Thursday, January 31, 2008

Some Canadian universities do have refugee scholarships

I just found this article about the World University Service of Canada which has been sponsoring refugees since 1978. The article is actually about the University of Victoria, where students contribute $.50 per semester to a scholarship that is offered every two years by UVic; a raise to $1.00 per semester would allow them to offer the scholarship each year.

Sounds like a model I should try and take to my university. I would also like to see faculty contribute $1-5, maybe $10-20, per year to such a scholarship fund. I wonder how such a proposal would be received?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Paying attention to Congo

NPR ran a story this morning about the 5.4 million deaths in Congo since 1998, 2 million of those deaths since 2002 when the war in Congo more or less stopped. The deaths are occurring because of the failure of the infrastructure and health care in the Congo. The number of deaths exceed Darfur substantially, and even outstrip the 2 million deaths in southern Sudan over the 22 years or the civil war in that region (1983-2005). The story does a nice job of pointing out that global economic and political interest in The DRC is low (unlike oil rich Sudan), and the cause has not yet been championed by celebrities or high profile politicians (no names were used, but we all know who they were talking about).

These stories mean so much more to me now that I have been to Africa. I met, and continue to correspond with, a Congolese refugee who left the DRC for Kakuma in 1998; he desperately wants to continue his education and make a difference in his country, but his family has few resources to aid him--they have been refugees for the last 9 years. He is going to a university in Nairobi this semester; I hope to be able to help him continue his education there or help him get to the US or Canada to continue his education. I don't know the the ins-ands-outs of bringing students to American universities, but Kakuma graduates about 300 students a year from the high school in the refugee camp, and it seems (to my naive eyes) like a very easy thing for American universities to be offering scholarships to those who might be interested. I know universities in this day and age don't recruit for humanitarian purposes, but maybe that trend needs to get started.

If anybody reading this is working at / attending a university with a humanitarian mission, please contact me!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Avoiding technological determinism

John Walters makes a nice distinction between strong and weak technological determinism:

"When someone like McLuhan or Ong describes what happened in the past to get us where we are now, they can appear to be engaging in a strong deterministic model because they don’t focus on the branches we could have followed but one the path we did follow.3 We need to make sure that when we read someone who explains that X lead to Y we recognize that this does not necessarily mean that they are arguing that X had to lead to Y (strong determinism), but that Y was one of the possible futures resulting from X and just happens to be part of the future we followed. Likewise, when providing accounts of technological development, we need to remember to not fall into the strong model fallacy, even when there really was only one possible future."

I'll have to see if this helps my students make sense of the technological determinism debate.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Medium IS the Message

NPR reported on a study that violent films pacified, rather than incited, the most violent segment of our culture (young men) because films (shown in theaters) required these young men to sit passively for 90+ minutes, generally free of alcohol and other drugs.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

CW 2008--thinking aloud

I'm still interested in presenting at Computers and Writing 2008, but with the ASAH project taking over my life, I am not sure if I will be in much of a position to present. I have been thinking about and blogging about my "virtual peace garden" project a few times, but I haven't been able to make any real progress with that piece. I have been thinking the last day or two that I could just try to get more theoretical--it is less time consuming to "think about stuff" than "do stuff." I am generally an application kind of guy, but maybe I could "invent" a new genre, a la Ulmer, a "Peace Pilgrimage" as genre, a new kind of action writing in Second Life. I have never known what I would do in SL, but if I theorized (and maybe actually tried out) traveling in SL, delivering a message of global peace, I might have something to present.

I have also long been wanting to check out Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies. I'm such an antiquarian.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Teacher education in Kakuma

One of my follow-up tasks from my trip to Africa involves me trying to figure out how my university might offer appropriate scholarships for refugees in the UNHCR Kakuma Camp. This story isn't about scholarships, but it is about the quality of the secondary schooling at Kakuma, and it is about training teachers for Southern Sudan.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My wife gets her dissertation cited in the NY Times

Most of us academics assume that our dissertations go un-read beyond our committees unless they get published in book form. My wife's dissertation, however, just got cited in a New York Times article about the re-emerging reputation of Marion Mahony Griffin, an early 20th Century architect who worked with FLW and her husand, Walter Burley Griffin.

"Among Mahony’s champions is Elizabeth Birmingham, an assistant professor of English at North Dakota State University in Fargo. “The specifics of Marion’s life fell victim to the primary scholarly effort to establish and fix the canon of ‘great men’ whose genius-personalities, buildings and texts would become central to the story of architecture,” she wrote in a dissertation.

Ms. Birmingham points out that architectural historians who acknowledge Mahony have tended to focus on her relationships with men and on her physical appearance, often in unflattering terms. (She was frequently described as homely, though Brendan Gill, in “Many Masks,” his 1987 biography of Wright, called her a “gaunt, beaky beauty.”) "

The article will be available until ????