Loony Sanity on a Sunday

W 112

Some years ago, on a golden Manhattan morning, I stepped out of my apartment, rode the creaky wood-paneled elevator to the lobby, pushed through the entry doors of thick glass and curlicue iron, and emerged into the brilliant sunlight of a Morningside Heights spring. I strolled down West 112th Street to Broadway to get a copy of the New York Times before church. There were green leaves sparkling on the trees and rainbows of flowers skirting their trunks. There was a soft, warm breeze blowing. Were there choirs of birds singing? There must have been. Continue reading

The Measure of a Man

agapelove1Ben Franklin coined a saying that “nothing is certain in life but death and taxes.”  In higher education, a variation of Franklin’s wisdom might be that nothing is certain but death and assessment.

Assessment – quantitative, measurable outcomes of student learning – is an important part of any educational endeavor. College professors have been doing it for centuries through exams and course grades. Current assessment trends, however,  require professors to use measures other than grades to gauge student learning.

For example, a professor might require her science students to write essays on an ethical dilemma and how they would resolve it.  A government professor might ask his students to explain why the Constitution is important. In both cases the exercises require a quantitative score using a standardized rubric.  A lot of us feel like we’ve been turned into behavioral scientists and the students into lab rats.

My struggle with assessment is that it overlooks the most important aspect of a college education – one that is entirely unquantifiable.

Continue reading

Under a Bright Blue Sky

Frost

February in upstate New York had the perfect color palette for Valentine’s Day. Snow would fall, snow on snow, and blanket the landscape in white. The icy cold would drive all clouds out of sight and leave the sky a brilliant blue. The sun, in its short trek, would set the snow to glittering and the icicles to sparkling. What better backdrop for cheery red and delicate pink hearts? As a child I loved the holiday. Continue reading

Graduation Day; Or, Onward and Upward

A version of this piece also appeared in The Houston Chronicle in the Gray Matters section on 15 December 2014.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/December-graduation-and-the-things-I-want-to-5957963.php?t=dd6b3c43f279b87a02&cmpid=twitter-desktop

It’s 63 degrees in December, and I am flying down the highway to Houston Baptist University.  I have left early, but I am still running late because I didn’t count on all the closed ramps around Clear Lake.  I am in a hurry because I will be reading the names of the graduates for the first ceremony that starts at 9 am.  That is, if I make it. Advice-to-graduates

I start to wonder what my explanation will sound like if I can’t make up the time on Beltway 8.  I start to think of all the people who might wonder where I am, what I am doing, and why I am late.  I start to feel a little sick, and I realize I don’t have the cell phone number of Linda Clark, the Provost’s Administrative Super Woman, who seems to handle everything with perfect ease. She is the easiest person to work with in the world, and I hate the thought of letting her down. For heaven’s sakes, we are a team at graduation!  I can’t just not show up! This isn’t like missing a class–there isn’t another one to make up.  Then I realize everyone–President Sloan, Provost Reynolds, the board of trustees, donors–will know that I have been unable to fulfill the one requirement I have today:  showing up.

It’s not like they are going to hold the ceremony for me–I mean I am not Lindsay Lohan. But I am starting to understand what she might feel like sometimes, with her ridiculous tardiness and lame excuses. Oh, Lindsay:  this is no way to live.

All I want to do is get on 45, but all I see are red tail lights, feeder road, and despair. Continue reading