Monthly Archives: September 2016

U of Tennessee investigating a professor and popular conservative blogger for tweeting that drivers should “run down” protesters in North Carolina

U of Tennessee investigating a professor and popular conservative blogger for tweeting that drivers should "run down" protesters in North Carolina

U of Tennessee investigating a professor and popular conservative blogger for tweeting that drivers should "run down" protesters in North Carolina

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The University of Tennessee at Knoxville says it’s investigating a law professor’s tweet suggesting that motorists “run down” protesters blocking traffic following a fatal police shooting in Charlotte, N.C. The professor, a popular blogger with the Twitter handle @Instapundit, says he hasn’t been contacted by the university directly, and many free speech advocates say that his remark — however objectionable — should be protected.

“He apparently is unaware of how dangerous it is to the driver who runs over a human being, and he is apparently unaware that vehicular homicide is both illegal and evil,” said John K. Wilson, an independent scholar of academic freedom and co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog, referring to Glenn Reynolds, the professor in question.

Yet while Reynolds’s tweet “is unquestionably stupid and morally repugnant,” Wilson said, “it generally should not be subject to investigation or punishment.” He didn’t threaten a particular person harm, Wilson said, and it “seems his overwrought statement was meant to convey anger with the protesters, not a serious call for violence against them.”

Robert O’Neil, a former president and professor emeritus of law at the University of Virginia who studies the First Amendment, had a similar opinion, saying he’d treat the “arguably tongue-in-cheek tweet as though it had been uttered orally during a rally, or even in print.” That means pausing to recognize its “inherent ambiguity,” as well as Reynolds’s physical distance from the events in Charlotte.

While O’Neil hoped Tennessee wouldn’t sanction Reynolds, he did say that “collegial guidance would certainly be appropriate” — especially as Reynolds teaches law.

Reynolds, the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at Tennessee and moderator of the conservative blog Instapundit, was temporarily blocked from Twitter Wednesday evening after he responded to a tweet from a local news station notifying the public that protesters were stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles on Interstate 277, outside Charlotte. “Run them down,” Reynolds tweeted.

The post immediately caught attention on social media and from news outlets, with many accusing Reynolds of inciting violence toward those demonstrating against the Tuesday shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer. Reports vary as to whether or not Scott was armed, and his family, who deny that he was, have linked his death with police shootings of a number of other unarmed black men in recent years.

Reynolds, whose account has since been reinstated, said Twitter asked him to delete the tweet to return to service. He posted the tweet elsewhere lest he be accused of “airbrushing.”

On his blog Thursday, after his tweet attracted attention, Reynolds said, “I’ve always been a supporter of free speech and peaceful protest. … But riots aren’t peaceful protest. And blocking interstates and trapping people in their cars is not peaceful protest — it’s threatening and dangerous, especially against the background of people rioting, cops being injured, civilian-on-civilian shootings and so on.”

Reynolds “wouldn’t actually aim for people blocking the road,” he wrote, “but I wouldn’t stop, because I’d fear for my safety, as I think any reasonable person would.” He later said that he agreed with a suggestion that “Keep driving” would have been more in line with what he was thinking, but that his tweets “can’t be all be perfect.”

On Thursday, Melanie D. Wilson, dean of Tennessee’s College of Law, posted a statement to the university website saying that she was “aware of the remarks” and of the “serious and legitimate concerns expressed by members of the [law college] family and the University of Tennessee community, as well as concerned citizens across the country.”

Wilson said Reynolds’s comments “do not reflect my views and opinions, nor do they reflect the values of the college and university,” and that she, administrators and faculty members are “investigating this matter.”

While the university is committed to academic freedom and diverse viewpoints, and Wilson and her colleagues support civil disobedience and free speech, she said, “we do not support violence or language that encourages violence. [Reynolds] has built a significant platform to discuss his viewpoints, but his remarks on Twitter are an irresponsible use of his platform.”

