Monday, November 20, 2006

Good Thoughts

I've just started reading Anne of Green Gables. I feel the need to fill an alarming gap in my childhood reading. This thought will sustain me for some time:

"--when you are imagining you might as well imagine something worthwhile--"

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Joy and Beauty of Fluid Argumentation

The loftiness of this post's title points to the floaty feeling I get when I see a class make knowledge happen. Today my apprentice ran two "debates" in class--complete with rebuttals--that made my little teacher heart sing! The students used research packets they had constructed on Wednesday to support their arguments for or against propositions related to the driving age. Nothing really new there, I suppose. The joy and beauty came after the initial arguments were made.

Both teams taking the negative approach (arguing against the propositions) decided to make counter proposals that upped the ante higher. Sure, the second debate's effectiveness was lessened by the repetition of the approaches, but what was so fascinating to me was how quickly the students adapted to the changing landscape of the argument and how the quality of the argumentation and refutation developed over the course of the two debates. It was like watching a paper or two go through successive drafting processes right before my eyes.

I'm hoping that the fluidity of that experience will carry over to the next class, since we had no time to discuss the debates at the end. If we had to do it again, I'd videotape the experience and replay the tape in a subsequent class for further discussion. I'd forgotten how closely related speech and writing are; this class period reinforced that connection for me in some useful and productive ways.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Food for Thought

In his forward to Reconstructing the University (Frank and Gabler), John W. Meyer summarizes the authors's insight into the University as follows:

...the university is more about establishing the cultural or religious map of the cosmos and of human action and structure in this cosmos than about facilitating particular activities within this system. The university is more about creating and installing the frame for the demonic powers of "man" than about technically enabling the powers themselves. (xiii)

There are times when I read little truths like this one and I think, "yes, this is exactly what I would mean to say if I were trying to articulate this point." Meyer's summary perfectly captures this idea of the university and encapsulates the precise reason why, for example, we will never be able to fully "prepare" a student for any real-world work experience. His point about the creation of cosmologies and frameworks really resonates with me as well; what has our struggle been, after all, if not about changing mindsets and teaching students to think in certain precriptive ways (no matter how much we delude ourselves otherwise?)?

Food for thoughts and thinkings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Alternatives to Race-Based Admissions

I've long wondered why universities needed to factor race into admissions policies at all. The public debate over race-based admissions indicates that the only way to get the student from a disavantaged background is to use their race as an indicator of said status.

Not so, according to this Chronicle piece. Researchers are working on a formula to identify "strivers," students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are working hard and may be worthy of the admissions risk. The plus? These students are likely to come from the very races admissions officers seek.