I believe that worries about “assessment” in higher ed are exaggerated. I teach precisely at the kind of an underfunded regional school that the linked author mentions, and assessment is not a problem I face. I mean, my students either speak Spanish or not, so it’s not that hard to assess. We don’t let anybody graduate without writing and presenting a research essay in Spanish, and you simply can’t do that if you don’t have the language skills. We work with each student individually and very intensely, so there’s no chance they don’t present their own work.

I don’t think that everything needs to be utilitarian. Knowledge for its own sake is a great thing. But, folks, you still need to teach something. There’s got to be some understanding of who the students are and what they need.

Last semester, I’d come to one of my classes to find the board covered in the most inane and meaningless claptrap left over from the previous lecture about “intersectionally feminist and inclusive brown bodies.” Fifteen weeks of this crap, folks. Our students are not nearly rich enough to care about this ridiculousness. They laughed aloud whenever they saw the slogans on the board. I felt vicariously embarrassed for my colleague and angry on behalf of my students who are getting into debt so that an East Coast airhead can recite the mantra she learned at her expensive all-female college at them.

Students don’t know that Cuba is an island because nobody even tried to tell them. Maybe we should do that and teach them the names of continents before beginning to recite the slogans.

If people truly want to turn a college classroom into a haven of pure knowledge, they should stop talking about today’s politics in courses other than the ones titled Contemporary US Politics. It’s ridiculous that we keep harping on the importance of knowing fact from opinion yet we keep offering students our opinions by the bucketful.

When students ask me anything remotely political, I always answer that I have no professional training in any area but Hispanic Studies, so I’m unqualified to speak. I wish more people did this and kept their politics out of the classroom. There is zero excuse for talking about US gun control debates in a Calc I or Early Medieval History course.

9 thoughts on “Assessment

  1. Have you come across Jordan Peterson yet? He’s become an internet sensation (and horrifyingly co-opted by the alt-right) but this is essentially what he’s saying.


    1. I know there’s a huge dustup around this guy. I tried to listen to the famous interview but almost died of boredom in the first two minutes. So I don’t know what he’s saying. If it’s this, then I can’t disagree. šŸ™‚


      1. It’s one of the things he’s saying. As you’ve discovered first-hand, he’s quite verbose. šŸ™‚


  2. What if students ask about politics related to Hispanic studies? Or liquid capital?

    I can’t read the article because it’s NYT and that’s not a good enough newspaper to pay for what little I’d read (just what gets linked to on various blogs).

    But… English speaking countries (and the US in particular) tend to be obsessed with quantifying everything possible even things that don’t lend themselves to quantification…

    Interaction I remember from years ago between a student and a relatively famous social science professor.

    Student: Did you actually say “if you can’t count it it’s not important?”

    Professor: No! I would never say that. I said “if you can’t count it then it doesn’t exist!”


    1. It would be a wonderful eventuality if somebody asked me about liquid capital. I’m not anticipating that any time soon – or ever – but I can talk about it without showing any personal inclination against or in favor.

      When we talk about Latin American politics, I do the “some people say that Evo Morales is. . . but others argue that. . . This is up to you to decide based on what you read and learn.” I obviously have my own opinion of Evo Morales but I don’t think it’s crucial for people to pay to hear what that opinion is. It’s not that profound. šŸ™‚


  3. In my opinion, so-called assessment done in higher ed is a joke and a waste of time. And I’m someone who’s involved in doing assessment at my college, in terms of writing an annual report about the area I’m responsible for. But part of the problem with assessment is related to general problems with student learning in college (i.e., too many students aren’t really learning; instead they’re just memorizing and repeating what the professor said in class).

    RE: Jordan Peterson–I like Jordan Peterson. I agree with a lot of what he has to say about transgender issues. If you look at trans activism on social media, a lot of it’s absolutely crazy. But overall Peterson is pretty conservative when compared to my own politics. But the interview you refer to above, if it’s the same one I’m thinking of, is very funny and sad at the same time.


    1. The interview I meant was the one with this very weird interviewer who seemed mentally ill or maybe a failed comedienne. It was impossible to watch because it was too weird. I felt sorry for the woman because she seemed unwell.


      1. A summary of the interview in question

        Jordan Peterson: I have a dog…
        Interviewer: So you’re saying who like cats should be put in prison?!

        Many people respond to the interview because it’s a personification of one aspect of traditional gender roles, unflappable serene and rational masculinity vs unhinged female flightiness.

        (I didn’t watch most of it I had the audio on while working on something else just looked when it sounded like something interesting was happening)

        Toward the end there’s a brief moment of flirtation…


        1. That’s a good point about gender roles. I guess that’s what made me hate it. I also detest the “so are you saying” trick. It’s downright offensive to suggest that a person is so inarticulate they need you to translate them.


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