Posts by Laurie Fendrich
February 20, 2010, 10:00 AM ET
I know fellow Brainstormer Michael Ruse blogged on Tiger's press conference, but I'm going to throw in my two cents as well. I didn’t have time to listen to yesterday’s full Tiger Woods mea culpa, but I heard enough to know that sports commentators wrestling with whether or not he was “sincere” or “convincing” are spinning their wheels on a poorly understood track. Although we all move about this world absolutely sure that we can tell when the people we know or meet are sincere or not, weighing in on sincerity is a risky, risky business. Whether or not Tiger was “sincere” is a particularly worthless enterprise. Although Tiger’s success as a golfer derives from his spectacular talent at hitting a tiny little ball with just the right speed, in just the right direction, his spectacular success as a businessman (through advertising endorsements) and sports icon derives from an entirely...Read More
February 19, 2010, 06:38 PM ET
There seem to be two complaints in the comments so far about my post from yesterday, “4 Days, 40 Papers.” The first is that I didn’t supply “rubrics,” or some other form of a priori guide as to what constitutes good, fair, and poor papers. The post was about grading, not assigning. In assigning the papers, I was, as I always am, thorough and precise about what should be present in the papers. I both discussed the assignment, in detail, in class, and posted it, in detail, on Blackboard. Moreover, since there are to be several short papers assigned during the semester, and since my marginalia is relatively copious, most students learn very quickly my de facto “rubrics” concerning quality. Finally, an a priori “rubric” will neither solve the problem of subjectivity in judging the quality of an essay or “save time." Rubrics, its promoters notwithstanding, do not transform matters of judgment...Read More
February 18, 2010, 10:45 AM ET
Forty papers, each two or three pages long (typewritten,
12-point type and double-spaced, as per my instructions) sit neatly
stacked in two piles on my desk in my home. They stare accusingly
at me, but they’ll not get my attention until I’m finished writing
this post, watering my lone plant, and bundling yesterday’s
newspapers and magazines for tomorrow’s recycling. The papers
arrived yesterday, like little ships docking in the harbor of my
hand -- tenderly steered to me by students with tired-looking
This semester, I’m teaching in a large lecture course that’s for first-year students in our Honors College. The course is team-taught -- 12 of us developed the curriculum, and we each give a couple of lectures as well as teach two separate discussion groups of 20 students each. We’re at the moment in the course where I’ve finally learned everyone’s name, my students no longer seem...
February 15, 2010, 03:44 PM ET
If you were intrigued by the headline to a recent letter in The Chronicle, “Improving Teaching Will Require Strategic Thinking” (7 February 2010), you also might want to read, “Improving Strategic Thinking Will Require Teaching.” To deepen your understanding of the issue even more, go to “Teaching Will Require Improving Strategic Requirements.” For additional reading on the topic, try “Teaching Will Improve Strategic Requirements.” And don’t miss, “Requirements Will Improve Thinking Strategies,” either -- or the brilliant analysis found in last month’s “Thinking Strategically Will Teach Improvement.” But for the most comprehensive discussion of the issue, turn to “Will Requires Improving Strategic Thinking.”Read More
February 14, 2010, 04:36 PM ET
Citius, Altius, Fortius. Faster, Higher, Stronger. This
Olympic motto, grotesque in light of Friday’s accident that killed
Norad Kumaritashvili, a luger from the Republic of Georgia, was
coined for the modern Olympic games—those that were started in the
late 19th century and, with a few years out because of war, still
carry on. The motto works well not just for the Olympics, but also
for Western civilization itself.
Before I blog on, let me say that I’m not the least bit opposed to sports, or even big-time sports. I was one mean tennis player in my day, and I like to watch sports on TV -- mostly football (an admittedly violent game fraught with so many injuries that people with sense are now calling for changes in its rules), baseball (a harmless game with hardly any injuries) and basketball (another harmless game).
But lying on your back on a sled while hurtling yourself feet first down ...
