How can a school so great fail so completely in understaning their entire reason for being? In the October 28th edition of the Wall Street Journal an essay entitled, “These Courses Are Condemned” describes a private Christian school’s relationship with the University of California system. The essay states that the University of California is balking at accepting classes from some Christian schools. UC has several reasons for this but one of the most unbelievable is that the classes aim to integrate the material into the personal lives of the students. Here is a quote from the WSJ essay:
Indeed, a list of “helpful hints” from the university — offered to high schools as part of the curricular review process — suggests stripping religion even out of the religion classes: “Religion and ethics courses are acceptable…as long as theyâ€¦ do not include among its [sic] primary goals the personal religious growth of the student.” Such a condition is hard to define and even harder to impose. Religion is an object of study, certainly, but it is also part of the character development of students at Christian schools. The discussion of “Frankenstein” in Jordan Trivison’s class was not purely academic or purely religious. It was both.
Education done rightly should completely transform the student so that they are never the same after taking part in the educational experiences provided by an institution. UC apparently wants students to study from afar not not go through a transformational experience, or be personally involved in the subject matter. But that kind of education does not serve the student or society by helping the students flourish in their hopes and dreams. Does UC require that students of the American Civil Rights Movement study the movement dispassionately? Do the students really get a proper education if they merely memorize some facts about the time period. Or do the students really flourish when they study the Civil Rights Movement so that they can learn what worked really well and what we can do better today in order to have a more harmonious, fair, and just society and so that the students can be better people themselves? Why else would you study the Civil Rights Movement? Why not apply the same principles to religion?
In order for education to truly benefit the student, the student must be personally and passionately involved in the subject matter. As I’ve said elsewhere, education is not about information. If I just want information, I go to Google or the library. When I go to a class or talk with a professor, I want a transformational experience. UC better realize this quickly or their potential students might start looking for greener and more transforming pastures elsewhere.
If you are wanting to dive into blogging or integrate a blog into your marketing strategy, teaching, life, or anything else you can imagine, you might want to check out blogosopher. They are even holding a seminar that looks like a really great experience.
Do you think I’ve been hard teachers because of their inattention to the vocation of teaching and focus on self-interested research? Well, take a look at a section of an essay that appeared in the October 28th edition of the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Teaching the Teachers”
For one of the most striking deficiencies in American graduate training, in fields ranging from history and literary studies to physics and psychology, is the appalling inattention given to teaching — that is, to precisely the work that newly minted Ph.D.s will be expected to engage in for the rest of their careers. If, that is, they’re lucky enough to get an academic job at all.
In fact, the problem goes beyond inattention. In the best graduate institutions, students are socialized into the view that teaching is a lowly activity. This view is everywhere reinforced by the willingness of universities to use graduate teaching assistants and untenured adjunct faculty to carry more and more of the instructional load.
It’s a wonder that there are as many outstanding college teachers as there are. In my own graduate years, I saw eager-beaver teaching assistants subtly encouraged by their advisers to cool it and spend as little time as possible on their teaching, lest they be taken for unserious and unscholarly lightweights. They were there to do research and eventually to get jobs likeâ€¦ well, like those of their advisers, in which the teaching responsibilities are dumped on lowly graduate students.
In effect, most American graduate schools prepare students for jobs that they will never have and fail to prepare them — even conveying disdain — for the jobs that they will most likely have. No area of American higher education is more in need of reform, and none is less likely to receive it. As our chief means of forming college teachers, graduate education could hardly be more dysfunctional if we had set out to make it that way.
As I’ve said here before, things have to change in the way we teach the next generation. I’m not talking about mere tinkering, I’m talking about sweeping systemic changes that are linked to a re-framing of the job description of a higher education professor and the incentives and evaluation criteria used to hire and motivate professors. Change happens one teacher at a time. Join me in spearheading this change–Let’s be fantastically great teachers!
I love statistics. They quantify things that would otherwise remain merely “intuition.” Statistics also provide a way to facilitate comparisons and correlations (but these are only as good as the data and the method of comparison/correlation). So, if you have taken a quick glance at the category tallies of my posts you can learn a lot about me and my passions. Teaching is larges category, and for good reason. I love research, and I think I’m pretty good at, but I love teaching even more. More than that, I love passionate, transforming, your-life-is-never-the-same teaching. That statistic is certainly accurate. But, as with most statistics, they are prone to error and exaggeration. For instance, the Akkadian category is presently much larger than the biblical Hebrew catgory. I like Akkadian, but I love Hebrew a bunch more. I just haven’t written about Hebrew as much. I don’t know why. But, that statistic doesn’t accurately reflect my true passions. Stats are wonderful, but investigate them carefully, they don’t always reflect a situation accurately.
