Links for 2012-06-20

In which we look at failures of academic collegiality, the allocation of resources in the liberal arts, teaching as a big grey area, advice for new teachers, common misconceptions about education, an ambitious plan to reform jury duty, and a former member of Fred Phelps's hateful Westboro Baptist Church.


  • Confessions of a Community College Dean: Collegiality

    In traditional higher ed, there is neither a meaningful bottom line for most individuals, nor a credible threat of exit. There’s an institutional bottom line, in the sense of a budget that has to be met, but the consequences for, say, an individual professor if the college fails to meet that line are usually independent of that professor’s performance. A pay freeze hits the productive and the unproductive alike. If Sanders and Patterson can’t stand the sight of each other, but they both have tenure at the same place, there’s usually neither a bottom line to settle the question nor a credible threat of exit for either. [...] Life tenure just makes matters that much worse. Neither can deal the other a real death blow, and they both know it. So instead of settling the question, they just get crabbier and crabbier, poisoning the working environment for their colleagues and the learning environment for their students.

  • Go Big Or Don’t Go | Easily Distracted

    [I]t’s crucial to think about the big picture first, last and always in imagining what you have to have in a liberal arts institution. No allocation of resources makes sense in isolation. Or perhaps the right way to put it is that all allocation of resources make sense in isolation. Almost all disciplines, departments, programs and specializations can provide a narrative about how they are essential and eternal.

  • Always Formative: Life in the Gray

    This is what you need to know: Despite what teacher movies, books you've read, your credential program, your master teacher, your new principal, your BTSA coach, and the blogosphere would have you believe; there is no black and white in teaching. Teaching is one huge gray area. I had to bold that. We make it seem like it's a noble profession full of clear choices and goals. You want every kid to succeed and feel safe. You have high expectations. You set big goals. You put your students first. NCLB bad. Diane Ravitch good. Worksheets and grades and rewards and punishments are tools of the lazy and the incompetent. You will never, ever give up on anyone. That's all bullshit.

  • Letter to new teachers « Quantum Progress

    Congratulations—you’ve chosen an excellent career that will ensure that no two days are ever alike for you, that you won’t die from sitting on your your butt all day long in font of a screen, and that you’ll spend most of your day interacting with people who you can have a tremendous positive influence over. You will also be constantly stretching your brain to learn new things—how to teach a particular concept, how connect with a withdrawn student, how to learn some new technology to add to your repertoire, and sometimes how to just survive to the end of the day. Here are a few more concrete suggestions I’d like to offer.

  • Science education myths that keep us from fixing the system. - Slate Magazine

    One challenge to reforming our educational system is that politicians and voters think they know what’s wrong with American schools—after all, they went through the system themselves. But some of those common-sense opinions are simply wrong, and these false assumptions undermine much of the public debate about how to improve education. Here are five of the myths that are making it difficult for us to fix science education.

  • Jury Duty Job Fairs: An unworkable idea to help people find work

    Here are three things I noticed during my day of jury duty last week: 1. It’s a hassle to have to skip two days of work to spend that time instead sitting around in a courthouse. For some people, it means losing two days of hourly pay. For others, it means falling behind at work and needing to work harder to catch up when they get back. 2. Much of jury duty consists of sitting around for hours waiting to be called on (or not called on). The day I served, 120 of us sat in limbo from 9 a.m. until noon. Some of us read books, some worked on laptops, some chatted in the back of the room and some just stared out the window. 3. Jury duty pays a tiny stipend. I got a check for $11.04 — the equivalent of earning $1.38 a hour, or about $2,900 a year if jury duty were my full-time job. That’s obviously not a living wage, but it’s still greater than zero, and thus not wholly meaningless. These three things gave me an odd idea. It’s a pipe-dream of an idea to help address the historic jobs crisis

  • IAmAn Ex-Member of the Westboro Baptist Church : IAmA

    My name is Nate Phelps. I'm the 6th of 13 of Fred Phelps' kids. I left home on the night of my 18th birthday and was ostracized from my family ever since. After years of struggling over the issues of god and religion I call myself an atheist today. I speak out against the actions of my family and advocate for LGBT rights today. I guess I have to try to submit proof of my identity. I'm not real sure how to do that. My twitter name is n8phelps and I could post a link to this thread on my twitter account I guess. Anyway, ask away. I see my niece Jael is on at the moment and was invited to come on myself to answer questions.


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