Listen to Elizabeth Tandy Shermer on FreshEd:

History of Indentured Students in the USA 

Expanding Understanding of Education Issues around the World

by Elizabeth Tandy Shermer
Professor of History
Loyola University Chicago

A lot of my research on education has focused on the complicated policies that have left so many Americans drowning in college debt. So, I subscribe to FreshEd to broaden my perspective on the past, present, and future of education globally. FreshEd offers an expansive vision of what issues matter in education as well as a commitment to elevating the voices of those doing this research or trying to change policy around the world. Each week is a treat when a new or re-aired episode drops, whether it is one of Will Brehm’s in-depth interviews or graduate students sharing their research in FreshEd’s series, Flux.

The episodes I’ve picked just hint at the breadth of topics, places, and people that FreshEd covers. All of these shows have broadened my perspective on education worldwide and the US campuses and policies that I research.

My favorite example of how inclusive FreshEd aspires to be is the Flux series, which gives graduate students a chance to create an episode. Yanan Yu’s Behind the Scenes: Am I Able? was the first. She holds a master’s degree and movingly retold the 17 years she spent studying piano in China, which required her to travel great distances. But she, like a lot of people with blindness, struggled to find work, which highlights how many people with disabilities, no matter their educational accomplishments, are not seen as skilled, capable, and independent.

That is an important question for me to consider as a teacher and a researcher. But Will’s conversations with Anatoly Oleksiyenko in the 2022 War and Education in Ukraine episode approached the issues of access and opportunity from a different perspective. In the US, there have been alarming reports of food and housing insecurity among college students. But this episode showed the many different needs of the many forcibly displaced people worldwide  (1 out of 113 globally in 2016).

FreshEd has also explored power over and in education in exciting ways, especially in Numbers! I could identify Will’s discussion with Nelli Piattova and Rebecca Boden about the way numbers, from student test grades to school rankings, have permeated education globally and given rise to a dangerous faith in using data to govern schooling.

But FreshEd’s reporting has also covered struggles over power and governance that resonate with me as a former member of a graduate student union, including episodes on the 2018 university strikes in the UK and 2018-2019 primary and secondary school strikes in the US. Both of those episodes emphasized that those uprisings went beyond pay and benefits. These strikes were about what schools and campuses should be.

June 1, 2023