Sunday, September 30, 2012

Papa Paul and the Contemplative Cynic

Once upon a time, on the campus in the far reaches of Academia-land worked Papa Paul. Papa Paul was witty and funny. He readily added students to his already-full Hamster Scribbling for Beginners classes and spent the majority of class time talking about the drama on "Dancing with the Stars" and the antics of the Kardashian clan. He was companionable, he gently mocked students' foibles, and he never expected more of them than he was willing to put out. 

Reading Ahead of Time? Only if you want to do it.

Assignments? Heck, no, he'd just have to grade them.
Quizzes? Open book, of course, then grade them in class & tell him your score.
Essays? Strictly pictorial or oral. If you must turn something in, do it on a Post-It note.
Attendance? Only if you have something interesting to share from last night's TV lineup.
Facebook in class? The preferable mode of participation.

And the students loved Papa Paul. They loved him so much that they transferred out of other classes to sign up for Papa Paul's classes. They loved him so much that they crowded into his classrooms and larger rooms had to be found. Papa Paul turned no one away because Papa Paul loved to be loved.

The love of Papa Paul's life, however, were not his students. The love of Papa Paul's life was Toddler Ty. Toddler Ty demanded a lot of attention from Papa Paul. Toddler Ty refused to go to Day Care, for one thing, and Toddler Ty refused to stay home with his stay-at-home mama. Toddler Ty cried and cried and begged Papa Paul not to leave him at home, so Papa Paul brought Toddler Ty to work with him all week. And when this became a problem for Papa Paul (Toddler Ty probably shouldn't have been allowed to play alone in the Photo Lab), he flattered and cajoled and begged the chair for a different schedule that would allow him to teach during Toddler Ty's naptime. And when the chair balked, he claimed that Toddler Ty has a disability (one that is yet undiagnosed, but which will require diagnosis). And because Papa Paul was loved by all, the chair agreed to have someone take over his two morning sections of Hamster Scribbling for Beginners and gave him two sections of online classes that begin later in the quarter.

And this is how the Contemplative Cynic ended up teaching two extra sections of Hamster Scribbling for Beginners classes that are twice the size they should be. 

This is how the Contemplative Cynic came to be hated by two extra sections of classes that are twice the size they should be. 

This is how the Contemplative Cynic came to hate Papa Paul and the weak-spined chair who caved in to Papa Paul. 

This is how the Contemplative Cynic came to be searching for a job outside of Academia-land. And no one lived happily ever after.

The End.

We're Half in Love With Zac. RedHawks Down Zips 56-49. (None of that is made up...)

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Zac Dysert threw 6 touchdown passes, had 624 total yards and the Miami (Ohio) defense grabbed the only turnover of the game in the final play to seal a wild 56-49 win over Akron Saturday.

Dysert handed off to Justin Semmes for the game-winner for the RedHawks (3-2, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) - a 3-yard TD run with 1:04 remaining. But the Zips (1-4, 0-1) got the ball back one final time, moving to the Miami 38-yard line to set up one final heave. Zips quarterback Dalton Williams tossed it toward the end zone, where Brison Burris intercepted at the 1-yard line to end it.

Before Miami's winning score, Akron had pulled ahead for the first time since the opening quarter on an 18-yard connection between Williams and Dee Frieson for a 49-48 advantage with 7:06 to play.

Dysert finished with 516 pass yards and 108 rushing.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why Do I Do This Again?

Students in two sections are working on a major research project. They've reached the critical halfway point. If they do this part correctly, the rest will be a breeze. If they blow it, finishing will be like trying to swim in mud.

I give them an opportunity for free help at each junction of the project. I ask them to turn in a rough draft of the part they are working on. It doesn't even have to be complete. It can be just a paragraph or two so I can see if they're on the right track with the section. They get full points for turning ANYTHING in that looks remotely like what I requested, and I in turn give them feedback before they have to turn in the portion for full credit.

The most recent segment was due Wednesday. When I went to read the drafts, two students in one section had followed directions; only one was smart enough to get it in the second section. I decided surely I must have done something wrong if so few did what I wanted. I provided comments to everyone who turned something in, telling those who screwed up what they did wrong and what I needed to see. I then announced to the classes Friday that they could redo the assignment and I'd take it for full credit till midnight last night.

