As ever, Ryan has told it like it is. Teaching at the college level (or at any level, frankly) is not something any schmuck off the street can do, but it is something you can learn to do if you are willing to put in the time to understand all that it entails. It also helps if you ignore most things that “education experts” say. Whether they’re in the private sector or running the “Education” programs at most universities, the odds are good that these folks either haven’t ever taught or haven’t taught a full load of demanding classes (both for the teacher and the students) in a long, long time. Learning how to teach involves observing great teachers, talking to them about how they approach their jobs, mastering the subject matter you will be teaching, staying abreast of developments in both your field and in pop culture (trust me, it’s important), and, above all, being able to take both praise and criticism from more experienced practitioners. Like Ryan, I too am confident in my abilities as a teacher. To paraphrase my colleague, Mike Bunn, I can justifying everything I do in the classroom pedagogically. But in ten years, I won’t be the teacher I am today. I will be better.
But if geniuses like Cathy Davidson at Duke have their way, I may have been replaced by a MOOC and a lab technician by then. I don’t blame the student writing this for the fact that it might be the best (totally unintentional) case yet against techno-fetishism. He’s 21 and has no idea that asking a student who has virtually no understanding of how education and the education system (huge distinction, by the way) work to design “higher education from scratch” is irresponsible. It results in students saying things like this about people who have taught for decades:
When you think about it, burying your head in the sand takes a lot more effort than lifting yourself out of it. It is just that we know what the sand smells, feels, tastes, and looks like. Sameness is comforting. As we approach Week 4 of the MOOC, however, we are asking ourselves to lean into discomfort and aim even higher.
The lack of humility that is clearly being encouraged in this class astounds. Why doesn’t it surprise me that this course is itself a MOOC? Here’s another gem:
We have an unprecedented opportunity to use technology to collectively rethink how we can use our resources to design new ways of learning about and systematizing (or not) education. Through crowdsourcing, peer-to-peer learning, online modules, flipped classrooms, and anything else imaginable, we are working not only to reshape how we learn but, even more important, to re-examine why we educate ourselves in the first place.
It’s funny to me how the folks who always seem to be most interested in “disrupting” higher ed are the ones who stand to gain the most when their prestigious degrees look even more AMAZING compared to the “BAs” that Reshaped State U will churn out (again, watch this Harvard grad interview this Yale grad about how we need to improve “access” to public higher ed by essentially getting rid of anything that doesn’t resemble Facebook).
If The Chronicle really cares about higher ed, they will stop publishing this stuff. Encouraging the “creative destruction” of the university should be the job of Silicon Valley. We all know what works best in higher ed: small classes, incredibly high standards, teachers whose focus is teaching, and above all BEING THERE, in every literal and philosophical sense of the phrase. Cathy Davidson knows this (again, she teaches at Duke), yet instead of working to figure out how to make traditional education better and more affordable (it can be done), she’s helping kids diss Stanley Fish. To quote Rushmore: