Anyone who is trying to understand the concept of white privilege should ride an electric bike. For those who don’t know, electric bikes, or e-bikes, provide an electric pedal assist that boosts whatever effort you are making to pedal. E-bikes are not mopeds. You have to put out effort in order for the pedal assist to have any effect. If you are riding an e-bike, especially for exercise, you can be working very hard and pedaling like crazy. It is easy to think that your effort is everything. But the pedal assist always sits under you, helping you go faster, farther and up and down much more difficult terrain. It is all too easy to forget that the electric pedal assist is there and assume that your progress is really all just you.
“We have no permanent enemies, only permanent issues.”
–The Reverend William Barber, The Third Reconstruction
Higher education is now a fault-line in American politics; the 2016 election made this crystal clear. Hillary Clinton won the support of college graduates by an estimated 21 points and graduates of color by twice that margin; Donald Trump won non-college voters 50-43 and whites voters without degrees—nearly half the electorate—by 36 points. Alongside race (and entwined with it), education has become a primary predictor of the red-blue divide, more salient than income, age, or gender.
Among the dominant issues of the new decade is climate change. All current climate modeling suggests an intensification of climate-related catastrophe, Australia over and over again. Faced with economic and ecological collapse, vast regions of the country will face further deterioration of social life, a continuation of the opioid and suicide epidemic, and violence. The political system will be trapped by its dependence on the money and power of the current economic system. The contradiction between the market (as currently construed) and a plausible future will be evident as the climate crisis intensifies each year. How will students react?
It’s a time of turmoil in higher education. Caused by a confluence of many factors—rising debt, languishing attainment, declining public investment and public trust in higher education, to name just a few—the turmoil has prompted conflicting responses from policy advocates, funders, and educators. Yet whatever solutions you support—whether it’s high-impact practices or apprenticeships, closing the equity gap or closing the skills gap—my hunch is that you agree that the need for change is urgent.