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.

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“PC Culture” isn’t Killing Higher Ed (But Your Crappy Op-Eds Might Be)

In the first semester of my freshman year, twenty-five years ago (!), I took an intro to public communications class where one of the assignments was to deliver an effective persuasive speech on a current and controversial topic. Someone had gotten me a gift subscription to Insight magazine when I went to college; more conservative and less highbrow than US News and World Report, it was a poor source for research, but it had two virtues Freshman Me appreciated–it was free, and it was readily available(in my dorm room as opposed to all the way across campus in the library). That week’s issue was a SPECIAL REPORT on “P.C. Run Amok.” Boom. Speech topic.  I would declaim–nay, hold forth like modern-day Demosthenes–on the “scourge of political correctness” currently prevalent on college campuses. I don’t remember much about my “research,” other than quoting Donald Kagan a lot (YALE. SMART GUY), and I’m quite sure my speech was that special type of bombastic, sanctimonious, faux-outraged crap that only a clueless white boy could muster up. Like a lot of things (read: most of them) from my freshman year, I’d like to pretend that this never happened. Yet it did. And I’ll own it, if only as a benchmark to assess how much higher education has done for me since. Continue reading ““PC Culture” isn’t Killing Higher Ed (But Your Crappy Op-Eds Might Be)”

Punting on Higher-Ed Reform; or, Austerity is For Other People

In the pre-Civil War United States, there was a burgeoning literature and rhetoric that sang the praises of chattel slavery with increasing gusto in response to the abolitionist critique that also flourished in those years. These defenders (almost all of them southern whites) of enslaving African Americans resorted to the argument that slavery was a “positive good,” a benefit to both slave and master. Indeed, they contended, it was the very sheet anchor of social harmony in the moonlight-and-magnolias Old South. The childlike, inferior slave needed the structure and paternalistic care of a kind but stern master to survive in the modern world. These arguments, of course, were laughably absurd both then and now. But it gave the increasingly desperate defenders of an increasingly untenable worldview the comfort and assurance they needed to submerge their anxieties. Abraham Lincoln, with his usual trenchant wit, saw right through this proslavery charade, noting that “although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.”* Continue reading “Punting on Higher-Ed Reform; or, Austerity is For Other People”

The Process IS the Outcome

At the midpoint of the academic year, many minds on campus turn towards assessment. And as they do, many other minds turn towards complaining about assessment. In turn, the poor suffering souls who serve on university assessment committees sigh deeply, say goodbye to family and friends, and trudge down the road to martyrdom. At least, this is the way it usually goes, more so when you allow a group of academics the opportunity to kvetch about it; to hear us talk,you’d think that we’re being asked to eat puppies while listening to Ted Cruz sing power ballads. Continue reading “The Process IS the Outcome”

No, the Oregon Wingnut Army is not the Second Whiskey Rebellion.

As the “occupation” of the abandoned headquarters of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon has unfolded over the last day or so (See the Oregonian for regularly-updated coverage), there have been a number of attempts to place the self-styled “militia” into larger context. The long-standing debate over public lands and their usage in the Mountain West,seems to drive some elements of the armed men that seized the building. Some of their rhetoric has also focused on the conviction of two ranchers for setting fires that burned out hundreds of acres of public land, though the convicted ranchers themselves have disavowed the actions of the terrorists*. At root, a potent and heavily-armed brew of white power, anti-government, conspiracy-theorist and vigilante group impulses has produced this latest attempt of self-proclaimed “oppressed patriots” to “reclaim their constitutional rights,” which apparently involve grabbing publicly-owned land, owning many guns, and not paying any taxes forever and ever.
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