Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The LAST word on the Stanford Experiments

Well, not really.  I'm guilty of sensational headlines.  But this is the latest word.

Just like the marshmallow experiments that we've been citing for years, the exaggerated conclusions for the Stanford Prison experiments are more or less debunked. I'm glad.  Human behavior is far, far more complex than an experiment.  Thank heavens.  Read literature; get some friends; be involved in community.  That might teach you more about humanity.

Watched Brigadoon for the first time last night. As a person whose DNA is at least 50% Scottish, all I can say is that no self-respecting Scot would dress or dance like that. We are a tough breed who built this country. But there's a good line in it:

Gene Kelly:  It's hot in here (a crowded bar).
Van Johnson:  It's not the heat, it's the humanity.

Oh, so true!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The LAST Word on Learning Styles

That title might be extreme, but this article nails it, plus giving some good links to other research.

What is mostly important here is that we do know what universally works in learning (time, multiple modalities, application rather than rote, spaced out study) rather than an overfocus on "what makes me special."

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

More movement on Student Evaluation of Teaching Issue

I'm glad to read this.  I hope other institutions get on board with this.  Student evaluation of teaching is valuable, but not an indication of how well the students learn and the amount of effort, theory, and best practices instructors utilize.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Teaching the Renaissance

This post is going to be a little different from my usual ones, but it allows me to talk about my right brain endeavors.

Because I have master's degrees in a social science (communication) and a humanities field (English), I have taught a wider variety of courses than usual.  Literature, humanities, remedial reading and English professional writing, public speaking, creative writing, interpersonal communication--and so on.  One course I taught for several years was Introduction to Humanities, a course I loved to teach but never really felt as if I got a handle on.  (My dissertation was in a social science, qualitative.)

One reason for this is that the class is too expansive:  history of cultures, philosophy, literature, visual arts, music, architecture, all in one semester.  Consequently, the course offers few opportunities to really explore an era.  Secondly, although the books present the "eras" as if they were neat, there is no such thing.

I am reminded of a Hagar the Horrible cartoon where his little friend open the door and a shaft of darkness comes into the room.  "The Dark Ages are here," he announces.  The textbooks are basically the same.  If this is 620 A.D. (C.E. now), this must be the Dark Ages.  If it's 1482, this must be the Renaissance, with all the characteristics pertaining thereunto.

And therefore, the art and architecture that the book says were characteristic of that era must be in full fledge.

Except they weren't, and I knew that but didn't know how to go against the book.  I found it frustrating to say that the Renaissance was all about order, the rebirth of secular civil society, and reason/rationality, when there was all kinds of craziness going on in the art and government.  Sure, we could pick out the Machiavelli and the Michelangelo, but most of the art was intensely religious, the countries were constantly fighting each other, the Pope was doing his Popish things, and the art could be emotional rather than rational.

Rationality and order were not in control just because daVinci used symmetry in The Last Supper or Rafael used a triangle configuration in a painting of the Madonna and child or they seemed to be getting perspective right, with Jesus' head smack dab on the horizon line in Massacio's painting.

Then Mannerism was really hard to teach, because it was so weird. On top of it, the sculpture of the late Middle Ages was exquisite and human, despite the assertion that the Middle Ages was all about etheral, overspiritualized bodies that didn't have any mass or reality. 

So, I have been watching a series on Amazon video by Waldemar Janusczak, a British art critic, and I like his take on it and recommend it.  In The Renaissance Unchained he shows that much of what we've been told about the Renaissance is not true and was propagated by Vasari, a contemporary in Italy.  He's not saying the art is not great art; of course it's amazing.  Mainly, however, all the great art of the Renaissance was not in Italy, and the great art was not about order and reason, but about an unleashed imagination.

And may I say, the art is downright dirty.  Lots of eroticism.  To the extent the artists "rebirthed" Greek civilization, it was mostly the naughty tales of rape and bestiality from the Greek myths.  Icky.

I doubt I'll ever teach Humanities again unless I just go back to teaching full time (and my goal of teaching from now on is to make it as easy for myself as possible!), but I wish I knew then what I know now.

But don't we all?