I just checked my assignment box. Only four more students even made an attempt to try again. So seven students out of 42 will be getting points that are all but free. Another 30 will be getting token points for having turned in something, even though it's not what I asked for, and will no doubt be whining about what little they earned. Coming to class and hearing me say it, reading the comment I put on your piece-of-shit submission, and getting an announcement notification in your email about the extension for re-dos won't be enough. Clearly my customer service skills are lacking.

Don't get me started about the walking dead who are left. They refuse to do any work toward the project, don't respond to my emails and requests to see me during office hour, and also refused to drop. The drop date has passed.  Some will attempt to come back from the dead at the last minute, insisting they didn't understand the project or their teammates didn't contact them (all of which can be refuted since I require contact and work to be done through the LMS). I tried to warn them of the zombie apocalypse that would result from not doing their part on the project early on. One has already told me how horrible her life has been but how things are going to change right now. Unfortunately, when you've spent half the class letting your brain be eaten instead of using it, the outcome will not be what you want.  Hello, zombie; meet the nice, fat F your transcript will contain for the rest of your undead existence.

Today's VidShizzle. Grad School Scam. "You Know What It's Like? Scientology."

Friday, September 28, 2012

More with Less


We are being visited. By 15 chief financial officers from Really Large, Expensive Universities. They are coming to try and figure out how it is that we end up doing more with less money.  I mean, I have lots of suggestions here, and they start with cutting off 90 % of the president's salary and don't end before the football team gets scrapped.

Anyway, the CFOs wanted to meet with some real live students at a very awkward time. I just happen to be having my Master's course in Applied Underwater Basketweaving at that time, so one of those bright young things that keep popping up in the central administration called me to see if I could bring my students around for a coffee and a chat next week. I said "sure", and so she sent me a packet with all the information.

Well, the packet also contained a statement from our president. About how he's managed to institute budget cuts that are cheerfully accepted and supported by the faculty. All I know, is that it would be easy enough to recruit a group to cheerfully break every bone in his body the next time he sets foot on our part of the campus. People are seething. We were promised (tiny) pay raises after they cut a lot of "slack". The cuts have been made, but no pay raise on the monthly statements yet. Did I mention the extra teaching load? What about the cutbacks on research money? The tutorial program that got wiped out over the summer? The last free rooms made into offices for more administrative drones? And now lots of things that used to work nicely now need forms filled in in triplicate and signed personally.

I don't think the bright young thing realized that I am an ex-dean with an axe to grind. I shall prepare my students properly. It will be a lovely exercise in rhetoric.

Suzy from Square State

The Ballad of Pencil-Neck.

Dear Pencil-Neck Pete:

Thanks very much for showing up spectacularly late, sticking around to announce that I “screwed you again” by not making a three-point discussion board thread visible until three days before the post was due, and stating that you’ll be dropping Hamster Studies 3199 “just because of this” occurrence that you “can see happening all semester.”

Saying that you will attend every class meeting until the drop date also warms my heart. You clearly value education over grades, and I look forward to the next few weeks, when I can expect surly, passive-aggressive comments every time I ask the class a question.

I also appreciate hearing about your busy schedule and how the HMST 3199 schedule does not fit your needs. It’s a crying shame that your choice to enroll in a hybrid section does not mean you can work on a correspondence-school schedule and submit assignments at your convenience.

Furthermore, I’m sorry to hear that between your internship and other classes, you don’t have time to write an email that says “I’d like to turn in (assignment name) early, but the slot isn’t open yet on HamsterU LMS. Please accept the attached file” or even look at the course syllabus, where the assignment description has been posted since the semester’s beginning.

I earnestly look forward to having you in class another semester.

Go play in traffic,

Dr. Mindbender

I am a colander.

Those bastards in the "real world" sometimes say, "Those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach."

They are wrong:  I don't teach;  I judge.

I produce nothing.  I judge everything.

I fucking judge all day.  Every day.  Christmas day.  July 4.  Easter.

I used to produce.  They damn well know I am able to produce again and hopefully will do so before I die.  But for the time being, I produce nothing.

I judge.

I'm not like a colander.  I am a fucking colander.

I am used just like any amateur cook uses a colander to separate hir spaghetti from hir boiled water.  Hir goal is to get rid of all the fucking water and keep the good stuff for hir tummy.

My goal is to remove the incompetent, the crazies, the lazy, the underproductive, the chronically ill, the wasteful, the untrustworthy, the mentally ill, and the uselessly high-conflict fucktards.  Yes, that's what I do.  Our society doesn't want the useless stuff in its tummy, so I strain it out.

