Monday, February 28, 2005

Harvard and the Blogosphere

An editorial in the NY Times linking the controversy about Harvard president Larry Summers and the Internet, specifically the blogosphere. Here is a snippet:

The Internet has played an unprecedented role, both in spreading the news and in rallying the troops on both sides. The liberal blogosphere has taken up the controversy energetically: a single anti-Summers post on Daily Kos drew more than 800 comments, some from Harvard alumni. Other sites have posted the main documents in the dispute, and are encouraging people to contact the media. Mr. Summers is being defended by conservative blogs and, which has an online petition. Even the normally reclusive Harvard Corporation has posted a letter supporting Mr. Summers on an alumni Web site.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

From Trees to Piles of Leaves...and Roots...and Rhizomes...

A succinct post by David Weinberger on the new forms of knowledge in the digital age. I have posted before on Weinberger's work, brought to my attention by Nick Burbules, who, with Tom Callister, has explored a "rhizomatic" structure of knowledge in hypertext, based on work by Deleuze and Guattari.

Oh Monday Morning, you DID give me a warning...

OK, so it has been a few days since I have posted on Ward Churchill. I am going through withdrawal. Gotta have my fix, though I got turned off by reading about his triumphal visit last week to the University of Hawaii, but this link and this one, courtesy of Nick Burbules, point to new developments.

Here's a snippet to whet your perhaps dormant thirst for more Churchilliana....

Margaret LeCompte, an education professor, said, "It is going to be extremely difficult, if academic freedom is on the block, for us to hire and keep good faculty members." LeCompte and the other teachers who signed the ad paid $1,600 to have it published.

"We're all thinking twice about what we're saying," LeCompte said, recalling the climate in the McCarthy era when professors were fired for alleged communist ties.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

A Gaggle of Hitches at Harvard

A sympathetic look at Larry Summers as he ponders his style...and goes to see the Will Smith film to gain insight into...relating to other people. All the power to him, I am rooting for him to succeed.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Let's go with Ruminations on Race for $1000, Alex...

We had fun the other night playing Jeopardy! with categories and answers from Philip Roth's The Human Stain. Thanks to my student Frank Jewell for creating this.

100 It is the hometown of Coleman Silk: What is East Orange? p. 85, 98, 108.
200 Coleman’s Alma Mater: What is NYU—New York University? p. 110.
300 The main setting of Coleman’s professional teaching career: What is Athena College? p. 82, 84, 190.
400 Delphine’s native country: What is France? p. 189.
500 Faunia’s two places of employment: What are Athena College and the dairy farm? p. 286-87.

Characters and Conflict
100 As a youngster, this character observed the phenomena of “Negrophobia”: Who is Coleman Silk? p. 85, 98, 108
200 This character was diagnosed with PTSD: Who is Lester Farley? p. 353-54.
300 Character, author and narrator of Coleman’s story: Who is Nathan Zuckerman? p. 211.
400 This character dies before revealing the secret diary of literacy: Who is Faunia Farley? p. 296-97.
500 Character who is “. . . congenitally appalled at everything American”: Who is Delphine Roux? p. 188

Double Jeopardy

Motifs and Symbolisms
200 It was the youthful endeavor of “Silky Silk”: What is boxing? p. 95-99.
400 A striking similarity to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: What is the caged crow—freedom and captivity—color black? p. 168, 171, 281.
600 The irony and satire of Coleman’s AND Walter’s “precision in language”: (to his class): “Does anyone know these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?” p. 6. (to his attorney, Primus): “I never again want to hear that self-admiring voice of yours or see your smug fucking lily-white face.” p. 81. (from Walter to Coleman): “Don’t you dare ever show your lily-white face around that house again!” p. 145.
800 It is, perhaps, a classic Greek tragedy with a modern day hero: What is Coleman’s biography? (Iliad: “the ravening spirit of man.”) p. 335, 15, 193, 196, 345.
1000 Metaphorically, they are “Spooks” in Coleman, and Lester’s lives: What is Coleman’s denial of his mother and father’s race? p. 20-21, 79, 345. What are Lester’s memories of Viet Nam, death of children, and the death of his marriage? p. 72, 73, 67, 353, 355, 358, 360.

