Tag Archives: college

More Quantification: Religion, History, Education, Literacy

Venturing into even more contentious territory than last week, I’ve compiled some more statistics for my study area.

Asia Religion, History, Higher Education, and Literacy

Some interesting findings in the religious diversity study just completed by Pew Research: half of the most religiously diverse countries are in Asia, and the most religiously diverse place on earth is right here in Singapore.

To capture some tiny summary of the history of colonial influences, I decided to only look at colonizers from outside the area, because power exchanges within the study area would really complicate things.  Of course, some of the more recent colonial issues were with pre-WWII imperial Japan, and various Chinese and Indian populations have been colonizers of other areas for millennia.

The calculation used to determine the percent enrollment in higher education was comparing the number of enrolled students to the population that is “college age” (usually 18-23). I expect South Korea has 101% because of either a fair number of older students (since enrollment includes graduate school) or foreign students who were not counted as part of the population statistic but were counted in the enrollment statistics.

Asia Religion, History, Education, Literacy info table

 

Asia relig hist ed lit data table

I also found a map that shows some of the colonial history.

 

Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know

If you happen to be in Singapore and you can make it by on the 30th…

The Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster of HSS cordially invite you to a seminar by Dr Michelle Merrill, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster. Her topic is Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know.

Details of time/venue: 30 April 2014, Time: 3:00pm – 4:30pm,   HSS Meeting Room 4, Level 4 (HSS-04-71), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know

It is easy to find evidence for unsustainability. Almost everyone has heard about the problems (climate change, air pollution, water scarcity, soil degradation, biodiversity loss…) and it is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which multiple converging crises precipitate devastating social, economic and political shocks.  Most would agree that, even without such doomsday scenarios, solving these unsustainability crises is an obligation we have to future generations; intergenerational well-being demands that we learn to be good ancestors and leave a world that works for our descendants.  While most sustainability problems actually have solutions that could be implemented without waiting for tomorrow’s technology, the solutions are often dismissed as “not feasible,” with the clear implication that leaders in industry, government and academia do not really know how to resolve these interdependent problems.  Sustainability requires not just new technologies and industrial processes; it also requires new attitudes and mindsets, especially the ability to consider how consequences travel through interconnections in complex adaptive systems.  Colleges and universities are where tomorrow’s leaders should gain the skills to wisely address these challenges.

Education for sustainability is essential for intergenerational well-being and the long-term viability of society. It also provides an ideal platform for students to learn and apply interdisciplinary critical thinking.  This talk will investigate strategies for promoting interdisciplinary education for sustainability in tertiary education.  Concepts and pedagogies that were implemented at Cabrillo College (California, USA), and preliminary results regarding their efficacy will be addressed.  The talk will review some of the organizations and strategies for promoting professional development in education for sustainability around the world.  Plans for fostering a strong network of sustainability educators across colleges and universities centered in Southeast Asia will be presented.

Michelle Y. Merrill Biographic Sketch:

Michelle Y. Merrill (Ph.D.) studies teaching, learning, cultural evolution and culture change.  Since 2004, her focus has been on the application of those concepts to sustainability:  how we can connect with, learn from and teach one another to co-create a resilient, regenerative future.  She is particularly interested in applying principles, examples and metaphors from ecology and evolutionary biology in solving human design problems in both the social and technological arenas, especially systems thinking and biomimicry. Before embarking on her current research project on sustainability and pedagogy at NTU, she worked at a community college in California, developing sustainability-themed courses, advising student clubs, and supporting college efforts to enhance institutional and community sustainability and social justice.  She won the 2013 John D. Hurd Award for Teaching Excellence at Cabrillo College.

Dr. Merrill’s previous research was on the evolution of primate behavior, giving her a broad grounding in tropical ecology, primate and human evolution, social networks, cooperation, learning and communication.  She studied wild orangutans (Pongo abelii) on Sumatra, and bonobos (Pan paniscus) in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and at the Language Research Center (Decatur, Georgia, USA).  Her doctoral dissertation in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy from Duke University (2004) was on Orangutan Cultures: Tool Use, Social Transmission and Population Differences.  Her experiences in tropical rainforest fieldwork inform her current approach to sustainability, emphasizing the need to address social and economic development along with environmental conservation to protect and preserve endangered great apes and other species, including our own.

