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PATRICK DENEEN ON How a Generation Lost Its Common Culture.

My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture….

Some students, due most often to serendipitous class choices or a quirky old-fashioned teacher, might know a few of these answers. But most students have not been educated to know them. At best, they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.

Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.

I find this generally true in my teaching as well, and I think it is symptom of a problem that sweeps beyond even the educational spectrum and into our culture itself.

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TIM SHARP HAS some thoughts about being a successful team player in a creative environment. “Think of others’ input as general inspiration rather than as a challenge to your vision. Consider new ideas an opportunity to build on your thinking.
Maintain an unemotional demeanor during collaborations. Reacting less in the moment helps you maintain a less hostile tone.

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JULIE PARSONS Includes a great post on how to improve your bio. The original article here, has some great ideas, and reminds me to update my own bio.

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MIC HAS AN ARTICLE REMINDING US THAT Everyone Can Sing. ”

Using three age groups — kindergarteners, sixth graders and college-aged adults — researchers asked each person to listen to a pitch and then sing it back. Researchers noticed a significant increase in accuracy from kindergarteners to sixth graders, likely because most kids that age have regular musical training at school. 

Surprisingly, the adults performed at a level closer to the kindergarteners than the sixth graders; researchers now think that’s because singing has a “use it or lose it” quality to it. It’s like a muscle. And all that off-pitch singing only helps strengthen it.

More background on this topic here.

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THIS STORY ABOUT A PROFESSOR WHO IS BARRED FROM using a cheaper textbook is an interesting story. “A math professor wants to do something really simple: use different textbooks from other faculty who teach the same course, because he thinks that a different pair of books is better. Those books also happen to cost less. However, the standard $180 textbook happens to have been written by the chair of the department.

I’ve never been in a department where other professors have been forced to use the same textbook, but I see the advantages, especially with sequential courses. Also, while the Department Chair can be seen as potentially greedy, he/she probably earnestly believes the textbook to be the best learning resource. What do you think?

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MARIE GRASS AMENTA On Treating Singers With Respect. “Many amateurs singers feel in order to ‘do the music justice’ you need to be treated poorly to be able to achieve true perfection. And when we allow directors to get away with behaving badly, they feel they CAN get away with it. A conductor has the power to attract singers or repel them.” It is important to remember that our behavior during rehearsal is not just about the music or the sound, but about people. How we correct is as important as what we correct.

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THE AMERICAN INTEREST: College Debt Woes Point to Grim Future.

The problems detailed in this article are real and important, but there’s a big one that’s not mentioned: Sooner or later, interest rates will go up generally, and that’s likely to price some colleges out of the bond market completely.

This should remind us that America is locked into an educational model, that, like our health care system, rests on foundations that drive prices up faster than inflation year by year by year. Education is important to Americans, and we do what we can to keep up, but ultimately we need to figure out how to deliver the education we need at a price we can actually pay.