The So Called Academic Bill of Rights and Its Imagined Supporters

Two items sent to me by friends, this one from Nick Burbules regarding David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" in Ohio, and this one by Graham Larkin, professor of art and art history at Stanford, discussing supposed support Horowitz claims to have received.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Clueless in Academe?

More perspective on l'affaire Summers, from Stanley Fish. A fresh perspective, a somewhat cynical perspective, but a wise one nonetheless. Fish is spot on in fixing on the importance of position in utterances by academic administrators. I found that out light years removed from Summers's position, as an admissions officer at an unnamed Ivy institution in New Hampshire, when what I said once, off the cuff, at a California prep school, beat me back to the office, reported to my supervisor by a concerned alum.

But saying that Larry Summers, in spite of the Niagara of comments about his "brilliance" and such, doesn't have the simple sense of tact and appropriateness that any cub admissions officer has to know, or must learn to avoid peril, is simply too....simple for many to accept. Thus we will continue to have the discussions of "academic freedom," and such that Fish decries as beside the point.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Handout: Philip Roth's The Human Stain

Here are my modest questions about this absorbing book. I have just scratched the surface with these.

I will have more to post after our class discussion tonight, which includes some student activities, and another set of questions. Next week we are scheduled to view the film.

The Human Stain, by Philip Roth

Questions for Further Discussion

1. The action of the novel takes place during 1998, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal figures throughout the book. Why does Roth bring this issue forth for consideration? What does the Lewinsky scandal signify in this novel?

2. Characterize Athena College, its appearance, faculty, administration, culture, and so forth. Compare and contrast Athena College with Purdue University.

3. The deanship at Athena is characterized as being in a “no man’s land” between the faculty and the administration (page 7f). Read over these pages regarding Coleman Silk’s deanship, and discuss from your perspective.

4. “Of course she had the credentials. But to Coleman (Silk) she embodied the sort of prestigious academic crap that the Athena students needed like a hole in the head but whose appeal to the faculty second-raters would prove irresistible.” (On Delphine Roux, page 190). Comment.

5. Professor Delphine Roux seeks a soul mate, far from the men she tends to meet on campus. Discuss what she means by “the Diapers,” “the Hats,” and “the Humanists,” and discuss why she goes out with Arthur Sussman.

6. Comment upon Faunia Farley.

· Her background.
· Her relationships with men.
· Her supposed illiteracy (page 296).
· Her eulogy by Smoky Hollenbeck (pages 286f).

7. Comment upon Coleman Silk.

· His youth.
· His secret.
· The incident that precipitated his resignation.
· His behavior after the resignation.
· The eulogy given by Herb Keble (pages 308f).

8. Read pages 241-42. What does Faunia Farley, and then the author, mean by “the human stain”?

9. Comment upon the very ending of the book, especially the last two sentences (page 361).

Saturday, February 19, 2005

NYRB essay review on today's universities...

Colleges: An Endangered Species?
By Andrew Delbanco

Every middle-class American family with a college-age child knows how it goes: the meetings at which the high school counselor draws up a list of "reaches" and "safeties," the bills for SAT prep courses ("But, Dad, everyone takes one; if you don't let me, I'm screwed"), the drafts of the personal essay in which your child tries to strike just the right note between humility and self-promotion—and finally, on the day of decision, the search through the mail in dread of the thin envelope that would mean it's all over and that, as a family, you have collectively failed.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Brother West has been praying for Brother Summers

More on l'affaire de Summers, from the NY Times. The Cornel West quote on page 2 is, um, Brother West, you do know that using the roosting chickens metaphor links you to Brother Ward Churchill?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

From "Our Fair City"...On the Record...

Larry Summers, Harvard prez, with a transcript of his remarks on women in science and math and the aftermath. Thanks to David Weinberger's Joho the Blog for this update.

Meanwhile, a new book on Summers opines that he may have Asperger's syndrome. Nevertheless, Summers is an engrossing case study of academic leadership, raising issues of trust, faculty autonomy, presidential manner and priorities, and much more.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Perfect Madness and "On the Job Straining"...

Two pieces that jumped out at me over the last few, the cover review for this Sunday's 2/20 NYTBR, which we get at home early in the week in paper, but apparently is not online yet (go figure), titled "The Mommy Trap," a review of Judith Warner's Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, and two, a column in the Chronicle's Review section this week by the pediatrician Mel Levine, (grrrr, subscription only for now, sorry) on how woefully unprepared...for LIFE!...he believes many college students are these days.