OK, I produce a little.  I teach a little.  And I train a little bit more.  Yes.  I do those things.

But my main job is to be a colander.  Overwhelmingly so.

Every goddamned day, I judge people.  Sometimes I am graceful about it.  Sometimes I am not.

I've been banged around for years because plenty of students, faculty, employees, parents, and various other stakeholders in the community have fought me.  They have whined, complained, lied, attacked, cried, whimpered, threatened, blackmailed, and attempted to bribe and seduce.

And, yet, I remain a colander.  That's what I am.

I am a colander.

Most Bizarre College Courses. From

Lego Robotics
Not all courses at MIT are about space exploration or engineering. One offering at MIT focuses on the fun side of robotics. Students can take a course in building robots with Lego. This course can be taken as part of an MIT course load. For students not enrolled full-time at MIT, there are courses available on a special student basis, costing $650 per unit. Although this is a six-unit seminar, MIT's minimum cost for special students is $5,850 for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame
Considering how much Lady Gaga has been in the public eye for her outlandish behavior, there's little wonder why she's made her way into a number of college discussions. For a mere $1,200 ($3,150 for out-of-state students), you can learn all about the social issues related to Lady Gaga's career at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. Those studying at the University of Virgina also have the opportunity to learn about Gaga in a course titled, "GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender and Identity."

Read the rest...

When a Post Comes In As One Big Paragraph, We Try to Post It Right Away! Academic Charlotte Anne Lets Loose!

OK you have got to be fucking kidding me. So the Prez sends out an email wherein s/he uses the horrifying phrase “improve customer service.” It’s not even subtle anymore. I can‘t even pretend it isn’t real. There is not enough bourbon in Bubba’s booze bin to erase it from my brain. It‘s real. It is the new dogma. AHHHHH! What is WORSE is that when I pointed this out to a colleague s/he states “Oh that’s fine for student affairs, registration and the like, I have no problem with that, as long as they don‘t expect it in my classroom.” WTF??? Jumpin’ Jebus on a pogo stick. REALLY??? Do you REALLY think that the snowflakes will magically change their behavior/attitudes from “customers” whilst in building X to “responsible adult learners” in building Y? Did someone from administration come by with some funky Kool-Aid while I was in class? And when Snowy McSnowflake doesn’t like the zero I just gave her in building Y, you can bet she will march her little ass over to building X where she will be a customer, and the customer is always right. And more importantly, the customer must always be HAPPY. Yeah, a customer service philosophy on one half of the campus will work great. Idiot. It is like trying to half flush the toilet. With about the same results. I don’t know what makes me more pissed off, the fact that we have officially moved into customer service mode or that I work with proffies who can’t see the problem with that.

-Academic Charlotte Anne

We Are Fascinated By Our Readers. We Love Knowing the Numbers, the Locations, The Kinds of Browsers. Sometimes Readers FREAK OUT When They Think We Are Outing Them By Showing a Globe With Some Fucking Pins In It. We Hope That's Not What Today Is Like.

No-Neck Norbert

In my Ancient Hamster Masterpieces online class, I have a student we will call No-Neck Norbert. He actually has even less of a neck than the gentleman pictured on the right. I find this fascinating for some reason. Norbert strolled into my office three hours past my stated time for students. I was on the phone assisting a colleague at the time.  Since I was unsure whether Norbert was there to see me or my office mate (having never seen Norbert in person), I asked quickly which professor he needed. He pointed to my name on the door rather than saying it. I got off the phone, invited him in, and asked how I could help him. The conversation went something like this:

NNN: You gave us a reading that's not in our books.

EnglishDoc: Which class are you in?

NNN: That hamster lit class.

EnglishDoc: I'm EnglishDoc. And you are...?

NNN: Norbert. [Thankfully I don't have more than one.]

EnglishDoc [holding out hand]: Nice to meet you, Norbert. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's Only the Fourth Week of the Semester

I gave the spiel on the first day: I don't accept excuses related to technology. Here's why: I leave ample time for students to complete the tasks I've assigned. Usually 5 days to a full week for the smaller assignments, and two to three weeks (or a month,for the final project) for the longer papers. Failure to complete the assignment due to "tech" glitches is not my problem. I even have a handout. Germane to this post are points 2(b) and 5:

2b.      You will be required to use the Drop Box to turn in some of the smaller assignments. The drop box will always have a “turn-in” deadline. If you miss the deadline, you cannot turn your work in late via email, nor will I accept it in person. 

a.      “My hard drive crashed.” Borrow a friend’s computer or go to the local library or come to campus, where the labs are open from 7:00 am - 10:00 pm.
b.      “My printer is out of ink.”
c.       “My thumb-drive won’t open on _____.”
d.      “My file won’t open.”
e.      “My battery died.”
f.        “My print allowance is used up.”
g.       “I don’t have a computer/internet at home.” If this is the case, you must make time to use any one of the school’s computer labs during normal campus hours (7am to 10pm) to complete work that must be done through the LMS.

