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Reading Thelin’s ‘A History of American Higher Education’ as an Amateur Futurist | Learning Innovation – Inside Higher Ed

A History of American Higher Education by John R. Thelin

Published in April 2019 (third edition)

Why is most thinking about higher education's future mostly mediocre?

Lots of reasons. Uncritical acceptance of applying (mostly discredited) business theories to academia. (Hello, disruptive innovation.) An inability to see beyond one's privileges. Anchoring on the belief that nothing ever changes in higher education. An unshakable faith that the market is either the answer to all of higher education's challenges or the root of all its problems.

However, the most profound cause of middling thinking about the future (or futures) of higher education is too little knowledge about higher education's past. Knowing the contours and causes of prior changes in academia is likely necessary, if not sufficient, for saying smart things about what will come next.

This brings us to Thelin's A History of American Higher Education. The third edition came out in 2019, bringing the story more or less up to the present. (Before COVID maybe changed everything).

Thelin should probably be required reading for anyone who wants to offer any utterance, no matter how small, about where higher ed might be going. Would it be unrealistic to ask Educause, UPCEA, OLI, ASU+GSV, WCET, ACE, AAC&U, FETC, ELI, AAU, CHEA, NAICU, AAUP and all the rest to send copies of A History American Higher Education to all their members?

Reading the Thelin book (as it always seems to be called), I was struck by a couple of things. First, it is interesting to me (as someone who works at a center for teaching and learning) how little a role teaching and learning plays in this history of higher education. Zimmerman's The Amateur Hour is an essential companion to Thelin.

Online education's growth gets some space in Thelin's history, but not all that much. There is some stuff on the role that for-profits played in the online learning story, and nonprofit distance learning and MOOCs make an appearance in the newest chapter on the 2010-2018 period. But Thelin covers very little about the impact of the development of CTLs, or the role that nonfaculty educators play in the instructional enterprise.

Nor does the history of educational technologies -- academic or administrative -- figure much into A History of American Higher Education. A historical and holistic account of the introduction and impact of technologies into the university has not been written yet (to my knowledge), a volume that may also make an attractive companion (and perhaps balance) to Thelin.

Despite what I see as shortcomings (not enough about teaching and learning, not enough about online education and nonfaculty educators, not enough about technology), it is undeniable that A History of American Higher Education represents a singular contribution. Thelin has given us a deeply researched and highly readable single-volume account of U.S. higher education, from 1636 (the year of Harvard's founding) to (almost) today.

The collective time spent on almost any higher ed conference, gathering or convening about the future of higher education would probably be better spent by everyone reading Thelin. However, the reality is that the communities of those who study higher ed's past and those who talk about higher ed's future seldom seem to converge. Why is this?

Part of the reason may be a mismatch between academic disciplines and professional organizations. Academics tend not to go to higher ed professional meetings, and higher ed professionals (nonfaculty) don't usually attend academic conferences on the history of higher education. Perhaps we should swap conferences?

There is so much to learn, so much to know, about the history of higher education. The task is daunting. A History of American Higher Education is the best place to start.

What are you reading?

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Food futurist Jack Bobo tells how sustainability will shape the future of food – Baking Business

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Even in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, consumers and food companies still care about sustainability. It may have taken a backseat to food safety and health, but it hasnt gone away. In fact, as the pandemic wanes, consumers may be looking at sustainability differently.

Sustainability remains a priority, but how consumer define sustainability is likely to change, said Jack Bobo, food futurist and chief executive officer of Futurity, a food foresight company that helps brands get ahead of trends. When you ask consumers what sustainability means, you end up getting some strange answers. Consumers want fewer insecticides on their food, but they also want to increase yields. They want food to be long-lasting, but they dont want preservatives. Thats the challenge.

In this premier episode of season five of Since Sliced Bread, Mr. Bobo gives a tour of how consumers and food companies sustainability priorities sometimes misalign. To address that gap, companies need to tune into the nuances of what consumers are asking for and educate them on what they actually need.

Listen to this episode to hear what the baking industry is doing right and where companies can grow to not only better serve the consumer but also still improve the environment.

