I’ve been fascinated by the dust storm kicked up by the letter that the Dean of Students at the University of Chicago sent out at the start of the school year, essentially telling students that Chicago “doesn’t do” trigger warnings or safe spaces. To my mind it’s only common courtesy (and common sense) to suggest that a topic about to be introduced is going to be difficult. This is different than a broad statement on a syllabus that “warns” that issues of “capitalism, racism, sexism” (etc, etc.) will be covered in the course – which neither prepares students for the discussion nor serves any concrete purpose other than acting as a kind of product liability statement. What do you think and how do you handle such issues in your classes? Please comment!
What We’re Reading & Watching
A recent article by James Lang in the Chronicle of Higher Education on “The Distracted Classroom,” points to a new book by Adam Gazzaley (neuroscience) and Larry D. Rosen (psychology) on The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World (MIT 2016). Distraction, as Lang summarizes, is not about looking up from reading the newspaper when something interesting is happening on the subway on the way to work. Distraction is basically when you’re trying to reach a goal that matters and something gets in the way: constantly checking Facebook when you’re trying to finish writing a review that’s due in three hours. As Gazzaley and Rosen write, “The reason why goal interference in particular is so prominent in our lives, is the inherent complexity of our goals and the limitations we have in fulfilling them. Our ability to establish high-level goals is arguably the pinnacle of human brain evolution. Complex, interwoven, time-delayed, and often shared goals are what allow us humans to exert an unprecedented influence over how we interact with the world around us, navigating its multifaceted environments based on our decisions rather than reflexive responses to our surroundings.” Although our brains are limited in their ability to pay attention, the authors offer suggestions for changing them to better cope with these challenges.
Meet Your Colleagues
Prof. Jocelyn McWhirter,Stanley S. Kresge Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Albion College: "Writing Assignments" Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.