The dream of the 90s!

I’m in Portland, Oregon for the first time in my adult life–it seems like a very nice small city, maybe a little overhyped.  I ate lunch from a food truck for the first time since the 1990s, as a matter of fact. These things were all over West Philadelphia in the 1980s and 90s. I ate so many $2.95 cartons of pork lo mein that I thought “Spicy Miss” was my nickname, instead of the question the truck proprietors would ask me when I placed my order (“Spicy, Miss?”)


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Guest post on the Lords of MOOC Creation: who’s really for change, and who in fact is standing athwart history yelling STOP?

Howdy, friends–Historiann here.  I’m knee deep in research papers and final exams and have no time for posting, so thank goodness someone out there is writing for the non-peer reviewed world wide timewasting web.  Today’s guest post is by two senior history professors who attended last week’s Annual Meeting of the American Council of Learned SocietiesSusan Amussen, an early modern British historian in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts at the University of California, Merced, and Allyson Poska, an early modern Spanish historian in the History and American Studies Department at the University of Mary Washington.  They both attended the panel on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and came away wanting to talk about something thing no one in MOOC-world seems to want to talk about:  power.  So of course, they came to me and asked if they could talk to all of you.

Amussen and Poska ask a number of provocative questions:  Why in spite of the hype do MOOCs appear to be merely a digitalized version of the “sage on the stage” style of lecturing familiar to those of us in the United States and Commonwealth countries 100 (and more) years ago?  Why do MOOC-world advocates appear totally ignorant of feminist pedagogy, which disrupted this model of education going on 50 years ago?  What does it say about MOOC-world’s vision of the future of higher education that the Lords of MOOC Creation are overwhelmingly white, male,  and U.S. American professors at highly exclusive universities?  (And for the Lords of MOOC Creation, is this a bug, or a feature?  Friends, I’ll let you be the judges.)


MOOCs:  Gender, Class and Empire


Much of the discussion of MOOCs has focused on (alternately) their promise of providing “the best teachers” to students around the world, and presenting cheap quality education to the masses; or the threat they pose to education, in replacing face to face contact with potted lectures, further deskilling and de-professionalizing those of us who teach at less elite universities.  We want to argue that MOOCs raise broader questions than those usually mentioned. In the course of listening to a discussion of MOOCs at the recent meeting of the ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies), we realized that MOOCs must be analyzed in the context of the U.S. American discourse of gender, class, and empire. Continue reading

Watch This Space

I’ve got a dynamite guest post from two scholars who were at the recent American Council of Learned Societies conference last weekend in Baltimore that I hope to publish later today.  They attended the session on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and have a lot to say about the way that power appears to work in and through them.  As newspapers used to say, WATCH THIS SPACE for a fascinating post soon.  As the Drudge report also says:  “Developing. . . “

Evangelical media & the doctrinal politics of Christian book promotion

Rod Dreher, the author of The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming, is puzzled by the lack of interest in the Evangelical protestant media and traditional Evangelical outlets in his book.  For those of you who haven’t heard about it, it’s both a autobiography as well as a biography of his sister, who died recently of cancer, and it reflects on his decision to leave behind small-town Louisiana for the big city, and his sister’s equally passionate embrace of small-town living and community-building.  Dreher, a former Catholic and current Orthodox church member, asks if his book is too “theologically incorrect” for Evangelicals to embrace (bolded parts emphasized by me):

Despite great reviews and an intensely positive reception from readers, The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming has not been widely covered in the mainstream media — with, of course, some notable exceptions, e.g., reviews in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, and a beautiful feature on NPR’s Morning Edition (if you haven’t heard it, wow, what are you waiting for?). The book has had no interest from television in the story, which is kind of mystifying, at least to me, given the nature of the story and its accessibility to a mainstream audience. But who knows how these things work? Wal-mart declined to stock Little Way, saying it wasn’t geared to their customers. Which is just bizarre to me, given that this is a book about finding true and lasting values in home and community, especially small-town community. But again, who knows how these things work?

I’ve been puzzled too by why Christian media hasn’t picked up on the book. True, Little Way got a rave endorsement from Evangelical superstar Eric Metaxas, and from the hugely popular Evangelical writer Ann Voskamp. Some Evangelicals objected to Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack, but it was a massive hit, and Young endorsed Little Way too. Additionally, Jake Meador gave it a great review in Christianity Todayin it, Jake made a case for why his fellow Evangelicals “need” to read this book – and Russell Moore, the top Southern Baptist leader, has recommended the book. That said, this deeply Christian book about faith, suffering, and redemption, hasn’t generally been taken up by Christian media. I’ve wondered why. Continue reading

Worst teachers ever.

Trying to avoid grading final exams? Slate offers a diversion with a feature called “What’s the worst thing a teacher ever said to you?”

The Slate writers had some pretty funny stories, usually involving teachers who were irritated about being corrected by their students, but the stories in the comments below are funnier. Check out the story of the kid who tried–and failed!–to convince his high school honors English teacher that Miguel Cervantes’s Don Quixote takes place in Spain instead of the Netherlands. (Because windmills–duh!) And the stories about not understanding a teacher’s thick Southern or New England accent are pretty funny too: what would you do if you were asked to lead your class “down yonder hill,” or if instructed to draw a picture of that cozy autumn ritual we know as a “barn fire?”

The worst thing I can remember was probably said by a student teacher in his late 20s Continue reading

Monday round-up: endless semester edition

You’ve heard of The Endless Summer?  It sure seems to me like this is the Endless Semester.  Maybe it’s all of the snow and slush in April, but more than any other spring semester in recent memory, this one drags on and on.  While I’m desperately trying to lasso this semester and tie it up real good, here are some fun links and ideas to keep you diverted: