“That’s Not What Happened to Me”

This is a guest post by Kevin Brown, a professor of English at Lee University. His article, “That’s Not What Happened to Me,” appears in the online version of the January-February 2014 issue of Academe.

I do a fairly decent job of keeping up with higher education news, especially as it relates to my discipline.  Thus, I’ve been reading about the controversial resolution on Israel from the MLA convention that just recently ended, as well as all the conversations about the job market that might never recover.  I’ve seen the discussions about the lack of information on placement rates from graduate programs and the effects that lack have on students pursuing advanced degrees, including the continuing rise of the alt-ac movement.  Related to that problem is the rise in the use of adjuncts, an issue that has been a regular point of debate since I was looking for a job in the mid-1990s.  I have even seen a consistent rise in articles about finding jobs teaching in community colleges. Continue reading

12 Angry Professors? (Not Quite)

How is a courtroom like a classroom? The two may not seem related – but as Patricia Evridge Hill writes in the new issue of Academe, they are more alike than you might think. While serving as the foreperson of a jury recently, Hill realized that the eleven other members of her group had a lot in common with a small college seminar. And, after all, the job of both the academic and the member of the jury is to look through evidence in search of truth.

So Hill approached the organization of the jury just like a college discussion section – splitting into groups of three to discuss each member’s view of the case, and challenging people to question which parts of the evidence were most reliable. To read the entire article (and find out if the defendant was found guilty or not guilty!) head over to the AAUP website.

Reign of Error: the important new book by Diane Ravitch

This is crossposted from Daily Kos at the request of Aaron Barlow:

The testing, accountability, and choice strategies offer the illusion of change while changing nothing. They mask the inequity and injustice that are now so apparent in our social order. They do nothing to alter the status quo. They preserve the status quo. They are the status quo.

Those words appear on p. 225 of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, the new book by Diane Ravitch. The words are a summary of what has been wrong with recent educationl They appear in Chapter 21, titled “Solutions: Start Here” which is where Ravitch begins to offer a different vision for how to improve public education.

Ravitch’s last, blockbuster, book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education thoroughly exposed the emptiness of the so-called reform movement and what it is doing to American education, as I noted in this review.

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The Reflective Practice of Teaching

The following was written for the blog of the Whole Child Initiative of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, where it went live today. You can see the original here

As a teacher, I cannot imagine not reflecting as a regular part of my teaching practice.

Part of this is because as a shy person who was also an extravert, I had to think about how to interact with other people. I would even as a child take time to step back and reflect—What had I done and why? Had it achieve what I wanted? Why or why not? Was what I wanted an appropriate goal?

From this I began to learn that reflecting after the fact was insufficient: I needed to think about the “why” before I did an action, and to some degree I needed to be able to be metacognitive, that is, to be able to observe and reflect even as I was acting and speaking, to take in and process visual and auditory cues such as tone of voice and body language.

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Analysis of the NAS Report on “Recasting History”

By Allan J. Lichtman, Distinguished Professor of History, American University

This analysis examines the report of the National Association of Scholars: RECASTING HISTORY: ARE RACE, CLASS, AND GENDER DOMINATING AMERICAN HISTORY? (January 2013). The report studies courses as the University of Texas, Austin and Texas A & M University. It concludes that introductory history classes at these two universities, especially Texas, Austin have an “inordinate emphasis” on race, class and gender. Unfortunately, rather than an impartial, scientific study, the report is ideology masquerading as scholarship. The report and its accompanying recommendations violate the NAS’s own values of scholarly excellence, openness, impartiality, and academic freedom.

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We All Politicize History

By Robert Jensen

Here’s an interesting question for historians: Why do ideologues never seem to be aware of their own ideology?

Such is the case with the recent report from the Texas Association of Scholars and the National Association of Scholars’ Center for the Study of the Curriculum, “Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?

First-Year Composition: Teaching or Service?

The November-December issue of Academe looks at faculty service. It is perhaps the most ambiguous of the traditional triad along with teaching and research, and the articles in this issue seek to describe the different ways that faculty conceive of service, and the different ways that service is (or is not) recognized. Read the issue here.

When faculty teach introductory writing courses, should that count as “teaching,” in the traditional sense, or “service”? It seems absurd to suggest that teaching students is anything other than teaching, but consider: many of these classes are required for all students at a university, which means English departments need to scramble for instructors. Since everyone takes them, not all students will be as interested and involved as in a higher-level English class. Linda Adler-Kassner and Duane Roen discuss these and other issues in their new Academe article, “An Ethic of Service in Composition and Rhetoric.”

Plus ça change…

Three years before publication of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America in 1835, Frances Trollope, mother of Anthony (then not yet twenty), saw her Domestic Manners of the Americans reach print. It’s a delightful book, though not particularly kind to the people of the young republic. Nonetheless, Mrs. Trollope had quite the eye, and wit to match.

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