would be a positive influence on
the University's reputation as a proponent
of higher learning. Online, for-profit college
courses, although a possible alternative solu-
tion to getting an education in a recession, are
often criticized as negligent programs that
deliver low-quality results. According to a
recent Huffington Post article, 13 percentof all
college students attended for-profit schools in
2009, and those in bachelor's degree programs
suffered higher rates of unemployment and
loan debt than students attending a public or
Though education for education's sake is
an admirable rallying cry, it's not necessarily
practical, which is why one school has taken
its MOOC a step further.The Massachusetts
Institute of Technology recently increased
the scope of its own online course program,
unveiling a new venture in December 2011
called MITx. This free program is open learn-
ingsoftware available to all students, including
those from other schools, and users can also
use MITx to obtain a credential for "a modest
fee." Though MITx is not far-reaching enough
to allow students to graduate, certainly this
online option a step in the right direction.
In order to move forward, the University
should seriously consider researching and
implementing more MOOCs. This not-for-
profit action would be admirable and would
increase the University's alumni base. Free
online courses like Page's, whether accred-
ited or not, would be a boon to the University's
reputation and, more importantly, the minds
of hopeful learners.
s the business of America busi-
ness? Is what's good for General
Motors good for the country?
what's good for
simple answers. 1
Liberal and con-
ments on the JOEL
subject often fail BATTERMAN
to admit just how
our government has always been in
shaping the growth of private enter-
prise. But it's a good time for us to
think about the relationship between
businesses, especially one familiar
public institution: the University of
Michigan. Are the evolving connec-
tions between the University and
for-profit industries evidence of the
corporate conquest of American life?
Are they a potentially transformative
cure for Michigan's economic woes?
A complex phenomenon that merits
I tend to think it could be all of the
Like other public research uni-
versities, the University has long-
held close ties to business. The
campus landscape is embedded with
the names of private sector leaders
from lumber baron Arthur Hill to
Ford investor Horace Rackham. And
like its peers, the University formed a
crucial link in the postwar partner-
ship between business and the U.S.
government, absorbing billions in
state research dollars for science and
Under the leadership of University
President Mary Sue Coleman and
Vice President for Research Stephen
Forrest, however, the University has
taken unprecedented steps to deep-
en its relationships with corpora-
tions and make entrepreneurship
a major part of its mission. This is
best symbolized by the University's
purchase of the former Pfizer corpo-
rate campus on Plymouth Road, now
the North Campus Research Com-
plex. The University's campaign to
"galvanize innovation" includes an
expanding range of programs that
train students to startbusinesses and
provide material support, including
direct investment, for student and
faculty-run firms. Since 2007, the
University's Business Engagement
Center has lured companies with the
promise that it will "maximize the
growth potential for your business...
by identifying and accessing the Uni-
versity's vast resources, including
research discoveries, new technol-
ogy, high-tech facilities, student and
alumni talent, continuing education
programs and strategic giving."
These are bigchanges, and they've
put the University on the cutting
edge of a national trend. Coleman
is now chair of the Association of
American Universities and the public
sector co-chair of President Barack
Obama's National Advisory Council
on Innovation and Entrepreneur-
ship. The University can justly claim
to be a leader in the movement to
integrate the public research univer-
sity with the for-profit sector. But is
that for the best?
At its most promising, the trend
could help universities become big-
ger players in American life. If you
asked the average citizen what the
University does for the state of Mich-
igan, a lot of people might be hard-
pressed to come up with answers
not involving football. I would love
to see our University's vast creative
capacities applied to more directly
confront the challenges facing U.S.
society instead of simply churning
out literature on its margins. Univer-
sities are notoriously slow-moving,
and they could learn a lot from the
private sector when it comes to more
nimble practical engagements with
a changing world. On a more imme-
diate level, I'm not sorry to see the
University attracting more industry
to Michigan (especially in cleantech-
nology) instead of simply exporting
our state's best-prepared young peo-
ple to Chicago and the coasts.
tion of the American public universi-
ty alsoriskserodingits mostvaluable
qualities. Key staffers now say "U-M
must itself become entrepreneurial."
But what. does that mean? Despite
recent buzz about "social entrepre-
neurship," most entrepreneurs are
out for one primary purpose: to make
a large amount of personal profit in
a short amount of time. The Univer-
sity, by contrast, is not a for-profit
institution. It operates on a scale of
centuries, not years. And on paper, at
least, it exists for the benefitof all the
along with risk.
It is somewhat ironic that the
University is pioneering the inte-
gration of the public research uni-
versity with private enterprise,
since most of Michigan's current
woes arise from certain limitations
of the latter. My own opinion of
global capitalism is far from fixed,
but it's pretty clear that its habit of
sacrificing long-term community
prosperity for short-term gain has
not always served our state so well.
The various elements of our society
desperately need to be reconciled
around civil and ecological sus-
tainability, and learning between
different sectors could conceivably
further that goal. The real question
is who's dictating the terms, and
that's a question for another col-
umn. Stay tuned.
- Joel Batterman can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week was awful. I did not do
enough work over break..."
Every University student complained upon
return from a brief spring break.
Record debt under Obama
(Critical) reading on the beach
President Obama's campaign announced
that it plans to send campaign staffers to 10 col-
leges in swing states to reach out to youth vot-
ers in what they're calling "Student Summits."
The University of Michigan was one of the
schools selected by campaign staff for a visit.
