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Life in the Classroom

In last weekend’s New York Times, I came across this quotation in a short piece regarding on-line education:

Wendy Brown, the Heller professor of political science at the Berkeley campus, spoke witheringly of the idea at a campus forum in October: “What is sacrificed when classrooms disappear, the place where good teachers do not merely ‘deliver content’ to students but wake them up, throw them on their feet and pull the chair away? Where ideas can become intoxicating, where an instructor’s ardor for a subject or a dimension of the world can be contagious? Where scientific, literary, ethical or political passions are ignited?”

The quotation comes from this longer presentation that Professor Brown made to something called a “Graduate Student Association Forum on the Cyber Campus” at Berkeley, responding to a controversial proposal for online undergraduate education at the University of California that was floated last summer and approved, in pilot form, by the UC Regents. The leading public proponent of the UC plan is UC Berkeley law dean Christopher Edley. Professor Brown’s bio page is here.

There are times when I am conscious of trying to do some of the things in my law school classroom that Professor Brown describes when she defends her model of liberal arts education (in the full presentation, she seems to suffer from some stereotyping of what goes on in law schools), of relying on a little more Keating and much less Kingsfield as a pedagogical model, with a sprinkling of Forrester, perhaps.  As much as anything, I want my students to be as fascinated by and passionate about IP  questions, small and large, as I am.

1 thought on “Life in the Classroom”

  1. “As much as anything, I want my students to be as fascinated by and passionate about IP questions, small and large, as I am.”

    This is a noble goal, but I wonder if it is really impacted by the cyber schooling stuff. In my experience, even the most brilliant teachers have problems “wak[ing] them up, throw[ing] them on their feet and pull[ing] the chair away” in a lecture setting. In my opinion, the passion and curiosity that you’re seeking can really be unusually sparked only by small group seminars. In lectures, either the student is going to have a proclivity, or they aren’t; either the lecturer is engaging, or they aren’t. Whether that lecturer-listener bond is mediated by a screen or not seems really quite irrelevant.

    So, if putting more lectures on screens frees up more time and resources for more intensive, one-on-one or one-on-small-group teaching, then I would think every thoughtful teacher should be jumping for joy over it.

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