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Stuck on Himself Academic Rants

Wow. I don’t think I could have been more appalling than this if I tried.

If we assume that red-state secondary education systems don’t utterly collapse due to underfunding caused by Republican anti-tax mania, then colleges and universities will come into play. The children of red states will seek a higher education, and that education will very often happen in blue states or blue islands in red states. For the foreseeable future, loyal dittoheads will continue to drop off their children at the dorms. …And then they are all mine.

Okay, that’s not too bad.

Except that he is blaming Republicans for the demise of the secondary education system. And not the NEA and parents who are too unbothered to care.

And except that he is assuming that all academic higher education houses are “blue islands.” Well, I hate to say this, but I’ve been to many ivory towers and only one was a blue island. (What was I thinking to ever encourage my child to go there?) At Purdue I had Catholic nuns and ex-Catholic nuns for teachers. There were also drunkards. But, I don’t think that makes them blue.

I suspect the main reason for this is that most academics I know are willing to forego [sic] making a big pile of money in order to, you know, think for a living.

Again, I hate to say this, but hmm. Most academics couldn’t get a job in business. They don’t have the skills. They don’t know how to get into that environment. And I don’t mean that badly. The reason they don’t is they’ve chosen not to go in that direction. But once you’re not in that direction, unless you are a stand out in some area, you don’t get to go in that direction either.

And, I hate to tell you this, but many jobs in business don’t make “a big pile of money.” Yes, my bro-in-law makes a half a million a year in business. But most people don’t. My brother’s an attorney and he can barely pay for a trailer house in the country, away from city taxes. And some professors make much more than these every day business people. I blogged just this month on a professor who has been arrested for pedophilia who makes $134,000 a year from his job, even when he has been in jail. Nice work if you can get it. (Okay, maybe not. I wouldn’t want to be a pedophiliac under any circumstances. Even if it meant I could get paid without working.)

Also, a problem with this statement is the idea that if you are in business you don’t think. Hello. If you don’t think, then you’re not in business very long. It’s not like business is a “pick up the rock, put the rock down” cycle. No, it’s not. That C on a paper that turned into Federal Express, those two guys skipping out of college that turned into Apple… Those are examples of people in business thinking. And perhaps of academics not doing so. — Although it is certainly possible that the presentation of the FedEx idea was so poor as to warrant a C and that the guys were too busy playing computers to do their assignments.)

Then there’s the true eyes wide shut dilemma within this statement. That is the belief and the inference that academics think for a living. I don’t believe that is true. I have never, ever, ever heard of any university in the world (although there may have been one once) who pays anyone for thinking. They pay for teaching, for research, for public meetings. But they don’t pay for thinking.

To be totally appalled at the self-centered arrogance of this English teacher from Northwestern U, read the whole thing.

But before you get too overwhelmed by his obnoxiousness, he did have some points which we ought to consider. If the first time our children are presented with something other than what we know as truth is when they are in college, the foundations we have given them are much too shallow. But I don’t think just reading widely will help. I think you should also teach your children to think critically.

From personal experience I can say that teaching young children to think critically may cause you to spend a lot of time researching stuff you thought you knew when they get into their teen years, but it is worth it.

The article was published in June, but today’s fisking has been brought to you because I found the article via Sondra K at Knowledge is Power.

Blog gets you fired

Here’s just one more reason why it’s better to have an unread mediocre personal blog. Yahoo has a news article about people getting fired for writing on their blogs.

I don’t have any problem with Jen getting fired for posting about products which hadn’t been released yet. That’s violating company policy right there; forget a blogging code.

But it does make me think I should be unouted, since my husband’s blog is available and my students might find it.

Scary thought.

Surfing in the Classroom

Ticklish Ears has a discussion up about surfing the web during class. He and Professor Flanders both were thrilled by that.

I’ve only had one classroom in a computer room full time. It was a remedial writing course. And my students surfed the web a lot. Normally for games they could play, rather than listening to the discussion about the grammar they were going to have to work with. Then they would ask questions, when they got to the work. It wasn’t because I didn’t explain or give examples. It was because they were playing games.

Now for research, the computers were great. And I can see how a class on a novel would be interesting. “Search the net and find four articles that would be interesting/useful for someone who wanted to learn more about the background of this novel.”

Actually, now that I wrote that, I am thinking that might be a good pre-reading suggestion. We’re doing Frankenstein in Freshman 2. What if I gave that as a pre-reading assignment? That might really work.

Pass them all!

According to the New Economist a study done in France in 1968 says that if you pass all the students in public school, that more of them will go to college. And if you make it easy for them to get in to college, they’ll stay there.

Okay. I didn’t read the study. But that’s been done here and I lived with the results for a while. (Thankfully not long.)

In 1979 Louisiana had a law. The law said that if you graduated from a LA high school, you were automatically admitted to any public LA college. Okay. I met my roommate after reading a note she wrote telling me she would be glad to “meat” me. She dropped out before the semester was over, as did half the freshmen, because they didn’t have the qualifications to be where they were.

And if, as the French group did, the first years at college were all passed, what good would that do to the students who get to the junior year and can’t read? Who can’t write? All it would do would be to make colleges get some money. And most public colleges are also public supported, at least in Texas, and that means I’d be paying for these kids to go to college, as well as high school where they aren’t forced to learn anything.

No. I think going to college does not prove that something was successful. Graduating from college and getting a job might be, but not going.

Note: I read later in some other blog that the students all graduated from college and got better jobs than they would have without college. So this isn’t exactly the same as La.

The Mindset of Today’s Students

 Computers are not just “technology”
This is true for middle class students and above. I found my lower socioeconomic students needed help integrating computers into their lives. (Or just learning to type.)

 The Internet is better than TV
I would agree with them here. The internet is available whenever I am.

 Reality is no longer “real”
This is not a mindset of students but a result of postmodern philosophy. I disagree with it and I argue against it in my classroom.

 Doing is more important that knowing
Some things are more important to do than to know. It certainly doesn’t help the person choking if I know the Heimlich maneuver and don’t do anything.

 Learning resembles Nintendo more than logic
Hmm. Fun, fast, involving… I certainly would prefer that they thought that.

 Multitasking is a way of life
This I doubt. I had students (high school, but still) within the last five years who complained because we had literature and grammar and vocabulary all in the same class on the same day. It was too many disparate subjects. They couldn’t handle it.

 Typing is preferred to handwriting
Since up to 20% of a grade can be lost due to poor handwriting, I would certainly agree with them. And as a teacher, it is far easier to grade typed papers than handwritten ones.

 Staying connected is essential
To what or whom? Tinto says that students need to be connected to the university/college in order to stay in school. So I would think getting our students connected and them staying connected would be good.

 There is zero tolerance for delays
Er, no. I think they have plenty of tolerance for their own delays. They just don’t want anyone else to be slow. True? True.

 Consumer and creator lines are blurring
I can buy, therefore I can make? Hmm. Ron was talking today about designers. He said there are three levels. The highest can create. The second highest can appreciate, even things they don’t like themselves. The third can appreciate what they like. BUT the second group tries to become the first. Perhaps this is what he means?

(Jason L. Frand, “The Information-Age Mindset: Changes in Students and Implications for Higher Education,” Educause Review 35(5): 14-24, Sept.-Oct. 2000.)

Via Danielle Mihram’s Creating an Objective-Based Syllabus.