Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Clickers and White Bread

This past Sunday's New York Times Magazine was dedicated to academe. I haven't plowed all the way through it as I was stopped in my tracks by the first article, Geek Lessons by Mark Edmundson, a professor of English at the University of Virginia.

Note: Bob and I are in an ongoing discussion regarding the merits of clickers in the classroom, which is highly influenced by our second cousin's early adoption of said technology.

Following please find a lightly edited discussion of this article as it transpired via Google chat between Bob and myself.

me: OK, new topic, did you read that article from the NYT I emailed you?
Bob: Yes. It is FASCINATING.
me: And, possibly unrelated, please use the term "asshat" in a sentence.
Bob: He is smart, and yet rejects the clickers!
Bob: LOL
me: He's at UVA but thinks that only profs at posh schools (like CSUF[? because UVA is poor? "With $5.1 billion as of July 2008 for 20,834 full-time students, the University of Virginia ($245,000 per student) has the largest per capita endowment of any national public university in the United States."]) get laptops and then, what, only if they sign a product placement agreement?
He clearly has personal issues with his own administration and his evaluations.
But somehow the NYT feels his screed warrants the first three pages of their academia issue?
Bob: [provides and excellent example of "asshat" in context which has absolutely nothing to do with Prof. Edmundson, but does reflect poorly on the IT capabilities of academic institutions generally]
me: Ooo . . . nice integration of "asshattery" which is my favorite form of "asshat"
Bob: But he is not dumb. His first premise (the notion of the "uncool" being what academia is all about) is intriguing, significant, and suitable for an academia issue.
me: Well yes but then he defines uncool as, essentially, Luddite.
Bob: The issues of administrations and student evaluations impacting "the right thing to do" is real and important. His "bah to your technology!" take is an unfortunate turn in an otherwise decent paper.
Not unlike that cool guy who wrote "The Fire Next Time" (Baldwin) who diverted onto the evils of white bread for a while. (He called it "infernal rubber").

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Thalia said...

I first thought this was about clicker-training students as has been done with dogs. Fabulous...but not the case.

And a Nobel candidate in the family? I think any sperm bank/ova harvesting fees just shot up by 1000%. In case you were wondering.

Sarah said...

Clicker-training students would be QUITE fabulous.

Technically, I think he's a Nobel laureate. He earned the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001 for making stuff colder than anyone else. Here's his biography. Notice it does not mention a close personal relationship with his second cousins Bob and Sarah. :) Though he clearly shares Bob's taste in eyewear.

And I think the Nobel Prizewinner in the extended family does not nearly make up for all the more clearly genetically linked negatives that would inevitably lead sperm bank/ova harvesters to eliminate us.