Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Eeek! Sex in the university!

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

So, a funny thing happened the other day.  A representative from Georgia, Calvin Hill (R-Canton), got hold of the media guide from Georgia State University — you know, one of those lists of “who to call for a quote about X” things.  And on there, he found people with expertise in things like male prostitution and oral sex.  He thought he was looking at a course catalog, and immediately got all bent out of shape about people teaching our children courses in oral sex, because of course this is a waste of taxpayer dollars, as kids know more about it than we do.  Ha ha, just kidding, I mean because nobody should know anything about it ever.


So then his colleague Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock) got up on the House floor during prime C-Span hours (i.e. everyone else was asleep) and called for a grass-roots campaign to kick out professors who teach stuff like that, and especially “queer theory.”

“This is not considered higher education,” she said. “If legislators are going to dole out the dollars, we should have a say-so in where they go.”

Byrd and her supporters, including state Rep. Calvin Hill, said they will team with the Christian Coalition and other religious groups to pressure fellow lawmakers and the Board of Regents to eliminate the jobs.

“Our job is to educate our people in sciences, business, math,” said Hill, a vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. He said professors aren’t going to meet those needs “by teaching a class in queer theory.”
(Fort Mill Times)

The whole thing more or less blew over — turns out that Kirk Elifson does fairly important research on the spread of HIV by male prostitutes, and Mindy Stombler is a sociologist studying attitudes of teens about sexual practices, and somehow it doesn’t sound as bad when you use your brain for an instant or two. Hill tried to back-pedal:

Several members of the committee praised Elifson and Stombler for their work; Hill, too, spoke to the committee but given the chance, did not ask the GSU faculty any questions.

He defended his interest in the issue and said he never specifically accused GSU of anything. He also said the media had blown the subject out of proportion.

“It’s been taken sideways by people who like the titillating words,” he said.

He argued that in a time of budget cuts universities should not offer classes that do not help students get jobs.(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Because all he really meant to say was that higher education should be transformed into vo-tech.  Still, not everybody is ready to give up on this.   Just today the conservative blog Human Events published a philippic on the topic, supporting Byrd’s original plan to expunge all this nasty stuff from tax-supported educational institutions.

This is a management issue. Over the last thirty years, even in the bastion of large public universities, the mantra has been “let’s shock the parents.” Maybe it hasn’t been official or stated but it’s been there. The Deans of the Schools and the management structure of the University must be able to not only balance the curriculum, but also manage it through hard times. Too many times these academics don’t know how to manage people because they are academics and not business people.

If this is happening in University System in Georgia, it’s happening in your state, too. Go online and look at the course offerings at your son or daughter’s university and you’ll find these fringes offered there, too. They are counting on parents to be too intimidated to get involved. Parents should take charge of their child’s education at every level.

And taxpayers should demand better administration of college funds. If we are graduating people who can’t do math, don’t know science and can’t write or speak English well, why in Heaven’s name are we spending money on anything but to improve those results?

There you go! Higher education should be confined to teaching math, science (not the nasty kind, I’m guessing) and English. Out with those other fripperies like the arts, so-called sciences like sociology, and, I guess, epidemiology.  I mean, just while the economy is bad.  Once things get rolling again, we can just rebuild all those departments that we abolished before, no problem.

I’m more or less back to normal.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Today is my second day back in the office.  Yesterday I was here about 4 hours, and got a fair amount done.  I wrote a letter of recommendation for a former student, went through a few hundred emails, cleared off my desk, and printed out the study guide and schedule for Molecular Genetics.  Now I have two other courses to put together, including Science and Religion, for which I have to decide what readings I want to use.   Actually preparations for both that course and my Biological Reasoning course involve getting together with someone else and negotiating course content.  Still, it looks like I will at least have handouts to give the students on the first day.  I find this is almost as good as being prepared for class.

Still packing, but now on vacation.

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

5I’ve got everything back on the table in the living room. Actually, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how small a pile the stuff that is actually going makes. The list is so long, it’s easy to forget that a lot of the items are very tiny. I’m still having trouble grouping stuff and figuring out how to get in packed so that it

  1. Doesn’t rattle
  2. Is balanced side to side
  3. Has most of the weight in the back

And still allows me to get at stuff that I need easily when I need it.

Meanwhile, I washed and waxed the bike, and in the process discovered that the spoke lengths are printed on the side of the rims.  Naturally, the ones that I got yesterday were the wrong lengths, and I’ll be heading back to Cape Bike again tomorrow.  I also realized that the mini-chain tool that I’ve had for years (Park CT-5) doesn’t have a “shelf” for loosening tight links, although the new version of the same model does.  I’m going to get a new one, what the hell.

I fueled up the backpacking stove and tried it out.  Surprisingly, considering how long it’s been since I used it, it’s working fine, so I packed it away.

Yesterday I highlighted my route on three copies of my set of county maps and gave one set to Binnielula.  One goes deep in the packed stuff as a backup, the other goes into the handlebar bag, to take one page at a time out and put in the map holder.

Oh, yeah, and this morning I graded the last set of assignments from my online course — my buddy Walt takes over for the second half of the semester, so I’m officially on vacation now.

No more pencils, no more books…

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Hooray!  I’ve finished my four-week summer presession class.   Of course, I am teaching the first four weeks of an online course now, but this does mean that I don’t have to be at work at 8 AM every day.

In my online course there are 18 people enrolled, and all 18 have logged on to the web site already, before the first assignments are due.  This is a first.  Every other time I’ve taught it, there have been from 2 to 5 people who just never got around to doing anything, including dropping the course, despite repeated emails.  I know, some people don’t read their email very often.  But you would think (if, unlike me, you didn’t know better) that a person who signs up for an online course would, particularly around the time the course is supposed to start, read his or her email.

So this time, big improvement on that score.  Now if I could just break people of the habit of writing for an online course as if they were text-messaging.  I give clear instructions about using standard punctuation, capitalization, and spelling, but some people just can’t manage it.  One semester I had a student whose first several assignments were written ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS BECAUSE I GUESS WRITING FOR THE WEB IS KIND OF LIKE SENDING A TELEGRAM.  I explained to this person that this is the equivalent of shouting.

One thing that always annoys me is people who won’t capitalize the word “I”.  It always feels like false modesty to me.

Okay, enough bitching.  Like I say, this group has managed an historic first by all actually logging in.  Maybe they’ll all turn in the first two assignments, too.  Stay tuned.