In 2008, the youth voting demographic
went heavily to Obama - he carried a whop-
ping 66 percent to McCain's 32 percent.
Obama utilized social media, celebrity
endorsements and refreshing campaign rhet-
oric to help capture that key demographic.
He had little record to run on as a first-term
U.S. Senator. Now, more than three years
later, he has a record for voters to look at -
but it's grim.
Under the Obama administration, the grad-
uating class of 2011 became the most indebted
graduating class in history, with average per
student debt sitting at $22,900. In addition, the
average portion of the national debt per citizen
sits at approximately $49,000.
In addition, unemployment among young
people is twice the national average at nearly
18 percent. Real-unemployment is even higher.
In Michigan, the rate of unemployment is
above the national average at an astounding
9.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of
Meanwhile, Michigan's underemploy-
ment rate, which is generally believed to be
a better indicator of the actual job market,
ties with four other states for highest in the
nation, sitting between 21 and 24 percent in
Major cities in Michigan have been hit
even harder than the state as a whole. Unem-
ployment in Detroit hovers at 20 percent as
of early 2012.
Young people in Michigan, as well as
nationwide, are graduating college with
more debt than ever before in history and
entering one of worst job markets to date. We
will be curious to see what Obama campaign
staffers say to young people to try to win back
their support after his administration spent
the last three years failing them.
College Republicans at the 10 schools select-
ed will be doing their part over the next few
weeks to educate their peers regarding how the
administration has failed young people.
Gus Portela is the Michigan state
chairman of College Republicans.
Over spring break, I read
Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite
the first time. I
because I began
reading it over
winter break, but
ended up putting
it down when
I got back to LEAH
school because I POTKIN
tests, papers and the like.
However, I ended up having to
read the bestseller for a course.
While reading for class, I was able to
get caught up in the story, emoting at
the proper times and feeling a great
sense of connection with the charac-
ters. And while my reactions to the
novel were normal enough, I couldn't
help but reflect on my readingstyle as
I turned the pages of the text, eager
to see what would happen next.
What I came to realize was that
whenever I read something for a
class or for an academic purpose,
I couldn't help but read critically.
My style shifts away from naive and
unassuming and toward analytical.
For better or for worse, it alters my
relationship with the text and men-
tally keeps me on my toes.
The concept of reading critically
versus reading for pleasure is some-
thing I have been studying in one of
my classes and hasled me to explore
and examine my personal reading
habits. I've discovered, contrary to
what I'd expected, I get more fulfill-
ment and enjoyment from my critical
reading than I do from my vacation-
In fact, I encourage all students
to take a step back and examine how
they read. I truly think that under-
standing how we read can greatly
enhance the benefits and enjoyment
of reading itself.
I can pinpoint my own experience
with "The Kite Runner" as evidence.
When I began reading the book over
winter break, Iread carelessly for the
sole purpose of mindless enjoyment.
And, while there's nothing wrong
with this approach - after all, I was
on vacation - I found when I went
back to it from where I had left off
only a few short weeks before, I could
hardlyremember character names or
major plot themes - embarrassing, I
Intrigued, I went back to review
some of the books I'd read for class
before an exam, and discovered I had
no trouble remembering the same
information I had so easily forgotten
when I wasn't reading critically.
From this experience, it seems
that unlike pleasure reading, during
which most people are merely look-
ing for interesting plots or charac-
ters to entertain them while idling
away time on the beach or trying to
fall asleep, critical reading forces
people to become more involved in
all aspects of a book. Critical read-
ers seek, among other things, the
author's perspective, the book's dis-
tinguishing features and the book's
relevance to the general topic being
taught by the assigning professor.
When critically reading "The Kite
Runner," I found myself marking or
re-reading certain passages in an
effort to comprehensively understand
their significance and consider their
relevance - something I can never
remember doing when reading on the
beach. This deeper immersion left
me with an enhanced appreciation of
the book's message and overall better
understandingof the issues raised.
I would venture to say that as stu-
dents at a prestigious university, it's
in our nature to read critically when
reading for class. We all strive to suc-
ceed, and in doing so, we read with
the purpose of extracting informa-
tion and applying it later,- often only
for exams, mind you.
But it seems this increasingly aca-
Take a step back
how you read.
demic critical reading approach has
its benefits inside and outside the
classroom.Atleast in my recent expe-
rience with "The Kite Runner," criti-
cally I realized that books ranging
from great novels like Hosseini's to
what some would call trashy "beach
reads" are more enjoyable when read
through a slightly critical lens. Not
to mention, as we're presented with
countless reading materials every
day, reading critically is vital in order
to extract the important informa-
tion from sources that aren't already
This might all sound a bit abstract,
but ultimately there is pedagogical
value in critically readingtexts of all
sorts, and students should capitalize
on their abilities to hone in on texts
for more than just the sake of a good
grade or a classroom discussion. In
myexperience, it certainlymakes for
a far more interesting, if not enlight-
ening, reading experience both
inside and outside the classroom.
- Leah Potkin can be reached
at email@example.com. Follow her
on Twitter at @LeahPotkin.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Laura Argintar, Kaan Avdan, Ashley Griesshammer, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein,
Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Harsha Panduranga, Timothy Rabb, Adrienne
Roberts, Vanessa Rychlinski, Sarah Skaluba, Seth Soderborg, Caroline Syms, Andrew Weiner