The reason I do not accept these excuses is that YOU HAVE A CALENDAR with clear due dates for major papers, and I have purposefully spaced the assignments to give you plenty of time to complete them. The excuses related to technology are the result of work done at the last minute. This is your problem, not mine.

*In rare cases, I may make an exception; this requires you to meet with me during my office hours to plead your case.

Today's Big Thirsty. "Do you sometimes wish ... "

... they'd just be honest about cheating?

A Thirsty based upon today's exchange with Feigning Frankie:

FF: Omigawd, Dr. Scared, I don't know how TurnYouOut could have said most of my paper was copied. I SWEAR it is all my own work. I take my education seriously. I would NEVER (ever, in infinity years) cheat! I think the similarity might be because of how common the topic was.

Me (not even looking up): It is early in the quarter, so the questions are, yes, somewhat simpler. However, over 98% of the class was able to submit assignments with < 10% marked unoriginal.

FF: Ummmm....

Me (holding last page): Not to change the subject, but just wondering, did you really think eNotes and qualify as scholarly sources?

FF: Well ...

Me: And, Frankie, seriously, your opening is a word-for-word cut-and-paste of the list in the last paragraph of the page you cited. Then there are several other sentence long lifts from web sources, amounting to about 50% unoriginal content in a 3 page paper.

FF: [crickets]


Q1: Are you more/less likely to provide any latitude for a student who just admits to plagiarizing, instead of trying to explain it away?  (complexity of explanation notwithstanding) 

Q2: Would your inclination change if you knew you had full support and backing of your administration to crush the little ... darlings?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tennessee fraternity suspended after alcohol enemas. From CNN.

The University of Tennessee says it has suspended a fraternity chapter indefinitely and may refocus its alcohol education programs after police said a student was hospitalized following a weekend incident involving alcohol enemas.

Twelve Tennessee students were cited with underage drinking and one with disorderly conduct following the incident early Saturday at a Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter house, according to a university spokeswoman.

"Shock would not be an (overstatement)," Tim Rogers, vice chancellor of student life, told reporters Wednesday. "I myself had never heard of what has been alleged."
Knoxville police say they began investigating after a student was taken to the UT Medical Center in critical condition early Saturday with a blood alcohol level of 0.40 -- five times the legal cutoff for driving.

"Upon extensive questioning, it is believed that members of the fraternity were using rubber tubing inserted into their rectums as a conduit for alcohol as the abundance of capillaries and blood vessels present greatly heightens the level and speed of the alcohol entering the bloodstream as it bypasses the filtering by the liver," Knoxville Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said Monday in a statement.


An Apology from EMH.

Yesterday EMH posted a photo that many readers deemed inappropriate at best and highly objectionable at worst. Once we saw the post we took it down, but not before about 15 comments and about 20 emails had come in asking for its removal.

EMH has sent this note to us and since many folks have asked about the incident, we're going to share it with everyone.



Please allow me to apologize for what was an apparant lack of judgement/sensitivity on my part. My choice of the image was not to offend anyone, but to provide an image of my perception of classroom management, based on my own personal past experiences.

The horse was meant to symbolize multiple things:

1) An apparant dead system which worships classroom management but has no clue what it is.

2) What happens to an instructor who doesn't "manage" their classroom.

3) What happens to an instructor who does "manage" their classroom. (ie. Dean involvement which often results in the instructor not being offered classes as a result of involving the Dean. You know, being crapped on for doing your job, yet also being crapped on for not doing your job.)

4) What happens to an instructor's career as a result of being burnt out on managing their classrooms.

(Personally, I feel that, in college, if a student needs to be "managed" then it's time for them to leave. I'm not a babysitter. I'm there to provide an education and if they don't want one then they don't have to be there...)

I did not intend to offend anyone. I was just expressing my misery. However, I can understand that the image could have been taken the wrong way.

Please accept my sincerest apologies.


Stunning Developments. From USA Today.

