Monday, January 23, 2017

Moving on up ...

The name of the new chairman of the Indian conglomerate, Tata Sons, sounded absolutely Tamil: Natarajan Chandrasekaran.  CEOs now are typically in my age cohort, and I wondered if he would be a contemporary of mine.

To me, even this is an example of critical thinking in daily life. Wearing that metaphorical thinking cap is a requirement not only when one is engaged in profitable ventures, or answering exam questions.  Every day life too presents plenty of opportunities to think critically about this world.  If only I can convince quite a few students about this!

So, I did a Google search for Natarajan Chandrasekaran.  Turns out that he earned his undergraduate degree from the same college that I attended much to my disappointment and disgust! ;)  Perhaps this is common knowledge to my college-mates, but news to me because I stayed away from the college.  In this case, I could have then avoided using my critical thinking skills because I would have already known ;)

It does feel good to know that even a podunk institution can produce a big shot, even if only occasionally.

Here in the US, it used to be the case that even small--especially public--colleges and universities provided upward mobility.  From the lower to middle and upper classes.  Like the fabled City College of New York.  It was in graduate school that I came to know about City College--when a professor chatted about European Jewish immigrants gathering in that college, and then moving on to influential roles in society.

It was in California that I also learnt about its tiered public higher education model.  By the time I started teaching, tuition and fees were not as low as they once were, but were still affordable.  Apparently that old  place where I taught for a couple of years is the third best in the country for upward mobility when colleges are ranked by percent of students from the bottom fifth of the income distribution who end up in the top three-fifths.
working-class colleges have become vastly larger engines of social mobility. The new data shows, for example, that the City University of New York system propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined.
How often do we get to read about the important and valuable work that podunk universities like mine do, right?
“[E]xpanding access to the high-mobility-rate colleges identified here may provide a more scalable model for increasing upward mobility for large numbers of children,” Chetty and his co-authors write. “The colleges with the highest mobility rates have annual instructional expenditures less than $6,500 per student on average, far lower than the $87,000 per student spent on instruction at elite private colleges.”
But, guess what?
The share of lower-income students at many public colleges has fallen somewhat over the last 15 years.
The reason is clear. State funding for higher education has plummeted. It’s down 18 percent per student, adjusted for inflation, since 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
I.e., college is getting too damn expensive for working class students. 
The question is how to enable more working-class students to do so. “It’s really the way democracy regenerates itself,” said Ted Mitchell, Obama’s under secretary of education.
Ah, yes, we know fully well how much the new president loves democracy and, therefore, what will happen to the public higher education system.  Elections have consequences!


2 comments:

Ramesh said...

Chandra is amongst the first of what is going to be a veritable flood of leaders emerging from Tier 2 and Tier 3 colleges in India. When we went to college, there were still very few colleges and universities in India. In the last 20 years there has been an explosion. Talent will always rise, and we will increasingly see leaders in all walks of life in (India, coming not from the IITs and IIMs, but from many other places.

Education has been a great feature of upward mobility in India. If you come to corporate India now, your breath will be taken away of how much upward mobility has happened.

In your country you seriously need a debate of the relative spending on Medicare vs education. A generation that spends on itself, not on the young and leaves a mountain of debt deserves to hang its head in shame.

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, the more we spend on the military and Medicare, the less we have for education. Young people don't vote, but the old do ...

Good to hear that there is a world outside of the IIT/IIM nexus ... In India's case, there continues to be a tremendous lack of attention to primary education--if India addressed that, then the transformation will be phenomenal. I don't mean merely economics--but in the non-economic aspects of life in particular.

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