3 thoughts on “Fellowship of the Link”
  1. The Fishmeister was depressing:
    The authors give several explanations for this unhappy result. First, a majority of students surveyed said “that they had not taken a single course . . . that required more than twenty pages of writing, and one third had not taken one that required even forty pages of reading per week.” Moreover, “only 42 percent had experienced both a reading and writing requirement of this character during the prior semester.”

    Nathan are you just assigning the Cliff notes to Paradise Lost?


  2. No, I’m happy to report that I’m in the minority in all sorts of interesting ways when it comes to college teachers.

    I will say, though, that teaching the core-curriculum senior capstone course the last couple years has been eye-opening. In a typical freshman comp class students write, on average, thirty to forty pages per semester for me. Upper-division literature students write, on average, thirty to forty pages per semester for me. In the capstone course, which has an institutional syllabus (not my favorite thing, but I’m on the seminars committee now, so I’ve got some more say on what goes on that syllabus), they write two, one-shot, two-page papers, plus two drafts of a six-to-seven pager. That’s sixteen pages most of the time. And my business and kinesiology majors (kinesiology is what one majors in if one plays baseball but doesn’t have much of a life plan beyond that) treat the class like it’s the end of the world. (And they seem to have lost whatever sense they picked up in frosh comp about the relationship between sources and their own text.)

    In other words, the majority of students apparently don’t take my classes as freshmen and sophomores, but they end up in my capstone class unable to do the most basic thinking-in-text that I’d expect of a college student.

  3. Regarding the Stanley Fish article, all of us academics are at a point where we are facing the likelihood of significant cuts to federal funding (the mood around my lab is anything but optimistic right now), so it seems that we should all be presenting a unified front to the powers that be of the importance of all academic disciplines, science, philosophy, literature, the humanities all included, rather than taking potshots at other disciplines. I’d say the same thing if I heard a scientist lament a emphasis on funding, say, philosophy. (Which is why I was rather frustrated with Stephen Hawking’s recent ridiculous statement that “philosophy is dead” — frankly he should know better and I’m surprised that he wrote it)

    Also, I don’t think Obama meant that we need to only fund things that will give us an immediate short term edge (at least I hope he didn’t). Fish seems to all but define a science and technology emphasis as “consumerist and market-driven”. I find this laughable, because most of us scientists are anything but market-driven in our pursuits, certainly no more than a humanities professor or philosopher. We have our own struggles with scrabbling for funding and justifying our existence to the powers that be.

    It is well-known that many investments in science and technology take many years to yield their fruit. What scares me is the prospect that basic science research funding will be crippled by short-sighted politicians who are *only* looking for short term, low-hanging-fruit type gains to give us an edge over the rest of the world. Witness folks who think that we shouldn’t be funding missions to Mars, for example, because they have no immediate obvious practical value. Unless I’m way off my mark, I can imagine many folks think the same about setting up an institute to study the arts, or ancient Greek texts, or what-have-you.

    Commenter #15 summed up quite well what I think when he said, “What none of us needs is to turn on each other. I support and recognize the critical work of my colleagues in the social sciences and humanities, if they can do the same for their colleagues in the sciences we can join forces to push for better educational opportunities for students in diverse fields.”

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