Hi. I'm in your class.
I think.
by Mary Beth Marklein

More than half of 2012 high school graduates who took a college entrance exam did not have all of the skills they will need to succeed in college, or a career, a pair of recent reports conclude.

A report released last month by the Iowa City-based ACT found that at least 60% of 2012 high school graduates who took its test are similarly at risk of not succeeding in college.

The tests measure different skills, but colleges that require standardized admissions tests generally accept scores from either test. Among details:

Bob Schaeffer, spokesman for FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, said Monday that the dip in SAT scores show that high-stakes testing programs such as the federal No Child Left Behind law "have been a colossal failure."


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The takeaway: It's not plagiarism, it's light attribution...and free expression.

(Beginning with some context, for those not from Canadia:)

Canuckistan has a self-proclaimed "national" newspaper, The Grope and Flail. Its political leanings are often referred to as being centre-right, but could more accurately be described as centering the rights and rightness (and righteousness!) of the right. It spends a great deal of time/4 colour ink fellating our Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper (taking great care to NEVER muss his hair), and extolling the virtues of (multi-million-dollar) cottage life and $500 bottles of wine.

The Grope and Flail's star columnist is a... (pardon me while I grope for an appropriate noun that contains more than four letters and doesn't start with a "c")... well, she's Margaret Wente*. Commentary on her work has graced the pages of CM before...and if she'd seen our work, and it aligned with her political views, she'd have stolen it by now.  Chances are, she was a product tester for that handy iPad app.

You see, Wente is a serial plagiarist.  The only liberal thing about her is the way she "borrows" from the ideas of others. Repeatedly. Unrepentantly. And with a jaw-dropping sense of entitlement.  Sound familiar?

She's also been getting away with it for years.  (Again, sound familiar?)

Until now. (Sort of.)

Carol Wainio, an Ottawa U prof, runs a blog called Media Culpa. She's been documenting how Wente's work fails the journalistic test for years, sending side by side comparisons and detailed proof to the Grope time and again.  However, the Grope's Public Editor (a longstanding Grope insider) apparently wanted to hear about Peggy's blatant plagiarism about as much as the average department chair. Nothing happened...and the internet rumbles grew louder.

From the University of Missouri (St. Louis) Current. January 1975.

And Just When You Though the Job Market Couldn't Tumble Any Farther Downhill

Since the real MLA JIL doesn't have any jobs on it, I encourage all professors who are on the job market to search the postings at the MLA Jobs Tumblr--"putting the 'AACK!' in the tenure track," as the subtitle states.

I can see the real MLA getting upset by this kind of thing, but since the real MLA doesn't have any real jobs to advertise, and with each passing year serves less and less of a real purpose, I don't see why they would bother to cause any kind of a fuss.

An Early Thirsty From Donna in Durham.

Q: Today we had a substitute college professor today for our lecture. The class is intro to lit. The professor should us a diagram and the diagram had to do with problem solving in stories. He then said that the problem solving relates with sex. A student then asked "How do you get sex from problem solving" and the professor responded "you dont solve your problems with sex?" I was creeped out by the professor. Was him talking about sex like that out of line?

Ex-professor gets life in prison for campus shooting. From USA Today.

A Harvard-educated biologist was sentenced to life in prison without parole Monday after being convicted of going on a shooting rampage during a faculty meeting at an Alabama university, killing three colleagues and wounding three others in 2010.

The jury deliberated for about 20 minutes before convicting Amy Bishop. The former professor at the University of Alabama in Hunstville showed no reaction as the verdict was read. She did not speak in court, but her attorney said she has often expressed great remorse to the victims and their families.

"She is shattered beyond belief," attorney Roy Miller said.

Bishop avoided a death sentence by pleading guilty earlier this month to the shootings on Feb. 12, 2010. Before the guilty plea -- which she signed with a barely legible scrawl -- her attorneys had said they planned to use an insanity defense.

Full article.

Sheikh Mohammed unveiled iPad college scheme. From

Dubai’s ruler has announced around 13,000 students in UAE universities will receive iPads in a bid to improve their learning.

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, launched the "Mohammed bin Rashid Initiative for Smart Learning" on Sunday at the Abu Dhabi Men's College, the WAM news agency reported.

The iPad scheme covered about 13,000 male and female students in the foundation stages at Zayed University, the Emirates University and the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), WAM added.