…Meanwhile, Happy Earth Day!

Indigenous Energy Idle No More

Indigenous voices are being raised.  The amazing story of Idle No More, and their resistance to the exploitation of the Alberta Tar Sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline, is a source of tremendous inspiration for me.  Local groups are organizing around the themes of Indigenous Rights and the Rights of Nature.  These rights have been ignored and abused for far too long.

Idle No More at San Francisco demonstration against KXL

Near the winter solstice of 2012, the Catholic Bishop at Mission San Juan Bautista offered a formal apology to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Ohlone/Costanoan Indians.  Valentin Lopez, Tribal Chairman of the Amah Mutsun band of Ohlone said they misreported that he accepted the apology.  Instead, he acknowledged the apology, as it was not sufficiently extensive to accept.

You [nearly] exterminated his race. What could you possibly say that would make him feel better?

~Spike (BtVS #64, by Jane Espenson)

Perhaps there is no way to truly apologize for the damage done by colonialism. Healing from historic trauma is a vast challenge that will confound us as a species for a long time.

Everybody’s been traumatized in this society… To civilize us, they have to traumatize us.

~John Trudell 7 Feb 2013, “dedicated, coherent, prolific, inspiring, AIM leader, poet troubadour”

Still, an apology is not a bad place to start, as long as everyone understands the inadequacy of the gesture. In the US, a 2010 military spending bill  included an apology to Native Americans that was signed into law, far too quietly, by President Barack Obama. In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did his best to apologize for the (not-un-Borg-like) government efforts to assimilate previous generations of First Nations peoples via residential schooling.   At least in Canada, they’ve adopted something like the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, trying to bring the history of atrocities into the light of day, so that healing might begin.  As far as I can find, the only Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States is in response to the Greensboro Massacre by the KKK in 1979.

Willow : …we should be helping him redress his wrongs. Bring the atrocities to light.

Giles : If the history books are full of them, I’d say they already are.

BtVS #64, by Jane Espenson

Is the truth really out there?  You can find it, if you’re looking in the right history books.  In her book Bad IndiansDeborah Miranda sketches the terrible history of the California missions.  California received the barbed tip of the lash that was struck across Turtle Island. It tore asunder languages, cultures, people. The reverberations of that violent blow have echoed down the generations descended from the too-few survivors.  This book is brilliant, sometimes in the way that a fresh wound is brilliant with crimson.  Miranda‘s indictments of the 4th grade California history mission assignments are sharper than an obsidian scalpel.

One might also seek enlightenment in museums.  The website of National Museum of the American Indian (part of the Smithsonian) certainly doesn’t foreground the atrocities of colonialism, but you can search for “massacre” and find some of it.  Valentin Lopez mentioned that there is fundraising to establish a museum in San Francisco that would highlight a history of the atrocities against Native Americans, especially in California (this may be a reference to the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa). Stan Rushworth (instructor of Native American Literature at Cabrillo College) notes that the missions, the scenes of so many atrocities against indigenous California peoples, rarely if ever acknowledge that part of their history; this is in contrast to places like Dachau and Auschwitz, where the brutality of what was committed there is central to their stories.

However, it’s a tiny minority of people that actually go to museums, and those are often people who are already aware and seeking more information.  Mass media only tells these stories occasionally.  Valentin Lopez commented that there has never been a movie about the native people of California – it’s just too sad for a Hollywood story.  We can watch Schindler’s List and The Pianist, but not this?

When the Occupy Movement was emerging in the fall of 2011, I was excited about their ideas, but a little less sure about their chosen name.  This image from Occupy Oakland inspired me to create (well, borrow and rework, with some help from my spouse) a hometown version (full-size for printing).  Santa Cruz is Occupied Ohlone Land

California was perhaps the most populous and culturally diverse area of pre-contact North America.  The peoples now referred to in the aggregate as Ohlone were actually several culturally and linguistically distinct bands, including the Chochenyo in the area that now includes Oakland (those who left the shellmounds that gave Shellmound Drive in Emeryville its name) and the Awaswas of Santa Cruz.  

