It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The time of year when educators (like me!) get 25% off nearly everything at Borders (some exceptions apply: periodicals and Sony e-Readers excluded). April 2 – 6 this year. The best is to go in on Friday and they treat you like you’re important to society. Remember: nobody else ever will, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Yesterday I had an interesting discussion with a former student about math. That’s right: math.
The Women’s Studies department I teach in has a sort of open adjunct/student lounge with computers and a small library and a table and such — a place to hang out and get a little work done or chat online or whatever. This student was working on some algebra, and was clearly frustrated. She turns to me and says, “Why do we have to learn this stuff?! When am I ever going to need to know about imaginary numbers?”
Two things you should know about me. First, I started my academic career as an engineering major — aerospace, to be precise. While I quickly bailed out of engineering, I have a great respect for the applied sciences, and the sciences in general.
Simpleology, a courseware provider, is offering a blogging course free to people who link to their site. It looks like they’re beta-testing it to see whether they can sell it. I figure, I’ll try it out and see what it’s all about. What’s the worst that could happen?
I read a lot of other people’s writing, in both my role as a teacher, grading papers students hand in, and as an editor at lifehack.org, preparing contributors’ work for publication on the site. Lately, I’ve been noticing a strange phonemenon: the gratuitous Capitalization of random Words.
It’s as if suddenly we’ve returned to the days of Pilgrim’s Progress, where Words are capitalized to show that they represent Important Concepts — except the words That are capitalized are often not All that important. Or it’s like we suddenly adopted German Grammar, where all the Nouns are capitalized — except it’s not Just nouns. In fact, I’ve searched in vain for a pattern, and can’t find one.
Break’s over, classes are back in session as of today. This semester I’m doing something a little different — 5 sessions of “Gender, Race, and Class” in Women’s Studies. I’m teaching no anthropology classes at all, for the first time in 4 1/2 years. I’ll still be at the community college, though — 2 of my WMST sections are community college classes. I’m really looking forward to teaching the stuff I’ve been teaching at the university to the students I get at the community college. For one thing, I can virtually guarantee my classes will be a lot more diverse, and likely not a white majority, which should change the dynamic considerably.
When I was in graduate school, I tutored low-income high school students through the Princeton Review’s non-profit branch, to prepare them for taking the SAT. While I had the satisfaction of knowing I was helping some really smart kids get into college, SAT prepping isn’t really education. Most of it consists of teaching kids how to game the system — the SAT is a really unsophisticated test, and all it takes is a few simple tricks to boost your score 100 or even more points.
Well, maybe not “easy”, per se, unless by “easy” you mean “really, really hard”.
This week was the first week of the summer session of my women’s studies class, “Gender, Race, and Class”. While I’ve taught about a half-dozen summer sessions of anthropology at the community college, this is my first summer session at the university and my first in women’s studies. Summer classes are a ton of work — class prep every day, unmotivated students, only a couple weeks between intros and mid-terms, and then again between mid-terms and finals. They tend to be breathless, jus-in-time affairs.
Universities are complex. Needlessly complex. The modern university represents an accretion of over a thousand years of tradition â€“ why else do you think you are expected to dress like a medieval scribe for graduation?