- Denver second grade teacher Austen Kassinger says that struggle is inherent to learning, and that parents need to push their children to achieve by owning that struggle. After spending an entire evening working through five long-division problems in fourth grade, her mother told her to figure it out: “No, she did not think the assignment was unfair. No, she would not write a note to Mrs. Hall. And no, I absolutely could not stay home from school. Thus went her long-standing policy for schoolwork: If my sisters or I didn’t understand something, it was our job, not hers, to talk to the teacher. . . .I wonder what would have happened if my mother had taken the approach of the comedian Louis C.K., whose tweets about his children’s homework recently went viral: ‘Yet again I must tell my kid ‘don’t answer it. It’s a bad question.’ ’ ‘Who is writi[n]g these? And why?” “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!’ My mother could have said some version of those things in response to my meltdown, but she didn’t. She chose not to blame the question, or the teacher, or the test. And because of her steady insistence that if I took ownership of my learning, I could master any subject, I recovered from long division and went on to take AP calculus, multivariable calculus and linear algebra — in high school.”
- This is the chief complaint I hear from K-12 teachers: lack of parental support for their work, or even resentment that parents undermine the standards they have set for their students. Yes, the same parents who make sure their children get to soccer and football practices and games on time, and force their entire families to eat crappy food and live in the backs of their minivans and SUVs to do so. I just don’t understand the priorities of my fellow Americans. At all.
- Dartmouth digital humanist Mary Flanagan writes about the power and the overwhelming distraction of laptops and other personal digital devices in class. She has encouraged the use of digital technologies in her classes to good effect, “[b]ut most days, there will come a time where faculty or guest speakers actually speak, or dialogue happens or provocative points are raised. It is then that students with technology-control issues immediately check out and check into Facebook or online games or shoe shopping. Unless they are directly involved in a hands-on activity for which they will be accountable in public by the end of class, it is much easier to give in to the presence of technology and lose the experience of direct engagement.”
- Do you ban the use of tablets, laptops, and/or phones in your classes? I have a blanket statement on my syllabus about not using digital devices to distracting ends in class, but I haven’t banned them outright. A few of my students every semester buy e-books and use their Kindles or tablets in class to access them as well as PDFs of assigned articles and primary sources. This year, several students have used their phones for this purpose as well. As for laptops, it’s only a few students at my university who use them in class, and my experience is that it’s both some of the high performers and some of the low performers who use laptops in class. That is, they work well for very organized and dedicated students, and they serve as vehicles for distraction for others. I have been of the opinion that it’s up to students to pay attention, or not–remembering full well all of the means by which I used to distract myself in college classes nearly 30 years ago. Also, if students are distracted by someone else’s laptop or tablet, it’s up to them to find a seat in which they can learn. But now I’m starting to think that digital distraction may play a role in the poor performance of my two most recent classes, and that I may need to start banning laptops.
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David Leonhardt asks “Is College Worth It?,” and finds that the pay gap between college grads and people without college is at an all-time high. Fortunately, he sings one of my favorite songs here too:
[The] public discussion today — for which we in the news media deserve some responsibility — often focuses on the undeniable fact that a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee success. But of course it doesn’t. Nothing guarantees success, especially after 15 years of disappointing economic growth and rising inequality.
When experts and journalists spend so much time talking about the limitations of education, they almost certainly are discouraging some teenagers from going to college and some adults from going back to earn degrees. (Those same experts and journalists are sending their own children to college and often obsessing over which one.) The decision not to attend college for fear that it’s a bad deal is among the most economically irrational decisions anybody could make in 2014.
The much-discussed cost of college doesn’t change this fact. According to a paper by Mr. Autor published Thursday in the journal Science, the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000. That’s right: Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars.
Longtime readers will recall my frustration with the “high cost of higher education” media conversation, mostly because I think it’s dominated by people who are choosing to pay for private, selective educations for their children, not by people who patronize our fine state colleges and universities, which have in fact kept the price of their educations artificially low by shifting a majority of their faculty from tenured or tenure-track positions to adjunct casual labor. Also, where’s the accountability for school performance by students in these conversations? Are students with 3.0 averages or higher suffering from unemployment at the same rate as students who didn’t work as hard in college? We don’t know, because no one ever holds alumni responsible for any part of their achievement (or lack thereof).
This article comes just a week after I submitted my final grades for the two classes I taught in the spring semester, an upper-level course aimed at History and other Liberal Arts majors, and a lower-level survey course. Continue Reading »
If you tried to comment on any but the most recent post (on Maternal Solicitude) yesterday from about 3 p.m. MDT until 7:30 this morning, you probably discovered that comments were closed on all older posts. I discovered a nasty spam infestation yesterday afternoon, and decided that the best way to deal with it was to quarantine my older posts, delete all new spam as fast as I could, and hope that my spam canner would figure things out.
That appears to have worked, so now my comments are back on everywhere. My apologies for any frustration or delays in seeing your comments posted.
This is a brief coda to the previous post, in which several commenters noted that they support selective special causes on their campuses. I have in fact done this too–for example there’s a “school is cool” program coordinated through Baa Ram U. I’ve supported in the past, which provides local needy schoolchildren with new backpacks loaded with the necessary supplies. I’ve also donated to several memorial funds and fellowships coordinated through other universities, but have been frustrated by the ongoing begging that goes on for years and years, meaning that the University of Whatever Foundation ends up spending at least the amount of my donation on paper and postage.
