Asides

The Grammar Girl on Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” Video

I wasn’t surprised to discover today that the venerable Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. the “Grammar Girl,” beat me to the presses by a few days with her take on “Weird Al” Yankovich’s linguistic prescriptivism. “The bottom line is that I don’t believe in word crimes,” she writes, “and I don’t believe in encouraging people to think about language that way.” Co-signed.

At the very least, Fogarty’s critique of Weird Al’s “call to feel superior” should give pause to those of us who teach reading and writing, and more generally to those of us who love language not as an ideal form, but as a dynamic, imperfect, human practice.

A Mook Takes a MOOC

I have opinions about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), but I haven’t actually taken one. Whoops. Well, today that will change when I “attend” the first day of “class” for Cathy N. Davidson’s “meta”-MOOC, “History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education.”

Davidson is a professor of English at Duke University, one of the schools that has allowed Coursera to license its MOOCs to Antioch University. But she is also one of my intellectual idols, and has generally said all the right things about labor inequality in academia.

So I was surprised that she hitched her wagon to Coursera’s star, and I told her so on Twitter:

View my story “Cathy N. Davidson, Coursera, and Little Old Me” on Storify.

My thanks to Professor Davidson for engaging with me, and for clarifying that she will not permit Coursera to farm her MOOC out to poorer universities. She is refusing to abdicate responsibility for how her educational materials are used. Let’s hope other “superprofessors,” including her Duke colleagues Roger Barr and Mohamed A. Noor, follow her lead.

Anyway. Consider me ready to (attempt to) learn.

Richard Moser Lights 21st-Century Higher Ed on Fire

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education, an explanation of how the new academic labor system corrodes learning, teaching, and research in American universities. Much of what Richard Moser says here has been said before, but rarely so lucidly and succinctly.

Badass extract #1: “The search for truth, critical thinking, intellectual creativity, academic standards, scientific invention, and the ideals of citizenship have been discounted in favor of maximizing profits, vocational training, career success, applied research, and bottom-line considerations.”

Badass extract #2: “What lessons are being taught to aspiring young academics when they realize that all of their foundational courses are being delivered by people who earn what they did at their summer jobs? What values are being learned when those who teach and research – who esteem the intellect and hold high the values of citizenship – are apparently held in low regard by society and by the university community itself?”

“We Are Creating the Walmarts of Higher Education”

Via The Atlantic, an account of the political pressure on colleges to increase efficiency at the cost of quality. State legislatures want to raise graduation rates. They also want to reduce funding. So the obvious solution is not to do a better job of getting students engaged (because that would require more and better paid teachers) but to make it easier for half-engaged students to earn their degrees.

Badass sound bite #1: “Anything that creates distance in the teacher-student relationship will hurt the student.” (Mayra Besosa)

Badass sound bite #2: “In the end, education is an interpersonal endeavor.” (Karen Arnold)