Archive for the 'The Social Scene' Category

My First Experiment

Last week, I attended my very first lab in Biology. Or, the first one since 1968, if you want to be technical about things. In that introductory lab, the instructor laid out the rules and procedures that MUST be followed for the rest of the semester. One of those rules is that ‘open-toe’ shoes are not allowed. She went around the room and looked at our feet, noting the number of flip-flops in attendance. She stated very clearly that anyone showing up in flip-flops would be sent out and not allowed to return until properly shod.

There are 25 students in this lab, about equally distributed between the sexes.

Yesterday was our first real lab. Sure enough, students entereing the lab and shod with flip-flops were turned around. After two turnarounds, I began counting.

The results, 0 girls turned around. 9 guys turned around.

What does that say? Stay tuned for my hypothesis and predictions…..



Heard yesterday in the halls of academe, on the way to class:

“I’ve started studying for my exams…..I’m not sure when they are, but I assume they are coming up.”

Well, yeah…….

Text Messaging & Classroom Protocol

Via Instapundit, an interesting report from Inside HigherEd that talks about an environment that every student is familiar with.

Some professors threaten to confiscate students’ cell phones if they go off during class. Laurence Thomas has his own approach to classroom distractions. If the philosopher at Syracuse University catches a student sending text messages or reading a newspaper in class, he’ll end the class on the spot and walk out. It doesn’t matter if there is but one texter in a large lecture of hundreds of students. If you text, he will leave.

Last week, when a student in a large lecture — in the front row no less — sent a text message, Thomas followed through on his threat (as he had done just a few days earlier). And he then sent the university’s chancellor, his dean, and all of the students an e-mail message explaining his actions and his frustration at the “brazen” disrespect he had received in class. In the e-mail, he noted that the student who sent the text message is Cuban, and that last year, two Latino students had started to play tic-tac-toe during his class.


Now, I have voluntarily relocated in a class to get away from incessant text-messaging, so I can understand the professor’s perspective. But, as the article goes on to point out, text-messaging is today’s version of note-passing; students today live in a persistent, ubiquitous information environment where instant communication with other parties is the rule rather than the exception.

In a time when e-mail is snail-mail, where land-line telephony does not exist, and where the “dead-tree” media doesn’t have so much as a toe-hold in the media market share game, perhaps it’s time for the professors to quit taking such offence at what is essentially now human nature.

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Widespread Panic – The Flu Version

Here’s a little message from the administration:

The College of Charleston, among other schools in our state, is experiencing widespread cases of seasonal influenza. During the past week, the staff of Student Health Services has seen a dramatic increase in the number of students with flu-like symptoms that include muscle aches, fever and chills, headache, dry cough and weakness. The current wave of influenza illness is expected to last for the next two to three weeks at the present level and will gradually taper off in the following weeks.

This is not new news. My calculus class, full of youngsters living in the dorms, sounds like a tuberculosis ward. Sniffing, sneezing, and, worst of all, the variety of coughs that continue without cease for the entire 50 minutes of class; I have been aware of the ‘epidemic’ for the last week or so.


It’s just another pattern that is slowly becoming more recognizable. Students go home, see other students, stay up too late, don’t take care of themselves, and expose each other to God knows how many different strains of the crud, garden variety colds, et cetera. They then return to the campus, mingle, and voila’, 2 -3 weeks into the term we have another outbreak.

I expect some version will work its way into my system shortly. I just hope that whatever hits me occurs before or after next week, when I have three major tests in two days.

I’m not betting in my favor………


Observations from the first few days:

Timing is everything – Last semester (my first), all of my classes were early. That was fine with me, as I got in and got out every day before Noon. But, I now realize, it gave me a distorted sense of the campus scene. This semester, most of my classes are in the middle of the day….and it didn’t take me too long to figure out that today’s college student doesn’t like to get up early. The throng of students took me by surprise, until I figured out the timing thing. I think I like early morning.

Getting what you pay for – Today, the second day of Calculus, the professor was late. After about ten minutes, the murmuring began, and I could hear the question: “How late can he be before we can leave?” To which there seemed to be a variety of opinions. At fifteen minutes, the exodus began, and the classroom very quickly emptied by half. Sure enough, the professor showed up a few minutes later, and we dove into the definition and calculation of limits. What about the half of the class that was absent? Too bad, so sad. Professor @($ acknowledged in our first meeting that he had no attendance policy, except for tests and homework to be turned in, so I guess a goodly proportion of our class will take him at his word.

Now, as a former world record holder for classes cut, I have no ground to stand on. But, I also understand that the only person losing anything when I cut a class was me. I have placed a higher value on me since those dark days, but, apparently, some choose to follow in my footsteps. Maybe things will turn out better for them.

Paying Attention – While waiting for the professor, I overheard a few of my classmates discussing math and their ability to focus. Said one: “If someone can explain it to me while I can focus, I get it. But class is too long, and I just lose my focus. I really study best with Adderall“. Well, I certainly remember Black Beauties from the old days, but I don’t think that’s what she had in mind. Times have changed.

This Ain’t Kansas, ToTo

The new semester begins! New faces, new subjects, new buildings. Most of my classes are held in a different area of the campus, and it seems that the sidewalks are more crowded, the faces all unfamiliar, and the intensity just a little bit greater. None of these courses are part of the general education curriculum; all are populated with folks that know where they are going (for the most part) and how they want to get there. And the getting ain’t easy….

It’s way too early to judge how the semester will progress, although I will admit to a certain amount of trepidation as I sat, like the hawk’s breakfast, in the calculus class. Even there, though, after a few minutes of confusion the lights went on and I actually understood the professor.

There’s still plenty of time for confusion, discouragement, angst, and the like, but, for now, …my state, like to the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth, sings hymns at Heaven’s gate…that then I scorn to change my state with kings. (Sonnet XXIX).

“Life’s hard, son. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” — The Duke.

Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate,no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad, an introduction, in solitude a solace and in society an ornament.It chastens vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage. - Joseph Addison
The term informavore (also spelled informivore) characterizes an organism that consumes information. It is meant to be a description of human behavior in modern information society, in comparison to omnivore, as a description of humans consuming food. George A. Miller [1] coined the term in 1983 as an analogy to how organisms survive by consuming negative entropy (as suggested by Erwin Schrödinger [2]). Miller states, "Just as the body survives by ingesting negative entropy, so the mind survives by ingesting information. In a very general sense, all higher organisms are informavores." - Wikipedia

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