October 2008

Teaching Today's Generation Part II
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on October 02, 2008

Another way in which to consider this question may be through the lens of David Frum, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In his April 2, 2008 op-ed piece (http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2008/04/why-the-gop-l-1.html) in the USA Today, Frum argues that the reasons the GOP lost the youth vote are the following:

1. Young people react to the success or failure of the first politicians they know. The twentysomethings of the 1980s, for example, associated the Democratic Party with the malaise of Jimmy Carter — and the GOP with the triumphs of Ronald Reagan. Today's Republican Party is associated with a wave of disappointments and embarrassments: Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, congressional corruption scandals, the mortgage crisis.

2. The Reagan years were a time of prosperity for young workers. Unemployment plunged, wages rose, housing became more affordable. The Bush years have not been so favorable. The cost of a college degree rose faster than pay for college graduates. New college graduates saw their wages actually drop after inflation. And the costs of housing have outpaced incomes for just about all young people.

3. The Republican Party has become increasingly identified with conservative Christianity. Younger Americans are becoming more secular and more permissive. In particular, young Americans have become increasingly tolerant of homosexuality and increasingly willing to have children outside marriage. While unmarried births have dropped among teenagers since the welfare reform of 1995, unmarried births have actually been rising among women in their 20s.

4. Today's twentysomethings are browner and blacker than those of the 1980s. Hispanics and Asians both tilt strongly Democratic, as of course do African-Americans.

Frum's suggestions are that to reach the young (i.e., Millenials) you must focus on economic interests, the interests of our posterity, the environment, and success at the polls. This, Frum seems to argue, will undercut arguments based on class, race, and social agendas.

I am interested in Lee's early response post regarding the importance of the economy. Is a way to reach Millenials in our classrooms to focus on economic wellbeing and the power of some ideas to advance or retard this? Here, thus, I am addressing questions of curricula and relating them to basic human desires for wellbeing. Is good economics the way or one of the ways to reach Millenials?

Teaching Patriotism
By Joseph Fornieri on October 06, 2008

A recent lecture at my academic institution that was sponsored by an Endowed Chair in Ethics was entitled, "Patriotism and Morality." Predictably, the speaker had this to say about the subject: "For many people, patriotism is an important value. It is characteristic of them to have an identification with and attachment to a particular group, tribe, or nation, as well as loyalty to a state or love of country. Such attachment and loyalty provide reasons for preferring, giving priority to their compatriots. Is this preference morally defensible? Are there moral claims which require us to favor noncompatriots (i.e., members of other groups, nations, or states). I shall argue there are such claims – that under present global conditions of poverty and hunger we are morally required to prefer the poor and hungry of the world over members of our own group, nation, or state."

Let us confront squarely the problem: in academic circles patriotism is denigrated as an immoral jingoism. It is even regarded by some as a form of indoctrination and propaganda. Like Martha Nussbaum far too many in our cultural elite prefer to regard themselves, "as citizens of the world." How does a young, untenured faculty member respond to this prevailing bias? Certainly not by defending the indefensible or by committing professional suicide through boisterous flag waving displays that only feed caricatures drawn by the far Left. The best defense is an offense.

We should be prepared to defend rationally patriotism as an honorable virtue. The battlefield is in the classroom, in a struggle over the hearts and minds of students who will ultimately be disposed to an indifference, service, or contempt for their country. Yes, there are moments when one is compelled to speak publicly, even as a vulnerable, untenured faculty member. But our focus should be in the classroom to reach students who will be the next generation of leaders.

I write this blog to stimulate a discussion of how patriotism may be taught in the classroom. To prepare for this battle, I highly recommend the works of Wilfred McClay and Walter Berns as great ammunition. Personally, I have found it successful to follow the example of Lincoln who affirmed what was best about his nation and was willing to point out what wrong in an effort to make it better. Of course, Teddy Roosevelt has much to say as well. Moreover, one can expose the rank ingratitude and hypocrisy of those who hate America yet reap its benefits everyday. I often ask my technical students at RIT how successful they would be in studying information technology at a university in the Sudan or Afghanistan. I conclude with an instructive quote by Lincoln on patriotism in his eulogy to Henry Clay, "He loved his country partly because it was his own, but mostly because it was a free country."

