Archive for the ‘University of North Georgia’ Category

Feast of Mark Hopkins (June 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  Mark Hopkins Stamp

Image in the Public Domain

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MARK HOPKINS (FEBRUARY 4, 1802-JUNE 17, 1887)

U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, Educator, and Physician

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The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.

–James Abram Garfield (November 19, 1831-September 19, 1881), President of the United States of America (March 4-September 19, 1881)

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Mark Hopkins comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Hopkins came from a devout Congregationalist family, which shaped his destiny.  He, a son of Archibald Hopkins (1766-1839) and Mary Curtis Hopkins (1772-1868), debuted in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on February 4, 1802.  A great-uncle was Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803), a prominent Congregationalist minister, theologian, and abolitionist.  Our saint, who graduated from Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1824, worked as a tutor at Williams College (1825-1827) prior to matriculating at Berkshire Medical College, Pittsfield, Massachusetts (Class of 1830).  The our saint returned to Williams College as Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy (1830-1887).  He also served as the president of the college (1836-1872).  Hopkins, a skilled practitioner of the Socratic Method, became an ordained minister in 1833.  He chose to remain at Williams College; our saint declined a host of offers from churches, universities, colleges, and seminaries elsewhere.  Hopkins also found time to serve as the President of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions from 1857 to 1887.

Hopkins married Mary Hubbell (1813-1898).  The couple had ten children.

Hopkins produced a range of published works of theology.  His theology anticipated Charles Darwin‘s On the Origin of Species (1859), which was unoriginal.  (Ask Alfred Russel Wallace.)  Our saint’s On the Argument from Nature for the Divine Existence (1833), rooted in Aristolelian philosophy and the theology of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1768), argued that evolution is a driving force within nature and is consistent with the existence of God.

Hopkins, Renaissance man and Christian apologist, died in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1887.  He was 85 years old.

Hopkins, as an educator, intrigues me.  I have much experience in postsecondary education.  I have been around long enough to witness changes in the student body.  Nothing is new under the sun, of course.  However, I recognize that some negative patterns have become more prominent lately.  Increasingly, students do not know how to take notes and/or do not want to take their own notes.  No, more pupils expect their professors and instructors to give them notes, preferably in the form of overly verbose and poorly-designed PowerPoint slides.  Attention spans have become shorter.  Socrates did not need billboards and PowerPoint slides.  Neither did Mark Hopkins.  He had what he needed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANNA ROSA GATTORNO, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE DAUGHTERS OF SAINT ANNE, MOTHER OF MARY IMMACULATE

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXIS TOTH, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE DICKINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA CATALINA TROIANI, FOUNDRESS OF THE FRANCISCAN MISSIONARIES OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Mark Hopkins and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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University Students with Misplaced Senses of Entitlement   Leave a comment

I have read students’ evaluations of me; fall semester evaluations became available to read today.  The consensus was that I was an awful teacher.

The real story is in the comments about why I was allegedly so bad.  I did not teach a textbook.  I assigned the free textbook for the course, but I never referred to pages.  I did not type out notes and post them to D2L (Distance Learning).  I did not use PowerPoint.  I did not spoon-feed the students.  No, I expected them to take their own notes.  I did not create “study guides.”  (Don’t we call those notes?)  Also, I refused to post test questions prior to tests.  (How dare I not help them cheat?)

I have not been inside a high school classroom in years, but I can gain an understanding of what is happening in many of those classrooms by observing and listening to students fresh from high school.  I realize how much the quality of student’s writing has declined, even in the last few years.  I notice how they expect me to teach them and to what they feel entitled.  Many of them feel entitled to receive ready-made notes and to see test questions in advance, apparently.  I see blank expressions on their faces when I say “style manual.”

I, as a mere mortal, understand that I am imperfect and do not know everything.  I know that I can improve in various tasks and learn more.  Expecting students to take their own notes and making them see test questions for the first time on a test day are not faults, however.  I also recall that the teachers, instructors, and professors who taught me the most were the most demanding ones.

Many of these students were graduates from one of the two high schools in Oconee County, Georgia.  Oconee County authorities enjoy bragging about how high their schools’ test scores are.  High test scores do not necessarily translate into academic preparation, though.  And, given how commonplace teaching to the standardized tests has become, results I have witnesses in university classrooms do not surprise me.

