Monday, August 03, 2009

I get these scathingly brilliant ideas sometimes...

And I intend to write about them, but then I get distracted by Ravelry or Facebook or Twitter, and before I know it, I'm about to fall asleep or its time to go to bed even if I'm not sleepy.

But I'm getting better. I managed to tear myself away from Ravelry (if you knit, crochet, spin, or dye, you might want to go visit) after only 45 minutes or so, and here I am. It's all in the willpower.

Yeah. Right.

Anyway...I'm still in the middle of my...well, it isn't a love/hate relationship, so just call it a like/throw it across the room relationship with History as Mystery. So, I'm not really prepared to write about it yet, but while I was reading at dinner tonight (at Irene's, home of the world's best hamburger and fries), I got what I can only call a scathingly brilliant idea.

I'm in the middle of chapter 5, in which Parenti writes about history and historians in academia. He complains (rightfully, to an extent) about the trouble leftist historians have had in the past in getting and keeping university appointments and points out that conservative (I think he really means rightist) historians have not had this problem, which is probably more true than not. But it struck me that he probably wouldn't be complaining if it was, say, Newt Gingerich, who lost his teaching post because of his ideology.

To be perfectly honest, I don't think that personal ideology belongs in the classroom. I've run up against that, on both ends of the political and ideological spectrum, and it just bothers me. However, there is no way that teachers, especially in history and political science, are going to check their beliefs at the door, so there needs to be another way to deal with how students are taught history.

Bingo. Right in the middle of munching a French fry, my scathingly brilliant idea sprouted. Because there needs to be room for left, center, and right (not the loony right, but real conservatives...and yes there is a difference, a big difference) on the university campus, there also needs to be a way to neutralize that for students. So, my idea is that, for history majors at least, to take their survey courses in U.S. (here in the States) and world history three times...once from a conservative professor, once from a centrist or moderate professor, and once from a leftist professor. At the same time...all three US history courses at the same time, and all three world history courses at the same time, so that they get all three perspectives in a way that can allow the students to compare and contrast and, oh, make up their own minds which is the most useful and accurate. Rather than be at the mercy of whichever point of view from whichever professor they happen to get because that course section fit into their schedule.

Yeah. I know. No university would ever go for that. I still think it is a brilliant idea. And I'm going to go on thinking so, because I don't get scathingly brilliant ideas very often.

So. I need to finish reading this book...I'm about three-quarters of the way through it. And I need to finish the other two books I'm reading, as well. The goal is to have Parenti finished before I head out of town Friday to go to my family reunion, seeing as it's due back at the library Monday anyway. Then, I'll take one or both of the others, if I haven't already finished them, with me in case I find some time to read in the evenings. But I'd like to have the fluff book finished before the weekend, as well. We'll see.

So, how was your day?

Oh, and extra points to anyone who can tell me what movie the concept of the "scathingly brilliant idea" came from.


C. L. Hanson said...

That's a good idea. I think that trying to be unbiased/objective is a good idea, but (especially in history) there are so many choices about what to talk about in a finite course, that it's probably better to acknowledge that any course is giving you one perspective -- and then flesh out the picture by giving more than one perspective. Ideally, you'd also take time to travel and take some history courses in other countries as well.

I have no idea what movie inspired your scathingly brilliant idea, though...

littlemissattitude said...

Hey, C.L. - I agree that travel, getting an experience of other parts of the world, is important.

The university I graduated from required an overseas study trip for most students in most majors. Unfortunately, after 9/11 a lot of trips were canceled, so I didn't get to go (I also couldn't afford it, but would have found a way) and ended up getting my credits for that reqeuirement from work I did with students from many different cultures as a tutor at the community college I attended.

On objectivity - The speaker at my Sisters in Crime meeting Saturday had something to say about that. He said, speaking as a journalist, but I think it applies to history, as well, that it is impossible to be objective unless one is a robot. Therefore, the challenge is to make sure that one is fair in their handling of subject matter. I think that is a pretty good way to look at it.

Oh, and the movie is "The Trouble With Angels", in which Hayley Mills' character, Mary Clancy, is always getting "scathingly brilliant" ideas.

djmeurer said...

That a really interesting idea. I think there is a great danger in students either choosing professors who only agree with their views, or "getting stuck with" professors whose views are so different that the student dismisses everything they have to say. Getting a lot of opinions is important. More class discussions (with professors who aren't afraid of students with different viewpoints) would help as well.

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