Pedagogy for the Digital Generation
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on October 15, 2008

Pedagogical initiatives in higher education have always centered on instructional effectiveness. For most of the history of higher education, such effectiveness has been intimately related to face-to-face classroom or tutorial instruction. The rise of information communication technologies (ICTs) has made it possible to offer education without face-to-face contact. Faculty or professional curricula developers can create stand alone courses and educational materials that can be facilitated via Second Life and digital avatars, iTunes University, podcasts, YouTube, and other digital platforms without an actual physical instructor. As some have begun to argue, actual, physical, tangible, “touch and feel” faculty are outdated. Consider, for example, Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab where researchers are creating life-like avatars (a virtual representation of one’s self) for educational applications. According to Jeremy Bailenson, one of the faculty researchers in this project, digital avatars can “outperform” a normal faculty any day of the week as well as facilitate improved student learning at rates at which normal faculty salivate. Bailenson argues that while the “prevailing wisdom in teaching…is that face-to-face contact is the gold standard…it is inevitable that we will have to rethink the importance of physical location…as virtual reality moves…into rigorous scientific applications.” This made me wonder if Jesus were to arrive on earth today, would he use a digital avatar? If Plato were to found his Academy in today’s world, would he use digital avatars and online distance education tools? Could an avatar, a podcast, a YouTube video meet the needs of students hungry for learning, hungry for an intellectual community? Is physical presence, a physical environment really a human need or is it just part of our conventional socialization? Can students learn more and more effectively without physical faculty and without the physical environments of a university? There are many who argue that Millenials, the Digital Generation, require such a pedagogical transition.

Are we as faculty just outdated? Are we on the way out?


Reading in Today's Higher Education Environment
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on October 21, 2008

The entire issue of online education and delivery formats raises the important question of the type of reading that goes on in our universities. What are the general characteristics of good reading habits? What type of reading have ICTs and online education fostered?

Obviously, there are various types of materials, courses, and information that perhaps demand different types of reading styles and practices. And here, I would like to gauge from our LASC CDT participants what different styles and practices may exist. One that seems to me to be an important part is that of close and reflective reading. Good reading demands the time and patience for the reader to enter into the conversation/argument of any material. A close reading and sympathetic interpretation of any text requires time, patience, and reflection.

I am wondering if this is possible in online delivery systems that require efficient presentation of material, scheduling flexibility, and that are predisposed to reading efficiently and not necessarily patiently. In other words, it seems to me that reading in today's digital environment leads students (and perhaps many of us faculty) to skim material rather than read closely. The information overload is so great that we resort to skimming material rather than reading carefully and deliberately. This may also have affected our attention spans- we want fast delivery and fast understanding whereas a liberal arts education or education in general are built on the assumption of careful, slow, patient, and deliberate reading, thought, and work.

Has the digital world made our students and perhaps ourselves more illiterate and less able to really read? Your thoughts? Are we all victims of information overload? How can we combat this among our students, our curricula, and ourselves?


Job Announcement: Assistant Professor of American Politics, Salve Regina University
By Kelly M. Hanlon on October 23, 2008

Salve Regina University's Department of Political Science invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor to begin September 1, 2009. Candidates should demonstrate strong potential for effective undergraduate teaching, scholarship, and support for the University's mission. The PhD is required. The department is seeking a candidate with a specialization in American Politics and Government. Teaching duties include introductory American Government courses and upper level courses in American Political Thought, the Presidency/Congress/Judiciary, Civil Liberties, and Constitutional Law. Courses emphasize the role of the Founding principles, institutions, and statesmanship in the development of American politics. Instructors are encouraged to use primary texts.

Applying: Applicants for the position must apply online only at http://www.salve.edu/offices/hr/index.cfm. When applying online, qualified applicants should attach a current curriculum vitae and statement of teaching philosophy. Other required material (three letters of reference and official graduate transcripts) please forward via mail to:

Dr. Dean de la Motte
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Salve Regina University
100 Ochre Point Avenue
Newport, RI 02840-4192

The committee will begin reviewing applications on November 1, 2008 and continue until the position is filled.

Additional Information: Salve Regina University offers generous benefits to eligible employees including: health and dental coverage, life insurance, long-term disability, 403B plan, tuition benefits and more. Salve Regina University is an EO/AA Employer. Salve Regina is committed to creating a more racially and ethnically diverse campus community, and encourages applications from candidates who share those values. Information on the University's Affirmative Action Policies and Procedures can be obtained in the Human Resources Office. Pre-employment background checks are required of successful candidates

Job Announcement: Assistant Dean, Belmont Abbey College
By Kelly M. Hanlon on October 28, 2008

Belmont Abbey College invites nominations and applications for an Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs (ADAA). The ADAA, who reports to the Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA), is responsible for helping the VPAA oversee the curriculum, faculty, staff, academic programs, and academic budget of the College.

Requirements:

  • Earned Ph.D. in an academic discipline
  • Record of achievement as a college administrator, or equivalent experience
  • Experience teaching at the college level
  • Evidence of intellectual and scholarly achievement
  • Understanding and appreciation of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition
  • Practicing Catholic

Preferred Characteristics:

  • Integrity, Intelligence, Maturity, Courage, Common Sense, Kindness, Wisdom, Humor, and Humility

The successful candidate should be an intelligent, trustworthy, kind, fair, energetic, self-motivated, hard-working leader who enjoys confronting challenges and solving problems. He or she should like people and be an expert communicator—both orally and verbally. In addition to being deft in dealing with many different constituencies, the ADAA should be polite, discrete, tactful, courageous, persevering, and wise with a good sense of humor. He or she should be good at working with others and at inspiring them to collaborate with each other. The successful candidate will be a self-motivated, organized, talented manager able to work well under pressure, handle numerous tasks simultaneously, and meet deadlines. Talent as a counselor, experience in curriculum and faculty development, a background in assessment, and budgetary ability would all be a plus. Working in the evenings and on weekends will sometimes be required.

Located ten minutes west of Charlotte, North Carolina, Belmont Abbey College is a Catholic, Benedictine school that educates a diverse student body in the liberal arts and sciences. The College, which is more than 130 years old, is known for its dedicated faculty, their excellent teaching, the personal attention that students receive, and a friendly atmosphere both inside and outside of the classroom. There is a Benedictine monastery on campus, as well as a minor basilica. In keeping with the monks’ age-old tradition of hospitality, the College community welcomes newcomers and works together for the benefit of our students--aiming to exemplify the aspiration that our College motto encapsulates: That in all things God may be glorified.

Interested candidates should send a letter of application, a current curriculum vitae, and the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of three references (who are thoroughly conversant with the candidates’ character, teaching, administrative ability, and scholarly accomplishments) to:

Dr. Carson Daly
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Belmont Abbey College
Belmont, NC 28012
(704) 461-6728
carsondaly@bac.edu

Trick or Treat? Halloween and the Tenure Process
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on October 31, 2008

Today, thousands of American children will go out and try to bag some candy. Armed with pillowcases (at least this is the way I did it when I was a child) and either store bought or homemade costumes, children will go from house to house asking for candy and, in some cases, acting like Oliver: "Please, sir, can I have some more?"

At this same time, hundreds of faculty throughout America are undergoing one of the venerable traditions of higher education- the tenure process. This may truly be a question of "trick" or "treat." Ideally, the tenure process is supposed to be a treat- a time in which candidates grow and mature as well as demonstrate all that they can contribute to an institution. It is also a time in which institutions of higher learning reach out to candidates and improve them through various collaborative initiatives and direct guidance.

But, alas, most tenure processes are often tricks and not treats. The dreaded stories one often hears about tenure are all too common. Often, tenure is much like Halloween. It is a time in which candidates must wear a number of costumes to ensure they acquire the great piece of candy called "tenure."

Just what costumes (perhaps a better word would be character traits) are most essential for this process? I would like to suggest to any candidate out there that there are three essential dispositions that must be continually deployed during this process: gentleness, meekness, and prudence (as Aristotle called it- practical intelligence). It goes without saying, of course, that candidates must meet all of the "hard" requirements of most tenure processes: excellent teaching, research, and service. But in my experience sitting on a number of rank and tenure committee meetings, the most successful candidates are the ones who are able to embody and practice the three virtues mentioned above.

Gentleness- no candidate should ever give him/herself over to a rash and abrasive attitude and manner of living. One's colleagues are first one's colleagues and then, second, they are one's friends or acquaintances. One's attitudes, words, actions, should always be characterized by a gentility that is often all too uncommon in today's academy. Abrasive behavior is never forgotten and often can come back to haunt a candidate much like Scrooge's ghost from Christmas past.

Meekness- candidates should always demonstrate and practice the ability to be confident yet be humble, to be strong yet admit areas of further development, to be open to criticism and correction. Meekness is not weakness. It is strength under fire. The tenure process is stressful and it is crucial for candidates to demonstrate and model the virtue of humble confidence.

Both of the above virtues often contribute much to one of those things that all tenure committees love for a candidate to have- collegiality.

The last virtue is perhaps the most important- prudence. Prudence dictates that one act at the right time, with the right intention, with the right feeling, and in the right manner. It takes time to develop and practice prudence. And while this may be the case, no candidate can ever have too much of it. The tenure process, in its best form, will demand that a candidate continually walk the line at all times. And for such a fiery test, prudence is perhaps one of the chief virtues needed for a successful tenure process.

Whether one's tenure process is a "trick" or a "treat," gentleness, meekness, and prudence along with excellent accomplishments position any candidate for success. And even if the process leads to a bad outcome (due to a faulty process or vicious colleagues), one can at least walk away with one's integrity intact.

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