When I was a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, I admired Dr. Timothy Teeter’s favorite mug.  It read, “READ, DAMMIT.”  I hope to find one like it eventually, for there must be one for sale somewhere.    I like the sentiment and attitude.  More students need to read and take more academic initiative, not be so passive. The more they put into their educations, the more they will get out of them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

2020: Best Wishes   2 comments

Above:  The Middle Oconee River at Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, December 8, 2019

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I find myself at the convergence of turning points as 2019 comes to an end.  On the personal front, I deal with two deaths.  Professionally, I look to the future with a combination of confidence, hope, and uncertainty.  The result will be better than what it will replace, I affirm.  However, I do not know what will happen between now and then.  How long should I remain in Athens-Clarke County?  What I do not know outweighs what I understand.  I know, however, that I must not make rash decisions, especially while I grieve and adapt to my “new normal.”

Experience is a fine teacher.  A wise pupil heeds it.  One lesson experience teaches me is that a grudge is a burden one should never impose on oneself, regardless of how righteous one’s indignation may be.  I acknowledge objective reality.  (Why should I not?) I know that a particular professor at The University of Georgia (UGA) fired a torpedo into the bow of my doctoral program and sank it like the Lusitania.  I also understand that my anger over that example of academic abuse burned out years ago.  Whenever I walk on the UGA campus, I feel simultaneously at home, in a familiar place, yet on virgin territory different from a place I have ever been.  The area does look different than it used to, due mainly to construction on campus.  It is a place I want to call home again.  A relationship, however, has more than one party.

My congregation, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, keeps providing incentives to remain in town.  I am active in the parish, in which I have found my niches.  The emotional and spiritual support members of the congregation have been providing to me since Bonny’s death has become a source of much gratitude.  I can never repay them.  Perhaps I will have opportunities to “pay it forward” in time, not that I seek grief for anyone.

Praying for one’s needs is not sinful, but being selfish in prayer is.  With that in mind, I issue the following prayer:

May God’s best for each person be that person’s reality.  May you, O reader, receive all the help you need and provide all the aid you should.  May the light of God shine in your life, attract others to God, and strengthen the faith of many.  May 2020, by these standards, be a better year for you than 2019 has been.  May it be a better year for all countries, nation-states, peoples, and refugees.  May 2020 be a better year for the planet.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Really?   2 comments

I teach challenging courses.  This is appropriate, for I teach at a university.

I have noticed steeply declining grades and quality of writing during the last few years.  I should not have to define words such as “partisan” and “meddling.”  This is interesting, given that most of my students are recent graduates of local high schools with high scores on standardized tests.  I know that the way to such high scores is to teach the tests.

Many of my students blame me for their poor academic performance.  They wish that I would send them notes via email.  They pine for PowerPoint.  Some of them wish I would teach a textbook.  (I assign a free textbook and recommend it as a reference for them, though.)  Some students even ask if they may see the test questions before the test or if they may photograph tests.  I refuse, of course.

To those who blame me for their substandard academic performance and wonder how to succeed, I say, ask the pupils who earn grades such as 88 and 94 on tests.  I say to study well and often.  I say to read a dictionary.  I say to learn proper English.  I say to accept responsibility for one’s own education.  I ask, where do you think you are, your old high school?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

Posted November 7, 2019 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

Temerity   4 comments

The temerity of some postsecondary students never surprises nor ceases to appall me.

Late last semester, I decided to abandon written assignments in my (history) courses at the University of North Georgia (the Oconee Campus, to be precise), effective this semester.  The cumulative effect of so much bad writing and inability or unwillingness to follow the assigned style manual, combined with persistent (and frequently denied) plagiarism, wore me down.  I took pity on myself.  I stripped out the essays, the book report, and the weekly quizzes, and replaced them with four tests, including the final exam.  The restructuring of my courses has necessitated the rewriting of my teaching notes (in progress during this semester), as well as the writing of possible test questions before and after classes.

The first test of 50 questions for Monday, February 4.  Grading will be easy, for I know where the Scantron machine is on campus.

My test bank for the first test has grown to more than 50 questions.  After I have mentioned the test bank in class, some students have asked if I will post the test bank on Distance Learning (D2L), so that they may study the questions.  I have given these pupils the looks they deserve.  No, I have said, pupils will see the questions on February 4, when I distribute the tests.

