[The author asserts ‘Creative Commons’ copyright of this article—full rights to share or use in part or whole for noncommercial purposes, with attribution]
While the ‘crisis in education’ in America has been a topic of serious discussion for a long time, its relevance has unfortunately never been greater. Tuition rises, administrative bloat amplifies[i], and universities cut corners cheapening education through growing class sizes and reliance on adjuncts and graduate students rather than tenure track professors[ii].
These changes—universally hurting students alongside faculty, adjuncts, and graduate student instructors but benefitting administrators and often athletic departments—form an educational version (which I will call the Coltrane Problem) of effectively the opposite variant of a classic problem in moral philosophy, known as the Trolley Problem.
The Coltrane Problem (whose namesake and inspiration will become clear in time) provides a specification of an aspect of the crisis in education, illustrated contemporaneously…
I am done grading finals... done writing papers… and done with Spring Term. Yay!! Summer vacation here I come!!
Except… although I will have time to do cool stuff like camping, hiking, fishing… and running… I will also be studying. I know! What kind of nightmarish summer vacation requires studying? Last summer was spent studying for the research project I had for the master’s paper. This summer I will study for the comprehensive exam. For those who do not know, the comprehensive exam is an exam to prove that I have “comprehensive” knowledge over one sub-field in sociology. If I pass, I can then continue onto my PhD work. If I fail, I can try to get a job with my Masters degree.
I am looking forward to being done with graduate school. I certainly do not have a “failure to launch” syndrome when it comes to graduate school. I do not want to spend 15 years as a graduate student doing research. I want to be done as soon as possible so that I can be teaching at a college and/or working at a nonprofit. Helping people is what matters to me… and the comprehensive exam is a stepping stone to that goal.
Anyway… the topic for my comprehensive exam is about the environment… specifically, understanding how political and economic decisions impact the environment, and how those environmental impacts create health problems for humans. Doesn’t that sound like an exciting summer vacation? Yeah, well… exciting for an academic and exciting for a college freshman are two different things 😉
So… my laptop has been very glitchy the last few weeks. It does not have a virus… but it has a limited amount of memory, and it wasn’t great to begin with because cheap was all that I could really afford on a college budget. Well… it has served me through my first two years of graduate school (and helped write the Master’s Paper). Heck, this laptop has even traveled to the Philippines and back with me. But I am now looking into upgrading my laptop to a Microsoft Surface.
I want more memory. My laptop has 2 GB… the base Surface RT has 32 GB, but I will probably get the 64 GB.
I want a machine that will not choke under pressure. My laptop, twice, flipped out in the middle of important class presentations. I don’t know if you have ever had to give an entire presentation from memory… but I have had to do it twice. It is NOT fun. I think my laptop just got nervous though… because it was fine during practice… but when it came time to actually perform, the laptop folded under the stress and left me hanging. My concern with the Surface RT is that I have heard there is a learning curve with the new Windows 8. I think the learning curve is what brings the Apple Ipad into the picture… because no matter which one I get, it appears there will be a learning curve. Thoughts?
I want a computer that does not freeze up. One of the reasons I have not been blogging as much is because sometimes my computer has just had enough. I do not think it is overheating… I just think it was an out-of-shape computer to begin with, and keeping up with the demands I need at graduate school level was a little much for this thing. So… when I lose an hour or more a day because of my glitchy laptop, it does cut into blogging time. NOTE: Our wireless has also been cutting out. I think the laptop freezing and the wireless cutting out are two unrelated problems, because my laptop does not need to be at home to have a freezing issue.
I want something lighter. Hiking across campus to teach a class, and then hiking across campus to attend a different class, with a medium size laptop is not fun. I am hoping the Microsoft Surface will be the answer to my grad school needs… but I am still in the decision making process.
FINANCIAL ISSUES: This is where it gets confusing, and if you have a tax answer, I would love to hear it. I read, somewhere, that for a computer to be tax deductible it needs to be purchased during the school year. Okay… I feel like my laptop will last through the summer… maybe, and give me time to get the new Surface in the fall. However, if there is a learning curve (see #2), then I don’t want to walk into class with a brand new gadget and look incompetent in front of students while I try to learn. If I buy the tablet over the summer, even if I want to use it for school, it might not be tax deductible for education related expenses. I hate tax laws.
The other financial issue… the Surface is currently running a special that ends June 30th, to buy the tablet and get the keyboard with it for free ($119 value). I’m not sure if that matters as much… because if I waited until the fall to buy it, the price for the tablet itself may drop anyway. It would be nice if I just had $900 laying around the house that I could just spend without worry… but I am a graduate student, so going out to eat anywhere is a big deal.
Anyway debate is between the Microsoft Surface and the Apple Ipad 4 (or a new laptop). I want something that will last until the end of my dissertation. Should I get a laptop? Should I get a tablet with a keyboard? It’s not like I don’t have enough to think about while in graduate school. What would you recommend? Thanks!! 🙂
Last Thursday, at approximately 11:36 a.m. Pacific Time, I received the news that my master’s paper passed. Many of you know that it has been a long, hard road to get to this point. Many revisions of the paper, many sleepless nights. At one point I actually got stress hives.
But now I can relax this summer. You know, as relaxing as one can have while studying for a comprehensive exam (a nasty exam for PhD students). But I will not be teaching or researching over the summer, which means I can fish, study for the exam, and travel to the coast. How cool do I feel after finishing the masters? As cool as Ferris Bueller in Chicago: that’s how cool!!
This was taken May 11th, 2013… on a day where I took a break from my master’s paper. Today, May 19th, I am finishing suggested revisions for the master’s paper … and it is due tomorrow. I hope you all understand why I have not been blogging consistently… considering flunking out of graduate school would not be cool. I hope to be blogging more and reading your blogs more in the near future. Have a wonderful day!