The review of the Warner book stresses what an untenable position the vast majority of women, even upper middle class women, are in these days in modern industrialized countries, to work, to raise a family in many cases, and to even have a life. I learned a new word from this review...overparenting...which is so apt for what I observe around me, and in our own behavior in childraising. As a friend of mine quipped, when we grew up, aging boomers that we are, we ran outside and built a fort in the kids take a Saturday class in fort-building, led by a cheering mom or dad!

Levine, well known for his work on the importance of individualized and tailored learning and teaching, gives a glimpse of his new book, Ready or Not, Here Life Comes, due out this month. He too gives overparenting as part of the problem for many college students today not developing a strong sense of self, initiative, and problem solving, and then floundering, or at least being shocked, by their early career years.

But if many of us are guilty of overparenting, unlike our own parents (example: I attended all but one of my daughter's athletic contests in two sports throughout JHS, HS, and freshman year of college; my parents, though not academics with flexy schedules, attended perhaps one of my JHS and HS athletic contests), why do we do this?

What are the root causes of this anxiety? I have some ideas, as do others who have thought more deeply on this than I, but I will save them for now. Here is a snippet from the Levine article to end...:

"Meanwhile, many college students carry with them an extensive history of being overprogrammed by their parents and their middle schools and high schools -- soccer practice Monday through Saturday, bassoon lessons on Tuesday evening, square dancing on Wednesday, kung fu on Saturday afternoon, on and on. That may make it hard for them to work independently, engage in original thought processes, and show initiative."

Lagniappe...Hear first, write later

On writing style and speech, from Ben Yagoda's The Sound on the Page: Style and Voice in Writing (2004):

Kurt Vonnegut once observed, "The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo speech you heard when a child...Lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as ornamental as a monkey wrench."

Thanks to that musical Brit writer, Rita Rud, for this quotation!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Discipline but do not Punish

Erin O'Connor of Critical Mass, a vigilant and careful observer of the education scene (and one with more insight into K-12 education and its issues than many of us), brings up this story about a student expelled from a graduate education program for advocating strict discipline.

NYT Article on

Pleased to see some press being given to this new online publication. I have blogged about this journal already. The editors are keen on the blogosphere, and see the value and fecundity of the symbiotic relation among the press, the blogosphere, and other media outlets. And, you can read it all online, with no annoying request to subscribe (which may prompt the next step of just consulting bugmenot!).

Film Discussion: Handout for Wonder Boys

Film: Wonder Boys (2000)

Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Chabon. An English professor (Michael Douglas) deals with a series of situations over several days devoted to a literary conference at his college. Filmed entirely in Pittsburgh and at Carnegie Mellon University.

Questions to Consider (add your own!)

1. Describe the classroom scene that opens the film. What do you think of the dynamics and the pedagogy?

2. What do you notice about the party at the chancellor’s house? Describe any reactions you have to what transpires there.

3. What attracts Grady Tripp (Douglas) to James Leer (McGuire)? Comment on their teacher-student relationship.

4. What is the significance of James Leer’s book manuscript in regard to Grady Tripp’s unfinished second book?

5. At one point, a character in a movie playing on a television at Grady’s in-laws house says “The meaning of life is self development.” Comment upon this statement in the context of the film.

6. Comment upon these terms and quotes in relation to developments in the film:

Direction in Life/Choices

“Books don’t mean anything to anyone anymore”
“Being there for someone”
“I am a teacher, not a Holiday Inn”

7. Is Grady Tripp a good teacher? What do you think of his “teaching philosophy?” Does it matter that he teaches creative writing?

8. Comment upon Sara Gaskell (McDormand) as chancellor.

9. Comment upon the atmosphere at the university, particularly the relations among faculty, faculty and students, and faculty and administration. What things ring true, and what rings not so true, in relation to your experiences as a student and/or employee in higher education?

Nickleby's movin' on the higher ed side...

