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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why Online Instruction...

is no substitute for the real thing:

"Plato’s Socrates called this activity periagoge, where one experiences a conversion in wonder to pursue truth. Teaching is not the student’s reception of doctrine, whether conservative or otherwise, but the attempt to pass the embodied experience of wonder, where the teacher’s presence becomes as important as the ideas that he or she is communicating."

Of course, this does not apply to the transmission of merely technical knowledge: for instance, I can imagine learning structural engineering just fine online. But not a liberal education.

9 comments:

  1. I've become a self proclaimed autodidact in the past few months since I have taken a semester or so off from college and while I've learned quite a lot on my own about politics, history and economics without a specific professor there and have learned much more about how to think critically and independently, I realize the value in having someone who is obviously more knowledgeable about the subject teaching unfamiliar, difficult material to the students, especially some kind of technical field like engineering or medicine, which the former I am going to major in. Over the summer, I actually had a really good philosophy professor that didn't impose too much bias on the content he was teaching. He would leave much of the studying, interpretation and actual reading of the material to the students as homework assignments.

    The political science classes that my older sister in college however are sadly filled with ideological bias and dogma. I did an experiment where I looked up all the authors of the various textbooks assigned in the syllabi and a large majority of them either leaned left or had Marxist sympathies, even though I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. I would also have a problem with this if the professors tried imposing a more conservative ideology on these courses because in my opinion, these courses are supposed to help the students think more critically about the world they inhabit and if political science is supposed to be scientific as the name suggests, then the classes should be designed to be as objective as possible.

    Anyways, I still have a ton of reading I need to do. I might even start reading part of Marx's Das Kapital to understand how he approached economics and his various critiques of capitalism. Yes, I'm an 18 year old college freshman just in case you were wondering.

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    1. I did an experiment where I looked up all the authors of the various textbooks assigned in the syllabi and a large majority of them either leaned left or had Marxist sympathies

      This is hardly surprising, since a large majority of academics lean left, but it doesn't really prove anything. The only way to evaluate whether a text is ideologically biased or pushes a particular dogma is to actually read the text; just because an author has a particular political opinion does not mean that their writing is necessarily ideologically biased towards or dogmatic about that opinion.

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    2. Excellent point. My sister is currently working at a lousy part time menial 10 dollar an hour job at a bank which has literally nothing to do with what she studied in the first place and also collecting food stamp money. She voted for Barack Obama, so I am just inferring and speculating here based on what I've observed. I have no problem with the latter part of my statement about voting for the man but I thought college was supposed to improve one's employment prospects after four years or so. With the college tuition and student loan debt going up every year, it seems much wiser to choose a field that will actually improve one's employment outlook in a viable manner. She is going off to law school, but I'm not even sure she's going to be paid well based on how the job market is looking for that specific profession.

      My sociology textbook from the summer talked about concepts such as social stratification, gender roles and even went into how a lot of sociology originated with Karl Marx, even though my professor in that class never really shared what his political opinions were.

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    3. Well, degrees and certifications are a nice thing to have, and many jobs require such things, but one still has to be able to perform at the level required, as well as be able to promote their abilities (nobody knows what you can do until you show them). I know many people with advanced degrees that are great at learning and reciting what they've learned in their educational pursuits, but just aren't very adept in promoting themselves, nor are they very good in the practical application of their knowledge. Knowing is far different than doing.

      At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what degree or cert that you have (though it is good to have them), it matters more that you're able to accomplish whatever job that is given to you, and that you do so at a level equal to or above the margin regarding those of a similar occupation, otherwise you're unemployed in that field.

      IOW, you've got to produce in your chosen field, you can't just fall back on your title history. This is true even if your history (both educational and productive) is particularly outstanding. An employer cares more about what you can do today than what you did yesterday.

      Obviously, this is somewhat of a tangent from what Gene was talking about, but it is certainly related.

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  2. While I mostly agree, a liberal education isn't what most people in college are looking for.

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    1. Yes, you are surely correct, Shonk. The universities ought to have been clearly separated from the technical / engineering schools, IMHO. Both would have been better: why the hell does an engineer need 18 (or whatever) liberal arts credits?!

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  3. Does Facebook Chat counts?

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  4. I'm not following. Is it interaction that makes the difference? If so, why wouldn't some version of an online skype conference call (in which all the students can see the professor, speak with the professor, the only difference being the students aren't physically in front of the professor) be an adequate substitute for the real thing?

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    1. Interventionist, surely skype teaching is better than purely non-interactive teaching, I grant you that. But if you have a girlfriend, would you be happy with substituting a purely skype relationship for meeting in person? Forget sex! Let's say you were engaged, but had pledged to be celibate until marriage: wouldn't there still be something missing from skype meeting vis-a-vis in person meetings?

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