Response to an essay
https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/how-i-learned-flourish-online-grad-program Katie, it's nice to see that you are responding to comments on your piece. I found this essay quite irksome, and I want to share why. Your opener, with its images of the Harvard Quad and the like, pedestalizes a rose-colored image of higher education that many in the readership of IHE do not share. To say Boston's universities "charmed" you is cloying. Next, you create an arbitrary contrast between college life and "real life." Again, many of us who work (or in my case, have worked) in higher education find this an artificial separation -- we live and work in colleges and universities and we are real, and what we do is real. As a matter of fact, I no longer teach because working as an adjunct was *too* real, so I had to get a job with health insurance and retirement and predictable hours. If I'm now working in the "real world," then that includes getting paid twice as much and working half as hard as in my adjunct instructor position. Next, why do you name-drop ASU's Michael Crow? He has been criticized in IHE for proposing that writing instructors carry course loads with 125 composition students per semester. It seems Crow wants to turn ASU into the University of Phoenix. You do not seem to have affiliation with ASU, but you take on academic administrator buzzwords like "excellence" without irony. Do not carry water for hacks. Or perhaps you can use your MFA as a copy editor at ASU? I take personal offense at your argument that "I had to pay rent, buy groceries, and continue chipping away at my college loans. I couldn’t afford to quit my job and flit off to an isolated graduate program somewhere in the woods." Here you make a straw man argument against residential graduate programs, which are not only the vast majority of programs but can also be life-altering. Instead of being out in the "woods," residential programs bring students out of their comfort zones. In my own case I got to live in a region of the country very different from that of my upbringing. Additionally, for what purpose do you straw-man non-online programs? They exist on roughly equal footing as is; I can only think that you are trying to justify a weak argument ("I had to do online so I could pay bills") for your own reasons. At nearly 1700 words, your piece is actually two essays: one where you attempt to justify online graduate programs and one where you offer practical advice on how to make the most of said programs. I wasn't irked by the second part as much, but why offer such a long, would-be comprehensive essay on the GradHacker blog? The essay feels like you are writing for yourself and not your audience. Further, when you write, "It is a taste of the real world. It is career training," were you talking about the MFA in nonfiction you earned? If careerism was your purpose, you could have chosen a professional degree instead of a humanities one. Sadly, your piece irks throughout. You write, "It simply takes a more mature approach than just showing up to a class in pjs and bonding with whomever sits nearby." This sentence positions you as "mature" and traditional students as "showing up to class in pjs [sic]" and "bonding" willy-nilly. Hard to turn an essay on successful strategies for online courses into an opportunity for slut-shaming, but somehow you did it. Your willingness to trade in stereotypes says much; the unfair stereotype of online students would be someone typing on a laptop in pajamas at home, but you turn that on its head. Kudos. Let me add the insinuations you've got in the following sentence (which you may not realize you have): "Successful people [like me; look at me and my success] can’t take a hiatus from life [like those losers who went to residential grad programs] every time they need to learn a new skill [because "skill-building" is the purpose of graduate school in my view, not scholarship and research]." In sum, Ms. Kapro, given that your MFA is in nonfiction writing -- which should be your métier, as it were -- and this essay is what you created, what then did you learn in online, or low-residency, graduate school? I taught writing for years, and the most difficult-to-reach students had skills (there's that word of yours) but an inability to see outside themselves -- to see their limitations as well as the needs of their audience. In this essay you make many unfair assumptions. Good writing is not about writing something; it's about having something to say.
Letter to the Editor, Nov. 7

