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Reading: The perennial ‘The Five-Paragraph Essay Must Die’ puffery

Source Slashdot discussions are usually pretty good: sharp, insightful. This one is the equivalent of themewriting. Uninformed, over-determined, mindless recitation of received ideas, with all options removed from the world of discussion. Posturing and posing – the trope of themewriting – passing for consideration. Just as teaching the theme passes for teaching. The discussion needs an intervention. This is your intervention: Read The Plural “I” by William Coles for a considered critique of the deceit of the five paragraph theme and an alternative curriculum. Out of print, so reprints are inexpensive. Or try a library.  Can’t be bothered to read? Try this interview with Coles by John Boe and Eric Schroeder, from Writing on the Edge.
The University

the xmooc backlash – take back the curriculum

I really shouldn’t enjoy the xMOOC backlash so much, but I do. Perhaps it’s because academics are beginning to unite. Here, it’s an issue of complicity: 

The San Jose State professors also called out Michael Sandel, the Harvard government professor who developed the course for edX, suggesting that professors who develop MOOCs are complicit in how public universities might use them. Why Professors at San Jose State Won’t Use a Harvard Professor’s MOOC

And at Amherst, it’s moderation and sobriety in the face of edX.

But Amherst’s rejection of edX, decided by a faculty vote, could mark a new chapter for MOOCs—one in which colleges revert to their default modes of deliberations and caution. “I think we’re at the early stages of that honeymoon period coming to an end,” says Richard Garrett, vice president and principal analyst of the consulting company Eduventures. Why Some Colleges Are Saying No to MOOCs, at Least for Now

Here at BSU, we haven’t seen xMOOCs appear yet, but we have a similar naked emperor in the 80/20 scheme in the Master Academic Plan. (It’s Appendix F of this PDF) The idea is this: Faculty develop an online program, then turn the teaching over to adjuncts and fixed termers to make the program sustainable by tuition alone. Sustainable is the new buzzword for on-the-cheap and killable. That is, the university commits to the program only as long as we can make money by it. If we can’t, the program is gone, and students are out in the cold.

That is, 80/20 doesn’t just work against faculty (not to mention the IFO contract) but against students. Within a year, a program that a student graduated from could easily disappear. Program gone. Faculty gone. Support gone. History. Hi ho.

The 80/20 works against some of the MAP’s other ends, such as 


C’mon: Excellent faculty will run for this hills at the sight of such a program. Or this


80/20 is designed to bring in students from distant markets, not area markets. We shouldn’t expect students on an 80/20 program to be engaged or provide serve to our local area. 

What the xMOOC backlash suggests is that excellent faculty won’t get on the bandwagon when the plan is dodgy, and here’s hoping students won’t either.