Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Lack of Female Authors, Heterogeneous Authors, & Pedagogy

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David Gilmour utilizes his homegrown brand of pedagogy to provide riveting instruction to students. Photo via Brett Gundlock/National Post

Canadian author David Gilmour found himself in an Internet brouhaha this week in regards to an interview he provided for Hazlitt, an online magazine promoted by Random House of Canada.  The interview is about the books adorning his shelves, and…well, it’s best to quote rather than paraphrase:

I’m not interested in teaching books by women…when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys.

Response has been passionate and plentiful, almost entirely upset with Gilmour’s seemingly misogynistic and homogeneous comments.  Interestingly enough, the comment section on the Hazlitt page is almost complete condemnation of Gilmour and his interview (author’s note:  the comments section has since become like most comment sections, a series of trolls and profanity-laced semantic debates, really devaluing the initial responses).  Gilmour has issued an attempt at a mea culpa through the National Post, claiming that he is not a misogynist, though…ah heck, it’s still best to cite rather than paraphrase:

It’s got nothing to do with any nationality, or racism, or heterosexuality. Those were jokes by the way. I mean, I’m the only guy in North America who teaches Truman Capote, and Truman Capote was not what you’d exactly call a real heterosexual guy. So I really don’t know what this is about. And this is a young woman who kind of wanted to make a little name for herself, or something, because when I said “real heterosexual guys” I’m talking about Scott Fitzgerald [and] Scott Fitzgerald was not what you’d call a real guy’s guy, a real heterosexual guy. (emphasis mine)

There are plenty of people handling the privileged white male reading of this whole issue.  I see another layer to this situation regarding Gilmour’s views on education and teaching. Continue reading

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Project Lessons Learned – Iteration 1 of the SJSU/Udacity Pilot

A research-based report of the results of SJSU’s Spring 2013 pilot of lower-level mathematics courses offered via Massive Open Online Course platform (though I do like the term Augmented Online Learning Environment, or AOLE) has arrived — or at least a preliminary version.  Dubbed “Project Lessons Learned” by the research team, the results are pretty much in-line with anecdotal expectations as well as the buzz coming from SJSU:  at-risk students w/o a strong background in higher education or the subject matter fared poorly, while students w/ a strong background in higher education and/or the subject matter did better.  This is not new to those critical of MOOCs as an agent of democratizing global education, and the (for lack of a better term) bellyaching that came from Udacity in regards to student population continues to ring hollow, as globally more students share characteristics with the unsuccessful demographic.

Udacity’s response is also expected, highlighting success and mitigating struggle.

All of this comes in the shadow of Udacity’s private-private education partnership, the Open Education Alliance.  How will Udacity utilize its successes and failures in developing an open education model?  Also, how many more education terms can Udacity co-opt?  The original MOOC definition was for a learning model rather different from today’s cultural understanding of MOOC, and Open Education/Open Access as a theory and practice (with distinct roots in the early part of the century, and a history well before that) does not, at first glance, look like Udacity’s vision.

Donald Trump, Authorized Educator

The New York Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Trump Entrepreneur Institute (formerly Trump University) for what it calls blatant lies and misleading information on the value of services it provides.  The lawsuit, which calls the initiative a sham (including calling themselves Trump University, showing pictures of certificates, exploring the connections a student can gain through association with the group), seeks $40,000,000 in restitution for individuals who have paid upwards of $35,000 for the opportunity to learn from Mr. Trump in fields such as Real Estate and Business Administration.  According to the lawsuit, the workshops, lectures and mentorships through Trump University do not include Mr. Trump, but the one-on-one mentorship programs and support structures, encouraged as an up-sell during the initial three-day seminars, were largely ignored by Trump Entrepreneur Institute’s team of experts, a team which the deposition says was in no way influenced by Mr. Trump.  This leaves the situation as a blame game, with customers upset about broken promises and photo ops with a Trump cutout, and Trump alluding to the whole thing as a witch hunt propelled by the Obama administration.

While the allegations against Trump cast him in a felonious light and paint him as a charlatan, I am fixated on a foundational aspect of the story – why would anyone think Donald Trump could teach?

Continue reading