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About Critical Mass [feather]

Very briefly: I went to college at Berkeley from 1986-1990, went to graduate school at the University of Michigan from 1990-1995, and from there went to a job teaching English at the University of Pennsylvania, where I worked from 1995-2008. Currently working as a writer, editor, and consultant specializing in freedom-oriented and education-based nonprofits, I am a research fellow at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and director of communications at the Moving Picture Institute.

All those years of immersion--and particularly the years spent working in academe--convinced me that something is deeply wrong with higher education in the U.S. It's what led me to leave academe, and also to launch Critical Mass, a blog dedicated to commentary on the state of American academe. A blogchild of Cant Watch, which I wrote between March and October 2002, Critical Mass is a running meditation on the ideological ways and means of American higher education, with the occasional relevant digression on books, ideas, and really anything I happen to be wondering about. The original purpose of Critical Mass was to track moments of consequential wrongheadedness on campus--whether administrative, pedagogical, or scholarly; practical or ideological; individual or collective--and to reflect on what they mean for the future of education, intellect, free inquiry, and philosophical diversity in the U.S. It still does that, but over the years it has also evolved into an attempt to think through possibilities for change. It is my belief that awareness about the current ideological climate of American campuses needs to be raised, and it is my hope that Critical Mass will contribute in some way to the education of students, faculty, parents, and citizens--alerting them to patterns, explaining the logic (or illogic) behind them, equipping them with the means of identifying and resisting cant when it comes their way, and--ideally--stimulating thought, study, discussion, and debate.

—Erin O'Connor