Seeming to invoke Reynolds’s status as a teacher, Wilson added that Tennessee law students are to become “not only responsible lawyers, but also responsible global citizens who are able to competently represent people of all backgrounds.”

Via email, Reynolds said he hadn’t been contacted by the university about any investigation, beyond Wilson’s statement. He referred additional questions to Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

A university spokesperson confirmed that Tennessee is investigating the case. “University administrators, as well as the College of Law dean and faculty, are discussing a number of issues related to the tweet,” she said via email.

On Thursday evening, Reynolds published an apology in USA Today, where is a contributor; the newspaper promptly said it was suspending his column. "Wednesday night one of my 580,000 tweets blew up," Reynolds wrote said. "I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA Today’s standards. For that I apologize, to USA Today readers and to my followers on social media."

Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for tenure, governance and academic freedom at AAUP, said what matters is that any question of whether Reynolds’s tweets merit discipline should be referred to a faculty committee.

AAUP’s statement on extramural utterances — those outside of teaching or research — says that the “controlling principle is that a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness to serve. Extramural utterances rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for continuing service. Moreover, a final decision should take into account the faculty member’s entire record as a teacher and scholar.”

Of course, referrals to a faculty committee don’t always happen. Steven Salaita was famously “unhired” by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014 for his anti-Israel tweets — which some said incited violence — absent a faculty review. A key difference between that case and Reynolds is that Salaita hadn’t quite started his job, and Reynolds is a chaired professor. AAUP censured the university over the incident, and Illinois eventually settled a lawsuit alleging breach of contract and First Amendment violations with Salaita.

Reynolds’s case also recalls that of David Guth, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas who was suspended from teaching prior to a faculty review for tweeting the following after the 2013 shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington: “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters.”

Critics said Guth was advocating more violence. FIRE argued that his speech was protected, and Guth said at the time that he didn’t wish gun violence on anyone but that "if it does happen again — and it likely will — may it happen to those misguided miscreants who suggest that today’s death toll at the Navy Yard would have been lower if the employees there were allowed to pack heat." He was allowed to return to teaching, but the Kansas Board of Regents ultimately approved a new policy limiting what employees may say on social media. The move was panned by First Amendment advocates, but the regents argued the new policy would better facilitate free speech.

via Inside Higher Ed http://ift.tt/2cWlASL

University mental health services face strain as demand rises 50%

Via Higher Education Network | The Guardian: http://ift.tt/2cW0LIC


Figures show significant rise over five years, with more first-year and international students seeking counselling

The number of students seeking counselling at university has rocketed by 50% in the last five years, according to figures obtained by the Guardian.

As tens of thousands of teenagers leave their family homes this week and begin to arrive on campuses for freshers’ week, research shows that university counselling services are under increasing pressure as demand grows.

Continue reading…

The Flipped Classroom Unplugged: Three Tech-Free Strategies for Engaging Students

Throughout this summer article series, we’ve addressed some of the most frequently asked questions about the flipped classroom in higher education. We’ve shared ideas for student motivation, student engagement, time management, student resistance, and large classes. Since this is the final article in the series, I reviewed my notes and the findings from the Faculty Focus reader survey on flipped classroom trends (2015), and there’s one more topic we need to address:  creativity.

“I don’t know if I’m creative enough to flip my class. How do you keep coming up with new teaching strategies and tools to engage students during class time?”

In almost every workshop I teach, at least one participant asks me this question. And, the findings from the Faculty Focus reader survey highlight the scope of this concern among educators. Almost 79% of the survey respondents indicated that “being creative and developing new strategies and ideas” was sometimes, often, or always a challenge when implementing the flipped classroom model.

By design, the flipped classroom model challenges you to plan activities and learning experiences where students focus on applying, analyzing, and evaluating course content during class time. It does take a certain amount of creativity to flip your classroom, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. You can flip your class using simple strategies that allow for students to interact with the material and engage with each other.

