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”

Some Thoughts on Online Learning and the Humanities.

Over the last few days, I’ve been involved with the final workshop in a consortium in which I’ve been a participant. My university, along with twenty other small, private, liberal-arts schools, was part of the first cohort of the Council of Independent College’s Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction. This weekend, our two-year grant-funded experiment came to a close. A new cohort of schools starts their two-year program tomorrow, and I’m honored to be serving as a mentor for that group. The questions this project sought to answer reflected, I think, the somewhat ambiguous nature of the enterprise: can small liberal arts colleges (SLACs) use blended and online learning in a better and more mission-appropriate way than larger institutions and (especially) MOOCs have done? And is it a worthwhile and sustainable thing for us to do in these tenuous and resource-starved times? Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Online Learning and the Humanities.”

Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto

Every summer, I take time to reflect on the academic year that was. The classes I taught, the workshops I either facilitated or attended, what I learned from failures and successes in and out of the classroom–when it comes to my teaching, I try to be a critically reflective practitioner. Directing a teaching center on my campus gives me a chance to also ground that reflection in the larger discourse about teaching and learning in higher education. Continue reading “Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto”

The Great Student Blogging Experiment: Some Results

Early last fall, I wrote about my plans to add a fairly elaborate blogging component to my upper-level Latin American history course. This semester-long blogging assignment was, I hoped, a way for me to replace the “traditional” research paper capstone assignment,which I believed had become at best stale, and at worst, counterproductive of the goals I had for my courses. I wasn’t the only one questioning the standard research paper assignment or its structure; in particular, a great, provocative article on the subject by Rebecca Schuman affirmed my thought process and provided the impetus for me to radically rethink the research and writing components of my upper-level courses. So off we went.  Continue reading “The Great Student Blogging Experiment: Some Results”

Let’s Ban The Classroom Technology Ban.

THIS JUST IN: Distracted students are distracted! Also: sometimes there are things that distract students! And we all know what to do with things that might potentially distract students: BAN THEM! At least that’s what we’re told by the avatars of pedagogical wisdom populating the comment threads below any article talking about students’ use of technology in the classroom.

Continue reading “Let’s Ban The Classroom Technology Ban.”

What To Do When Discussion Dies

As the Spring semester is drawing to a close, and me and my students are staggering moving closer to the finish line, I’ve witnessed some serious cases of the fuck-its break out, and spread like wildfire until it’s a virtual pandemic. From one or two students who bailed on the reading to half the class skipping out on a Friday to OMFG WHERE IS EVERYONE, this dread malady can have tragic consequences for once-promising academic trajectories. And it can be deadly for even the most nobly-intended class plans as well:

Continue reading “What To Do When Discussion Dies”