For example: In 2003, I made a one-time donation to the University of Colorado for a scholarship in honor of the late Jackson Turner Main, an emeritus professor there, and the University of Colorado Foundation still sends me invitations and solicitations. Eleven years later! It leads me to ask: who did I kill to deserve this?
Continue Reading »
I just received a telephone solicitation from a student at Baa Ram U. to donate money to support programs at Baa Ram U. I realize that because the Democratic politicians in my state (who have been running the show for the last nine years!) are so gonad-free that state colleges and universities are literally going begging. I also get it that “development” is all the rage. Everyone’s got their hat out these days.
But I still feel pretty goddamned miffed about being asked to donate to my own damn employer. The steady stream of solicitations had been until tonight confined to paper and email pleas for support. (Curse you, stupid land line!) I’m really interested to hear how the rest of you university and college employees feel about being solicited for donations by your employers, because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
Here’s my thinking: Continue Reading »
Here is the text of an email I received yesterday from my university. I honestly have no idea what it’s talking about. Does any part of this sound familiar to any of you? (Are there any palaeographers among you?)
This seminar will provide information about the university’s involvement in a national consortium that promises to enhance learning and teaching. The consortium, which includes several leading research universities, is exploring new directions in the use of instructional technologies. The intent is to facilitate and accelerate digital learning using the best integrated digital systems available that make it easy for faculty and enhance learning. The ecosystem consists of three components: a digital content repository/reflector, a service delivery platform, and a learning analytics service. The digital content repository/reflector will allow us to regain control over our digital learning objectives, allow faculty to choose to share/reuse digital content easily and seamlessly while preserving their digital rights. The service delivery platform is Canvas by Instructure, and has the characteristics of easier use by faculty and faster development of courses in it. The best learning analytics will be deployed and evolve apace as this area develops.
My first thought when I tried to read this email: was this written by one of those software robots that allegedly can fairly grade essays? Continue Reading »
My weekends are just too freakin’ short this semester, as I’m teaching two lecture classes on a MWF schedule. I honestly don’t mind teaching three days a week–I’m just frustrated that I don’t have a discretionary extra day to prep for Monday lectures, finish the neverending piles of grading, etc., let alone think for 20 minutes about how to get back to writing my book and figuring out what needs to happen archival research-wise before I make my base camp at the feet of the San Gabes. What’s with the MWF; can’t we get a MWR, or a MTR, or a TWF? Let the people who teach twice a week show up on Mondays and Fridays, as they’ll have three weekdays in-between without classes to TCB.
I know this is an academic blog, but you didn’t come here to see me b!tch about my mostly-imaginary and very temporary frustrations now, did you? So here are some random tidbits of THC, TBD (The Big Dog), and OMs on TDIS (Thank Dog It’s Saturday).
- Nepotism alert: Sometime in the next generation, every single American roots music recording artist will be either a member of the Wainwright-McGarrigle clan or of the Carter-Cash family clan. Seriously: are there no other worthy recording artists these days?
- Recreational reefer madness 2014! Earlier this week, some dip$hit in Denver ate some marijuana-infused candy and then shot his wife in the head and killed her in front of their three little kids. Of course, the media conversation in Denver is all about the marijuana edibles instead of the gun in the home. (Because that’s what all upper-middle class people need in their homes with three children in perfectly safe neighborhoods: easily accessible handguns!) You gotta love the politics of Colorado! Or just shake your head in wonder at the criminal stupidity of it all.
- Speaking of polidicks: I’m reading Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (which, BTW, is pure political crackerjack, so delicious and so non-nutritious!), and I get to this paragraph: Continue Reading »
Steven Hayward, The University of Colorado-Boulder’s first Visiting Scholar of Conservative Thought and Policy, has worked to ingratiate himself with his students and faculty colleagues. By “ingratiate,” I mean he wrote an assy blog post for the
noted conservative policy journal non peer-reviewed blog Powerline called “Off on a Gender Bender,” in which he complained about and ridiculed some diversity training in which professors were instructed to ask students which pronouns they prefer:
I’m more curious to learn whether there have been many students—or any students, ever—who have demanded to be addressed in class by a different gender pronoun, or called by a different gender name . . . , let alone turn up in class in wardrobe by Corporal Klinger. My guess is the actual number of such students approaches zero.
So why is this gender-bending diversity mandate so prominent at universities these days? The most likely explanation is that it (sic) is simply yielding to the demands of the folks who dislike any constraint of human nature in what goes by the LGBTQRSTUW (or whatever letters have been added lately) “community.” I place “community” in quotation marks here because the very idea of community requires a certain commonality based ultimately in nature, while the premise behind gender-bending is resolutely to deny any such nature, including especially human nature.
Did Professor Hayward ever participate in a study abroad program, or take an anthropology class? Has he never been introduced to the concept of observing politely the customs of the locals before insulting and belittling them? Continue Reading »
Hilarious headline at The Daily Beast by Dean Obeidallah: “Dems Need to Channel ‘House of Cards’ Frank Underwood” in order to try to avoid electoral disaster this fall. Actually, the headline was the only amusing part of that article; if only we had Democrats as tough as Frank! The rest of the article is full of predictable and sensible advice like “turn out your base!” and “crank up the fear factor” about the Republicans! Well, duh. That might work, but it sure is a lot less fun to watch than House of Cards.
I was hoping that the article was itself a brilliant, murderous plot full of twists, turns, and of course SPOILER ALERT Continue Reading »