Video of the day

I remember learning years ago that lemmings are not actually suicidal.  What I did not learn until tonight (via a very cool new Wonkblog feature entitled Knowmore) is that the super famous/iconic video of lemmings jumping to their doom in the sea was actually staged by Disney.  Bastards.

Republican delusions

Among the depressing features of this whole shutdown mess is the number of Republicans who are somehow managing to convince themselves (through what, exactly?  voodoo economics?  sheer force of will?  obtuse wishful thinking?) that passing the debt limit wouldn’t actually be bad for the economy.  Especially sobering is that our NC senior senator, Richard Burr, a chamber of commerce Republican if there ever was one, is joining in with the Tea Party denialists:

WASHINGTON — Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, a reliable friend of business on Capitol Hill and no one’s idea of a bomb thrower, isn’t buying the apocalyptic warnings that a default on United States government debt would lead to a global economic cataclysm.

“We always have enough money to pay our debt service,” said Mr. Burr, who pointed to a stream of tax revenue flowing into the Treasury as he shrugged off fears of a cascading financial crisis.

Uggh.  Of course, people who actually understand economics (or at least listen to those who do) know better.   But here’s the best, from the wonderfully-named Yoho:

Representative Ted Yoho, a freshman Florida Republican who had no experience in elective office before this year, said the largest economy on earth should learn from his large-animal veterinary practice.

“Everybody talks about how destabilizing doing this will be on the markets,” he said. “And you’ll see that initially, but heck, I’ve seen that in my business. When you go through that, and you address the problem and you address your creditors and say, ‘Listen, we’re going to pay you. We’re just not going to pay you today, but we’re going to pay you with interest, and we will pay everybody that’s due money’ — if you did that, the world would say America is finally addressing their problem.”

Right.  Because nothing like taking care of horses and livestock to help one understand the intricacy of global financial markets and macro-economics.  Lord, help us.

On being friendly with students

So, as you would not be surprised to learn, I definitely like to share personal anecdotes with my classes.  All my students know that the Blasters (my oldest’s U14 rec soccer team that I coach) are kicking butt and taking names.  They know I have four kids who I love that drive me crazy.  They know that my mom was pretty much the archetype of the “Independent leaner” who insisted on calling herself an independent but pretty much always voted for Democrats.  They know that I really enjoyed Gravity this past weekend and that I learned about twerking from the recent Miley Cyrus uproar.  Anyway, I know all this makes me more approachable to my students, and I am pretty sure creates a collegial, lower stress, learning environment.   And I like it.  It is who I am– I gotta be me, college professor or not.

Anyway, I was thus quite intrigued by this Slate article entitled “Professors shouldn’t try to be so buddy-buddy with students.  It doesn’t help.”  Hmm, one should not cross lines, of course, but that didn’t sound right to me.  And, as it turns out, my affability in the classroom may very well result in more students putting away their notebooks prematurely.  Not exactly a classroom disaster:

Professors who want to establish classroom connections with their students receive lots of advice. And some experts have over the years advised the use of “self-disclosure,” telling students stories about themselves, using self-deprecating humor as a way to make students feel comfortable and to view the instructor as an ally.

Ignore that advice. That’s the recommendation of a study being published today in Communication Education, a journal of the National Communication Association. The study was based on surveys of 438 undergraduates at a Southeastern university. The students—from across disciplines—were asked about the class they had attended just before taking the survey. And for that class, they were asked both about their instructors and about whether they engaged in certain “uncivil” behaviors, such as packing up books before class was over or texting during lectures. The researchers then compared attitudes the students had about professors with the students’ behaviors…

“This model, taking into account only instructor-related factors, explained 20 percent of the variance in self-reported uncivil behaviors among our participants—not a huge proportion, but enough to make a noticeable difference to a frustrated teacher.”

Seriously?  I don’t know if this is a horribly written Slate article or absurd research.  But the DV should be student learning!  Or at least student engagement.  But “uncivil behaviors”?  Get real.  And then, you read a bit more and the whole enterprise is completely undermined:

But while previous studies have stressed the importance of promoting engagement, this one suggests clear limits to such strategies. When students reported that their instructors engaged in a lot of sharing about their lives—particularly stories about past academic mistakes, even stories designed to stress that everyone has difficulty learning some topics—there is an immediate and negative impact on classroom attitudes. First, the students are more likely to engage in uncivil behaviors. Second, the students are less likely to see their instructors as having credibility, and the declines in instructor credibility are also associated with increases in uncivil behavior.

Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Sharing about your personal life and sharing things that make you seen less competent are entirely different kettles of fish.  My students know that my kids exasperate me and when I’ve had a morning of cleaning up vomit due to a stomach bug, but they also know that I am extraordinarily well-versed in American government.  (I’ll spare you the open-ended responses on my class evals, but trust me on this).  The idea that sharing personal details in anyway diminishes subject-matter credibility strikes me as highly suspect.

When I’m back in class next week, I’ll probably mention whatever movie I might watch this weekend and my participation in the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism.  And somehow, I think it will all be okay.

(And on a side note, one of my very best friends is a former student who first came to visit me in me office because he knew of my love for Seinfeld, from my sharing with the class).

Photo of the day

Good guys win

So, in an election that was really personally important to me, the good people of Wake County outnumbered the bad people of Wake County last night, 58-42, and voted for the school bond we very much need to handle renovations of old schools and large expected growth.   I was also very pleased that the two candidates running for school board who actually opposed the school bond (both, recent officers of the Wake GOP) were also defeated (though, I’m a little bugged that they each pulled in 48% while being anti-public school).   I was struck by the following photo I first saw in this morning’s paper:


From left, Darren Eustance, Zan Bunn and Angie Cutlip watch early election results Tuesday, October 8, 2013, during an election night watch party hosted by the Wake County Taxpayers Association and the East Wake Republican Club at Tribeca Tavern in Raleigh. Wake County voters signed off on an $810 million school construction bond issue. TRAVIS LONG —

You know, I get to some degree plenty of people not voting for it.  Those who foolishly think that schools don’t matter if they don’t have kids in them, or those that have managed to believe the Republican spin that we just need more trailers and you can’t trust the Democratic school board.  Or, no more taxes ever!!  But still, they idea that these people are sitting here dejected simply because a bond was passed to build new public schools is still on some level flabbergasting.  Just what sort of mental gymnastics has one gone through to convince oneself that more money for the school system is some sort of disaster?  Tea Party America, I guess.
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