Sunday, April 28, 2013

When Students Prefer Traditional to Online Courses

Lessons from a Not so Silent Calvin Coolidge

Jason Stevens, a graduate of the Department and  now an adjunct in it, draws out the lessons for President Obama from two recent books on President Coolidge.  See his lengthy blog on the "Library of Law and Liberty" website.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Donald Kagan Retires

Donald Kagan, one of the country's most prominent classicists and author of one of the most popular Western Civilization textbooks used in History departments (see The Western Heritage), recently retired from Yale University.  In his "farewell lecture", as reported in the Wall Street Journal, he identified some important problems in higher education and in the Western world more generally.   For example: 
Universities, he proposed, are failing students and hurting American democracy. Curricula are "individualized, unfocused and scattered." On campus, he said, "I find a kind of cultural void, an ignorance of the past, a sense of rootlessness and aimlessness." Rare are "faculty with atypical views," he charged. "Still rarer is an informed understanding of the traditions and institutions of our Western civilization and of our country and an appreciation of their special qualities and values." He counseled schools to adopt "a common core of studies" in the history, literature and philosophy "of our culture." By "our" he means Western.

Monday, April 22, 2013

College as Country Club

At, Jonathan Zimmerman describes the "absurdly lavish goods and services" offered students at some colleges and universities, along with some of the consequences - the main one being high costs, and therefore large, long-lasting debts. Interestingly, one of the main examples is Oberlin College, just a few miles but several worlds away from Ashland. If any students are reading this, would you be willing to give up bouldering caves (what is that anyway?), climbing walls, tanning booths, nap pods, and luxurious housing in return for a sound education and much less debt? Perhaps a struggling university somewhere could make this its special niche.

Here's the full story:

My daughter is a junior in high school, so I've spent part of this spring making that upper-middle-class pilgrimage known as "the college tour." But as we were led across sweeping lawns by tour guides walking backward, I found myself thinking less about my daughter's looming college experience and more about how different her life will be after she graduates.

I've also been thinking about "Girls," the television series about four young women trying to make ends meet in New York. Three of them are depicted as recent graduates of Oberlin, which is also the alma mater of "Girls" creator and lead actress Lena Dunham.

And if you take a look at Oberlin, or at almost any college or university, you'll get a good idea of why these "girls" are struggling in the real world. Put simply, today's American colleges shower students with absurdly lavish bills of goods and services. No wonder it's so hard for them to pay their own bills when they get out.
To be fair, Oberlin's campus is less over the top than many others. But even so, it recently opened a $24-million music building featuring a glass walking bridge and a naturally lit "Sky Lounge." And the school's sport facilities include a 25-foot climbing wall and a 360-square-foot "bouldering cave."

History and Political Science Honors

The Department is very pleased to announce that this past weekend Dr. Patrick Campbell was awarded the Dr. Donald Reinhart Honor and Integrity Award and Dr. Jeffrey Sikkenga was runner up for the Taylor Excellence in Teaching Award.  Nice work!

Congratulations are in order also for our students.  At the Academic Honors Convocation, Erin Sutter won the Outstanding Senior Award, Joseph Griffith won the Junior Award, and Jaclyn Horn won the Sophomore Award.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rebeccah Heinrichs Debates Missile Defense

How often does Ralph Nader introduce a graduate from Ashland University? In what is probably a first, in this video of a debate in his series "Debating Taboos", Mr. Nader introduces Rebeccah Heinrichs.  She opens the debate with a statement, starting at about the 8:30 minute mark.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Teaching Humanities to the Poor

Shorris recounts the story of a young man in his first class—a 24-year-old with a history of violent behavior—who called him describing how a woman at work had provoked him. "She made me so mad, I wanted to smack her up against the wall. I tried to talk to some friends to calm myself down a little, but nobody was around." Shorris asked him what he did, "fearing this was his one telephone call from the city jail." Instead, he told Shorris, "I asked myself, 'What would Socrates do?' "

Peter Schramm a Power Line 100 Best Professor

Steve Hayward wrote this nice piece in praise of Peter Schramm (some other AU profs in History and Political Science are also mentioned) on the Power Line blog.  See here: