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”
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.
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:
Few things are as lame as the discussion where 3/12 did the reading. More stammering, awkward pauses, & downcast eyes than an 8th grade prom
— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) April 18, 2016
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)”
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”
Hey, look! It’s another sloppy, vague op-ed on how to “fix” higher education. It must be a day ending in “y!”
This time, it’s Steven Pearlstein, writing in the Washington Post to tell us how universities can do some “tough things…to rein in costs.” And the usual suspects are all here: administrative costs, “cheaper, better general education,” and–of course–getting those slacker faculty members to give up their summers off (HA), their esoteric research (HA HA), and light teaching loads (HA HA HA). Pearlstein’s essay is a mess, and it richly deserves the criticisms it’s already getting (Matt Reed’s Inside Higher Ed rebuttal is excellent). But lost amidst the admonitions to toughen up and work harder and cheaper is the same element that plagues so many of the lazy prescriptions recently on offer from various Dons who know exactly how to fix us: They do not know who we are.