Dressing for the classroom, criticizing feminist scholarship, and online education

A quick review of higher education news highlights.

As I sit with my cuppa tea this morning and read the Chronicle of Higher Ed and Inside Higher Ed a few stories caught my eye.

“I work at a college where professors wear a variety of things,” she says, “Some wear suits and ties and others wear shorts, so regardless of which class I was dressing for, I didn’t really stand out.”

That would not be true at every institution, Ms. Konheim-Kalkstein observes. “My husband is going to start teaching at West Point,” she says. “If he showed up in sneakers, I think he would have a much stronger reaction there from his students.”

  • Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship by Christina Hoff Sommers – This one is charged and no doubt is raising lots of comments on the interwebs. Basically Sommers, who has criticized feminist scholarship before, is pointing out that there are many “facts” put forward in the feminist canon that simply aren’t true. I paid particular attention because at a recent workshop we had here we too were told that “20 to 35 percent of women seeking medical care in emergency rooms in America are there because of domestic violence.” Not true apparently. The CDC reports that it was 0.02% in 2003 and 0.01% in 2005. That is not just statistical error. Sommers is not anti-feminist however. She simply wants to see good scholarship.

All books have mistakes, so why pick on the feminists? My complaint with feminist research is not so much that the authors make mistakes; it is that the mistakes are impervious to reasoned criticism. They do not get corrected. The authors are passionately committed to the proposition that American women are oppressed and under siege. The scholars seize and hold on for dear life to any piece of data that appears to corroborate their dire worldview. At the same time, any critic who attempts to correct the false assumptions is dismissed as a backlasher and an anti-feminist crank.

… False assertions, hyperbole, and crying wolf undermine the credibility and effectiveness of feminism. The United States, and the world, would greatly benefit from an intellectually responsible, reality-based women’s movement.

Notably, the report attributes much of the success in learning online (blended or entirely) not to technology but to time. “Studies in which learners in the online condition spent more time on task than students in the face-to-face condition found a greater benefit for online learning,” the report says.

The note above in the IHE summary pointed to something that I have been wrestling with in terms of online education. The question has come up as to whether or not an honors course could be offered online. My instinct is to say “no” but I am not so sure. One of the key elements to an honors seminar is discussion and I have often found in my online courses (I have taught Intro to Hebrew Bible online many times) that because students are required to post to the online discussion board where they have to compose a message the discussion is often more thoughtful and everyone has a chance to be heard. Still mulling on this….

Finally, the Chronicle has “What They’re Reading on College Campuses.” No real surprises here. I had thought about #2 for our college’s summer reading project: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

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