February 9, 2010, 09:45 AM ET
My fellow Brainstormer Gina Barreca’s recent post on the "B
student" who thought he was an "A student" reminded me of the story
told me by a friend who teaches literature at an Ivy League
university. He had a student who came to him complaining about a
poor grade on a paper. After spending 45 minutes going over the
paper, my friend thought he’d more than adequately explained its
multiple problems. At that point, the student looked at him and
said, “That’s your opinion.”
The failure to distinguish between argumentation and opinion made reasoning with this student a hopeless proposition. Much of the time, all is well and good without the use of reason. Daily life is built on a platform of habit where we barely listen; the point is to be polite and sociable rather than reason through every little thing that comes along. Most days, we unconsciously offer unsubstantiated (and of course...
February 2, 2010, 10:35 AM ET
Social science conducts some very odd tests to try to figure out the motivations behind human behavior. While I still think literature is inherently more suitable to understanding the ways human emotions and desires work (they come in complicated mixtures -- love mixed together with envy and anger, pity together with disgust and shame, fear together with excitement, etc.) scientific studies with their experiments and statistics -- unlike literature -- yield the comforting illusion that we can rationally understand our only partly rational selves.
Take this recent, startling study reported in Scientific American last week: With remarkable accuracy, a group of subjects was able to distinguish between Republican and Democratic candidates for the 2004 and 2006 Senate races simply by looking at black and white photographs of their faces. They were also able to tell, merely by looking at...Read More
January 27, 2010, 06:43 AM ET
On Monday, I gave the opening lecture of the semester in an honors course in which I am team teaching with 11 other professors. (I give the first and last lectures and conduct two discussion groups; my colleagues give the rest of the lectures and conduct their own two discussion groups.) Although it was a lecture on a subject near and dear to my heart, and one I know very well (Leonardo's invention of indeterminacy in painting and drawing), and although I'd written and rewritten this particular lecture until I was quite pleased with the way it sounded, I was nervous. Even after I'd practiced it three times (making sure my words flowed nicely with the projected images), the night before, I was a little nervous.
Actually, I was a semi-wreck and falling asleep was next to impossible. I hadn't lectured to a large audience of students in a long time. I tossed and turned and my head flopped a...Read More
January 22, 2010, 03:25 PM ET
My husband and I have been avid Eddie Izzard fans since at least 1998, and for my Christmas present this year we bought ourselves tickets to see him do stand-up at Madison Square Garden on January 16th, his one and only night in New York. (For those of you who don't know about Eddie, he's the charming, lovable transvestite comedian with unrivaled verbal virtuosity who's also played Shakespeare, appeared in the movies, and starred in a modestly successful but brief TV drama, "The Riches.") In "Stripped," his current world tour, Eddie tackles the history of the world, with -- in his words -- "a few gaps." In his monologue (somehow, this modest-sized man commands 15,000+ at Madison Square Garden), Eddie is an atheist with a question mark -- a thinking man wondering about how God and Wikipedia fit together.
Afterwards, aglow in Eddie Izzard pixie-dust, my husband and I came up with a chart...Read More
January 21, 2010, 10:19 AM ET
In an exhibition entitled
“The Visible Vagina” that opens simultaneously at the David
Nolan Gallery and Francis M. Naumann Fine Art in New York on
January 28th, the art world proves itself sadly behind the curve.
According to the exhibition press release, “the goal of this
exhibition is to remove [the] prurient connotations, implicit even
in works of art, ever since the pudendum was prudishly covered by a
fig leaf.” There are dozens of vagina-outing artists in the show,
ranging from Duchamp, Man Ray, and Picasso through Judy Chicago,
John Currin, and Jeff Koons.
Hello? Don’t these curators know the fig leaf fell off a long time ago? Don’t they ever surf the Web? Don’t they know that practically every community theater in the country now puts on yearly performances of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues? Haven’t they heard of V-day celebrations? Don’t they know that high-school kids now...