From today's CoHE email update, Academe Today, pasted in so non- subscribers can read it:

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Spellings Calls for Giving Parents More Accessible and Comprehensive Information on Colleges


The No Child Left Behind Act, which covers elementary and secondary education, should be a model for colleges as they try to close the minority-achievement gap in higher education and try to provide comprehensive information to students and parents considering college, the U.S. secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, said on Monday.
"One of our biggest challenges is a lack of compatible and comprehensive measurements -- the kind of information parents have come to expect" from grade schools, Ms. Spellings said in a speech at the annual meeting here of the American Council on Education.
Colleges and states should use "common languages and metrics" to measure their performance and to publicize information such as tuition plans, academic workload, and work-study programs, Ms. Spellings said in the speech, her first on higher-education issues since her confirmation as secretary last month.
"That way," she said, "both traditional and nontraditional education consumers can make smart choices, based on information, not anecdote."
The U.S. Education Department is also working to improve the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, commonly known as
Ipeds, in order to provide more accessible and relevant information. Ipeds, which is based on reports that colleges are required to file, forms the only central national database of a range of key higher-education statistics, and it is widely used by federal and state policy makers.
Ms. Spellings cited several problems with the system, including its inability to easily track the actual cost of attending each institution after student aid has been considered.
Ms. Spellings called President Bush's budget for the 2006 fiscal year "truly a reform budget," with plans to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500 over the next five years, to $4,550. The president's budget would also close the $4.3-billion shortfall in the Pell Grant program.
Higher-education advocates say the proposed changes in the Pell Grant program would be a step in the right direction, but some question whether they would come at the expense of several other popular student-aid programs that would be eliminated under the president's budget.
Ms. Spellings did not take questions at the meeting.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Gee, thanks,, um, I'm supposed to go to this conference, but my travel funds are, um...

An ethical dilemma for us higher ed junkies...thanks to Nick Burbules for forwarding this on...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

(A Better Chief) Illiniwiki!

Dan Cullen of HESA (Higher Education Students Association), at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, has started a higher education "wiki" and invites contributions. Those who have dipped into Wikipedia know what fun such sites are.

Dubya's Reading List

A discussion of why the President may like Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons, a book Dubya is recommending to friends.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

David Lodge's Changing Places: Humiliation and Handout #2

After Kate's handout #1 occupied us, we all played the game of "Humiliation." Dianna Stair and Amy Childress led the game with these directions. Those who have read Lodge's novel will recall that players lose or win by being very truthful and humiliating themselves. Each group member names a literary classic which he has not read but assumes the others have read, and scores a point for every person in the group who HAS read it. In the book, an English professor insists he has never read Hamlet. In my group, the big winner was Amah, who grew up in Haiti, and confessed to never reading the Dick and Jane books. That certainly put him over the top.

Following what Lodge likens to "intellectual strip poker," we wound down with discussion of these, my questions (page citations from the Penguin paperback, ISBN 0-14-017098-7):

1 Think further about the character of Morris Zapp. Even though he was reluctant to go to the less prestigious Rummidge (see page 39), he found that it appealed to him, perhaps even in the long term. On page 234, he thinks about this while taking a bath. Comment on his reasoning.

2 Comment upon Morris Zapp’s leadership traits and his particular position in the Rummidge English department (see pages 213f).

3 Comment upon Morris Zapp’s ambition, and see particularly pages 43-44.

4 Why did Morris Zapp believe that “the root of all critical error was a naïve confusion of literature with life” (pages 47f)? What do you think about this view?

5 Characterize the Vice Chancellor, Stewart Stroud (page 220).

6 Why does Philip Swallow say that the important things are private (page 249)?

David Lodge's Changing Places: Handout #1

Last night we had a spirited discussion of David Lodge's novel Changing Places in my higher ed in film and fiction class. The discussion started off on a high note for me, with this set of questions from student Kate Van Oosten:

· In what ways are Morris Zapp and Philip Swallow the same? In what ways are they different? Consider personalities, professional interests and the treatment of family.

· In what ways are Desiree Zapp and Hilary Swallow the same? In what ways are they different? Consider personalities and the treatment of family.

· Discuss Charles Boon. How does the faculty of Euphoric State perceive him as opposed to the faculty at the University of Rummidge?

· Discuss Karl Kroop. Do you consider him a progressive professor? Why do the counter culture students embrace him and many faculty dislike him?

· Which couple is more suited to one another and why: Morris and Desiree, Morris and Hilary? Philip and Hilary, Philip and Desiree?

