16 August 2014

The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher

Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan full 600
Teaching and parenting share this in common: In both relationships, the goal is to produce independent and self-sufficient human beings. The risk that helicopter parents run is that they will raise children so coddled that they have a hard time functioning on their own in the larger world. So too with the way we have infantilized our students. Afraid or unwilling to challenge them, we pass them through with perfectly good grades but without much of a sense of how to work on their own or think for themselves. – The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher
Just to be fair, here's an acknowledgement that helicopter teaching is also a thing to avoid. Every vocation has its pitfalls.

One for the parents dropping children off at college this weekend

Bye-Bye Birdies: Sending The Kids Away to College - Tenured Radical - The Chronicle of Higher Education: "many faculty see behavior in students (particularly absenteeism, lateness, disorganization and requests for special arrangements) as irresponsible, lazy, dishonest and immature, when in fact students are living, and making decisions, in ways that make complete sense to them and to their parents. So without further ado, here are things you can do as a parent to make your kid a strong and independent college student."
In short, don't be helicopter parents! (In fairness, K-12 practices do seem to encourage this but college is not Grade 13.)

12 July 2014

St. Benedict retrospective

Yesterday was St. Benedict's day; it's the second of two, as his proper day is March 21st, but June 11th has also long been celebrated. St benedictThree monks made simple vows and that's always a fine moment for the college as well as the monastery.

In the spirit of the day, here's a reflection on Benedict the saint from Benedict the pope emeritus.

09 July 2014

Odysseus and the liberal arts?

Odysseus: Patron Hero of the Liberal Arts: "So how will I present this illiterate pagan Odysseus, a man, moreover, with the additional disadvantage of being a fiction, as the patron saint of liberal arts, the arts of interpretation?"
Since Eva Brann is asking the question, her answer is more than worth hearing. TLDR; if we cannot interpret our own lives, they will be interpreted for us by others. And in that case, why bother living?

06 July 2014

Weekly Reading - Herodotus

Fresh out of Guardian columns, but here's this week's reading nonetheless. Just wound up the new translation of Herodotus's The Histories, by Tom Holland. It's a fine version, although idiomatically modern in many places. But that does serve to make the text more immediate, and probably more like what the initial audience in Athens would have heard. Highly recommended, and much better than getting your Thermopylae by way of Frank Miller.

04 July 2014

Note for the Fourth of July

The twentieth century was one in which limits on state power were removed in order to let the intellectuals run with the ball, and they screwed everything up and turned the century into an abattoir. We Americans are the only ones who didn't get creamed at some point during all of this. We are free and prosperous because we have inherited political and value systems fabricated by a particular set of eighteenth-century intellectuals who happened to get it right. But we have lost touch with those intellectuals.
Neal Stephenson

22 June 2014

Weekly Reading - Spinoza

And now to the last of the Guardian weekly readings posts, with a look at Spinoza. There’s an odd resemblance to Calvin, at least in my personal pantheon, that would have horrified both of them. Each is a beautifully structured thinker, in a very admirable way, but one that I just can’t follow along with.

The particular thing about Spinoza is the recent vogue in attributing the entire foundation of the modern world to him, exemplified in a whole series of things by Jonathan Israel.
When I was reading him in grad school, there were various editions but they all seem to have been superseded by the Hackett Complete Works. The biography to read is Nadler’s.

Computers: yes, but...

“Computers are great, and I not only encourage their use by my students, I try to teach students how to use computers better. But for about three hours a week, we set the computers aside and look at books. It’s not so great a sacrifice.” – Alan Jacobs, Laptops of the Borg
I’m thinking more and more about a similar policy for the Fall; check out the post for some of the classroom-use considerations, on top of the handwritten notes point that I blogged earlier.

15 June 2014

799 years ago today

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
– Magna Carta, 15 June 1215.

14 June 2014

Insight into Vatican politics

Francis Cleans House at Vatican’s Financial Watchdog: "By reforming the Church, Francis is doing more than serving his flock. He is making a contribution to the well-being of people of all faiths and no faith all over the world."

One of the political blogs I follow has the habit of occasionally venturing into theology; surprised to see this today about a bit of Vatican inside baseball.

08 June 2014

The general...

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
– Sun Tzu