So, this morning I was presenting my synopsis of Prescription for Excellence, a terrific book about customer service excellence by Joseph Michelli. In the midst of my presentation, I was talking about UCLA Health System’s commitment to innovation. From the book:
“Innovation distinguishes between leaders and followers.” (Steve Jobs).
The battlefield of business competition is littered with the remnants of once-great companies that failed to adapt or innovate.
And then, out of my mouth came the story about IQ and web browser preference that I had read earlier in the week – the story that people who use one internet browser have a lower IQ than people who use other browsers.
After the presentation, one of our regular participants nicely told me that he had heard about the study on NPR, and the next day, NPR apologized and recanted. So, it turns out that the study was a hoax, that I, and apparently a whole bunch of journalists, bought into.
Here’s the report reporting that it was a hoax:
Now I could tell you that I read the story on more than one web site. (I did). I could tell you that at least one of the web sites was quite “legitimate” (in other words, not some obscure blog. And, it was). I could tell you that I should not be held accountable.
But – I repeated a story that was not based in fact.
And I apologize.
So – this is my apology to our participants; this is my mea culpa.
I really should remember the advice of Ronald Reagan – “trust, but verify.”
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Paula Marantz Cohen and featured by The American Scholar magazine. As you probably know already, The American Scholar is the venerable but lively quarterly magazine of public affairs, literature, science, history, and culture published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society since 1932. In recent years the magazine has won four National Magazine Awards, the industry’s highest honor, and many of its essays and articles have been selected for the yearly Best American anthologies.
“Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous speech, “The American Scholar,” delivered to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard College in 1837, the magazine aspires to Emerson’s ideals of independent thinking, self-knowledge, and a commitment to the affairs of the world as well as to books, history, and science.”
To check out all the resources, sign up for email alerts, and obtain information about subscribing to this superb magazine, please click here.
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After years of favoring the endurance-test approach to teaching literature, a professor focuses on how to make books spark to life for her students
Although I have been teaching for almost three decades, I feel I have only recently begun to teach. For years, I was doing what was expected: preparing detailed syllabi, grading piles of papers, and pontificating in front of a class about the importance of the subject matter that I had assigned. I thought I was teaching, and some of my students thought so too. But they were the diligent, receptive ones, and lately I’ve come to feel that diligent, receptive students don’t need teachers. The ones who do are the ones I used to gripe about: those who went directly to the SparkNotes, who didn’t proofread their papers, and who gave rote responses in class. They were the students whom I traditionally wrote off as not belonging in college—or at least not in my classroom.
Why did my thinking change? I suppose the precipitating factor came when I had children of my own. There is nothing more humbling to one’s self-esteem, more profoundly disruptive of one’s established worldview, than children—those creatures who know nothing of convention or tact, who speak truth to power (that is, their parents) because they haven’t yet learned to pretend or been cowed into doubting themselves. My children, though like me in some respects, were unlike me in others, and I eventually came to see myself through the lens of their difference. Their stubborn individuality forced me to acknowledge otherness in a new way and to question some of my most cherished assumptions. Watching them develop their tastes and interests spurred me to recall how I developed the tastes and interests that define me.
What I realized was that my reverence for books and learning had a dubious beginning. I began reading very young because it pleased my parents and I liked pleasing them. I continued to be studious because I wasn’t a particularly athletic or popular child, and getting good grades was something I could do with relative ease. Those who were like me— “the library crowd,” as we called ourselves—used our book knowledge to feel superior to our peers—and to rationalize the fact that we weren’t invited to the prom. Many of us went on to become college professors and thus gained power in the classroom, where we could lord it over those who were not like us. Louis Menand in a recent book on the stagnant state of the American university, The Marketplace of Ideas, makes the same point indirectly: “The [undergraduate] major is set up in such a way that the students who receive the top marks are the ones who show the greatest likelihood of going on to graduate school and becoming professors themselves.” In other words, most professors aim their teaching at people who resemble them—which is to say, people with the same sort of intellectual proclivities and learning styles that they have. Thus, the profession reproduces itself.
You may argue that there is nothing wrong with this. Whatever the reasons that people become readers and scholars, it is important that they come to do these things well. That may be so, but an inbred, homogeneous learning community is bound to be detrimental both to the knowledge circulating within it and to those who are not part of it. It means that many people are left out of the academic mix: they are never encouraged to discover the joys of reading and scholarship; their ideas never gain authority. Over the past 50 years, education has sought to be more inclusive of minorities formerly left on the margins of serious learning. But the seemingly “deadbeat” college student, viewed apart from his or her affiliation with a disenfranchised group—that constituency has been overlooked
Until recently, I supported the method of teaching that was used in the undergraduate and graduate institutions where I received my degrees. In each case, the courses were designed as endurance tests to see which students would be able to muscle through the requirements: read a ton of books and write a slew of papers without cutting corners. I will never forget my first day in my first English class in 1971, where the professor handed out a syllabus that was 10 pages long. It included a list of required reading, a list of recommended reading, and a list of assignments, plotted out for each of the upcoming classes, so complicated that I felt myself grow faint at the sight of it. Even I—rumored to have read Pickwick Papers at the age of 8 (not true, but a great spur to my subsequent achievement)—even I was intimidated.
The experience of that English class affected my own teaching. It conditioned in me the idea that I had to be comprehensive in what I gave students and what I expected of them. If the process was painful, so be it—everything worth doing was painful.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Paula Marantz Cohen is a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University where she teaches courses in literature, film, and creative writing. She is the author of four nonfiction books and her essays and stories have appeared in The Yale Review, Raritan, The American Scholar, Boulevard, The Hudson Review, the Southwest Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. She is the host of The Drexel InterView, a cable TV show based in Philadelphia, and a co-editor of jml: Journal of Modern Literature. She holds a B.A. from Yale College and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.