What to blog about?

I find the new web based culture both fascinating and a bit scary. It is huge and one can get lost there easily. There is so much out there and it sometime feels like a huge party at which everyone is talking, but hardly anyone is listening. I did a short search staritng with typing “mathematics blogs” into google. The results are overwhelming. So does CUNY need a math blog of its own? Yes. We, CUNY mathematicians, need to communicate more. We have so much in common, and there are many specific problems that need to be discussed, but there does not seem to be a suitable venue for it. We do not know each other well. It may simply be the result of the particular topography of CUNY (and of our not negligible teaching loads) that there is very little room in our schedules for informal interactions. Perhaps the CUNYMath Blog can help. But what should we blog about? There is no shortage of topics. Along with the whole spectrum of issues concerning mathematics and its teaching in general, we have a host of specific CUNY issues: the Pathways initiative; the recently introduced standardized test to exit remediation; mathematics curriculum at The New Community College at CUNY; the COMPASS exam and math placement procedures. Those of you who have followed Clarion articles and related emails from the University Senate and CUNY Administrative Offices, know well that there are sharp differences of opinion. Concerning particular issues, it is easy to get lost in technical details, but it is clear that the technical details are not the cause of such strong disagreements. Rather, we tend to differ on how to react to the rapidly changing realities of college teaching and research. Here is a rather frightening description of recent trends:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jan/13/grim-threat-british-universities/

It begins with “The British universities, Oxford and Cambridge included, are under siege from a system of state control that is undermining the one thing upon which their worldwide reputation depends: the caliber of their scholarship. The theories and practices that are driving this assault are mostly American in origin, conceived in American business schools and management consulting firms. They are frequently embedded in intensive management systems that make use of information technology (IT) marketed by corporations such as IBM, Oracle, and SAP. They are then sold to clients such as the UK government and its bureaucracies, including the universities. This alliance between the public and private sector has become a threat to academic freedom in the UK, and a warning to the American academy about how its own freedoms can be threatened.”

At this level, the discussion does not involve mathematics directly, but it seems inevitable, that if the general climate in academia is changing so dramatically, no discipline will be immune, and we  should be ready for the change. What is of utmost importance is that we know what we are doing  as professionals  and why. Where should we have such a discussion? Perhaps on these pages.

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