I am not alone in noticing the sense of entitlement rife in the undergraduate population these days.  My disgust with this attitude is evident in my new syllabi, which contains a bullet list that begins with the mantra,

You are not entitled to….

Sometimes I think about younger generations and feel generally positive about the future.  On other occasions, however, I ponder certain young people and mourn for the future.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

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Posted January 29, 2019 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

Students’ Individual Responsibility   3 comments

Above:  A Portion of My Home Desk Area, November 5, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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When I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, taking upper-level history courses, a research paper was part of every such course.  The format was Turabian, of course.  In 1993-1996, my time at Valdosta State, I used an electronic typewriter to create my written assignments.  Almost always the professors were kind enough to permit endnotes instead of footnotes.  Those professors also never took any time to explain the Turabian format.  Doing so was not their job, and I never imagined that it was.  No, my responsibility vis-à-vis formatting was to consult and follow the style manual, then in the fifth edition.  My copy of the style manual was an essential volume in my library.

Many of the students I teach at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia apparently lack the initiative to consult the current Turabian manual (ninth edition) or an online Turabian guide.   Many of them seem to think that my job is to tell them everything about the Turabian style, especially with regard to footnotes (easy to do via computer) and bibliographic entries.  Many of them ignore my written guidance (more than any of my professors gave, that is, none) and plead ignorance.  Yet ignorance, especially the variety born of laziness and apathy, is not a good defense.

Many of my colleagues and I see the same disturbing pattern:  pupils, overall, expect proverbial hand-holding through tasks that should be simple for college students yet prove challenging.  Furthermore, proverbial hand-holding often does no good anyway, based on results.

As I tell students, the more they put into their education, the more they will get out of it.  Regardless of what they did or did not learn at their high schools (some of which report high test scores), they are responsible for showing the necessary initiative.  Instead, many of them give up and avoid taking any of my courses again.

I accept my responsibility to my students.  They deserve my best efforts to prepare them for the world.  One lesson I hope I teach is the importance of showing initiative.  Another lesson I strive to teach is working hard through struggles to emerge better off in the end.

I ponder the causes of the problems I recognize in many students.  A partial list follows:

  1. The sense of entitlement commonplace in Millennials;
  2. The results of helicopter parenting;
  3. The failures of schools, especially the coddling of students, often for the purpose of raising scores on high-stakes tests;
  4. The endemic lack of time-management skills;
  5. Short attention spans; and
  6. The plethora of distractions, mostly technological.

Responsibility is both collective and individual.  Regardless of the negative influences of others on one’s life, one does have much agency.  Those other influences may not cease to exist, but one can, at least, consult and follow a mandated style manual in a university course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Generational Experiences, Memories, and Knowledge   Leave a comment

Tomorrow I will begin to teach my Fall Semester 2018 sections of United States History I (through 1877) at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia

Whenever I prepare lessons, I think about generational experiences, memories, and knowledge.  The birth years of my students range from 1995 to 2001, with the greatest concentration of in 1999 and 2000.  Given that my memory reaches back to the 1970s, I am beginning to feel relatively old.  I find that PowerPoint is not a useful tool for teaching history; besides, most people who give PowerPoint presentations seem just to read their slides.  (I can read slides; why are people reading them to me?)  Neither do I teach from a script.  No, I teach from skeletal notes.  This means that, after I prepare and as I teach, I speak not quite extemporaneously.  I understand the material, but have no prepared comments.  This means that I have to watch my references.

Technological and cultural references are especially tricky.  I recall that once I confused a student when I said “typewriter.”  My Saturday Night Live references from the Dana Carvey-Phil Hartman era fall flat as nobody recognizes the reference to the Church Lady.  (“Isn’t that special?” “Could it be Satan?”)  These students have no memory of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Most of them have little sense of historical perspective; the 1990s might as well be ancient history for them.  If they do not remember it, it is ancient history, by their standards.  Books seem to be objects of curiosity for many of my students, who are addicted to screens anyway, and who mistake searching via Google for conducting research.