Earlier this month, Arabian Business revealed UAE’s HCT, the country’s largest higher education institution, had struck a deal with a local Apple supplier which will see UAE campuses remove paper and pens from classrooms and become the first in the region to roll out iPad-only lessons.


sent in by CrayonEater

"It didn't happen. I wasn't there. It wasn't me."

First of all, "Alabama" has a lot of A's in it.  Four of them.  And no other vowels.  This is interesting. Almost as good as "Sequoia" having all the vowels.

Even better, if you remove three of the A's, then you can spell BLAM.


OK, that's sick.

But the real sicko thing is that the cold-hearted uberfucktard shot all those people in Huntsville and claimed, "It didn't happen. I wasn't there.  It wasn't me."  Furthermore, one of the students who sat in her class and watched her lecture that same day said she "seemed perfectly normal."

Can't make this shit up.  This utterly dwarfs the metaphor about fucktard proffies pissing into the wind and claiming they invented rain.  This uberfucktard, after all, can't be the naked emperor because she wasn't even there.

"What?" She shrugs.  "Me? I wasn't there.  It wasn't me. It didn't happen.  Mistakes were made. But it couldn't have been me.  I don't know what you're talking about."

{{{ sheepish shrug }}}

And then her student chimes in, "Well, actually, she was there, but she seemed perfectly normal."

Is this what they call the new normal?

I fucking hate this goddamned crap.  This is the fucking misery.  Not a single goddamned thing to laugh about.  Pure sadness and frustration.  Can't even get the satisfaction of blaming Harvard for this one, because apparently the uberfucktard had already murdered at least one other person before she attended Harvard.  This is the awful fucking misery.   The horror.  Goddamned shit.  The absurdity.

Monday, September 24, 2012

As Online Courses Grow, Sites Offering Unauthorized Academic Help Get More Brazen. From a Chronblog.

By Alisha Azevedo

Plenty of Web sites offer to write students’ papers or complete their assignments for a fee. But they appear to be growing more aggressive in promising to get students good grades for no work; some even promise to take entire online courses for students.

[A] relatively new Web site actually promises that former professors will be the ones writing term papers for hire. The site, Unemployed Professors, offers a commentary on higher education by purporting to hire disenchanted academics to complete assignments for students.

Leaders of the site, based in Montreal, say that they employ about 30 people qualified to teach at the college level—and that some held prior positions as adjuncts, lecturers, and graduate instructors. Others hold those positions now and work for the site to make money on the side, an employee using the pseudonym “Professor Fishnets” said in an e-mail interview on Thursday.

“This project is all about helping those who have been screwed/hosed/cheated by the academic system earn a living wage,” said Professor Fishnets. “The demise of the tenure system, the rise of adjuncts living under the poverty line, and the corporatization of the university are all developments that embody how the latter has screwed an entire generation of often competent academics. This is thus an ironic gesture oriented toward preserving living wages, protesting the over-commoditization of education, and making mad money—of course.”


The Unemployed Professors website.

Students show difficulties with college level writing. From the Indiana Statesman.

Hmm, it should say,
"Patrick Barcus, who
USED to be an
English instructor."
By Elizabeth Dawes

With difficulties in writing at ISU a growing concern ISU faculty attempts to trace the cause and think of what can be done to solve this.

The average SAT writing scores for ISU is 444. For 2011-2012 48.58 percent of first-time, first year freshmen scored between 400-499 on SAT writing out of a scale of 800. On a national level, the average SAT writing score for 2011 was 489.

Some ISU faculty view that admittance of students who are not adequately prepared may be a reason for the difficulties experienced with college writing.

“ISU cares only about numbers,” Patrick Barcus, English instructor, said. “Quality is not as important as quantity when it comes to enrollment here, which is why we have such a problem with retention. Many of our students come from school systems that are failing at the pedagogical level, and thus they produce unprepared students. ISU does not seem to care ... As far as ISU is concerned, if you have a pulse and a way to pay for tuition, you’re in.”


Teach those cranes to migrate!

Here is another story from a required conference last spring.  In my state, legislators have decided that we spend too much money on developmental education.  So they came up with a great fix for that!  Just get rid of developmental education!  Wow!  Why didn't I think of that?  I guess that is why they get paid the big bucks, huh?  So, what's gonna happen to those folks who graduate high school with out the most basic of basic skills?  Well, this is what's gonna happen.  We are going to have to teach in a way that they can acquire those while in a college level composition course.  We are just going to to have to find a way, folks!

