Yet Another Debacle at Yale

A popular professor at Yale moved his course to a smaller auditorium. He made this decision because the smaller facility has no Wi-Fi and the students will not be distracting by Internet browsing and texting. As a result, only 250 (as opposed to the regular 500) students managed to enroll.

Immediately, outrage ensued. Here is an example of what the opponents of Professor’s Nemerov are saying:

As an alum with a child currently at Yale, this is very disappointing news. One of the hallmarks of the Yale College academic experience used to be free access to almost any class. Courses offered in lecture format were never capped; only college seminars had limited enrollments, and these were advertised in the Blue Book in advance. In short, one was guaranteed a spot in any lecture class that struck one’s interest. . . A grounding in Art History is essential to the formation of a well educated person. By all accounts Prof. Nemerov is an inspiring lecturer; I fear that, in seeking the comforts and superior technology of the YUAG auditorium, he is forsaking the opportunity to shape hundreds of minds over the years. I hope that he will reconsider.

The discussion of this story has its participants split into the “Wi-Fi good /  prof bad” versus “”Wi-Fi bad /  prof good” camps. Now, notice that the easiest solution to the entire issue is not even occurring to anybody. Two thirds of all undergrad courses at Yale are not taught by professors. They are taught by contingent faculty and graduate students. As a result, students jump at every opportunity to see an actual specialist with an actual PhD diploma and a record of publications in the field. This is how classes end up with such huge enrollments.

Why not just start hiring more people into tenure-track positions, you’ll ask. I’m asking myself the same question. Sadly, Yale’s administration is not.

Jokes in the Classroom

I never understood those professors who write down their jokes in advance and then use them every semester. I had a prof who’d add his jokes to his lesson plans and mark them in red.

For me it never works because every group is different. I teach two sections of the same course this semester. This morning, I made some jokes in the first section that really slaughtered. Students laughed so hard that the walls shook.

So I decided to repeat the same jokes in the second section. And they fell completely flat. The students gave me compassionate looks and forced polite smiles.

I’m not sharing the jokes here because they make no sense outside the context of our course. Still, how cool is it that students is Spanish Beginners II understand jokes in Spanish? Or at least understand that I’m trying to be funny and laughter is expected.

Teaching languages is very rewarding. Even though you get to answer the endless “And how do you say…” questions.

What’s a Blog?

A student of mine failed to do her lab assignment because she has no idea how a blog works. I sent students to a blog by a prominent Cuban blogger but this student had no idea what a “blog post” was and how to choose one for a reading assignment.

It is especially ironic that the student approached me to inform me about this while I was posting comments on my blog.

I consider people who don’t read blogs to be very strange.

My student explained that she doesn’t read blogs because “Twitter is so much better.”

My Mother Taught Me Meme

I thought everybody was familiar with this brilliant old meme, but I just discovered there are people who aren’t, so I’m posting it here. Since it’s a very old meme, I added a few of my own lines to spice it up. If you read it and have no idea what it is about, color yourself very lucky.

My mother taught me to believe in God: “Just pray your father doesn’t hear about this!”

My mother taught me to think logically: “Because I said so, that’s why.”

My mother taught me about eating disorders: “You will not leave the table until you finish what’s on your plate.”

My mother taught me not to be envious: “There are millions of kids in the world who’d kill to have such parents as yours.”

My mother taught me to face the future: “Just wait until I get home!”

My mother taught me the basics of self-healing: “If you don’t stop squinting, your eyes will stay stuck this way for good.”

My mother taught me how to be a mind reader: “Put on your hat! I know you are cold.”

My mother taught me to fit in: “Why can’t you be like normal kids?”

My mother taught me about self-esteem: “You are such a disappointment.”

My mother taught me to believe in myself: “I told you it wasn’t going to work.”

My mother taught me about love: “What do you see in this guy?”

My mother taught me the basics of genetics: “You turned out as bad as your father.”

My mother taught me about history: “When I was your age, I never disappointed my parents this way.”

My mother taught me how to grow up: “If you don’t eat vegetables, you’ll never grow up.”

My mother taught me to make friends: “I knew this new kid you are hanging out would be a bad influence on you!”

My mother taught me the love of learning: “I’ll buy it for you but only if you get a good grade in physics.”

My mother taught me to appreciate art: “Your music is giving me a head-ache.”

My mother taught me to anticipate the future: “You’ll understand this when you grow up.”

My mother taught me to dream: “I wish I had a kid who was more like my friend Anna’s son.”

My mother taught me about justice: “I hope your kids treat you as bad as you are treating your mother.”

What Have You Done for Women Lately?

I love these posts from pseudo-feminists so much, I think I need to start collecting them. Here is one I just found:

When men call themselves feminists, my suspicious are automatically raised. A lot of times “I’m a feminist” is shorthand for “I’m not an asshole.” Not being an asshole should be the default and not something you get a cookie for. It’s okay to ask, “Really, what have you done for women lately?”

‘Cause, you know, women need stuff done for them. Feminists are people who “do something for women.” I just wonder what the blogger who came up with this litmus tests for feminists has “done for women lately.” Legalized female voting rights? Passed Roe versus Wade? Single-handedly destroyed the gender binary?

Do you remember the definition of pharisees? “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

So in order to avoid transforming all feminists into pharisees, I suggest that every person (irrespective of gender, because that is kind of the feminist goal par excellence, to make gender irrelevant) who claims to be a feminist provide us a list with what they “have done for women lately.” And I mean, lately. Ten or twenty years ago doesn’t count. You need to have a recent and documented record of doing things for women.

Of course, I have to recognize that I’m definitely not a feminist according to this definition because I can’t claim I have done anything as huge as to benefit all women, lately, recently or ever. But then who can?