Reading: Teaching in the Time of Coronavirus, Part II

From Teaching in the Time of Coronavirus, Part II

Thank you to Aaron Barlow for calling the online fallback. Much of what I was reading on the tech and distance ed boards took the attitude of Unfortunate But Necessary. Many posters and teachers went with Opportunity Knocks. But ask the students and a different sense comes out:

This was confirmed last Wednesday when I quizzed them about their loud negative reaction to the college’s closing. Few of the students like the online tools we use every day; none of them sees the move online in a positive light. They feel their educations are being disrupted and suspect that the replacement they are being offered is a sham.

And it is.


Most educators have a somewhat cynical view of student attitudes. We think that, like most of the rest of society, they have bought into the factory model of education, that they are in school only to get the degrees that will further their upward movement in society. We forget that many of them are actually interested in learning—even though they may appear to be sleepwalking through at least some of their courses. They want their degrees to mean something, to be more than just magical pieces of paper.

Our students, of course, are shoved into as difficult a situation by coronavirus as we are. This is no vacation for them, and they know it. They also recognize that the colleges and universities are lying to them through the very act of replacing their classes with online approximations—though they, too, know the lying may be necessary. They feel frustrated, for they do not want to delay their progress toward their degrees; they feel they have no choice but to accept what is happening. But they do not like it and some of them feel—and are—technologically unprepared for the new situation. Though almost all of them have smartphones, not everyone has a computer at home for writing papers.

The lying isn’t necessary; but the universities are not in a position to offer much more than online versions right now. That’s our fault. The unwelcome move online might reveal another crack in the papered-over system. We’ll need to repair things later. We’ll need to repair a lot of things Later.

But, Barlow suggests, we need to change teaching and learning Right Now.

If we work at it, it may prove better than anything we have done before, though it will not be categorizable and will not even be the online coursework we are trying to ram down our throats and our students’ throats.


Reading: Trump coronavirus press conference: Despite dire warnings, the president wants everyone to “relax” – Vox

From Trump coronavirus press conference: Despite dire warnings, the president wants everyone to “relax” – Vox

Let’s get this right, because anyone could be infected or infect others, there is no wide-spread test and no vax yet:

[o]n CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Fauci explained why — even though the coronavirus is believed to be more severe in older people and those with underlying health conditions — young and relatively healthy people should still take steps to limit their exposure.

“The virus is not a mathematical formula,” Fauci said. “There are going to be people who are young who are going to wind up getting seriously ill. So, protect yourself.”

He added that young people can also carry the virus without being seriously affected, infecting those for whom the virus could mean serious health risks. But Trump failed to convey that message, instead making the risk among younger Americans seem slight.

“I think very important — the young people, people of good health, and [these] groups of people are just not strongly affected,” Trump said. “Elderly people that are not well or not well in certain respects are really a very dangerous group. We have to watch them, we have to protect them very much.”

These sorts of statements from the president have become par for the course in this pandemic, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. It is true that there are administration officials out there like Fauci who are providing sound, balanced information — but it is also true that they do not speak with the weight and authority of the office of the president of the United States.

So when Trump tells younger Americans they are “not strongly affected” without providing any context, or when he says “it’s a very contagious virus, it’s incredible, but it’s something we have tremendous control of,” which is not true, he is doing more than giving bad advice or indulging in a little self-aggrandizement: He is putting lives at risk.


Reading: Oi, Cummings! Leave those lefty kids alone

From Oi, Cummings! Leave those lefty kids alone

From Stuart Lee at The Guardian. “Necessary phantoms” is not just a great name for a band. It’s what Cummings and Trump need to survive in a political world.

Last week Policy Exchange tried to make liberal higher educational institutions the next bogeypersons in the Rightwing Coup’s culture war, another target in an ongoing parade of necessary phantoms.

They have run out of nasties like the EU are turning on their own tail:

Turning Point UK, the British incarnation of a wealthy American rightwing youth organisation, endorsed by the child-friendly Conservative luminaries Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg, is aiming to compile a student snitches’ website listing the dangerous leftwing academics exposing our kids to their anti-racist mathematics and frayed corduroy jackets.

We’re in university to get Educated: live on mac and cheese, listen to punk with buddies and prog rock secretly, read tediously long and complex novels, and party. So why turn on the students? Instead, start your own.

Why don’t Policy Exchange, Turning Point UK, Toby Young’s X-Men of Shits, and the Freedom Association just set up their own universities, teaching climate-emergency denial, anti-trade union theory, progressive eugenics and political correctness gone mad? Universities are supposed to be leftwing, daddio! And so are students.

Ok, Boomer?


Reading: Contrary to Trump’s claim, Google is not building a nationwide coronavirus screening website – The Verge

From Contrary to Trump’s claim, Google is not building a nationwide coronavirus screening website – The Verge

Google is not working with the US government in building a nationwide website to help people determine whether and how to get a novel coronavirus test, despite what President Donald Trump said in the course of issuing an emergency declaration for the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, a much smaller trial website made by another division of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is going up. It will only be able to direct people to testing facilities in the Bay Area.


Reading: After deregulatory blitz, FCC scrambles to prevent ISP abuse during pandemic

From After deregulatory blitz, FCC scrambles to prevent ISP abuse during pandemic

And on the same note of incompetence and ideological deregulation, we now risk having access to the non-existent coronavirus testing triage site.