So......we Composition profs are really a bit nervous. I mean, how are we gonna teach Composition courses with maybe half, maybe all of the students not able to read and write at the college level---shit, at the 3rd grade level?  And of course, do it without lowering standards! That goes without saying, just ask any administrator!  And without lowering pass rates, either?  How we gonna pull shit like that off?

So, the administration saw that we needed a pep talk, bless their hearts. And they arranged for one, and we all had to come in for a day long Friday conference with said talker of pep so that we could be inspired to go out there and make miracles happen, by God!

So, this person who was there to inspire us to work miracles told us the story of the cranes.  You can actually read about it online!  See, what happened was that the cranes had no adult cranes to teach them to migrate.  Not enough of them were being born in the wild, so they had no mamas and papas to teach them how to fly across the country.  If they could not learn, they'd die out.  Here the performer/speaker paused for dramatic effect.  Did the scientists just give up because it was a bad situation?  Did they say, oh well, I am not a crane, so what can I do about it?  They need their parents to teach them to migrate, obviously!  NO! THEY DID NOT she said with passion and conviction.  NO, THEY FOUND A WAY.  They made a little fake mama crane out of a helicopter. They used balloons.  They knew they were not parent cranes, but they knew that it was all dependent on them to make up for that and teach the cranes anyway.

And this was supposed to inspire us.  And folks, this woman was good.  She was captivating.  I loved watching the video she showed us about those cranes and their cross country migration course.  Wow.  that's some cool stuff, and I got lunch to go with it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dear Business Leaders, Please Make up your Zarking Minds!

Another installment in a series.  This one has been simmering for a while, but I decided to finally post in response to this little tidbit of hamster-nard-sucking wankery.

Dear Business Leaders,

            I wonder if I might have a moment of your time to try to straighten out an issue that has been troubling me.  I do apologize for presuming on your time like this, given that I’m not going to fork over any money for this consultation.  I hear you when you say how competitive you are. How money talks and bullshit walks, or however that charming catchphrase goes.  How there’s no free ride.  So it is with considerable deference that I approach with my humble request that you Please make up your Zarking minds!  Is the customer always right or not?
            I keep hearing about the importance of the business model.  And I sort of get it.  I took a little economics back in high school (and no, not of the home variety).  In a world of limited resources, there is no free ride.  Ultimately, we all have to convince others to pay for our wares, and if nobody is willing to pay, perhaps we should switch to doing something else.  OK, that seems pretty reasonable.  I’m a little uncomfortable about it, but I can see that maybe the students are customers.  Sort of.  If I hold my head to one side and kindof half close one eye.  I can at least meet you part way, and recognize that the one’s I’m spending all this time in the classroom for is the students.  So if they pay tuition, then that sortof makes them customers.
            So the customers are always right, huh?  Well then what in the name of the Arkelseizure's nose hairs are they doing in the classroom?  I mean, why would anybody pony up big tuition bucks if they are always right?  Are they insane?  No, that can’t be it, because then they wouldn’t be always right, and therefore, couldn’t possibly be customers.  So what gives?
            And while I’ve got your attention, here’s another one that troubles me.  See, every time I turn around one of you business leaders is going off about how colleges aren’t doing a good enough job with the students (er… customers, sorry).  How graduates don’t have the skilz they need to win the brave new future.  How most of them struggle to find their own blastopores with both hands and a flashlight. 

It's great that you have a degree, but can you plug in a printer?

Last Friday I attended a conference which addressed the place of the Community College in the 21st century.  There were a lot of speakers there, from the two state legislators who were primarily responsible for passing a bill in my state that will drastically reduce the amount of remedial help we will be allowed to give high school graduates who come to us unable to read, write or do simple math, to the president of one of our state universities, to business and community leaders.

The business and community leaders were the most interesting, informative and relevant.  Anyway, one of them, a man who owns a rather large company in our state which employs electrical and mechanical engineers (we have an AS in both of those areas) told this story.  His company needs to hire young men and women who have degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering.  They hire people with both four year and two year degrees, for different jobs.

He says he has never been more disappointed with the new college graduates  than he has been in the past ten to fifteen years, and it is getting worse.  The biggest problem, he says, in his field is not really that the college graduates, be they two or four year grads, have not learned the technical knowledge they needed to learn in their college classes.  The problem, he says, is that today's college grads are helpless and annoying and come to him with a huge sense of entitlement.  To try to find the kind of employee he needs in his company, he does a simple test during his interviews:

Real Time Blogging: To Grade Or Not To Grade

It is 9:30 am on the East Coast.  Right now.  That's the actual time.  It is a Sunday morning.  It is beautiful, peaceful, quiet.  Tomorrow, Monday, I will begin my work week, most of which will consist of me holding 40 hours of individualized tutorial support for the students at my university.  Most of those hours are already filled. After tomorrow's 8.5 hours of work--I get 30 minutes a day for lunch--I will travel to one of my university's satellite campuses to teach one of my university's condensed, hybridized 8-week courses.