Today I woke up angry, which I can't recall ever happening. The reason? Yesterday, Donald Trump deeply and personally insulted me, my coworkers, friends, and neighbors by calling our region's East African immigrant community "a disaster." I work in South Minneapolis, where many Somali immigrants live and work.
I cannot imagine a worse person than the GOP nominee. What kind of person flies in on a plane, busts out a couple insult-comic lines, and flies out? Dozens if not hundreds of Somali immigrants *work at the airport* so that this guy could even arrive there safely. 
*This* is the man running for President of the United States for the Grand Old Party -- the party of Abraham Lincoln that has inexplicably morphed into the party of white nationalism.
I'm ashamed and worried for my fellow citizens that this is the guy for whom they're voting.
I love the United States and the rules which govern it. The USA is not an ethnic identity or a place. It's a great experiment based on freedom from religion, freedom from tyranny, and freedom from foolish identification with our race and ethnicity. In 1776 this was a radical departure -- an unthinkable way to govern people -- by the will of the people. 
Although they were not perfect and were definitely men of their time, the Founding Fathers created a system of governance flexible enough to aspire to a more-perfect union. We can choose to live this idea or we can choose to not do so.
That the GOP nominee sees *people I know* as a "disaster", not separable from their religion or ethnicity, and he purports to be a leader -- and my fellow citizens believe him -- well, that's a tragedy in itself.

Letter to the editor, foods

I'm not an expert in the food industry; I'm a consumer. But as an outsider I find myself rooting for Chobani over Yoplait/General Mills in a David vs. Goliath showdown ("Yogurt is the new measuring stick at General Mills," June 25). 

It was inexcusable when General Mills executives complained after the meteoric rise of Chobani that high-quality Greek yogurt was too expensive to make on a large scale, and instead added milk protein concentrate to their existing product and called it "Greek" yogurt.

For generations, General Mills corporation has marketed grain-based, processed foods with salt and sugar. What's the last time you made Hamburger Helper? That the yogurt category appears to be the company's Achilles' heel simply brings to stark relief that General Mills' product line is designed for uninformed consumers who are thankfully becoming more scarce every day. 

I take it as a matter of pride to shop the perimeter of the grocery store where high-quality fresh foods like vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, fish, and poultry sit without branding from a Fortune 500 company.

General Mills' product line, like Betty Crocker (who was a fiction anyway), is stuck in the past.

Letter to the editor again

It's delightful to see conservatives rediscover civil rights arguments after Democrats in the House of Representatives held a sit-in to protest the GOP's refusal to vote on even the most modest gun control measures.

Traditionally, though, civil rights are listed in the First Amendment: the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, peaceful assembly, and the right to petition the government.

In the case of the Orlando shooting and others, the "right" to buy an military-grade rifle threatens everyone's rights. The First Amendment and the Second (in its current interpretation) are in conflict.

Polling as well as common sense says the Second Amendment is not an unlimited right; the sentence itself says, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..." a clause which limits gun rights in a way that the First's rights are not limited. Additionally, the civil rights ensure a civil society, while the Second makes arms a last resort -- when citizens need to use force. While this perverse possibility excites some, thankfully they are in the minority.

We need gun control because the purpose of the Second Amendment's meaning has been twisted, and our politics have grown toxic. The NRA and GOP Congressmen stand with a "right" that ensures more mass shootings; they offer prayer when the dead cry for a change in policy.


No profanes - sacred
Letter to the editor

The StarTribune editorial board put a lot of time and effort into its Sunday editorial "Gun violence in America: We're all responsible." The Board included a thought-provoking title but skipped probably the most effective way to drastically reduce gun violence: make gun manufacturers and retailers legally liable for the misuse of their product.

We don't question it when citizens sue the companies that make or sell defective automobiles or faulty medical devices or tainted food. Yet we allowed Congress to pass a 2005 law (Public Law 109-92 or 119 Stat. 2095) saying that gun manufacturers and retailers couldn't be sued.

Not only has this statute had an adverse effect on public health, a fair-minded Supreme Court would rule it unconstitutional. Gun sellers should be doing everything in their power to ensure the safety of their customers and the public.

Instead the law has introduced a Wild West of armaments stockpiling where someone with evil intent can legally buy a military-style rifle, the AR-15, and shoot more than a hundred clubgoers (Orlando), or a deranged 20-year-old can grab his mother's weapon and tragically murder first graders and their teachers (Sandy Hook).

Overturning the so-called "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" should be step one.


Adam M. Schenck


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