For example, lately, I’ve been exploring the idea of flipping moments in our classes without using technology. What would happen if we got back to the basics with some of our activities and used everyday tools to engage students in higher levels of thinking? Would this help some of us overcome some of these feelings of intimidation and inspire us to be more creative? To start the conversation and get the creative ideas flowing, here are three “unplugged” flipped strategies you can add to your class to engage students.

Flipped Strategy:  Adaptation of Muddiest Point
Tool:  Index Cards
“Muddiest Point” is a classroom assessment technique that allows students the opportunity to tell you what they are still confused or unclear about from the lesson (Angelo and Cross, 1993). Ask students to write their “muddiest point” on an index card. You may want to specifically focus their attention on the material from today’s lecture, yesterday’s lab, last night’s homework, or any other learning experience you want them to examine. After your students complete the task, divide them into groups and tell them to analyze the cards based on some set of criteria. Ask them to look for patterns, common themes, categories, or outliers. Note how this adaptation of the Muddiest Point activity challenges students to move beyond just explaining what they don’t understand and into the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. They are now summarizing, sorting, analyzing, and evaluating the cards while looking for connections and themes.

Bonus idea: After students sort the cards, challenge them to find the answers together. If you want to keep things “unplugged,” tell them they can only use their textbook, hand-written notes, or other printed materials.


Join Barbi Honeycutt on Oct. 18 for The Flipped Classroom: Strategies to Overcome Student Resistance and Increase Student Engagement. During the program, she’ll provide strategies you can use to create a successful flipped learning experience for you and your students. You will learn how to identify the reasons that some students resist the flipped classroom model and how you can address those challenges to increase the likelihood that they will come to class prepared. Learn More »


Flipped Strategy: Mind Mapping
Tools: Sticky Notes, Whiteboard, Markers
Give each pair or group of students a stack of sticky notes and ask them to go to the whiteboard or chalkboard. Assign a topic related to the course material and challenge students to create a mind map of the topic using only their sticky notes. Explain that they can only put one idea on each sticky note, but they can use as many sticky notes as they need. Encourage them to use markers or chalk to draw lines and make connections between the ideas/concepts so you can see how their mind map is organized. By using sticky notes, it’ll be easier for the students to change their maps based on new ways of thinking.

Bonus idea: If you assign all groups the same topic, then you can ask them to rotate around the room and compare and contrast the different mind maps. You could give each group a different colored sticky note so they can add to another group’s mind map, almost like a gallery walk but with sticky notes.

Flipped Strategy: Brainstorming Challenge
Tools:  Pair of Dice, Worksheet
Give students a case study, question, or problem that benefits from brainstorming. Then, divide students into groups and give each group a pair of six-sided dice. Tell students to roll the dice, and whatever number they roll represents the number of answers they need to generate. For example, if they roll a four and a five, they need to brainstorm nine possible solutions. If they roll a pair of sixes, they need to brainstorm 12 possible solutions. Give them a worksheet to record their ideas. Once groups have completed their challenge, ask them to switch their worksheets with another group and review their lists. This could be the beginning of a class discussion, or you could go another round and see how many more ideas students can add to another group’s list.

Bonus idea: At the end of this activity, ask students to review all of the ideas, select the top two best solutions, and justify their decision.

Hopefully these unplugged flipped strategies will inspire you to be creative in your own way. Your flipped classroom may not look like your colleague’s flipped classroom, and that’s okay. It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. There isn’t one “right” way to flip your class. The most important takeaway is to use the tools and strategies that make the flipped model work for you and your students.

Thank you for following the series this summer. I hope I have addressed many of your questions about the flipped model, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Now it’s your turn! What “unplugged” flipped strategies have you used in your classes to enhance student engagement?

Resources
Angelo, T. & Cross, P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd edition. Jossey-Bass.

Honeycutt, B. (July 7, 2016). Three ways you can use index cards to FLIP your class: Another “unplugged” flipped strategy. Published on LinkedIn. Available online: http://ift.tt/2cHHnfj

Barbi Honeycutt is the owner of FLIP It Consulting in Raleigh, N.C. and an adjunct assistant professor at NC State University. Her new book 101 Unplugged Flipped Strategies to Engage Your Students. Connect on Twitter @BarbiHoneycutt and on her blog.

