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™.

Continue reading “Pedagogy is not a Weapon: Defending Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces”

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!”

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”

Keynoting on Purpose, Strategy, and Pedagogy

I had the honor of being invited to deliver the keynote talk, and to lead a workshop, at the University of Wisconsin System’s Faculty College from May 30-June 2. This event is an annual gathering of faculty engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning from almost every UW campus. For three-plus days we engaged in wonderful discussions, workshops, and informal conversations on teaching and learning. In these fraught times for higher education, it was remarkably energizing to be with this group of dedicated practitioners. I got see the passion and creativity with which they approach our work with and among students, and I’m grateful to have been invited to participate in the week’s events. Continue reading “Keynoting on Purpose, Strategy, and Pedagogy”

Who Chose to Fail?

There are two articles in the most recent issue of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History that clearly demonstrate that we academic historians have failed-consistently and spectacularly-in one of our most essential undertakings. For all the talk about making History accessible to a broader public, the value of historical literacy for an educated citizenry and the health of a democracy, we have failed, and seem determined to continue that failure, to provide an adequate grounding in History to one of our main constituencies: college students. Continue reading “Who Chose to Fail?”

Trigger Warning: Elitism, Gatekeeping, and Other Academic Crap

Making the rounds on Twitter today was a letter from the University of Chicago (more specifically, the Dean of Students) to the incoming students of the Class of 2020 with the purpose, I guess, of letting them know they were in for a real education. More of a full-on broadside than a welcome letter, the dean let the incoming students know in no uncertain terms, that the University is totally committed to academic freedom and “freedom of expression” from its faculty and students. 

What this means in practice, the letter continues, is that “we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” And, if you’ve watched students at other campuses, the Dean warns, don’t get any crazy ideas about protesting invited speakers: “we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial.” And, for the love of Milton Friedman, “Our commitment to academic freedom means we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings.’” WE ARE A MIGHTY RACE OF INTELLECTUAL WARRIORS. Continue reading “Trigger Warning: Elitism, Gatekeeping, and Other Academic Crap”