The Assault on Universities and Counter Culture
· Consider the statement that “universities have nothing to teach.” Discuss the relevance (or irrelevance) of the curriculum being taught at Rummidge and Euphoric State during the Counter Culture movement of the 1960’s. Some questions to ponder are: what knowledge is most worthwhile? Should the function of universities be reassessed?

· Discuss the importance of the game of “Humiliation” and why it reveals what knowledge students and faculty think is most worthwhile?

· Discuss Women’s Liberation and how it affects the characters in the novel; especially Desiree, Hilary, and Mary Makepeace.

· Does the author’s incorporation of real events and people (The People’s Park/”The People’s Garden”; Governor Ronald Reagan/”Governor Duck”) make the novel more effective?

· In a letter to Philip, Hilary mentions the hypocritical nature of the English. Discuss what she means. For example, consider the “Abortion Express” and how easy it was to obtain an abortion in England, yet how pregnant, unmarried women are still ostracized in society.

· Compare and contrast the similarities and differences of Rummidge and Euphoric State. Consider differences in the faculty, students, hiring practices, lifestyle, etc.

“Changing Places”

· What is the importance of Jane Austen to “Changing Places”?

· According to A.J. Beamish in Swallow’s book “Let’s Write a Novel”, there are three types of story: 1) the story that ends happily 2) the story that ends unhappily 3) and the story that ends neither happily nor unhappily (which, according to the author is the worst kind of all). Given the ending of “Changing Places”, how would you rate this novel?

· What was the Counter Culture’s political and cultural legacy on universities? Basic conflicts addressed in “Changing Places”: more egalitarian race and gender relations; a new openness with respect to sexuality; greater concern for the environment; higher rates of divorce; drug abuse; crime; and a greater willingness to challenge authority of all kinds.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

From Cookie's Jar: Churchill Chips

Nick Burbules sent along this posting from "Cookie" about Ward Churchill, regarding his NA-ness. I agree with Nick that Cookie's site is lively and interesting.

I find identity politics oddly amusing, though I don't think I have the same high stakes as some do in such. I am predominantly Norwegian and Italian, with a bit of German Amish thrown in way back. Aside from attending a local "Syttende Mai" celebration, where we all laugh ironically about the latest "achievements" of Norwegians, I don't find much of compelling interest in my heritage. My wife quips that the Norse/Italian mix is a bit unstable, meaning that I brood but shout a lot. :-)

Lagniappe...The Launching Years

A helpful book for parents about to embark on "the launching years," which the authors define as the senior year of HS to the early years of college. Like many such books, some of the advice and commentary seems obvious or common sense, but the effect of reading the book on me was to realize that what the authors call the roller coaster of emotions and changes that occur in a family at this time is shared by many families. The book seems pitched to the upper middle class who send their children off to residential colleges and universities away from home.

More Churchill Discussion: Tim Burke

This may be the most thoughtful post on the Ward Churchill situation I have seen...I have heard about it for several days now, and just took the time to read it.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Ward Churchill Roundup

Lotsa links within...(thanks to Nick Burbules for this URL).

What Liberal Bias?

From earlier in the week, on the CHE's daily email update to subscribers, Academe Today:


A glance at the January/February issue of "Academe": What liberal bias?

Elite colleges and their faculty members are often accused of swaying students to the political left, but the facts do not support that bit of conventional wisdom, says Lionel Lewis, an emeritus professor of sociology and an adjunct professor of higher education at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

"Liberal faculty, abetted by permissive or weak academic administrators, are said to indoctrinate impressionable students with an un-American ideology passed off as objective inquiry," he writes. "The more prestigious the school, the more clear this bias is thought to be."

However, many of the people responsible for developing "America's aggressive and confrontational foreign policy" were themselves students or professors at Ivy League institutions. Eleven of the 15 secretaries of defense since the Eisenhower administration received degrees from elite universities, he says, and most of the national-security advisers since World War II earned degrees or taught at such institutions.

"These are the architects of the muscular American foreign policy that resulted in the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom," he writes. Even if Ivy League faculty members have a liberal slant, he says, it hardly matters in terms of what students take away from their college experiences.