The post The Flipped Classroom Unplugged: Three Tech-Free Strategies for Engaging Students appeared first on Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning.

via Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning http://ift.tt/2d4R1we

Evaluating Student Evaluations

Zero Correlation Between Evaluations and Learning

New study adds to evidence that student reviews of professors have limited validity.

September 21, 2016

By

Colleen Flaherty

A number of studies suggest that student evaluations of teaching are unreliable due to various kinds of biases against instructors. (Here’s one addressing gender.) Yet conventional wisdom remains that students learn best from highly rated instructors; tenure cases have even hinged on it.  [more]

What Happens When Students Study Together?

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Date: September 21, 2016 at 8:58:34 AM EDT
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What Happens When Students Study Together?Teaching Professor Blog.

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Faculty Focus
September 21, 2016
What Happens When Students Study Together?
By Maryellen Weimer, PhD

I’m a strong believer in the benefits of students studying together, even though students don’t always understand or even experience the benefits. Oftentimes the potential gains of group study sessions are compromised by student behaviors. Students will saunter into study sessions, mostly not on time, sit around, check their phones, and socialize. When they finally start reviewing their notes, the text, or the homework problems, it’s all pretty superficial. There are very few questions, explanations, or confessions of confusion. The most intense conversation takes place over what they’ve heard from others about the exam and their hopes that it will be easy.

If students studied more seriously, many (actually I think it’s most) of them would benefit enormously from study groups. Working with others provides a safe place to ask questions and admit confusion. Often it’s easier for students to understand each other than the teacher. When students figure out things on their own, that builds confidence. And when students explain things to each other, the student doing the explaining comes to a deeper understanding.

What students need when they study together is guidance. But who among us has time to organize and manage study groups? I’ve been trying to think of some efficient ways teachers can improve how students study together. Your help with the list of options would be appreciated.

Encourage collaboration

  • Make the case for study groups. Explain to your students why and how study groups improve exam performance for most students.
  • Demonstrate the benefits by using groups during in-class review. See the list of activities below for ideas.
  • Let students form the groups and figure out the logistics: who, how many, and meeting times, including frequency and length. One study buddy is better than none.
  • Offer to connect students who’d like to study with others.
  • Emphasize studying together as part of exam preparation for one exam, challenging students to see if getting together as a group helps them learn.


Activities students can do when they study together

  • Generate potential exam questions or problems. Each group member works with a chunk of content, preparing possible test questions or problems the group uses to test their knowledge and understanding.
  • Facilitate discussion of notes. Each group member is responsible for one or more class session(s). That person then leads the group’s discussion of the designated content, identifies what’s most important, where there’s related material in the text, and how that content fits with other material that’s been covered.
  • Prepare study guides. Each group member takes a section of text and prepares review materials for the rest of the group.
  • “Grade” answers. Provide groups with the responses to sample essay questions and let students grade them. Their discussion can help generate a grading criteria for essay answers.
  • Determine what’s likely to be on the test. The group constructs a list of content areas, concepts, or details that everyone in the group agrees they’ll need to know for the exam.

Offer guidelines that make study sessions productive

  • Members arrive on time; the session starts and ends on time.
  • Students get together regularly for shorter sessions rather than for one marathon study session before a big exam.
  • Make an agenda; members decide beforehand what the group will be doing.
  • Group members come prepared. Everyone is expected to contribute. Those who don’t contribute are constructively confronted.
  • The group doesn’t waste time. Socializing, checking phones, and other disruptive actions are kept to a minimum. It’s about the content.
  • Members treat each other with respect; no one is demeaned when they are confused or have trouble understanding a concept even after it’s been explained.
  • There’s a spirit of sharing. People help each other.
  • Members do what the group needs. If the discussion is off track, someone gets the group back on task. If someone is not contributing, their participation is invited.