If we want to understand how to live here on the central coast of California,we need to ask the Amah Mutsun, the Rumsen, the Indian Canyon Mutsun, the Esselen, the Chumash, and so many other peoples, living and extinct.

Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Costanoan/Ohlone Indians

And, more difficult still, we have to ask politely.  We of “mainstream American” culture, must be humble, we must be patient, and we must learn some manners.  We cannot just expect to be welcomed into what remaining mysteries the natives of this continent have managed to retain, to dip our toes in, to take a weekend retreat.

I’m proud to say that this semester, Cabrillo College (where I work) has been actively engaged with conversations about the genocide of indigenous people, about the invisibility of white privilege and how we’ve benefited from historic efforts to exterminate native people.  Last November, the school newspaper published the article “400 Years Too Late: The Reality of Thanksgiving.” On March 14th, we had an intense and critical  discussion of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, a short story collection by Native American author Sherman Alexie that was banned from curriculum lists in Tucson, Arizona.   On April 15th, Cabrillo will host Deborah Miranda (author of Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir).

On Earth Day this year, Cabrillo College will emphasize the theme of Indigenous Rights.  We’ve invited a speaker from the Pachamama Alliance to talk about the Achuar and other tribes of Ecuador.  We also plan to host Darryl “Babe” Wilson, California Indian author and activist.

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

~Lilla Watson and Aboriginal activists groups, Queensland, Australia 1970s

As we say in the Cabrillo Sustainablility Council, “We’re All In It.”  It’s time to work together, and be Idle No More.

Cabrillo College: Phil Kaplan’s “Making a Difference”

A great new addition to the Great Ape Conservation info – right in my backyard, so to speak.

Cabrillo College: Phil Kaplan’s “Making a Difference”: http://www.cabrillo.edu/~pkaplan/making_a_difference.html

“We are accepting (working or not plus accessories) cellphones, iPods, MP3 Players, laptops, digital cameras, all small computer accessories, inkjet printer cartridges, energy bar wrappers (foil inside), potato chip bags and corks to help raise funds for the Orangutan Conservancy, Santa Cruz SPCA and Save Our Shores. Over 2500 cell phones, 50,000 corks, and 19,000 energy bar wrappers have been kept out of the landfill and refurbished or recycled in environmentally-safe ways through our program. They can be given to Phil. Other out-dated or unwanted electronics, including computers and TVs, can be recycled for free at Grey Bears on Chanticleer near the old Skyview Drive-Inn and Flea Market. Read about the increasingly sad plight of the Orangutan (which is Malaysian for “person of the forest”).”

orangutans

Promoting Sustainable Choices at College Events

To put it as diplomatically as possible, we experienced some challenges in attempts to make a recent event more sustainable, especially in regards to the free food that was offered to community participants.  The Cabrillo Sustainability Council decided to put together a statement about how we can improve future performance on this.  I offer my contribution to that here, hoping that others can use and transform these arguments to make their own events and organizations more sustainable.

Why Cabrillo College events should emphasize sustainable choices

1)      Events like Graduation and the Social Justice Conference are some of our major opportunities to connect with the broader community that we serve.  We want to look like we are keeping up with important cultural changes in higher education.  One of the major transformations taking place on college and university campuses everywhere, particularly at some of our major transfer schools, is a shift to sustainability.  There is a broad movement in higher education institutions shifting to the use of sustainable, local and organic foods, meatless and vegan food choices, and a reduction of single-use or disposable items like bottled water.  See http://www.aashe.org/ for many examples.

2)     Cabrillo College should model what we teach in classes and at events like the Social Justice Conference and Earth Week, and strive to do better than the bare minimum in our many commitments to improve campus sustainability (including both external commitments like the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and the Monterey Bay Area Regional Climate Action Compact, and internal commitments like the Student Senate and Inter-Club Council Sustainable Purchasing Resolution – see http://www.wiser.org/file/view/5b15399f971a04c9726f12805d48486e).  Our students will be living in the time of consequences for our current choices, and they may not forgive hypocrisy and foot-dragging in our efforts to meet these commitments.

