Susan D. Blum
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About Susan D. Blum
Susan D Blum is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. She has written or edited 9 books and many articles, about the anthropology of China, linguistic anthropology, truth and deception, plagiarism, and higher education.
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Books By Susan D. Blum
The moment is right for critical reflection on what has been assumed to be a core part of schooling. In Ungrading, fifteen educators write about their diverse experiences going gradeless. Some contributors are new to the practice and some have been engaging in it for decades. Some are in humanities and social sciences, some in STEM fields. Some are in higher education, but some are the K–12 pioneers who led the way. Based on rigorous and replicated research, this is the first book to show why and how faculty who wish to focus on learning, rather than sorting or judging, might proceed. It includes honest reflection on what makes ungrading challenging, and testimonials about what makes it transformative.
Susan D. Blum
Cathy N. Davidson
Frustrated by her students’ performance, her relationships with them, and her own daughter’s problems in school, Susan D. Blum, a professor of anthropology, set out to understand why her students found their educational experience at a top-tier institution so profoundly difficult and unsatisfying. Through her research and in conversations with her students, she discovered a troubling mismatch between the goals of the university and the needs of students.
In "I Love Learning; I Hate School," Blum tells two intertwined but inseparable stories: the results of her research into how students learn contrasted with the way conventional education works, and the personal narrative of how she herself was transformed by this understanding. Blum concludes that the dominant forms of higher education do not match the myriad forms of learning that help students—people in general—master meaningful and worthwhile skills and knowledge. Students are capable of learning huge amounts, but the ways higher education is structured often leads them to fail to learn. More than that, it leads to ill effects. In this critique of higher education, infused with anthropological insights, Blum explains why so much is going wrong and offers suggestions for how to bring classroom learning more in line with appropriate forms of engagement. She challenges our system of education and argues for a "reintegration of learning with life."
"Classroom Cheats Turn to Computers." "Student Essays on Internet Offer Challenge to Teachers." "Faking the Grade." Headlines such as these have been blaring the alarming news of an epidemic of plagiarism and cheating in American colleges: more than 75 percent of students admit to having cheated; 68 percent admit to cutting and pasting material from the Internet without citation. Professors are reminded almost daily that many of today's college students operate under an entirely new set of assumptions about originality and ethics. Practices that even a decade ago would have been regarded almost universally as academically dishonest are now commonplace.
Is this development an indication of dramatic shifts in education and the larger culture? In a book that dismisses hand-wringing in favor of a rich account of how students actually think and act, Susan D. Blum discovers two cultures that exist, often uneasily, side by side in the classroom. Relying extensively on interviews conducted by students with students, My Word! presents the voices of today's young adults as they muse about their daily activities, their challenges, and the meanings of their college lives. Outcomes-based secondary education, the steeply rising cost of college tuition, and an economic climate in which higher education is valued for its effect on future earnings above all else.
These factors each have a role to play in explaining why students might pursue good grades by any means necessary. These incentives have arisen in the same era as easily accessible ways to cheat electronically and with almost intolerable pressures that result in many students being diagnosed as clinically depressed during their transition from childhood to adulthood. However, Blum suggests, the real problem of academic dishonesty arises primarily from a lack of communication between two distinct cultures within the university setting. On one hand, professors and administrators regard plagiarism as a serious academic crime, an ethical transgression, even a sin against an ethos of individualism and originality. Students, on the other hand, revel in sharing, in multiplicity, in accomplishment at any cost.
Although this book is unlikely to reassure readers who hope that increasing rates of plagiarism can be reversed with strongly worded warnings on the first day of class, My Word! opens a dialogue between professors and their students that may lead to true mutual comprehension and serve as the basis for an alignment between student practices and their professors' expectations.