The edutainment chronicles: comedy gold!

Via Jonathan Rees on Twitter, he of More or Less Bunk fame, we learn that Clayton Christiansen recorded a series of Very Distinguished lectures for the University of Phoenix, and he was amazed to learn that the people in the audience were models, not actual Phoenix students!

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.”

For appearance’ sake, the producers had put attractive people in the seats for the moments when the cameras cut away from Mr. Christensen and panned the audience. They also added spiffy animations and graphics.

In 2011, Phoenix asked him to deliver some 90-minute lectures on innovation and other business principles. Rather than hold them where he teaches, at Harvard Business School, Phoenix rented a spot at the Institute of Contemporary Art, where he could speak with a view of Boston Harbor as his backdrop. He was struck by the view, he said, but even more so by the people to whom he was lecturing.

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.”

For appearance’ sake, the producers had put attractive people in the seats for the moments when the cameras cut away from Mr. Christensen and panned the audience. They also added spiffy animations and graphics.

Why not use real students? According to a Phoenix spokesman, “The production team hired extras who could be there for the day, since the production required a major time commitment for the day.”

– See more at: http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/u-of-phoenix-lectures-by-clay-christensen-redefine-model-students/#sthash.wismjYRO.HMrkkdOA.dpuf

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.” – See more at: http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/u-of-phoenix-lectures-by-clay-christensen-redefine-model-students/#sthash.wismjYRO.HMrkkdOA.dpuf

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.”

For appearance’ sake, the producers had put attractive people in the seats for the moments when the cameras cut away from Mr. Christensen and panned the audience. They also added spiffy animations and graphics.

Why not use real students? According to a Phoenix spokesman, “The production team hired extras who could be there for the day, since the production required a major time commitment for the day.”

– See more at: http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/u-of-phoenix-lectures-by-clay-christensen-redefine-model-students/#sthash.wismjYRO.HMrkkdOA.dpuf

“They were truly beautiful people,” he related. He asked them where they attended college and was surprised when they replied, “Oh, we’re not students, we’re models.”

For appearance’ sake, the producers had put attractive people in the seats for the moments when the cameras cut away from Mr. Christensen and panned the audience. They also added spiffy animations and graphics.

– See more at: http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/u-of-phoenix-lectures-by-clay-christensen-redefine-model-students/#sthash.wismjYRO.HMrkkdOA.dpuf

That’s supposed to be the punchline, delivered by Christiansen:  “’Because the low end always wins, I didn’t dismiss these people,” he said. “This actually is a very different game than we’ve been in before.'”  Except if you read the whole story, it’s clear that Christiansen himself sells out to the values before he ever meets the Phoenix “model students:”

In 2011, Phoenix asked him to deliver some 90-minute lectures on innovation and other business principles. Rather than hold them where he teaches, at Harvard Business School, Phoenix rented a spot at the Institute of Contemporary Art, where he could speak with a view of Boston Harbor as his backdrop.

So given that setting the scene was much more important than verisimilitude, why was he surprised at all to learn that the pretty people he was lecturing to weren’t in fact college students at all?  As Rees has asked before on his blog, what’s to prevent Phoenix, Coursera, or other edupirates from hiring actors to deliver lectures for professors?  When you’re in a fake classroom with pretend students, isn’t the transition from education to entertainment pretty much complete?  (Isn’t this the very definition of a bull$hit job?  To paraphrase Rees:  if you can be replaced by an actor, you’re not doing your job right.)

ClairehouseofcardsI had a student tell me on Wednesday that I look like Robin Wright from the current Netflix House of Cards production, and that I “must get this all the time.”  (It was the day before her exam was due, which figures into the compliment, I’m sure.  I told her that only my mother and Tenured Radical have made the comparison.)  What actor would you like to see play you in a fake classroom working with actor-students?

Dream big.  It’s summer now, after all.

22 thoughts on “The edutainment chronicles: comedy gold!

  1. I was just told on a student evaluation that I look like Seth Rogen. I might have been able to take it as a compliment, if it hadn’t been that student’s sole answer to “what are the instructor’s greatest strengths?”.

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  2. Janeane Garofalo. I used to get that all the time but I think it was because I say random, weird shit in the classroom and have special profanity-laced nicknames for various politicians in the region I work on.

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  3. I would like to think I would be portrayed by Steve McQueen, if he was still alive, but realistically speaking, its got to be John Lithgow, If he was shorter.

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  4. Nene Romanova in Bubblegum Crisis (or in the remake, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 which is not as noir but does some interesting things with character motivation). If limited to real life, Penelope Keith.

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  5. Not only do I get people I know saying “You look just like Gary Oldman”, I get random strangers insisting “You’re that actor, right? What’s his name? Oh, yeah: Gary Oldman!”

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  6. At the end of the linked article is this little emetic:

    “Mr. Christensen is hardly about to give up his job at Harvard. But he is continuing his affiliation with Phoenix. Its new executive-education program, known as Innovator’s Accelerator, features video lectures by Mr. Christensen and two other co-authors of The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators.”

    Innovator’s Accelerator?

    Innovator’s DNA?

    Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators?

    Bullshiterator, more like. Christensen might be at Harvard, but a business school is still a business school.

    Anyway, is it too late for John Houseman to play me like he played Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase?

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  7. YOU COME IN HERE WITH A SKULL FULL OF MUSH…

    My accounting-professor dad used to recite that speech of Kingsfield’s substituting “accountant” for “lawyer.” Dad has always had a good sense of humor about being in accounting (and would be played by a sardonic Gregory Peck in glasses).

    Now I want to hear Kingsfield read that quote in Dr. Doctorstein’s comment. You know, that way Houseman gives him of pronouncing individual words as if he’s holding them away from him in disgust.

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  8. I might go with Lieutenant Columbo, what was his name, Peter Falk? for the sabbatical version of me, although I haven’t owned a raincoat since college. (Why would a college student want/own a raincoat?) For the classroom avatar, I’d say Matt Damon, rushing over from the bar where he deflated that brash prepster with a shrewd understanding of early American economic cultures. Many years ago, at a range of about fifty yards, someone confused me for John Denver, but that didn’t count!

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  9. Students don’t think I evoke anyone–at least nobody they mention–but a couple of parents at graduations named Ali MacGraw. As Ruth said upthread, I wish.

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  10. In my younger years, I was told I looked like Liv Ullman. She was a great actress, and gorgeous. I’ll take it! And I’m sure that brooding Swedish intensity would be magic in the classroom.

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  11. I would like to see Edward Norton as Geoff Herrig, not because he or I are terribly handsome, but because I’m sure it would be utterly convincing. Jean Seberg in her prime would make a great Historiann.

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