"Research spanning six decades has shown that the effect of college on the attitudes, values, religiosity, and political views of students, on elite campuses and elsewhere, is almost nil," he writes. "In light of this research, it hardly makes a difference if the professoriate is mostly liberal or conservative, teaching Leo Tolstoy or Leon Trotsky."

Dear is I who is Charlotte Simmons

An essay from tomorrow's NYTBR on Tom Wolfe's new novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons. I thought long and hard about assigning this for the class I am teaching now, that inspired in part this blog, but, skinflint New Englander that I am deep down, decided against assigning a new hardback, and one that was over 600 pages long. The early reviews I read were not encouraging, and so the publisher's copy that arrived at my door, gratis, stayed on the table unopened. This essay, which picks up on the fact that the novel rides high on college best seller lists, explores some of the reasons for that, including a poignant hunch regarding the affinity of the author for the title character's plight.

Friday, February 04, 2005

PowerPoint Deep

A letter sent to NPR and read on Morning Edition today spoke about that craze in academia (no, not Ward Churchill!) and business...PowerPoint!

Who hasn't attended a PowerPoint lecture? Where the speaker reads the slides out loud? I confess, I use 'em in my large undergraduate class, but I wonder about it all the time. I wonder if I am being only "PowerPoint deep" in talking about the common school movement, or Socrates's legacy, to the future teachers I teach.

And when I went for a job interview a few years ago, my host was surprised at first when I said that I had no technology needs for my two job talks. I was worried though...maybe I should have had a few bullets, some snazzy graphics, perhaps even some sound!

Last semester, a professor here gave a SRO talk in a teaching tips series on "how to avoid PowerPoint coma" in your classes. And I say, before you use PowerPoint, read The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint by Edward Tufte!

Profile in Discourage(ment)

A few days ago, I linked to a Michael Bérubé posting, where I also mentioned that he injected some humor (yes, humor!) into the Ward Churchill controversy. I made no comment on Churchill, but have now been badgered by an anonymous commentator regarding my posting.

I won't hide behind anonymity. Even though I did not assert anything about Churchill, I will now, based on my limited knowledge of reading several news reports, analysis, and such. I have not read Churchill's own writings beyond selected quotes.

I believe: Churchill's language is inflammatory, but not impervious to reasoned discussion. Unfortunately, bringing Nazi war criminals into juxtaposition with SOME Twin Tower employees/victims silences opportunity for much critical thinking on the issues. One could ask, where does the analogy work, if anywhere, and where does it break down?

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem possible. Shocking language drowns out sweet reason and debate.

On the other hand, how many of us have come to terms with Nazism? How many of us, and there are many thinkers who have dwelled more profoundly on this topic than I, have thought about the origins of fascism, and the thoughts behind the construction of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany?

I simply do not know, having not read Churchill's works (remember, I am an academic, and furthermore, trained in philosophy, where evidence and argument are paramount, not politicized assumptions and anonymous hate mail). I don't know that much about Eichmann beyond what most college professors who are not specialists in Nazi Germany know.

And, here is a statement I fully support, from the AAUP, quoted in today's CHE article about the controversy:

"We must resist the temptation to judge such statements more harshly because they evoke special anguish among survivors and families of the September 11 victims. The critical test of academic freedom is its capacity to meet even the most painful and offending statements."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

No Seminole Left Behind

From Nick Burbules's blog digest today:

What does Florida State University have in common with Armstrong Williams?

Florida State University center has used more than a half-million in education tax dollars to put a positive spin on President Bush's key school policies, including hiring a public relations firm to teach charter schools to be more media-savvy.

Fast Food N(educ)ation

KNOWLEDGE TO GO: Strip-mall satellite classes offer McCurricula
-- hold the campus culture -- writes Stuart C. Strother, an
associate professor of business and management at Azusa Pacific
--> SEE

Note: You can't read the whole article unless you are a subscriber. I agree with Henry Farrell, who just posted recently on Crooked Timber about the new online publication Inside Higher Education, that limiting access in this fashion by the CHE is annoying (those are not his words...).

If you are traveling through the cornfields...

If you are near UIUC today, at noon central time, Nick Burbules will be giving a talk about the new information technologies and their impact on higher education, in the College of Ed building. See the link above for more. I can't make it, but look forward to hearing about it, or even getting the recording. Nick has done, and continues to do, work in this area.

Can we both be DWMs together one day...please?

