Simon Says, Goody Two-Shoes edition

Ah, the 1980s:  when fashionable men dared to wear eye shadow.

This video seems newly timely given the massive wiretapping scandal blowing up News Corporation.  Now that Rupert Murdoch and his empire look pretty weak, the long knives are out for him.  Roger Simon reports that nearly 30 years ago–perhaps to the soundtrack of an Adam Ant video–Murdoch said something racist at a dinner with Chicago Sun-Times reporters after he bought their newspaper:

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She took it-online!

WARNING:  Rant dead ahead.  Proceed a vos risques.

Didja hear?  Online courses have higher dropout and failure rates.  From yesterday’s Inside Higher Ed:

[A] new study urges caution to those who believe that online education is a panacea for educating more community college students. The study finds that students who enrolled in online courses — controlling for various factors that tend to predict success — were more likely to fail or drop out of the courses than were those who took the same courses in person. Notably, there was not a gap in completion between those enrolled in hybrid and in-person courses.

Further, the students who took online courses early in their community college careers were slightly but statistically significantly less likely than were other students to come back for subsequent terms. And students who took higher shares of coursework online than did their peers were slightly but statistically significantly less likely either to finish a degree or certificate or to transfer to a four-year institution.

The study was by Di Xu and Shanna Smith Jaggars of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University. Their analysis is based on a large cohort — the 51,000 students who entered community and technical colleges in Washington State in 2004. And the study is similar to one on students in Virginia, adding to the researchers’ belief that the trends are real and potentially troublesome in that increasing numbers of community college students are enrolling online.

I’ll wager that if someone repeats this study at four-year colleges ze’ll get pretty much the same results.  It seems so obvious to anyone who has ever taught a class–and I’m sure to pretty much anyone who has some functional memory of their college years.  The mission of community colleges is to serve students who may not have had the background in high school to leap into a 4-year degree program.  Many universities market online courses as easy–and fun!–to do while working full time and/or raising children.  (I’m sure you’ve seen the ads on your local buses, subways, and in airports, as well as on the teevee.)  So, less prepared students + marketing the idea of post-secondary study as fun and easy to do in your spare time = tuition scam-a-lama-ding-dong.  Awesome!  It’s so unethical it makes me grind my teeth until my molars ache. Continue reading

From the mailbag: NEH Enduring Questions grants

This came via e-mail yesterday:

The NEH Enduring Questions grant program supports the development of a new course that will foster intellectual community through the study of an enduring question. This course will encourage undergraduates and teachers to grapple with a fundamental question addressed by the humanities, and to join together in a deep and sustained program of reading in order to encounter influential thinkers over the centuries and into the present day.

Deadline(s):      09/15/2011

E-mail:           enduringquestions AT neh DOT gov

More information here on the web site, which also includes some samples of successful “enduring questions:”

  • What is good government?
  • What is the value of work?
  • What is friendship?
  • What is evil?
  • Are there universals in human nature?
  • What are the origins of the universe?

This got me thinking about other Enduring Questions that span the ages of humankind: Continue reading

Not one more winter in the tipi, honey: gender and labor "off the grid"

Via Corrente, another Colorado blogger Michelle Nijhuis writes perceptively about the differences (encore!) in women’s and men’s labor when an idealistic heterosexualist couple decide to live their low impact dream inside a solar-powered yurt or straw-bale home:

Here’s what happens: A couple arrives in our valley, young, strong, in love, and full of plans to build an ultra-energy-efficient house out of straw bales, rammed earth, adobe bricks, or, heck, used bottlecaps. They set to work with equal enthusiasm, buying land and setting up temporary quarters in a yurt or a tipi. The weather’s good, the views are great, and the new house is humming along.

But at some point, the weather turns, or the project slows. Or a baby arrives, and everything gets more complicated. For whatever reason, their brio fades, NOMWITTH (“Not one more winter in the tipi, honey.”) sets in, and what was once a joint project becomes a battlefield, XX vs. XY. In mild cases, help is hired, the house gets a roof, and all ends well. In more serious cases, one person — inevitably XX — splits town for a fully-furnished condo with central heating, leaving XY alone with the low-carbon dream.

So why is it always XX who bails out on “the dream?”  Is it that the solar panels can’t power up their hair dryers and curling irons and they miss watching E! and HGTV?  Continue reading

Dear Katie Rosman,

If it were so important to your husband that you share a last name with him and the children, why didn’t he change his name to Rosman?  After all, it’s easy to spell and easy to pronounce in English.  I don’t understand why you permit him to make this your problem.

Oh, and his little “jokes” with perfect strangers and your own children about your surname, and the fact that you wrote about them in the Wall Street Journal?  Maybe you two should see a counselor.

Good luck with that,


Martin Amis on sex and death

I’ve been a huge fan of Martin Amis’s writing ever since I discovered him and read his back catalog in the 1990s.  What I love about his work is that he never pulls back from his self-loathing instincts.  More than any other novelist, he describes in minute detail the horrors of inhabiting human flesh, and even his youthful novels are obsessed with documenting bodily corruption and decay. 

The Pregnant Widow is unfortunately a disappointment.  Amis pulls back on the self-loathing, and he shies away from the horrors of the flesh.  Perhaps this was inevitable, given the setting for the book (1970), the fact that the main characters are all in their 20s, and that the male protagonist Keith Nearing is once again only a lightly disguised version of the now 60-ish Martin Amis, and the middle-aged and elderly tend to romanticize youth. 

There are some good lines about aging and the prospect of death, however, that are vintage Amis:

When you become old. . . When you become old, you find yourself auditioning for the role of a lifetime; then, after interminable rehersals, you’re finally starring in a horror film–a talentless, irresponsible, and above all low-budget horror film, in which (as is the way with horror films) they’re saving the worst for last. (5)

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