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?”

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.”

An Academic’s New Year’s Resolutions

Oh, hey! It’s an arbitrary placeholder on an imperfectly-constructed measurement of the earth’s rotation around the sun! Time to make some important life choices!

Substitute "pants" for "basket," and that's about where I am.
Substitute “pants” for “basket,” and that’s about where I am.

Continue reading “An Academic’s New Year’s Resolutions”

New Year’s Resolutions for Academics

It’s mid-August, the time at which every academic has to quit hitting the snooze button on their internal clock. That’s right; another academic year is looming, and with it comes the excitement of new classes, new colleagues, and–especially–new students. And it also comes with the faux excitement (“aren’t you just excited about all this? *chuckle*) of opening faculty meetings, committee workloads being divvied up, and the latest exciting-yet-unfunded “initiative” emanating from on high. I tend to do a lot of reflecting around mid-August. What went well last year? Where were the dumpster fires? Why didn’t I flee to Micronesia this summer? And, since my current position allows me to help lead new faculty orientations and work with my colleagues on reflecting about our practice, I have lots of conversations that extend that reflection beyond my own space and into the larger space of academe which we all share. Every year, I try to set goals and create habits that will help me balance my various commitments while remaining at least somewhat sane and pleasant to be around; my results vary, but I at least survive until June every year. Some years, that alone is a victory. Continue reading “New Year’s Resolutions for Academics”

The Research Paper is Dead. Long Live the Research.

Why do we assign research papers?

My labors shall be a model for History majors for all time
My labors shall be a model for History majors for all time

We’ve all asked this question, usually at about one in the morning during the last week of classes when we’ve just found a conclusion cut and pasted from Wikipedia, or have written “Where’s your thesis?” in someone’s margin FOR THE ELEVENTY BILLIONTH TIME. It’s our common burden during grading season: we lug home a tote bag full of papers, put on a put of coffee, and begin to do hard time in Grading Jail. Some of the papers are brilliant examples of mature research and analysis, and some begin with “since the dawn of time, man has engaged in conflict, and nowhere was this more true than in the Spanish-American War.” Some of them show wide research, and some don’t. Some of them are well written,and some are a word salad of colloquialisms and faux-scholarly terms lifted willy-nilly from thesaurus.com. Continue reading “The Research Paper is Dead. Long Live the Research.”