Pedagogy is not a Weapon: Defending Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces

[CW: discussion of sexual assault, trauma]

Ever since Socrates upbraided his followers in the Agora, there has been a strong tradition among educators to bitch about students and/or their various foibles. We all do it, and there’s no denying that this type of venting can serve a valuable purpose, if kept to the private and confidential realm of office talks or water-cooler chatter with colleagues. But student-shaming has moved beyond the confines of faculty lounge venting and become a cottage industry of sorts, as the past few years have shown that it can pay to be an educator with pissed-off hot takes about Kids These Days™.

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Flashback: Let Them Eat (Unbundled) Cake!

Oh, look–the “unbundling” folks are back at it, with a spate of recent articles in edtech and “edupreneur” sites dredging up the idea of finding “efficiencies” by stripping off certain components from the “process” of college/university education to make learning (which they define exclusively as degree completion, which should tell you something) more “streamlined.” Josh Kim has a good piece up today on Inside Higher Ed that pushes back against this “unbundling” fetish, rightly suggesting that it will do no more than exacerbate the divide between the privileged and everyone else. But this isn’t a new criticism of “unbundling.” We rail against Bryan Caplan’s blithe lack of self-awareness and is wrongheaded screeds “Against Education,” but let’s not forget that the disruption crowd has been riding this unbundling horse for a while. In fact, yours truly railed against this very trend three years ago, so instead of writing another rage-blog, I’ve decided to repost the original essay. The fact that it is still relevant today is a gloomy reflection on the state of higher education reformism. Continue reading “Flashback: Let Them Eat (Unbundled) Cake!”

Black Labor, White Profits, and How the NCAA Weaponized the Thirteenth Amendment

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has been in the news a lot lately, and not for the reasons they’d wish. An FBI investigation into illegal payments to recruits and other sordid transgressions has roiled NCAA men’s basketball, and already brought down one of that sport’s all-time winningest coaches, the University of Louisville’s Rick Pitino. Now new revelations from Yahoo Sports implicate the most prominent programs (such as Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Kansas) in the same sort of transgressions for which Pitino lost his job. The shocking negligence of Michigan State University in the matter of Dr. Larry Nasser’s serial sexual abuse has awakened the echoes of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State–particularly in the increasingly vocal criticisms of the NCAA and its member institutions’ apparent inability to ensure the safety of their athletes. Continue reading “Black Labor, White Profits, and How the NCAA Weaponized the Thirteenth Amendment”

Guest Post: Shyama Rajendran, Becoming Procne and the Power of Rage

[I’m proud to host Dr. Shyama Rajendran, Academic Professional Lecturer at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, this week. This powerful meditation on gender and violence, and rage and sisterhood, is a strong rebuttal to those who would dismiss the #metoo movement as overblown or the work of a few malcontents. It is also a rejoinder to those who argue that the past has little to say to the present, as Dr. Rajendran shows us how thoroughly the themes in Ovid’s story of Procne and Philomela suffuse our present moment (including the way Ovid himself characterized those themes). I’d like to thank Shyama for agreeing to post this important and compelling essay here.]
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Lecture-Based Pedagogy and the Pitfalls of Expertise

Every few months, higher education is witness to a curious ritual where one’s stance on particular pedagogical issues assumes an affect of Calvinist-style salvation or damnation. You can set your watch by the recurring debate over laptops in the classroom. And when that particular vein of argument is exhausted for the time being, the blood feud between the proponents of lecture-based pedagogy and active learning rears up to keep the sharks-and-jets mood alive. Continue reading “Lecture-Based Pedagogy and the Pitfalls of Expertise”

The Progressive Stack and Standing for Inclusive Teaching

There are two fundamental truths about Inclusive Pedagogy: it is an eminently desirable set of practices for teaching in higher ed, and it is an eminently difficult set of practices for teaching in higher ed. To teach inclusively is to swim against the powerful tide of “conventional wisdom,” internalized biases, and socio-political pressures. For those of us who try to live out the ideals of critical pedagogy in our own practice, inclusive teaching is a sine qua non. Teaching and learning cannot be liberatory, cannot be a “practice of freedom,” if any students are excluded from, or prevented from acquiring the full benefits of, their educational environment.  Yet, we also know that any attempt at inclusive practices that does not acknowledge the structures of inequality in which we, our students, and our institutions operate cannot be successful. To acknowledge asymmetries, however, does not mean to legitimize them. Rather, it should be a necessary first step in undoing them to create a vital, democratic classroom. Continue reading “The Progressive Stack and Standing for Inclusive Teaching”