3)     We have an opportunity to be on the leading edge of the necessary and perhaps inevitable changes in our culture toward sustainability.    The drive toward “global awareness,” “personal and professional responsibility,” “sustainability” and “a strong sense of social justice” are embedded in the Cabrillo College Vision Statement (http://www.cabrillo.edu/home/mission.html). We must not miss opportunities to demonstrate leadership in these areas.

4)     Sustainability and Social Justice are inextricably linked.  The impacts of unsustainable choices fall most heavily on the disenfranchised in our own communities, and more broadly on the global poor.  The consequences of non-organic agriculture are felt most deeply by farmworkers and nearby communities, where rates of cancer and birth defects are higher in those exposed to pesticides.  Climate change is triggering devastating floods in places like Pakistan, Brazil and Mississipi (http://climatecommunication.org/new/articles/extreme-weather/floods/).

5)     The gravest social injustice fostered by our limited commitment to improving the sustainability of our choices is to the generations that will follow us.  Cabrillo College is an institution that has endured for over five decades, and most of us hope that we will continue to serve our community for many decades to come.  We should be an institution that can take the long view, considering the consequences of our choices and actions and how they will impact the well-being of future generations in our community and across the planet.

Learning through Celebration: Earth Week 2012

Learning through celebration is the goal, anyway, and that’s a big part of what I’ve been doing instead of blogging.  Well… planning to do.  We now have the schedule for Cabrillo College’s Earth Week teach-ins and festivities.  You may note that I’m once again giving a talk on ape conservation with Renée Kilmer.

Why a week? Isn’t it “Earth Day,” normally?  Yes, it started out as Earth Day in 1970 – April 22nd as a day to focus activist energies on environmental issues.  In part, it was a response to the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969.  (Sadly, it wasn’t enough to stop investment in even deeper, riskier oil drilling, with predictably unpleasant consequences.)

I got interested in Earth Day in the late 1980’s, helping to organize events in Contra Costa county.  So when I got to Cabrillo College, I was looking forward to working with other organizers to do teach-ins here.  These wonderful people had discovered that there were too many things to talk about in just one day, so events were spread out in the week surrounding or leading up to Earth Day.  Hence the Cabrillo Earth Week celebration (April 16-21st this year).

It’s a lovely time of year to celebrate, at least locally.  We’ve had interesting weather this week (lots of that going around – see below), but it’s shaping up to be sunny and cooperative for our Earth Week festivities.  Come join us!

Californias Higher-Education Disaster – The Chronicle of Higher Education

…budget cuts caused enrollment in California community colleges to decline by over 400,000 students. That’s more than the total number of undergraduates enrolled in the entire California State University system.

Californias Higher-Education Disaster – Brainstorm – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

One of the concerns I have about the way we think about higher education in this country is the question of who it serves.  Popular rhetoric suggests that colleges are there to serve students, and the more business-minded the college administration is, the more likely they are to frame college as a place that serves students as customers, and that emphasizes student outcomes (usually in terms of graduation rates and sometimes subsequent job placement).  As teachers, we’re expected to be motivated to promote student success, and be rewarded by our interactions with students (since we certainly can’t expect to be rewarded financially in keeping with our workload and level of expertise).

Honestly, however, it’s not the individual students that we are serving.  We are serving society.  We are serving the future.  The people who have to live in the world our students create have almost as much stake in educational outcomes as our students.  They may not get the direct benefit of the improved employment opportunities, but the world that we all live in is shaped by the number of educated people, and the quality and intent of that education.  What technologies will be developed, what policies will be made, what new businesses will be created… these things are largely the domain of people with post-secondary education.

So when we get a statistic like an enrollment drop of 400,000 in California, we have to be clear that we are narrowing the idea pool for the future.   It’s not just that we’re serving 400,000 fewer “customers,” we are changing the capacity of our state to innovate.  We are responding to current budget crises by reducing our intellectual resilience as a community.