Past Episodes

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Theater to Stream: Shakespeare Villains and Hot-Tub Dreams – The New York Times

Dinner with Gertrude and Lillian

Caryl Churchills Top Girls engineered a meeting between female historical figures. Little Wars, Steven Carl McCaslands new play, also sticks with literary heroines. When a dinner party includes Lillian Hellman (Juliet Stevenson) and Gertrude Stein (Linda Bassett, wondrous in Escaped Alone at the Brooklyn Academy of Music), the conversation could get interesting. Through Feb. 14;

L.A. Theater Works specializes in audio theater with startlingly good casts, and its impressive catalog keeps growing. The latest offering is Hannie Raysons eco-minded Extinction, with a cast that includes Sarah Drew and Joanne Whalley. Hankering for the days of before? Check out the last two productions Theater Works recorded in front of a live audience, early last year: a commissioned adaptation of Frankenstein by Kate McAll, starring Stacy Keach as the creature; and Qui Nguyens semi-autobiographical Vietgone, inspired by his Vietnamese refugee parents, and directed by Tim Dang.

Theater or something companies are calling theater by mail is alive and well. Ars Novas P.S. project has been going on since November; the second season of the Artistic Stamp companys epistolary project is underway, with a third beginning soon; and next month, Arena Stage is starting Ken Ludwigs Dear Jack, Dear Louise: Love Letter Experience.

The most ambitious initiative yet may well be Post Theatrical, which encompasses 13 mail-based theatrical experiences from companies in the United States, Lebanon and Hong Kong. Through June 30;

Remember Yorick, the jester whose skull plays a big part in Hamlet? He takes center stage in Francisco Reyess solo with puppets Yorick, la Historia de Hamlet/Yorick, the Story of Hamlet, presented by the Los Angeles contempory-arts center Redcat. American audiences may know Reyes from his role as Orlando in the Chilean movie A Fantastic Woman. In English with Spanish subtitles. Feb. 12-14;

If youre wondering about the back story to the French song in that Allstate commercial, its Non, je ne regrette rien, made famous by Edith Piaf. And if you missed the biopic La Vie en Rose, head over to Raquel Brittons docu-concert Piaf Her Story Her Songs, brought to us by Broadways Best Shows and the Actors Fund. Feb. 15-18;

For tunes in English, turn to Theater Forward, an organization that supports regional theater, which will offer performances by Jason Robert Brown, Kate Baldwin, George Salazar, Anika Noni Rose, Shaina Taub, Branden Noel Thomas, Taylor Iman Jones and the Bengsons for its annual benefit. Feb. 8;

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It’s Official: Biden Admin Fully Supports the Artemis Moon Program – Futurism

"Certainly, we support this effort and endeavor."To the Moon

Senate Democrats and the White House have reiterated their support for NASAs Artemis program, which has the goal of returning the first human astronauts to the surface of the Moon as soon as 2024.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said during a conference today that the government will work with industry leaders to send another man and a woman to the Moon, which is very exciting. Psakis also called the Moon a waypoint to Mars.

Certainly, we support this effort and endeavor, she added.

In a Wednesday letter signed by 11 Democratic senators, lawmakers urged the Biden administration to fully fund the human landing system initiative.

Developing the next generation crewed lunar lander is an essential step in returning astronauts to the Moon for the first time in half a century, including the historic milestone of landing the first woman on the Moon, reads the letter.

The senators also urged NASA to proceed with the planned selection and to include all necessary funding for [the Human Landing System] in your FY 2022 budget request.

Overall, significant budget constraints have put a squeeze on the space agencys efforts to develop a human landing system capable of lowering astronauts to the Moons surface, as Ars Technica reports.

That tracks with what the new head of NASA, Steve Jurczyk, told Futurism earlier this week: that without full funding for the human landing system, a 2024 Moon landing will be logistically challenging.

READ MORE: Senate Democrats send a strong signal of support for Artemis Moon program [Ars Technica]

More on Artemis: NASA Boss: We Have Every Indication That Artemis Is Safe Under Biden

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Portland experts share perspective on what the office will look like when you go back to work –

KGW's 'What's Next?' series looks at the future of work, technology and innovation in a post-COVID world. Hint: desks, hiring and your boss will all change.

For those working from home, or who've been laid off and your industry has collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic, what will the near-future look like for you, once things open up? We start our new series on KGW Sunrise called What's Next? with a look at the how the new office landscape will evolve.

Steve Brown is a Portland-based corporate consultant, innovation futurist with 31 years at Intel, and an author whose book "The Innovation Ultimatum" came out in 2020. We asked Brown to share some predictions for the future of work.

Fergus Nolan is a Portland-based business executive with 18 years as a senior director at Nike. He's now the Columbia Sportswear Director for Brands and Regions, Global Information Systems. We asked him for reaction to Brown's predictions and talk about what he's noticing in the business world.