Here's a funny post from Michael Berube in which he manages to fit the Ward Churchill controversy, concerns over the preponderance of left leaning faculty at universities, and many other tidbits. Hey, last line, he has nothing against dead white males, hoping to be one some day!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Throwing Sand out of the Box

I have drastically reduced my blogroll (I call it my sandbox, where I play) from over thirty to under ten. I found I could not keep up with the reading, and I am the type of person (a bit OCD?...well, I was delighted to get a Roomba robotic vacuum for Christmas!) who feels guilty if he subscribes to something and doesn't at least read it regularly. So I copied and pasted the list, filed it away, and ruthlessly cut. What is left for now are:

Critical Mass: Thoughtful commentary by Penn academic Erin O'Connor.
Crooked Timber: Widely read group blog. Love the title (from a saying by Kant).
Joho the Blog: David Weinberger has many things to say about the new technologies and a new epistemology: Remember, "trees are in trouble" and what is in are what Nick Burbules refers to as the Deleuzean rhizomes.
Maud Newton: Keeps me up on the lit world; uneven guest bloggers there now til Maud gets back from taking time away to write her book.
Michael Bérubé: Lively writing about hockey, academic freedom, family, the canon...who hasn't read MB's articles or opinion pieces, they are all over the place, and his blog is fun too.
Nick Burbules - PBD: A marvelous compendium, Nick reads and digests for all of us the best of the blogs 'n feeds on the war in Iraq, domestic politics, and such. I turn to Nick to get a progressive spin on current events. Quite a remarkable resource.
NYT - Education: I get the NYT main stories sent to my e-mail and to my PDA, so I keep up on education news via this feed. Good stuff recently on the new SAT especially, and of course, l'affaire de Larry Summers.
Peter Suber - OAN: I went to graduate school in philosophy with Peter Suber, and he reads and absorbs an enormous amount of knowledge. Peter made spare cash in graduate school by twirling a toilet plunger while giving a rapid fire talk on force field physics, doing this for trade shows and an appearance on the Tonight Show. Peter now makes his living by promoting open access to scholarly material, or what he used to call "free online scholarship." His personal website contains a wealth of resources on everything from philosophy to open access and many other topics. As I recall, there is a site there he has developed entirely devoted to knots!
Sherman Dorn: another friend who edits an online journal of educational policy, and thinks long and hard about issues regarding teaching, academic freedom, and such.

Well, there's my new sandbox. Fewer toys in it. More time to concentrate on just a few now, and to read them more carefully AND get my other work done. I am sure the sandbox will change, and maybe even grow again, but I need to be vigilant and not follow every possibly interesting link!

Handout for Mona Lisa Smile

One of the principal reasons for moo2 is so I can "blog" my new grad course, Higher Ed in Film and Fiction. I am hoping that the "essai" qualities of blogging, and here I think as much of Montaigne as anyone, will allow me to think out loud, develop ideas further, and such. I am considering developing a book from this course, so this is a start to that more distilled writing.

I am behind in not talking about our discussion of Lucky Jim from last week, but here goes with tonight's handout for the showing of the film Mona Lisa Smile:

Film: Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Set at Wellesley College in 1953-54. Starring Julia Roberts as a new art history instructor, with Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as three of her students.

Questions to Consider…think of your own to discuss too!

1. Describe the ideal of the educated person from the perspective of:

Katherine (Julia Roberts), the new art history instructor from California;
Jocelyn Carr, the president of Wellesley;
The Wellesley students.

2. Why did Katherine want to go to Wellesley to teach? What do you think of her motives?

3. What is the significance of the title of the film?

4. What do you think of the advice that Katherine receives during her first year, from her colleagues, the college’s president, and others?

5. Describe how Katherine changes her pedagogy. What do you think of her development as a teacher?

6. Discuss Katherine’s statements to her students in the urban artists’ loft.

7. This movie takes place during the height of the Cold War and the McCarthy era. Comment on how that context is portrayed.

8. Both happiness and honesty could be seen as overall themes of the film. Comment on how the various characters view each of these themes.

9. Comment upon the letter that Katherine receives from President Carr and the board at the end of the academic year.

10. Comment upon the end of the film, and again imagine what would happen in 5 years to the characters.

11. Which student is most profoundly affected by Katherine? State your reasons.