by Tyler Cowen
on April 15, 2010 at 6:48 am
1. Free download of first Planet Earth episode.
2. Gallery of food sculptures.
3. Middlebury to partner with for-profit for language instruction.
4. LSU Professor fails 90 percent of students on quizzes, is removed from teaching the class.
5. Arundhati Roy endorses Maoist attack?
6. Most cited book authors in the humanities.
Your link to the Arundhati Roy story is interesting, could you elaborate? What are your thoughts about the conditions in Chhattisgarh, the police actions against the Naxalites, and the violent reaction is received? A very complex issue – one I know too little about – and I’d love to hear more about here.
Indeed she has, but that’s not my question. I want to know what the underlying issues in Chhattisgarh are and understand better the root of the problem. Arundhati Roy is no fool and if she has such sympathies my first reaction is to ask why.
No fool in fiction, big fool in facts. I’ve heard her talk about both. Roy’s intelligence declined markedly when conversation turned from imaginary worlds to Indian politics and globalization.
@ 4 and 6 — I lost my job at an Australian university in 2006 following a scandal when I failed some students, exposed plagiarism, and cited Weber in defense of academic standards (the citation was none other than ‘Science as a Vocation’). My colleagues at the kangaroo court predictably cited Foucault, Bourdieu, Derrida, and Habermas to excuse grade relativism and textual ambiguity. It was a load of irrational kant, but I was outnumbered and dispirited by the inhumanity (citation Bandura) and Rawlsian unfairness of it all. Citing is not necessarily the same as understanding, but a Kuhn-shift back to Weber will, I confidently predict, eventually restore integrity to the humanities.
The list of most cited authors in the humanities is heavy in
theory and philosophy. This may mean in part that those who
publish are attracted to them and that these impressive
references pave the way to publication. As a former English
academic I would have liked to see C.S. Lewis and Maynard Mack,
to cite just two, who were very widely read, possessed rich
sensibilities, and wrote in a way that did not disgrace
the authors they wrote about.
Either the teacher is a bad teacher or her tests are poorly written/unreasonably hard.
Also, mandatory attendance is another good sign of a bad teacher. If you have nothing to add to the book, then you don’t deserve to have students take your bad quizzes.
“I don’t know much about the complex issues and controversies involving India’s adivasis.”
You could have stopped there.
“1. The murder of 76 police officers and soldiers in a democratic state is a pretty big deal.”
It certainly is.
“2. The main goal of the Naxalites appears to be political power. People who use violence to obtain political power in a democratic state are almost universally contemptible.”
Debatable. No doubt they will be universally condemned by those in power, but that doesn’t say much.
“Additionally, Arundhati Roy is a fool.”
Not by a long shot. I’m reminded of some of my friends who like to refer to Milton Friedman as a “fool”. I assure them that he most certainly is not.
Of course Roy is no fool. She is a dedicated propagandist for Marxist causes.
… mandatory attendance is a sign of a _bad_ teacher?
Here’s a good article on Roy’s ‘journalism’: Maostan of Arundhati Roy
Professors have every right to establish rigorous grading standards for their courses. However, it’s simply unreasonable to apply the same level of rigor to an entry-level evolution class for non-majors as one would find in a senior-level biology seminar. Either the professor was really confused as to the nature of the class she was teaching or she’s just plain vindictive.
Regarding the humanities cites, I thought that pomo had become passe, but given the top three,
I guess not.
On grading, there is also the matter of a prof being able to notch up or notch down the
level of difficulty of an exam relative to the course material taught. So, if someone makes
the exam too difficult for the level of material taught and then imposes some standard scale
in which 90% fail, this is not exactly impressive.
I do not have mandatory attendance, but I warn my students that they will struggle to learn the material if they don’t attend the lectures. Some courses can be learned quickly enough and thoroughly enough from a textbook, but many cannot. Nevertheless, some choose not to attend regularly, and then go on to drop or fail the course. I sympathize with a teacher that mandates attendance in a tough course so that fewer of her students will fail.
I took a general chemistry, for science majors, class once and the professor was awful. He gave out quizzes like this at every lecture, only they weren’t multiple choice. I didn’t have any particular problems, but I had already taken the class years ago but my credit didn’t transfer, and almost the entire rest of the class did. He would ask questions on stochiometry and enthalpy before even covering the topics in class. When he lectured he used an overhead that just projected the topic and never wrote anything on the boards, and never even worked a single problem in class.