Provide possible incentives

  • If everyone in the group scores above a certain level, everyone in the groups receives a designated number of points.
  • Make study group participation an optional, extra-credit assignment. Groups must register with you and report on their sessions (who was there, what they did), and each member writes a short paper after the exam, reflecting on his or her experience. If all that happens, it counts as an assignment.
  • Groups may submit potential exam questions. Those questions that show up on the exam are identified as “group questions,” and if everyone in the group gets the question correct, they get a bonus point.
  • Allow groups who are registered and meet regularly to take one of the quizzes as a group with everyone receiving the group grade.
The Teaching Professor
Call for Proposals
2017 Teaching Professor Conference

Call for Proposals

For faculty who are passionate about the art and science of teaching, The Teaching Professor Conference is the premier event in the U.S. There is no better forum for an exhilarating exchange of ideas for improving teaching and learning.

We are now accepting proposals for 60-minute workshops and poster presentations.

The Teaching Professor Conference is known for attracting a roster of high-quality, engaging presenters; that’s why we’re asking you to be a part of next year’s event. Whether you are a new or returning presenter, we encourage you to seriously consider this opportunity to share your expertise at a conference of your peers.

Featured topical areas are:

  • Instructional Design
  • Active Learning Assignments and Activities
  • Teaching Specific Types of Students
  • Instructional Vitality: Ways to Keep Teaching Fresh and Invigorated
  • Teaching and Learning with Technology
  • Grading and Feedback
  • Faculty Development

The Teaching Professor Conference is an intensive three days of plenary presentations, preconference workshops, concurrent sessions, poster presentations, and more. Here is your chance to be a part of it in 2017 as we head to St. Louis, June 2-4!

Deadline for proposal submissions is Saturday, October 31.

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Free Technology for Teachers: 5 Common Classroom Blog Mistakes

 

http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2016/09/5-common-classroom-blog-mistakes.html#.V974-jtmn_Q

5 Common Classroom Blog Mistakes


A classroom blog can be a powerful tool for improving communication with parents, for building a sense of community amongst your students, and for creating a record of what you and your students have learned throughout a school year. But you can only reap these benefits of classroom blogs if you maintain the blog and avoid some of the most common mistakes made in classroom blogging.

1. Making it optional:
If you make it optional for students and parents to visit the classroom blog, they’ll generally opt not to view it.

2. Inconsistency:
It is better to post once a week on the same day than it is to post three posts in one week and two the next and four the following week.

3. Lack of purpose:
I often hear people say, “I don’t know what we should blog about.” Without a defined purpose for a blog it is hard to come with ideas for individual blog posts. If you identify a purpose, “weekly reflections on learning” is a good purpose, you will find it easier to come up with topics for individual blog posts.

4. Not publicizing your blog:
You might be thinking, “but my blog is public, isn’t that enough?” In the old days of blogging, it probably was enough to just make your blog public. People weren’t distracted by social media networks on their phones and in their web browsers. Today, you need to remind people that your blog exists. Schedule your blog posts to be automatically Tweeted, shared on Facebook, and sent in email.
5. Leaving out the visuals:
Apply the old adage of, “a picture tells a thousand words” to your blog posts. Putting an image or two into every blog post helps to draw readers into your posts. If you don’t have a picture that exactly matches your blog post’s topic, create one in service like Canva.

I’ll be covering these topics and many more in my upcoming webinar series Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders.

Trigger Warning: Elitism, Gatekeeping, and Other Academic Crap

Making the rounds on Twitter today was a letter from the University of Chicago (more specifically, the Dean of Students) to the incoming students of the Class of 2020 with the purpose, I guess, of letting them know they were in for a real education. More of a full-on broadside than a welcome letter, the dean let the incoming students know in no uncertain terms, that the University is totally committed to academic freedom and “freedom of expression” from its faculty and students. 

