• Just Visiting

    A blog by John Warner, author of the story collection Tough Day for the Army, and a novel, The Funny Man, on teaching, writing and never knowing when you're going to be asked to leave.


More Like This, Please

Things I'd like to see more of...

June 9, 2016

Starting Saturday I will be on a two-week vacation.

I haven’t taken a two-week vacation in ever, so I’m a little worried that I may forget how to do work during this time.

On the other hand, this argues that a vacation will make me more productive.

So I won’t be appearing in these pages, but before temporarily signing off, I wanted to offload some fragments. These are the sorts of ideas that if I wasn’t about to take a two week vacation might each turn into a post of their own, but because I am taking a two week vacation, I won’t have time to develop them beyond the larval stage.

Things I believe we should do more of:

Encourage academics to go on Twitter rants about academic subjects

I’m referring here to the 500plus-tweet long rant Holger Syme unleashed over a new book analyzing the physical texts of King Lear. No, it isn’t criticism, and it’s not peer reviewed. It wouldn’t pass muster for tenure, but it’s something more important when it comes to preserving the humanities…fun.

Regardless of where you stand on the debate itself, what observers see is the intersection of passion and knowledge. It’s a demonstration of the power of the humanities to provoke curiosity.

This is the kind of public performance of the humanities that will help bring them to people outside the walls of academia.

Focus on community colleges as the key to reclaiming postsecondary education as a public good

More and more I’m convinced that if we’re going to shift perceptions about who deserves access to education and how we’re going to pay for it, we ground this discussion in community colleges.

For one, there’s lots of good work going on there, particularly in contrast to the predatory for-profit schools that serve similar cohorts.

For two, despite the professorate being every bit as politically liberal as 4-year institutions, they aren’t tarred with the culture war baggage that seems to attach itself to even non-elite colleges and universities. As I recently argued, Republicans now control higher education through the power of the purse and other legislative maneuvering.

But the way that power is exercised varies by state. Deep red Tennessee has made community college free. The Dakotas are increasing state contributions to higher ed.

I think this is mostly because 2-year schools are viewed as job training while 4-year schools are where the pernicious liberal indoctrination happens, but whatever, it’s a start.

More questioning of not just what we’re doing, but why we’re doing it

Irvin Peckham is the director of the first-year writing program at Drexel University and in a recent blog post he questioned much of the hidebound wisdom/practices of the composition classroom.

The post asks us to consider what is most important when it comes to student learning and challenges the notion that longstanding practices – such as instructing students in MLA citation – are vital parts of writing instruction.

Why indeed? What are we gaining when we teach students a method that they will never use once they’ve finished their first-year writing course?

Peckham also asks what it means that this “important” course is taught be the least resourced faculty and what responsibility directors of programs like himself have in overseeing these conditions.

There shouldn’t be any sacred cows in education, and asking these questions are required for renewal of the mission. If I wasn’t about to go on a two week vacation, I could spend multiple posts wrestling with Peckham’s challenges.

Have I mentioned that I’m going on vacation for two weeks? I suppose I’m just excited to head into the unknown.

I’ll see you on the other side, that is if I come back from my vacation, which will last two weeks.




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