Right now, I have sitting beside me a brand new stack of student papers that I need to grade as quickly as possible (see the above design of my course for the reason).  I have spent the last six days in a row grading another set of student papers, and I will be doing the same this week, next week, the week after that, and so on until the the course ends.

Sitting on my other side is a copy of this book.  I have never read this book, which is why I purchased a copy of it.  Given my work schedule, it is unlikely that I will read this book anytime soon.  However, I really do want to read this book sometime soon--like right now, for instance.

What do I do?  Do I grade?  Do I not grade?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Administrators are the new zombies (and it's Apocalypse Now, without so many helicopters)

Beyond the content, the fact that this piece was published in the Vancouver Sun (SunMedia being the Great White North's print equivalent to Faux News, written at a third grade level...with boobs) and penned by a Prof at the University of Calgary (the Neoliberal/Conservative/Petroleum capital of Canadia) is enough to herald (heh) the end of days.

The flava: academics, and the "professionals" who manage them, are locked in a "fundamental conflict" because:

"Teaching, research and scholarship have as their overriding purpose making public new ways of thinking or recovering forgotten old ways. Professors are as competitive as anyone else, and they enjoy making discoveries and introducing superior insights. They see the university as a means to that end.

Administrators see university as an end in itself and teaching and research are just the means. They think that the curriculum, for instance, should reflect what students, their parents, or maybe government bureaucrats want. Faculty know they are better qualified than anyone to determine what students should learn."

The author goes on to state: 

"What do administrators do? They meet, attend conferences and organize retreats. Sometimes they have joint retreats with administrators from other universities. This is how they learn about “best practices,” which seems indistinguishable from mindless mimicry, the very opposite of academic discovery and insight.

They also do a lot of strategic planning. Then they update, develop, and revise it. When they are not planning or retreating, they produce vision statements and slogans.
If you wonder why universities are expensive to operate today, follow the money to the administrators and support persons. I doubt students come to university to enjoy the fine work of well-paid under-provosts and senior associate directors. They are more likely to find whatever educational value exists in the underpaid work of part-time sessional instructors."

Preach, Dr. Cooper...and if you serve bourbon during communion, expect to find a great many of us in your pews tomorrow.

The Crazy Clause.....

I swear someone has snuck a crazy clause into the contract.  I haven’t found it yet, but think it reads, “Faculty will attempt to teach all students regardless of their level of reality and intake of medication."

I have students with paperwork for various issues.  Okay, fine, I can deal.  On the other hand, one had no paperwork, but informs me that they are on medication.  I tell them where to go to get paperwork.  At this point, the student then decides to roll around on the tiled floor and treat me to a TMI session!  Do I need to know how you feel about your family?  No, I don't.  Professional to the end, I offer some non-binding murmurs of sympathy, grab my books, and tell the white lie of having to get to a meeting.  

Am I running a psychiatric clinic?…The powers that be can kiss my asterisk regarding the customer service model.  That incident showed me I don’t teach---I babysit.  The inmates really are running the asylum. When I find that crazy clause in my contract, it’s getting stricken out.  They really don’t pay me enough to deal with things like this.

This Post Is Not Made Up.

PaperHelper: iPad App Splits the Screen for Document Writer and Web Browser Combo

PaperHelper iPad app
PaperHelper is an interesting and impressive iPad app from a pair of teenage developers. It offers a writing app and web browser app rolled into one and seems to be aimed primarily at students writing essays. Here’s a little slice of its App Store intro:
Writing essays just got simpler! With PaperHelper, You can have your source and paper right next to each other.
PaperHelper uniquely splits your iPad screen in half providing you with a Internet Browser and a Document writer.
The initial promo email for the app caught my attention because it was a well-written approach from a 17 year old who is the co-CEO of RumbleApps, the publisher of PaperHelper. The other co-CEO is 16. As impressive as that is, it wouldn’t generally be enough to write about an app – but a quick look at the App Store page for PaperHelper had me interested enough to install the app and take a look. And I’m glad I did.