Spring Semester 2018: about to start and…

Ok, some academic stuff is on my mind…not all of it serious.

I just finished the book The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein (New York Times book review is here). It talks about the issues involving K-12 teaching from the founding of the country up until the later years of the Obama administration, and ends with an epilogue which has some interesting suggestions.

What I was struck by is how many of the current issues we are having really have been around for a long time. Controversies: how educated should the teachers be? (and yes, often, they were not and still are not “the brightest”) How well paid should they be? (missionaries or well paid professionals?) How should teachers be evaluated?(whims of the administrators, local school boards/parents, “value added test them to death?, “peer review”?) How should teachers be obtained and trained (converts? straight from teacher education programs?) What should be emphasized? (academic stuff, or “being a good citizen”) When it comes to who is best for a certain group of students: teachers who know how to control a class room but have poor mastery of the academic material?

Obviously, a thorough study would have to be volumes of very big books, and this is just one 280 page one, but IMHO, well worth reading. Bottom line: it was not necessarily “better back then”, at least not in every aspect.

The tough social issues (racism, sexism, the feminization of the teaching profession) are not dodged.

Current academia
Yes, there has been quite a bit of “mission creep” in academia. The number of administrators have gone up over the years I’ve been teaching at the college level, and so has the number of “very important issues” that the “professors have to be educated on”. And there are have been trends such as “assessment”, and yes, these new duties (piled on top of the old ones) really do not add a thing to student learning. And there is the old “do more with less” mentality which tends to spread us a bit thin.

Here is a small thing: I teach mathematics and yes, that means I don’t have to grade a ton of essays. That means that adding a couple of extra students to my section doesn’t increase my work load that much. But you can increase the class size to the extent that one never gets to know any of them and leads to a more “assembly line” type of class, at least for the larger sections.

And what makes it very though is a wide variation between the student abilities in a given class: a 2 standard deviation in the math ACT of a given section can make it difficult to keep the better students interested while not blowing away the lower end of the class. (and yes, the ACT is reasonably predictive).

Math related humor

I chuckled when I saw this posted in a science group:

Now I can say that even the most dedicated, hetero male mathematicians love women but yes, mathematicians tend to see mathematical patterns in many (all?) places.

Riddle me this: Many years ago, I met a girl in high school that I was sweet on; this was in one of those 1 week summer camps. Once she wore tight pants and showed panty lines that looked a bit like …well…this.

(this isn’t her; this photo was taken from cheekygenie)

And..of course I liked them…but I also thought of a mathematical graph: of a branch of the secant function!

Of course, a parabola is really a better fit.

Workout notes: this one didn’t go well…I was thinking about running 10K but..on the track..I resorted to 2 miles of “jog a lap, walk a lap” then “jog 2 laps, walk a lap” and that workout took..28 minutes! The second mile, though it included more jogging, was the same time as the first. Then I walked 2 more miles in 27:36 (yes, my “all walking” pace was faster than my “walk/jog” warm up) then 2.2 more miles on the treadmill (every 2 minutes: .5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, then .5 miles at 6, .6 at 5 (to 2.1) then .1 at 0.5; total time was just under 32 minutes for 2.21 miles of hill walking)

So, bad day, but still 10K. The body is sputtering a bit; the old “cold as hell outside but I gave blood” bit. It is almost as if I have a mild cold, sans the cough, runny nose, blah, blah.

January 17, 2018 - Posted by | books, education, mathematics, running, spandex, walking | , ,

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