Showing posts from January, 2017


Evals came back from last fall semester and, oddly,  the class I gave up on (see Cutting Your Losses) scored me some of the highest numbers I've ever had.  Frankly, I'm flummoxed. What course were these students taking?  I mean it sure wasn't the one I taught.

The course I taught used every active learning trick in the manual and all I got in return was the mannequin challenge.  I eventually gave up trying to reach them and--horror of horrors--I reverted for a while to lecturing off Powerpoints.

Okay, so there are a few possibilities here.  Worst case scenario these students were fine with a more passive learning environment and didn't really want to engage.  Best case is I simply underestimated them and their interest in the material: romantic poetry, realist painting and modernist architecture (how could these subjects ever be boring, right?).   By the looks of the comments, however, it really does seem they were more engaged than I realized.

How did I miss this? 


All the young dudes...

On or about the summer of 1977 something changed. I am not saying that one went out, as one might to a movie, and there saw some film called Star Wars, or that the Talking Heads released an album with simple green lettering on a red cover.  The change was not sudden and definite like that.  But a change there was, and, since one must be arbitrary, let us date it on or about the summer of 1977.

In 1977 Apple Computer was incorporated and the first Commodore home computers hit the stores. That year both Led Zeppelin and Elvis Presley performed their last concerts. Vaclav Havel helped form Charter 77and Voyager I was launched on a trajectory that eventually made it the first object from Earth to leave the galaxy.

It was also the year my parents' divorce was finalized.  Shortly after that my mother married a man she had dated for only a week and they went off to California, leaving me to move back in with my angry old man and his German cocktail waitress girlfriend.  The cocktail waitr…

There will be crocuses

My 50th semester begins today.  By this afternoon I will be running full speed with barely a chance to look around before April is here.  So how about a few pre-semester  predictions?

Here's what I foresee: the term will begin with optimism and good will.  I will be excited by the classes and the new students. The potential for getting it right will seem boundless.  Then--about four to six weeks in--a slow, methodical descent into disillusion, doubt and self-recrimination will begin. I will second guess everything. What the hell was I thinking having my class read about Tolstoy's existential crisis or Boethius' analysis of the highest good?  What kind of moron thinks that's valuable for budding Health Promotions and Accounting majors?

There will also be periods of frenzied invention as I try to figure out how to engage a roomful of undergrads.  These frenzies will be followed by puzzled, investigative toe kicks at the wreckage.  Why did that bomb?  I don't get it.…

Half isn't always better

For the past three weeks I have been trying to recall the author and title of a book I read years ago.  That's the thing about getting older.  You don't actually lose your memory; it just takes you longer and longer to retrieve it.

In this instance, it's taken me about three weeks.  First came the author (guy by the name of Muller) and just this morning in all of an instance I recalled the book's title and the author's full name.  It popped into my head as my wife was telling me about some bit of office politics where she works.  Ironically, I could recall the exact place on the open page where the idea appeared (upper left-hand corner) even when I couldn't remember much else.

Then, poof, there it was: "The Uses of History" by Herbert J. Muller.  A quick Google search corrected me.  The actual title is The Uses of the Past: Profiles of Former Societies.  Muller was a mid-century historian, but "Uses" is not an academic history.  It's mo…