The first half of his lectures would consist of statistics breakdowns of how many people were failing the class, and the second of telling students who asked questions to read the book, which delightfully had basic math errors. Even though I had the third best average in the class he tried to force me to drop because I missed two classes and then had an accident on campus where I was treated at the student health service and sent to the hospital, because I did not contact him on that day with my reason for absence. His department actually backed him up on that and I had to get the dean of students to over ride him on this. He was tenured however, and I later found out was actually inflicted intentionally on freshmen by the department as a punishment for his personal awfulness.
This was at a major state university within a days driving distance of LSU. So I would like to know more details before I judge.
Re: 4. If she only taught a self improvement class and spent half the lecture to play music and the other to teach students how to be themselves, why, she would have been the highest rated teacher in the whole nation. Serves her right!
Students who do not come … deserve the poor grade that they receive.
Changing this to “do not do the reading”, can you distinguish the actual LSU situation from this hypothetical example?
It seems, sadly, that the professor in question’s lack of recent experience teaching introductory students not necessarily interested in the subject and likely more at the moderate end of the competency spectrum led her to have outsize expectations, and the students’ general collective inability to meet those outsize expectations led to difficulties resulting in the professor’s removal.
It’s kind of a sad situation, in my eyes, and both professor and student will probably end up worse off, assuming, however, that education has something to do with learning, which is a connection that seems rather more tenuous than my younger, more idealistic self believed.
Well, your belief fits in with the views of the ratemyprofessor people. On their scale,
being easy is good (higher numbers). Some faculty consider that site by looking at the ratio
using 1 as the base (as it is the lower bound on all the indexes) of the general quality
number to the easiness number, given that we certainly do expect in general for students
to rate as higher general quality those who grade more easily. So, those who get higher
quality numbers relative to their easiness numbers may have something special going for them.
Oops, I made a mistake in my first comment, the link is to an older article by Roy on the Narmada Dam issue, and not to the Naxal article just recently published in Outlook magazine.
This is the excellent piece by Arundhati Roy on the Naxal movement:
If someone knows who the commenter Jason h. is please send it to him, as he seemed very interested in the issue.
Also, Mal, I urge you to read this piece too.
I think students like to believe that if 90% fail it MUST be the teacher’s fault. Sometimes it is but sometimes it reflects the fact that students do not
prepare for the exam that they are about to take.
My belief is that in a fair course, students earn their grades and don’t get them by birthright.
When will Southern universities learn not to mess with female biology professors with strange ideas? I fear another tragedy is in the making.
Support for tribals and opposition to government oppression does not equal support for Naxalites. Please do not confuse the two. When a group representing poor tribals gets access to sophisticated assault weapons, grenades, mines and the like you should stop and think. There are many examples of poor rural/tribal people in India raising themselves out of poverty without resorting to mindless violence. Read about the Amul movement for example. The naxalite/maoist movement is doing more harm to the people they claim to represent. People like Arundhati Roy love glorifying poverty, please take their views with a handful of salt.
You’re right, Tyler should have linked to the long Roy article on the Naxalites. It very illuminating. I’m getting quite a bit out of this thread now that you (and now Parag) have begun posting.
If you want Planet Earth for free, it’s been available as torrents in 1080p for a long time. If you want to support BBC, you should buy it for full price. But getting 1 episode free? Why???
No, he was posting a link about Roy’s opinions on the Naxalites and specifically their use of violence. The link that Chaitanya posted was far more illuminating both on the Naxalites (not the reason for Tyler’s post) as well as Roy’s view of them and their view on violence, good or bad (definitely the reason for Tyler’s post). The original link was polemical and unhelpful as were pretty much all of the other links posted in the thread, including the one you enjoyed. Chaitana’s article is a great insight into Roy’s thinking, regardless of whether you celebrate or despise that thinking.
“I think students like to believe that if 90% fail it MUST be the teacher’s fault. Sometimes it is but sometimes it reflects the fact that students do not prepare for the exam that they are about to take.
My belief is that in a fair course, students earn their grades and don’t get them by birthright.”
90% are not preparing for the exam? Really? That’s doubtful. If 90% of the class is failing, then it is highly likely to be the fault of the professor. In this particular case, the professor was inexperienced at teaching introductory classes.
“Or maybe the students had gotten accustomed to not knowing enough and still passing exams.”
But 90% of them?
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