Steve Brown: Most people will spend 3-4 days a week at home and then go into the office when they need to collaborate with other people and strengthen relationships with people they work with. It doesn't mean offices go away. Now maybe we'll reconfigure those offices so that more of the space is given over to collaboration space so people can come together and brainstorm and work on projects. That moment when you run into somebody in the corridor, at the watercooler, in the cafeteria and you go, 'Oh yes! I meant to talk to you about that thing!' or 'Have you gotten that email from me yet?' All of those little moments of serendipity that is almost the lubrication that helps things move forward. We miss out on those with tools like Zoom and Teams.

Fergus Nolan:Prior to COVID, I was a firm believer that to get the most out of individuals, they needed to be in the office, they needed to work collaboratively, needed to be able to access other individuals quickly. My attitude and perspective has completely changed now though. I have just seen people doing amazing things in this new environment. But I don't think it's sustainable (working from home 100% of the time) long term without more of a hybrid approach. A college graduate, or a high school graduate coming into the workforce, I think they're at a disadvantage personally, if they don't have that actual workplace environment to help ground themselves in the culture of the company they're coming into.

Hiring and salary

Steve Brown: Now I can look at people across the country or perhaps across the planet to fulfill the role and find the perfect candidate. They don't have to crush themselves into cities. They can move to places with higher quality of life. You can start taking people working for example at Facebook in the Bay Area, who can now work across America and they're earning Facebook dollars and spending those dollars in local communities. Hopefully you'll see more money spent in rural communities and start to lift those communities up. You will see that salaries may drop as that cost of living adjustment is removed, but companies will still pay for the best talent they can get their hands on.

Fergus Nolan: There are significant challenges, especially from a taxation point of view for employers. So as much as it may seem attractive to do it, it's not always that easy. Having your workforce dispersed like potentially could come from this, is a challenge. Now saying that, the companies that can adapt and work with this new environment will have the ability to hire the best talent in the world. If you're earning a certain salary in New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco that is equivalent to that marketplace, I think it would be naive of people to think they can take that salary and move to Nebraska because most companies are going to say that is way more salary than you need for the community you're going into.

Management Style

A hybrid of some days at home, some days in the office will require a different management style.

Steve Brown: Hopefully most of the management by 'butts-in-seats' has already gone away. It's still alive in some places with some managers. But really what this means is, we have to move entirely to management-by-results. It doesn't matter whether you're at the office or at home, or how many hours you work, it comes down to what do you contribute to your organization? And that contribution is in terms of key deliverables and to team spirit, to the culture of your organization and so on.

Fergus Nolan: Managers need to create rewards relevant to the work their employees are doing. I think people respect that and do work way beyond the level they've done before.

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The Universe May Have a Fifth Dimension, According to New Research – Futurism

A fifth dimension could finally explain the mysteries of dark matter.5D Everything

A team of German and Spanish scientists says theyve found a natural explanation for dark matter and other unresolved scientific mysteries but their work depends on the existence of a new theoretical subatomic particle and an entire fifth dimension of the universe.

The new particle, a yet-undiscovered type of fermion, would be able to traverse this new dimension and bind dark matter to the luminous matter that makes up everything in the universe we can see or touch, Motherboard reports, in a way that doesnt contradict any of the other models we have on how dark matter behaves. Its seems a bit far-fetched physicists creating new rules for the universe in order to explain their own theory but if it pans out, it could vastly improve our understanding of the cosmos.

The scientists explained to Motherboard that this new particle would likely be similar to and interact with the Higgs Boson, but that it would be too heavy to detect with the current generation of particle accelerators and colliders.

But assuming the particle and the fifth dimension it navigates both exist, it represents a unique window into dark matter, according to the teams paper, published in The European Physical Journal C last month.

If this heavy particle exists, it would necessarily connect the visible matter that we know and that we have studied in detail with the constituents of the dark matter, assuming that dark matter is composed out of fundamental fermions, which live in the extra dimension, a member of the team told Motherboard.

In lieu of a tangible way to prove that this mysterious particle or the fifth dimension exists, the researchers told Motherboard they hope that other scientists keep their model in mind as they continue to study particle physics and cosmology.

This could also eventually lead to an interesting cosmological history of the universe and might lead to the production of gravitational waves, the team told Motherboard. This is an interesting line of research, which we plan to follow in the months ahead.

READ MORE: Scientists Have Proposed a New Particle That Is a Portal to a 5th Dimension [Motherboard]

More on dark matter: Astronomers Find Over 1,200 Dark Matter Hot Spots

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