Yea, I know. The last two posts have sounded a little extreme right? That crazy guy with this site he calls awilum.com telling us that since this little iPod came out he hears the death knoll of the traditional university. Pretty easy to write me off, huh? Hey, universities have been around for hundreds of years, how on earth could they just go away? People HAVE to go to college to get a great job right? You HAVE to go to a live-format school in order to be able to pastor correctly right? No way are alternative educational outlets ever going to supplant traditional education.
Go ahead. Discount me. Close out of awilum.com and never come back. If you just don’t think about it all of the things I’m talking about will just go away. Besides, improving my teaching is hard, I’d rather spend my time playing golf or doing research. If I do research then I can get really famous and secure tenure. What benefit is there to me if I teach well or not? Sure. Just keep saying that to yourself.
In case I haven’t convinced you yet about the REAL threat (or is it really an opportunity?) of alternative educational outlets, think about this. A few years ago IBM started conducting training for their employees on the computer instead of in the classroom. Guess what? They are saving a quarter BILLION dollars. And that’s not the amazing part. They are saving this money ANNUALLY! Well, actually, that’s not the amazing part either. The really amazing part is that the employees who did their training on the computer instead of in the classroom rated their educational experience HIGHER than their collegues who took the live-format, traditional classroom experience. Wow. Wow. Wow.
I don’t get worried (or excited?) about hearing the cost savings of desktop education vs. traditional education. If something is good enough, people will find a way to afford it. What I get really, deep-down terrified (or enthusiastic?) about is that the people liked their software better than human teaching! If this doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know what will. You MUST–there is no option, there is no delay–you MUST radically change your teaching to produce an incredible, unique, mind-blowing, transformational educational experience for your students that they cannot get anywhere else, or people like me are going to eat your lunch. Sleep well…but tomorrow, you’d better be firing on all cylinders…and then some. Because I sure am. And I’m just getting started.
An editorial in the Monday, October 24 edition of Investors Business Daily brings up the idea of the death of traditional classroom learning. They cite the fact that the average tuition of traditional colleges and universities climbed over 5% this past year–double inflation. Furthermore, this is actually a decrease from years past. They state that at some point this tuition growth will be unsustainable and people will search for more efficient learning opportunities such as internet education. Here is a quote from the editorial:
Help, as it so often does, now appears in the form of new technology. For the past decade major universities have tried to accommodate the explosion of online learning. The fertile ground of cyberspace yields even more effective and economical means of learning.
With the great books online, and learned tutorials on cheap software, the need for traditional classrooms evaporates, as does the facultyâ€™s guild mentality. The wisdom of Western civilization gets transmitted in megachurches and that marketplace of ideas that could be called the University of Amazon.com…For too long institutions of higher learning have maintained the fiction they are immune to competition. No more. The good and successful life, it now dawns on more Americans, can be achieved by more advanced means. And those means are available without outrageous tuition fees.
I totally agree with IBD, but I take this even a step further. The competition between traditional universities and alternative educational outlets in areas such as biotechnology and engineering is not so acute, but I think we are already starting to see alternative outlets making inroads into certain facets of the “humanities.” This is seen most dramatically in theological education. Many pastors are opting for online opportunities instead of traditional colleges or seminaries. And who can blame them? Think about the costs associated with attending a college or seminary: relocation (if college or seminary is out of town), tuition, books, insurance, housing, lost wages (if going to school full time). Some of these costs are included in alternative educational outlets, but if someone is a full time pastor they may have to give up a parsonage, salary, and benefits while paying tuition. “Live-format” colleges and seminaries MUST bring MUCH more value to the educational experience of its students than these costs. Therefore, traditional higher education MUST offer around 20 times more value than alternative outlets.
You might think that the alternative outlets are like David fighting the traditional Goliaths. But, the for-profit educational companies are exploding and so are other educational outlets (Donald Trump even sells a DVD course for real estate through the “Trump University“). Andersonville Seminary, a distant educational outlet claims over 6,000 current students.
We probably have only seen the beginnings of what will come. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Stanford is offering video downloads of their professors’ lectures in iTunes FOR FREE!
If traditional education does not get a handle on its costs and they continue in their lack of innovative teaching–David just might prevail.
What does Apple’s iPod have to do with education? Everything. Yes, Everything.
I’m not talking about the physical product, instead I refer to the mindset it represents. Apple is a company that knows modern culture, but more than that, they know what the early adapters think, feel, and dream. That’s why they produced the iPod. Apple knew that people were sick and tired of listening to the radio and putting up with 23 songs they didn’t like in order to hear their favorite song. So, Apple produced a device that lets a person have complete control over when and where they get to listen to the music that they select. Yahoo took the hint and offers radio stations that automatically customize themselves to your preferences. No longer are we at the mercy of some distant DJ to spoon feed us our music, now the music industry customizes their offerings to us, or even better, we customize music ourselves.
So, what does music have to do with education? Well, if the early adopters (normally younger people) are used to customizing everything in their lives, including their music, then won’t they want to customize their education as well? Won’t they get upset when a university tells them that they have to take 2 science classes because those classes are in the mandated-from-the-sky requirements? My feeling is that the time is coming where the student will have complete control over his or her entire degree plan. When this time comes, how are certain departments going to make it when they drop off of these university-wide requirement lists and everyone is free to pick and choose the classes they want? Well, if these departments are smart they had better start making people WANT to take their classes and quit relying on compulsion. They had better start making their offerings attractive NOW before it’s too late.
There is much more that I can say about the necessity that academic structures relinquish control of the educational process–more to come shortly.
The only televison show that I watch is the Apprentice (both of them). Last night my jaw dropped to the floor and I was totally speechless.
For the winning team’s reward, the team recorded a song with the help of the hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean. Not only is Clef an amazing artist, but more than that, he is one of the most phenomenal teachers I have ever seen. Watching that segment of the show was watching a master teacher in action.
Clef took a handfull of guys with extraordinarily limited musical ability and he helped them produce an amazing song. He did this by identifying each person’s particular strengths and desires. Clef then worked with the individuals in order to bring out their strengths so that they flourished and contributed to the rest of the group. Throughout their time together Clef made the experience fun and exciting. If you have an interest in teaching watch the re-run of the Apprentice tonight on CNBC and see the master teacher Wyclef Jean. But, don’t just watch him–integrate what you learn with your own teaching. I must say, it’s more work to teach the Clef way, but it will produce jaw-dropping results.
Wyclef Jean is the first person to be featured in the new category: Wow Teachers! This category will highlight teachers who are so good at teaching that they take your breath away and all you can utter is “Wow!” For more info on Wyclef Jean click here.
I was reading some materials about the use of jussives in biblical Hebrew and I came across this statement–’al + jussive is used for one-time prohibitions while lo’ + imperfect is used for permanent prohibitions. I was skeptical about this statement from the outset. I think language is more fluid than this. There might be occasions where extremely specific meanings like this are conveyed through syntax, but language seems to be more dynamic. In order to test this specific case I conducted a search on Accordance for every ‘al + jussive in the Bible. As I looked at the results, some of the uses might have been meant for a one-time prohibition, but it just didn’t seem to fit. Then, I came across a very interesting verse,
You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. Leviticus 10:9 NIV.
Clearly this is not a one-time prohibition, it is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. One could argue that the scribes accidentally switched the aleph and lamed in this verse so it really should read lo’ instead of ‘al, but there are other verses that disprove such a specific meaning for ‘al + jussive.
Syntax is usually not rigid. Normally, there are a range of meanings for certain syntactical features. Furthermore, we must remember that people use language and people don’t always follow the “rules” (as if there are rules, but that’s for another post).
If you are reading awilum.com chances are you’re striving for excellence in everything you do. Excellent teaching. Excellent research. Excellent life. Outstanding innovation. As we try to hit–no, make that surpass–these goals, it helps to have inspiration, motivation, keen insights, and challenges. One place I look for this is The Next Wave. They are a creative agency out of Dayton, Ohio, but I don’t care if they were located in Seattle, Pretoria, or Bangalore–they are the best out there. They understand the necessity of innovation, they understand the pulse of contemporary business and cultural life–in fact, they are looking over the present wave and anticipating the next one. You might think this is just puffing, but look, my reputation is linked to the people I refer you to and I don’t needlessly soil my reputation–The Next Wave is that good. Check out their blog and make up your own mind. Better yet, give them a call or sit down face-to-face and pick their brain.