Monday, April 28, 2008

Maybe I'll Get a Few Days Off in a Week or So?

Spent the whole weekend at the conference that I was tricked into helping to organize. Went better than expected. There was, of course, the required talk about the nonsense of learning styles. Damn good thing that the drivers ed class in high school ignored learning styles. "Excuse me, but I'm not a kinesthetic learner, so instead of driving the car, I'm just going to listen to people talk about cars." Variety is good. Communicating important information is good. (Next time I teach real calculus, anyone want to go in with me to hire a plane to carry a banner over campus reading "The Harmonic Series DIVERGES"? What about commissioning a Bollywood-style production number about the harmonic series?) Students who refuse to read the textbook and who insist on listening to their iPods during exams because someone told them that they're audio learners and not visual learners? Not so good.

Was presented with a mildly disturbing conjecture about why my calculus students are so clueless and will always be. There's a sort of mathematical Peter Principle going on. As the high schools get better (the argument made by the speaker begs the question that high schools are improving), more and more good students will take AP or dual enrollement calculus in high school. They'll get AP or transfer credit and will never enter my classroom. This means that the only entering freshmen who will be taking introductory math classes are the ones with the least talent -- and that as high schools improve, it will get worse. Students who in years past topped out at "checkbook math" are now on the path to calculus.

Also went to a party of sorts hosted by a faculty member who knows way more about the personal lives of the undergraduates than I would want to know. Also heard much gossip about the tenure cases that went up this year. Because of the way these things work, it's mostly gossip and conjecture. We all know which junior faculty member has taken a job at another institution next year; we can only guess about the specifics that led to that.

Additionally, ended up adopting a ridiculous houseplant. Anyone know what it is or how to take care of it? Or whether it would want to spend the summer outside?