Archive for July, 2009

francis collins

in a weird way related to the article i posted yesterday is a nytimes editorial by sam harris (one of the athiest hipster writers) critiquing the nomination of francis collins to head nih. there are a few ways one could read collins’ nomination and his beliefs on the relationship between faith and science (or lack thereof. it’s complicated, something like they can be fully compatible because in certain ways, they’re totally unrelated and don’t need to be). 

1) regardless of those beliefs, collins is a top notch scientist/public intellectual/human genome wizard who is abundantly qualified to head the nih

2) collins’ religious beliefs are so prominent and inextricably tied to his persona as a scientist (which would only be amplified as the head of a huge public agency like the nih) that his nomination is problematic.

thinking of yesterday’s article (my mind is fuzzy; the movers are coming TODAY. to take all of my stuff and drop it in a black hole…and somehow it’s going to reappear in ohio…) i wonder if harris views collins as acting/talking like a theologian (as defined by the chronicle article) when he really needs to be acting/talking like a scientist. or maybe harris feels that he can’t distinguish the theologian part of collins from the collins the scientist, while collins is confident in his ability to distinguish between his roles as public theologian and super scientist.

religious study “vs” theology?

what makes us happy?

from joshua wolf shenk’s article in the june 09 atlantic

this means that a glimpse of any one moment in a life can be deeply misleading. a man at 20 who appears the model of altruism may turn out to be a kind of emotional prodigy–or he may be ducking the kind of engagement with reality that his peers are both moving towards and defending against. and, on the other extreme, a man at 20 who appears impossibly wounded may turn out to be gestating toward maturity.

(from the same issue, on the 10 year anniv. of sponge bob)

squidward, doomed and dichotomous, is the permanent foil. an upper-middlebrow elitist (“you can’t fool me!” he sneers in the sponsebob squarepants movie, “i listen to public radio!”)…

shameless self-promotion

article out by myself and australian statistical guru nida denson in the journal of higher ed:

it’s great to see it in print because when we first sent it off, we got a notice saying that we needed to shave off about…15 pages or so. talk about painful.

speaking of nida, she had not one, but TWO articles come out in top journals this summer. check her work out in AERJ and the review of educational research. the woman is on a roll.

homophily and interracial friendship

i need to come back to this article.

am trying to ignore the mini-hurricane of boxes and get some writing done today. movers are coming in a week. AHHHH. am stressed but am trying to remind self that life could be a lot worse than guzzling cold electrolyte-filled smart water (leftover from ji’s wedding) and editing paper on korean american participation in SAT prep courses.

we are doing (hopefully) final edits on the education section that shirley and i are co-editing for this encyclopedia on asian americans. thank goodness for copy editors and the scroll wheel on my mouse.

teaching what you don’t know

okay, for now i’m going to use this space to jot down things that i don’t want to forget. from an article in the chronicle about what to do when you’re teaching outside of your content area…that seems to make sense regardless of what you’re teaching:

Focusing on lists. When professors teach outside of their expertise, their lectures tend to be heavily peppered with lists, such as the “eight most powerful political parties in India” or the “12 steps to designing an effective Web page.” In part, faculty members who are new to the material may rely on lists because they provide prepackaged, well-organized information.

But students can often get that information directly from their textbooks or the Internet. Further, you might be sending the message that you value rote memorization when you really want students to understand those concepts, not just list and recite them.

Try to engage students by examining the relationship among the items on the list. Why are some items on the list and not others? Why is the list organized this way? Construct the list using students’ input. Write the title and first item from the list on the board, then invite students to generate the rest.

Teaching outside your expertise can be intimidating, but you don’t need to know everything to create an environment in which students learn new things. As Codrina the chemist remarked to me, “Students don’t learn more when you’re perfect.” They learn more when you’re human and you make the classroom a place where it’s safe to ask questions.