Archives for April 2013


This screenshot snippet, taken from a job listings page at a community college, captures pretty succinctly much of what’s wrong with higher education priorities today.

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The job description for the “faculty internship” explicitly states the position is intended to groom people for (those crazy high-paying) adjunct jobs.

I wonder if the position is akin to Boise State’s Foundational Studies program, which pays grad students and professional staff a whopping $1,000 to teach class sections all semester.

Compare that teaching salary to these figures (already a year old).  I had no idea the Boise State football coach gets a quarter million dollars annually just for letting the university license his image. Clearly, I need to renegotiate my contract.

Hiking with Lucas

The boy, it ends up, is an avid hiker.  He’s 7.5 now, and on Sunday, there wasn’t a single complaint on what ended up being a 4-mile jaunt with lots of uphill walking.

Looking at how big he’s getting also reminds me how long I’ve been blogging.

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Happy birthday, Fang.


Dude is 51. Seriously. No one believes me.

It’s Fang’s birthday again.

April 20 is an inauspicious time to have a birthday, what with it being Hitler’s birthday (also the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting and the Deepwater Horizon explosion) and with the anniversary of the “shot heard round the world” (Oklahoma City bombing, Branch Davidian conflagration) immediately preceding it.  (Let’s not even mention this week’s drama.) Something about the dates brings out the kooks and catastrophes.

Since we moved to Idaho, Fang has met his share of kooks and endured several minor, and a few not-so-minor, catastrophes. Because we moved here on my account, I feel culpable for much of what ails him these days, though of course some of it could be chalked up to aging.  (Few people make it to 51 without some aches and pains.)


Guitar practice is a persistent source of aches, pains, and a good deal of kookiness.

Could I say honestly he has been cheery in the face of various adversities?  No.  But I didn’t marry Fang for his light heart or devil-may-care attitude.


I didn’t marry him for his Rush fetish, either. I’ve stayed married to him despite his ability to bring any conversation around to Rush lyrics.

I married him because he is steadfast and (though he’d probably won’t believe it right now) resilient.  And I’ve kept him around because he’s a caring spouse and amazing dad.  He’s a chronicler of our lives and a creative soul.


Savor it, folks. It’s Fang. . .in nature!

He’s put up with so much these past couple of years, and as I pursue my academic career, I’m so grateful he’s been willing to play, as he terms it, the “descending spouse.”

I won’t be so cruel as to wish him another 51 years, because I know that’s the last thing he wants.  But I will say this: I wish him happier days and months immediately ahead.  (Let’s plan our escape, Sweetie!)


Nice form, Sweetie. The kicks were great, too.

Happy birthday, Fang.  Lucas and I are so very lucky to have you in our lives.

UPDATE:  Here’s the text of Lucas’s birthday card to Fang.  It’s too sweet not to share, y’know?


A troubling constellation

Anyone who has read The Clutter Museum for a while knows I’m not a Luddite.  I like to play with technology, and I encourage my students to be curious about digital media, and particularly about how they might use it to build thoughtful public history projects and programs.

However, there’s a constellation of higher ed “innovations” that has me worried. A couple of these innovations, taken alone, might not be cause for concern, but because they’re emerging at the same moment, they’re troubling.

First, there’s the university’s adoption of minimum viable product development strategies, and all the tech-marketing rhetoric and thinking such strategies seem to require.

Second, there are MOOCs, the massively open online courses being peddled by universities and start-ups alike. (If you’re unfamiliar with the phenomenon, Jonathan Rees consistently writes the hardest-hitting posts about both the academic labor implications of MOOCs and their (utter lack of) impact on student learning.)

Third, there are badges, alternative forms of assessment that circumvent traditional academic accreditation.

Fourth, we have the New University of California, where there are no classes—only high-stakes exams.

Fifth, we have companies that students can hire to take tests, write assignments, or even complete entire classes on their behalf.  Students don’t have to take the courses for which they’re “earning” credit.

Finally, we have automated essay-grading software from EdX.  Faculty no longer need to grade the “work” of the “students” “enrolled” in their “classes.”

Anyone want to call the tech-induced time of death on faculty governance and authentic student learning?


[Update: Jonathan Rees has already called it, and he points out faculty autonomy and student learning aren’t the only casualties.]

Because I needed something else to fret about

Here’s what Lucas read over spring break:


That stack amounts to about 570 pages.

Here’s what was sent home as appropriate reading for him from school this week:



It has three pages of text.

Lucas can spell apprentice and warriors and basilisk, but his spelling words this week include boy, toy, and joy.

Lucas is teaching himself multiplication; tonight he was filling out a multiplication table just for fun.

Here are the flashcards that came home with him today:



Surprise! He’s becoming increasingly resistant to homework.

Any advice from parents and/or teachers?  He loves to learn, but he has this stuff down.


The University as Minimum Viable Product

I have a couple new pieces up at The Blue Review blog.  The first is on impostor syndrome in academia.  The second, meatier piece draws on my observation that universities are drawing on software development principles–and not necessarily the best ones–in creating and refining programs.  Here’s the beginning of it:

In this age of slashed higher ed budgets that demand new efficiencies, it’s not surprising that universities seek technological solutions to their challenges. However, university leaders aren’t looking to tech entrepreneurs solely for course management systems or MOOC platforms; they’re also adopting the rhetoric and thinking of Silicon Valley.

In keeping with this tech fetishism, universities are developing new offerings in ways that mirror software launches more than they do traditional higher ed marketing. One popular approach to software development calls on programmers to create a “minimum viable product,” or MVP, which Eric Ries defines as:

That product which has just those features (and no more) that allows you to ship a product that resonates with early adopters, some of whom will pay you money or give you feedback.

What, then, constitutes a university’s minimum viable product?

It depends, I suppose, on whom the university sees as its customer.

I’d love to see a discussion about this in the comments of that post (and elsewhere, of course). Read more at The Blue Review blog.