What this means in practice, the letter continues, is that “we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” And, if you’ve watched students at other campuses, the Dean warns, don’t get any crazy ideas about protesting invited speakers: “we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial.” And, for the love of Milton Friedman, “Our commitment to academic freedom means we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings.’” WE ARE A MIGHTY RACE OF INTELLECTUAL WARRIORS.

Defender of Academic Integrity
Defender of Academic Integrity

As you might imagine, there’s been a wave of support from the usual quarters for the letter and its sentiments; I assume that’s what such a blatant attempt at elitist posturing was aiming for in the first place. On the surface, the points seem hard to argue with. Academic freedom is the sine qua non of higher education. Students ought to be challenged, even made uncomfortable, in order to learn in deep and meaningful ways. And, of course, collegiate education is where students must encounter perspectives different from their own. No one who genuinely believes in higher education is going to dispute any of that. And that’s what this Dean and the anti-trigger-warnings, no-safe-spaces crowd are counting on–that the surface veneer of reasonableness in these admonitions to the Class of 2020 will obscure the rotten pedagogy and logical fallacies that infest this entire screed.

Even the timing of this missive raises questions. Why go full blast against this purported scourge of wimpy, touchy-feely educational malpractice right up front? Is there a safe-spaces petition percolating in the ranks of the first-years? Are the dean and the university worried that people will lose respect for the almighty maroon if they didn’t stake out the tough-guy intellectual turf from the beginning? Did they sit around and ask themselves what Milton Friedman would have done? From the outside, it looks like a lot of smoke without much heat. I suspect that this letter is not intended as an orientation statement, but rather a public rebuke to what its authors see as a threat to their vision of what higher education ought to be. It’s not a welcome letter, it’s a manifesto looking for an audience.

And as a statement of principle, the letter-as does much of the general argument against trigger warnings and safe spaces-relies on caricature and bogeymen rather than reason and nuance. The document comes from a place, I imagine, where the true defenders of Academic Rigor™ man the parapets against the encroaching legions of namby-pamby liberals who want to coddle students instead of teach them. Ohhh, you want a safe space so the mean nasty Truths of the world won’t hurt your wittle feewings. You want to be “warned” before we discuss “sensitive” subjects. WELL HEY JUNIOR, “WAR AND PEACE” HAS WAR IN IT. If you don’t like it, go sit on the quad and sing kum-ba-yah with the other flower children. That’s the specter that arguments like this conjure up: the greatest threat to genuine academic freedom comes from within. Coddled students who are used to getting trophies for everything don’t want to engage with stuff they don’t like, so they wrap themselves in entitlement and demand trigger warnings to protect their feelz. Or they want safe spaces to hide from the big, bad world. Or they want the university to cancel a lecture because the speaker is from the wrong demographic. And if universities don’t make a stand against this foolishness, Western Civilization itself will collapse.

That’s a comforting narrative to the academic elite who feel like they’re faced with an existential crisis. Rather than seeing themselves as clinging to the last vestiges of the 1950s, they get to paint themselves as staunch advocates of all that is good and worthy. And there’s an audience for this fiction-people still read Alan Bloom. But as critiques of inequality have shown time and again, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the backlash against so-called “political correctness” in higher education has intensified in direct variation with the diversification of the academy, areas of scholarship, and-most significantly-the student population. Underlying much of the hand-wringing about the state of the academy is a simple desire to have the gatekeepers remain in place. The perception of the threat is entirely out of alignment with the reality on the ground. For every ginned-up hypothetical scenario of spoiled brats having a sit-in to protest too many white guys in the lit course, there are very real cases where trigger warnings or safe spaces aren’t absurdities, but pedagogical imperatives. If I’m teaching historical material that describes war crimes like mass rape, shouldn’t I disclose to my students what awaits them in these texts? If I have a student suffering from trauma due to a prior sexual assault, isn’t a timely caution the empathetic and humane thing for me to do? And what does it cost? A student may choose an alternate text I provide, but this material isn’t savagely ripped out of my course to satiate the PC police.