Under pressure from the Federal Communications Commission, Internet service providers today pledged to waive late fees and keep customers connected when they miss payments due to the coronavirus pandemic. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that many ISPs signed his “Keep Americans Connected Pledge.” But while the pledge prevents disconnections and late fees, Pai was unwilling or unable to convince ISPs to waive data caps during the pandemic.


Reading: Google contradicts Trump claims: it’s not working on a coronavirus portal

From Google contradicts Trump claims: it’s not working on a coronavirus portal

FFS. The national emergency- two big words for Trump – is Trump and his admin as much as the coronavirus.

Problems start with the fact that Google isn’t involved in this. Instead, a different Alphabet company, Verily, is working on a portal. This makes more sense, given that Verily is focused on medical-oriented computing, both in terms of analyzing data for large healthcare providers, and in terms of providing services and hardware for individual patients. And it at least has the same corporate parent as Google, which presumably explains the confusion about who’s building the software.

But the Verily statement (which was issued by Google communications) indicates that there are a number of other issues in the plans presented by the administration today.

The website is not even ready for use for a single region in one state, much less ready to become a central part of the government’s strategy of allocating the millions of tests it announced would be available in the near future.

Trump’s dog and pony show emphasis was on New! and Exciting! when it needs to be placed on accurate and prompt. Yet another coronavirus debacle.

As of this report, the administration had not not clarified what its actual plan is. Given that key figures in devising said plan were acting as if this portal were ready for use just a few hours ago, it may take them some time to develop one.


Reading: Trump Declares National Emergency—but Also ‘I Don’t Take Responsibility’ | WIRED

From Trump Declares National Emergency—but Also ‘I Don’t Take Responsibility’ | WIRED

Just a little bookmark to remind us all down the line:

A key purpose of today’s press conference was to convince you that none of this is the administration’s fault. “I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump said in response to a question about the lack of tests. “Because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.” After weeks denying that there even was a testing shortage, this is apparently Trump’s new line: that excessive red tape, not the administration’s own fecklessness, has hampered US testing capabilities.

Yep. /waiting for Target tests/

But for a dialectic, try this. It’s not about the virus; it’s about who’s on first.


Reading: Peter Wehner: The Trump Presidency Is Over – The Atlantic

From Peter Wehner: The Trump Presidency Is Over – The Atlantic

Yes, Wehner makes an ad hominem argument, but he supports it by actions that demonstrate a problem with character. He couldn’t make the argument if Trump had acted otherwise. And Wehner places the argument in a larger social context in which character matters. This is not vituperation. It’s epideictic for a time of reflection.

Taken together, this is a massive failure in leadership that stems from a massive defect in character. Trump is such a habitual liar that he is incapable of being honest, even when being honest would serve his interests. He is so impulsive, shortsighted, and undisciplined that he is unable to plan or even think beyond the moment. He is such a divisive and polarizing figure that he long ago lost the ability to unite the nation under any circumstances and for any cause. And he is so narcissistic and unreflective that he is completely incapable of learning from his mistakes. The president’s disordered personality makes him as ill-equipped to deal with a crisis as any president has ever been. With few exceptions, what Trump has said is not just useless; it is downright injurious.

The nation is recognizing this, treating him as a bystander “as school superintendents, sports commissioners, college presidents, governors and business owners across the country take it upon themselves to shut down much of American life without clear guidance from the president,” in the words of Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.


Reading: Donald Trump’s scapegoating coronavirus speech shows he just doesn’t get it – CNNPolitics

From Donald Trump’s scapegoating coronavirus speech shows he just doesn’t get it – CNNPolitics

Er … how is blame helping? Just a blip in time?

The truth is that Trump’s attempt to act as though everything is totally normal and there is no need to alter our routines has failed. The only way the virus has been slowed in other countries is through real changes in daily lives — up to and including bans on any large gatherings.

Like it or not, that is how we will get through the coronavirus epidemic. Not by scapegoating other countries and patting ourselves on the back. The time for those political machinations has passed. The problem is that the President of the United States doesn’t seem to realize that.

Staying home means more time to consider what happens next.


Reading: PsyArXiv Preprints | Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder

From PsyArXiv Preprints | Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder


Across four studies participants (N = 818) rated the profoundness of abstract art images accompanied with varying categories of titles, including: pseudo-profound bullshit titles (e.g., The Deaf Echo), mundane titles (e.g., Canvas 8), and no titles. Randomly generated pseudo-profound bullshit titles increased the perceived profoundness of computer generated abstract art, compared to when no titles were present (Study 1). Mundane titles did not enhance the perception of profoundness, indicating that pseudo-profound bullshit titles specifically (as opposed to titles in general) enhance the perceived profoundness of abstract art (Study 2). Furthermore, we find that these effects generalize to artist-created abstract art (Study 3). Finally, we report a large correlation between profoundness ratings for pseudo-profound bullshit and “International Art English” statements (Study 4), a mode and style of communication commonly employed by artists to discuss their work. This correlation suggests that these two independently developed communicative modes share underlying cognitive mechanisms in their interpretations. We discuss the potential for these results to be integrated into a larger, new theoretical framework of bullshit as a low-cost strategy for gaining advantages in prestige awarding domains.