Friday, December 22, 2006

The Semester Has Come to an End

It seems a good time to reflect on what I have been posting about over the past few months, as so many others are going as the year comes to a close.

The big story of the semester was, of course, the visit of Kevin Barrett to campus. We had a lively exchange of views in many different forums about both his views and the appropriateness of the invitation. I was even called a McCarthyite, which was a first for me.

The Barrett Brouhaha raised many important questions, but the most signifant was the question of academic freedom. I am left with more questions than answers. Tony Palmeri and Miles Maguire insisted that academic freedom must encompass all aspects of our activities at the university. I am inclined to see it as more limited, in that it should apply to our research agendas.

The other major theme running through the semester was our student experience. The furor generated by the adminstration's announcement of a new course for first-year students led to a broad discussion. If you include our sub-par scores on NSSE and the on-going question of grade inflation, these posts dominated the semester.

Again, big questions remain. How can we transform our institution from UW-zero to one where students focus on education? Is it even possible as our classes get larger and tuition increases? Can we overcome the societal pressures that see only the diploma and an appropriate job as what we stand for?

These are both issues that we need to discuss as a campus community. I hope that this blog has helped some in that respect. My counter suggests that about 60 people a day stop by.

I enjoy the blog, so I'll keep doing it next year. Everyone enjoy their break!


lammers said...

Geez, you sure like to wallow in the negative, don'tcha?

I say it with conviction: Any student who WANTS a good education will GET one here. A damn good education. He or she will have a sound repertoire of pertinent facts, been exposed to diverse opinions, become more adept at analyzing and interpreting facts, become better able to express thoughts with lucidity, learn how to solve problems, and most of all, acquire a lifelong love of learning. He or she may do so BECAUSE of our faculty and facilities, IRRESPECTIVE of our faculty and facilities, or in some cases, DESPITE our faculty and facilities. The point is, it is up to the STUDENT to take advantage of all that is available here.

Any students who wants an education BADLY ENOUGH TO DO WHAT IT TAKES will get one. Those who wander through college in a clueless stupor, thinking that keeping their nose clean (figuratively speaking) and putting in their time will get them something worth having -- well, they will be disappointed to say the least. Far too many people go through the motions but never truly do what it takes to succeed.

One does not build a house by staring vacantly at the pile of lumber and wondering just how much all those tools cost. One builds a house -- or an education -- by rolling up the shirtsleeves and getting down to WORK.

If students do not KNOW and ACCEPT that fact, all the trendy pedagogy and educational jargon in the world will not educate them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting concept of yours... Freedom to exchange ideas at a public university is only granted to researching faculty, not students who wish to hear another's idea or promote discussion on important topics. Maybe you could try and implement a new university rule: "no activities that question the status quo, or primarily our funding sources, can take place at a university, unless linked to faculty research." Or, even better, we could just get rid of student activities all together.

It is unfortunate that you do not choose to focus your criticisms on the bully. I, like many, find it absurd that 1. A university instructor has his job threatened by a legislator for his personal beliefs; and 2. That tools of the system turn their head to the legislator and join in the attack of the university instructor.

Heck, who knows, if this continues University staff might have to resort to stating their beliefs on annonoymous websites....

Thanks for the forum and have a fine holiday break.


Bill Wresch said...

Thanks for keeping the blog open this year. It must be a great deal of work followed by a fair amount of frustration as some people take your ideas off in odd directions. But I think this forum is useful. There aren't enough places where faculty talk to faculty. We need this blog.

Thanks, and have a great new year.