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Showing posts from November, 2011

"pent 'mid cloisters dim"

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Grumbling about students who don't prepare for class is nothing new.  Whenever one of my colleagues complains about it, I always think to myself  "Why are you surprised by this?"  Indeed, a few years back the National Study of Student Engagement (NSSE) surveyed 380,000 randomly selected freshmen and senior students about their class preparation habits.  The results?  A quarter of all freshmen and 20 percent of seniors say they frequently come to class without having completed the readings.

This particular study didn't probe the reasons for poor preparation, but I don't buy the facile notion that today's students are lazier than those in the past or that their attention spans have been warped by video games, text-messaging and Facebook.  I do think some of it results from the hectic nature of their lives.  Just this semester, for example, I've had five students give birth, three go through messy divorces, two who missed class due to court dates, one whose …

Callias' boys

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Among the charges leveled at Socrates during his trial in 399 BC was that he taught for money.   He actually went to some lengths in the Apology to refute this idea and recounted a conversation he had with a father named Callias who had paid a considerable amount to have his sons educated by Sophists.

Socrates suggests that Callias would have no difficulty locating a teacher who could improve his sons if they were foals or calves.  Any farmer could do the job.  As they are human beings, he wonders if teachers exist who really understand human and political virtue well enough to instruct them.

By "human and political virtue,"  of course, Socrates means teachers who can turn out excellent citizens who have realized their uniquely human potential for moral goodness and, by doing so, strengthen the polis.  Teachers who can provide this service are worth paying, he argues.  The rest are simply taking your money.

The odd thing about this passage isn't that it raises the hoary que…

Rearranging the Stack

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It's generally a good idea to put one or two of the brighter students' papers at the bottom of your stack when grading, but that's not always your first instinct.  Sometimes you pick up a paper, read the opening sentence  and begin groaning with despair.  There--right in the first sentence--is a howler of a mistake.  You quickly glance down the page and see many more awaiting you.  It's  just too much and you're strongly tempted to make the paper go away, to put it at the bottom of your stack and pretend you didn't see it. 

Here's what I mean: I just picked up an assignment in which the writer refers to Saint Augustine as "St. Alexander" throughout the paper, cites neither primary or secondary sources (something I've harped on for 13 weeks) and it's riddled with sentence fragments.  Aaargh.  So I reach for the next one, but it's no better: tortured grammar,  mangled ideas and sloppy spellcheck errors (defiantly for definitely, from fo…