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Weekly Review
April 29, 2022
At AKA, we closely follow trends and latest developments
in higher education and the nonprofit sector.

Here are some recent articles and reports that we found particularly informative.
From The Atlantic:
Why the Past 10 Years of American Life have been Uniquely Stupid
By Jonathan Haidt
In this deep dive into the societal and political impacts of social media, the author compares humanity’s newly acquired ability to communicate en masse to a reconstruction of the mythical Tower of Babel. In what started 10 years ago as harmless websites to share events with close friends quickly devolved into massive networks just as capable of organizing social movements as overthrowing governments. He urges readers to strengthen democratic institutions, reform social media, and better prepare the next generation for the future.  Read this article
From STAT:
NIH’s identity crisis: The pandemic and the search for a new leader leave the agency at a crossroads
By Lev Facher
Charting the enormous growth of the National Institute of Health (NIH) under its recently retired leader, Francis Collins, this article asks if the biomedical sciences agency is living up to its mission and what that mission should be. Core to this is debate on whether NIH should focus on basic science—fundamental research questions without immediate benefits to society—or on ambitious, high-impact projects such as those that led to the Covid-19 vaccine in record time. The article argues that NIH’s core conservatism hinders the kind of interdisciplinary work, use of new technologies, and off-the-beaten-path ideas that lead to breakthroughs. Read this article
From The New York Times:
A.I. Is Mastering Language. Should We Trust What It Says?
By Steven Johnson
The latest generation of AI, large language models (LLM), demonstrates the illusion of cognition, capable, for example, of writing an “essay on metafiction in the work of Italo Calvino” in response to a request in precisely those words. This article explores the extraordinary potential as well as problems of LLMs: their propensity to make things up or spew conspiratorial nonsense. It also charts new efforts to create an extra layer of human intervention in LLM learning that avoids these pitfalls, before observing, “we’ve never had to teach values to our machines before.” Read this article

From The New York Times:
Parents Aren’t the Only Ones With Rights
By Frank Bruni
In light of recent government action aiming to control what can and cannot be taught in public schools, the author argues that community members without children should have just as much of a say about what is taught as those with. The results of what is taught have implications affecting everyone, and those seeking specialized education have the option to invest in private schools. Public schools will give no one the precise instruction and social dynamics they prescribe to, but that is because they do not exist to validate individual worldviews rather that of the collective. Read this article
Further Reading
From Gallup:
The State of Higher Education 2022 Report
This report details the state of higher education amidst the declining birth rate of standard college-aged students and the COVID-19 pandemic affecting enrollment numbers. Of those who put their education on hiatus because of the pandemic, 85% have considered reenrolling, while 44% of all currently unenrolled adults have considered beginning some type of postsecondary degree program. Among those students currently enrolled, 32% reported considering dropping out, with 76% citing emotional stress as the main factor. Read this article
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