Archive for the 'students' Category

June 7th 2014
Education round-up: the suck it up edition

Posted under American history & jobs & local news & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings

cowgirlbroncobestedFriendly greeting!  Comments on the local weather, and humorous story about my weekend plans.  Here we go:

  • 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.

Continue Reading »

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May 28th 2014
The so-called “liberal” academic workplace

Posted under class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness & women's history

AliceteapartyJust go read this description of a job interview in a humanities program at a rich SLAC.  The search Chair told our informant, Anonymous, that the young African American woman on the faculty had been denied tenure.  Some flava:

Dr. Chair explained that the whole process had been very unpleasant and that the aforementioned white male colleagues had been “hurt” as a consequence. I said something innocuous in response like, “Oh well I suppose the tenure process is hard on everyone.” But Dr. Chair assured me that there had been problems for a while. “We just want this to be a nice place,” she said.

In addition to making her white male colleagues sad, Dr. Chair told me that the African-American woman who had been fired did not produce what she was expected to produce or teach what she was expected to teach. When I asked what those expectations were, Dr. Chair sighed and said something to the effect of, “She’s a black feminist, you know, and it’s just: not everything is about black feminism.” She said this to me matter-of-factly, as if it were a satisfactory answer to my question.

Continue Reading »

11 Comments »

May 27th 2014
The “high cost of higher ed” is in fact not going to college (and in not going to class)

Posted under American history & jobs & local news & students & unhappy endings

What am I missing

What am I missing?

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 »

53 Comments »

May 16th 2014
The edutainment chronicles: comedy gold!

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & students & technoskepticism & wankers

Via Jonathan Rees on Twitter, he of More or Less Bunk fame, we learn that Clayton Christiansen recorded a series of Very Distinguished lectures for the University of Phoenix, and he was amazed to learn that the people in the audience were models, not actual Phoenix students!

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.”

For appearance’ sake, the producers had put attractive people in the seats for the moments when the cameras cut away from Mr. Christensen and panned the audience. They also added spiffy animations and graphics.

In 2011, Phoenix asked him to deliver some 90-minute lectures on innovation and other business principles. Rather than hold them where he teaches, at Harvard Business School, Phoenix rented a spot at the Institute of Contemporary Art, where he could speak with a view of Boston Harbor as his backdrop. He was struck by the view, he said, but even more so by the people to whom he was lecturing.

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.”

For appearance’ sake, the producers had put attractive people in the seats for the moments when the cameras cut away from Mr. Christensen and panned the audience. They also added spiffy animations and graphics.

Why not use real students? According to a Phoenix spokesman, “The production team hired extras who could be there for the day, since the production required a major time commitment for the day.”

- See more at: http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/u-of-phoenix-lectures-by-clay-christensen-redefine-model-students/#sthash.wismjYRO.HMrkkdOA.dpuf

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.” – See more at: http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/u-of-phoenix-lectures-by-clay-christensen-redefine-model-students/#sthash.wismjYRO.HMrkkdOA.dpuf

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.”

For appearance’ sake, the producers had put attractive people in the seats for the moments when the cameras cut away from Mr. Christensen and panned the audience. They also added spiffy animations and graphics.

Why not use real students? According to a Phoenix spokesman, “The production team hired extras who could be there for the day, since the production required a major time commitment for the day.”

- See more at: http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/u-of-phoenix-lectures-by-clay-christensen-redefine-model-students/#sthash.wismjYRO.HMrkkdOA.dpuf

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.”

For appearance’ sake, the producers had put attractive people in the seats for the moments when the cameras cut away from Mr. Christensen and panned the audience. They also added spiffy animations and graphics.

- See more at: http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/u-of-phoenix-lectures-by-clay-christensen-redefine-model-students/#sthash.wismjYRO.HMrkkdOA.dpuf

That’s supposed to be the punchline, delivered by Christiansen:  “’Because the low end always wins, I didn’t dismiss these people,” he said. “This actually is a very different game than we’ve been in before.’”  Except if you read the whole story, it’s clear that Christiansen himself sells out to the values before he ever meets the Phoenix “model students:” Continue Reading »

22 Comments »

May 14th 2014
Is anyone speaking at commencement ceremonies this year? Or, why are rich & powerful people such wimps?