To move from the hypothetical to the real, the Virginia Tech students who protested their university’s invitation to Charles Murray to deliver a lecture weren’t some sort of intellectual gestapo, they were members of a community calling out other members’ violation of the community’s ethos. Murray is a racist charlatan who’s made a career out of pseudoscientific social darwinist assertions that certain “races” are inherently inferior to others.To bring him to campus is to tell segments of your student community that, according to the ideas the university is endorsing by inviting Murray, they don’t belong there. This isn’t a violation of academic freedom. It’s an upholding of scientific standards and the norms of educated discourse-you know, the type of stuff that colleges and universities are supposed to stand for, right?

These two examples-one centered in an individual classroom and the other involving institutional decisions-speak to the diversity and complexity of the issues involved. It’s easy to inveigh against silly scenarios. It’s much harder to address real things that really happen. Do I tell my student that, even though she was the victim of a brutal assault in her past, that she must read testimony of gang-rape survivors in my course in order to uphold the sacred values of free intellectual inquiry? Sure, Charles Murray has a right to his views. But is it OK for us to use student fees paid in part by African American students to bring him to campus, fete him, and give him a rostrum to tell those students they’re doomed by genetics to be inferior to whites? Well, he makes a strong argument and isn’t bound by conventional “niceties.” Yes, that’s true. But that’s also the reason people claim to like Donald Trump, and I don’t see universities lining up to bring him in as a guest lecturer.

Ignoring the complexity of real-life situations is a common accusation hurled at academics and the academy in general. Why on earth would we be so eager, in this case, to prove those accusations true? To prevent imaginary sit-down strikes against Victorian Literature, we’re willing to force students into a predetermined path where to deviate is to compromise academic integrity? Are we so scared of losing the intellectual heft of our curricula that we want to muzzle our students and deprive them of agency?

Or are we just afraid of our students challenging us and holding us accountable to the very values we profess?

As a faculty member, I would be enormously dismayed if my dean sent this letter to my incoming students. Because now they’ll come into my class already having received a clear message about what my institution seems to value-and it isn’t them. The Chicago letter reeks of arrogance, of a sense of entitlement, of an exclusionary mindset; in other words, the very things it seeks to inveigh against. It’s not about academic freedom, it’s about power. Know your place, and acknowledge ours, it tells the students. We’ll be the judge of what you need to know and how you need to know it. And professors and students are thus handcuffed to a high-stakes ideological creed. Do it this way, in the name of all that is holy and true in the academy. There is no room here for empathy, for student agency, or for faculty discretion. 

Displaying empathy for the different experiences our students bring to the classroom is not a threat to our academic freedom. Allowing for a diversity of perspectives to flourish, even when that diversity might challenge the very structure of our course and its material, is not a threat but an opportunity. Our first reaction to expressions of student agency, even when they seem misguided or perhaps frivolous, should not be to shut it down. If we really value academic freedom, then we need to model that with and for our students. Ableism, misogyny, racism, elitism, and intellectual sloppiness deserve to be called out. That’s not a threat, that’s our students doing what they’re supposed to as engaged citizens of an academic community. This year, we should challenge ourselves to quit fixating on caricatures and hypotheticals and instead acknowledge the actual landscape of teaching and learning in all its messiness and complexity. When we act out of fear, we do harm. When we assume the worst from our students, that’s what we often end up getting-from them and from ourselves. We can do better than this.

(Note: I turned off the comments because some folks thought jumping into the comments and personally abusing others was a cool thing to do. For all those who left thoughtful comments and kept the conversation going for all of us to learn from, thank you. For those who came to abuse others, you’re the reason we can’t have nice things.)

via The Tattooed Professor http://ift.tt/2bxOFEC

Innovation — Everyone Says It’s the Answer, but Is It What Colleges Need?

Many people in higher education are working to make college more accessible and effective. Even some who are succeeding, though, acknowledge that praise and money tend to follow what’s “new” more than what works.

via The Chronicle of Higher Education | News http://ift.tt/2cTatZG