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back to zombie college

September 1, 2014

This is a third part of a recent series of ZombieLaw posts on zombie education (see part 1: “Advice for the incoming class of zombies 2018“, posted Aug21 and part 2: “Making Justin Peligri into a zombie“, posted Aug22). School is back in session, welcome back zombies.

Recall the syndicated column by Walter Williams already posted in the Aug21 post, is now available at the Jackson Sun with a different title: “Tuition pays for zombies?“. It’s also been republished at Lubbockonline: “Higher education has lost sight of some of its mission“.

zombie williams

So let’s take another moment to examine the Williams article. In truth, I honestly can’t tell whether he is being sarcastic when he says “Every so often, colleges get it right” and then refers to firing a professor for political views. I don’t think he is. But as with all good opinion article it’s not about the specifics of the argument but about spreading the controversies. Williams does this with verve.

A similar controversy at CFA Illinois: “Chancellor decrees faculty at Illinois are subject to civility test; Trustees back her to the hilt” by Richard Slaugesen, and “More than 3000 Scholars Boycott the University of Illinois!” by Corey Robin.

Williams concludes:

The bottom line is that many colleges have lost sight of their basic educational mission of teaching young people critical thinking skills, and they’re failing at that mission at higher and higher costs to parents and taxpayers.

But he is wrong to cite zombies or Star Trek as part of the problem. Topics that excite students are exactly the solution to getting young minds interested in the critical thinking skills necessary to be transferred to serious conversations about serious topics. Students who produce data-driven well written answers to question about “if Superman could really bend steel bars?” are learning skills for writing other scientific reports … maybe… sometimes… education by skill transfer is notoriously difficult.

Let’s also look at Williams mention of the organization FIRE. Because fire is fun and is often a weapon against zombies. Also that organization is fun. Academic freedom is hard to measure but Williams mention of FIRE is an important gesture toward the controversy. Because colleges have another educational mission larger than the training of the young minds on their campus. They also have a educational mission to the community-at-large (with various communities to be accountable, private trustees and/or public legislatures). In American democracy (particularly at public institutions and any of those private but funded with public money) we would desire free speech, strong First Amendment protections. It’s hard to jive that with protecting young minds. Even a message of social justice can become a speech code. The mission of educating the public about what is good can be at odds with free expression and academic creativity (consider the themes in the TV show “Masters of Sex”).

This week for Teachers College shared Columbia University Facebook status with images of Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters”. They kicked him off campus, right? Yeah that’s probably what’s going to happen to me and my zombie projects too.

Dr. Peter Venkman and Dr. Raymond Stantz

Recall also, the great work “Overthinking Ghostbusters” by Adam Bertocci. For more Teachers College, Columbia University recall “zombie cats of Teachers College” (mentioning Thorndike’s cats, the “Resident Evil” subway map and Columbia’s Havemeyer classroom).

zombie resident evil new york subway mapHavemeyer  309

Cities are like panopticons and both subways and classrooms create an opportunity to commingle with the fellow cats. Speaking of Columbia zombies mingling, see last week in Columbia Spectator: “A story of the first ISOP” by Luke Foster:

we were all in varying degrees of zombie-fication from jet lag, but there was instant conviviality and camaraderie that first evening in Lerner Party Space.

Truer to my own experience, in Glossy News: “College Senior More Concerned With Zombie Apocalypse Than Future” by Don Plattner.

Meanwhile, college remains the only path to professional certification and zombies are not only at the IVy elite parties, see PortNews: “ Zombie apocalypse here” by Vickii Byram:

Zombie Apocalypse roadshow at UNSW Rural Clinical School … the UNSW Museum of Human Diseases popular outreach program … the Zombie Apocalypse. “It’s an enjoyable hands-on learning experience for both children and adults. It can also inspire students to get more involved in health and medicine – there may even be some future doctors in the crowd,” Mr Williams said.

Yes, future doctors and lawyers have no choice but college, but others don’t need to pay zombie tuition to learn. It’s free on the internet:

Imgur today: “If you ever want to do something with your spare time (except for imgur of course)

Still, most online tutorials don’t teach teamwork (maybe use online games for that). Despite student laments, college requires group participation. College forces students to study together and learn to live and work together. Everyone bitches about group work but the college experience is in part to learn to live and work together. That’s one reason people still pay so much for college admissions, to be sorted with ‘similar’ minds, because the networking is literally worth more than the teachers (because they don’t pay the teachers anywhere near the wages of a socially just world!). Only through role-taking and teamwork can simple minds accomplish great things (think about ants!).

ants pulling

However, Ars: “Learning CPR from YouTube: maybe not a great idea” by Katie Collins. The implication is we still need research and schools to tell us what really works. But as the comments make clear, we should instead learn CPR from watching the TV show “Breaking Bad”. Still for serious chemistry consider Solid State Chemistry at MITx starting this Wednesday (if only social bonding was as simple to master).

Undergraduate courses are still somewhat useful, just overpriced and not necessarily focused on useful content, but it’s not about the topic title, its how you use the skills later (and who you meet along the way). See Newsminer: “A day in the field with UAF undergrads” by Meghan Murphy:

Chris Clement is ready for anything — zombie apocalypse, restraining an eagle or offering a definition of cryptorchidism in dogs, which is when one or both of the testes doesn’t descend.

Yes, college is still good for some things, after all, young pups gotta do something before their balls drop… but while properly scaffolded curriculum in critical skills sound great, it’s often the free-wheeling radical professors who inspire the imagination needed for social justice and to change in the world; students need both (zombie false dichotomy).

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