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & students & wankers & weirdness

Are you seriously telling me that a former chancellor of a major university, a former U.S. Secretary of State, and the current head of the International Monetary Fund are so allergic to complaints about them that they can’t bring themselves to speak to graduating classes unless they’re assured that no one will offer anything harsher than polite applause in response to their remarks?  I guess the rich and powerful really are different from us–they think that their work and decisions should put them above any questions or criticism from the mere hoi polloi.  What a bunch of wimps!

Students and faculty are perfectly within their rights to question the bestowal of honorary degrees on these speakers.  But from what I’ve seen, speakers are declining to appear at commencements if anyone merely questions the righteousness of their appearance on campus on Twitter or other social media, or stages a few sit-ins or teach-ins.  Continue Reading »

22 Comments »

May 1st 2014
Junot Diaz on MFA vs. POC

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & race & students & unhappy endings

Junot Diaz, an alum of the Cornell University MFA program, on MFA vs. POC:  “Lately I’ve been reading about MFA vs NYC. But for many of us it’s MFA vs POC.”  He continues,

I didn’t have a great workshop experience. Not at all. In fact by the start of my second year I was like: get me the fuck out of here.

So what was the problem?

Oh just the standard problem of MFA programs.

That shit was too white.

3

Some of you understand completely. And some of you ask: Too white … how?

Too white as in Cornell had almost no POC—no people of color—in it. Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem. (At least the students are diverse, they told us.) Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc). In my workshop there was an almost lunatical belief that race was no longer a major social force (it’s class!). In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all. Shit, in my workshop we never talked about race except on the rare occasion someone wanted to argue that “race discussions” were exactly the discussion a serious writer should not be having.

.       .       .       .       .

In my workshop what was defended was not the writing of people of color but the right of the white writer to write about people of color without considering the critiques of people of color.

Oh, yes: too white indeed. I could write pages on the unbearable too-whiteness of my workshop—I could write folio, octavo and duodecimo on its terrible whiteness—but you get the idea.

Continue Reading »

9 Comments »

April 30th 2014
Four score and seven beers ago. . .

Posted under American history & students

In seventeen years of teaching the U.S. History survey through the Civil War and Reconstruction, I have never failed to cry while reading the Gettysburg Address.

I feel like such a sentimental dork, but it’s one of the few times that you can hear a pin drop in the classroom as the students wait for me to pull myself back together.

16 Comments »

April 22nd 2014
From the land of WTF

Posted under bad language & jobs & local news & students & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

wtfHere 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 »

30 Comments »

April 5th 2014
Just wondering: is being a jerk an important part of “conservative thought and policy?”

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & local news & students & unhappy endings & wankers

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 »

34 Comments »

April 3rd 2014
The author, the work, and “the objectivity question.”

Posted under American history & book reviews & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & weirdness & women's history

Claire Potter (aka Tenured Radical) has an interesting post on her book blog about the assumptions that audiences make about the politics of historians based on their subject matter choices.  She writes:

It isn’t uncommon that, when hearing about the research I have done on the history of anti-pornography feminism, audiences assume that I must be an anti-pornography feminist too.But do you know that? Do you even have the right to ask? Should I tell you?

My hope for this book is that you will be so compelled by my scholarship that you will never know my private views on this question.

I found the assumption really interesting, in that the vast, vast, vast majority of feminist intellectuals I know and have worked with are far from anti-porn feminists.  Maybe my experiences are idiosyncratic, but in my experience academic feminists–much as most of us are disgusted by mainstream pornography–tend also to be First Amendment absolutists.

Potter continues with a meditation about identity politics and historical subject matter that is really worth the read:

Making assumptions about intellectuals based on superficial knowledge of their research interests is fairly common, but honestly? I think it happens to women, queers and people of color more often. I have a friend and colleague who is African-American, and writing a history of African-American conservative thought. That colleague is frequently assumed to be a conservative, much as I am often presumed, on the basis of nothing, to be an anti-pornography feminist. Continue Reading »

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