I come from a certain bookish background and a particular time.  Nine thick dictionaries and a thesaurus are on my desk.  I do not need nine dictionaries, but I like them.  The smell of old paper inspires great joy in me.  I like to hold a book. read, and turn pages.  I have no television or streaming service, and want none.  Days pass without me turning on my television set.  I enjoy screening foreign art movies as well as Marx Brothers films.  The original, British version of House of Cards (all three miniseries) is superior to the American version, I know.  Torchwood:  Children of Earth breaks my heart every time I watch it.  Tom Baker is the best actor to have played the Doctor; that is obvious.

I perceive the world differently than my students do partially because I have more and different experiences than they do.  My students are, for better and worse–hopefully more of the former than the latter–part of the future.  I hope to contribute to the shaping of that future, for the better, as I pass on to my students much of what I know.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Unprepared for College, Part II   Leave a comment

Spring Semester 2018 at the University of North Georgia is nearly over.

This night I have concluded the process of grading final essays and posting all grades at the proper electronic destinations.  The contrasts between two classes have proven to be quite dramatic, by the numbers.

Consider these numbers, O reader:

Class Grade = A

  • Class I–46%; Class II–27%

Class Grade =B

  • Class I–30%; Class II–6%

Class Grade = C

  • Class I–8%; Class II–17%

Class Grade = D

  • Class I–4%; Class II–0%

Class Grade = F

  • Class I–13%; Class II–50%

Plagiarists on the Final Essay

  • Class I–4%; Class II–22%

Plagiarism results in a zero on the assignment in question and an “F’ in the course.

Each class has its distinct collective personality.  That personality comes down to the luck of the draw–who enrolls in it and who stays.  I present the same material to the different groups and observe different results.  These results force me to conclude that more than half of one of these classes was not prepared for college.

I also notice that many students have little or no concept of plagiarism, despite my oral and written explanations of it, as well as the efforts of others to explain it.  They need to learn that concept now.  I wonder how many of them will learn that lesson now.

The semester is over.  Now I enjoy that fact.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

Posted May 3, 2018 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

Tagged with

College Students and Deadlines   Leave a comment

Plus a Complaint Regarding a Related Matter

I teach undergraduates at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia (UNG).  Every semester I deal with students who seem to think that deadlines are friendly suggestions.  This is hardly a new problem.  It is certainly not unique to UNG or the Oconee Campus.  It does seem, however, to be getting worse.  Conversations with other members of the faculty prove that they are dealing with the same problem, and that they think it is getting worse.

Today, although not a teaching day, is certainly a working day for me.  Today is, to be precise, the deadline for Essay #2, due at turnitin.com by 10:00 p.m.  Today is also the last of five days to submit that assignment.  For anyone to receive an extension from me requires a desperate and unavoidable situation.  Experience teaches me to expect at least one student lacking such an emergency to ask for mercy.

I know I missed the deadline,

this student will write.  I will answer,

Yes, you did.

Then I will mete out the academic penalty.  Then some of them will not submit an essay.  That grade is automatically a zero, of course.

Based on my experiences with students and conversations with colleagues, I can only conclude that many students are accustomed to requesting deadline extensions for the flimsiest of reasons and receiving them.  I hear from people close to many local schools that those institutions of education are, for a lack of a more precise term, jokes.  That certainly explains many of the students who crash and burn in my courses.

I have responsibilities to students, just as they have responsibilities to themselves.  I am responsible, for example, for teaching them what they need to know–in this case, the importance of deadlines, which matter in the real world.  As much as I seek to build people up and help them achieve their potential, I understand that I am doing nobody any favors by engaging in proverbial hand-holding and spoon-feeding–certainly not in my capacity as a classroom instructor.  So I do not do that.  Society needs for people at least 18 years old to be functional adults.  College students have the responsibility to be functional adults and good pupils.

I know that I will read complaints about having required students in a history course to have used the Turabian format then having held them accountable for not doing so, despite the fact that I referred pupils to online guides to that format and showed them printed style manuals.  That, however, is a different, but related, matter.  I get the impression that certain students have never had to read and follow instructions or face the consequences.  It is better for them to learn that now than later, in the real world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

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In Praise of Books   Leave a comment

Above:  Five of My Books, August 3, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I come from a bookish family.  I recall the old family house in Summerville, Georgia, before my grandmother Taylor died, the structure stood vacant, and vandals burgled it (oddly, without any of the neighbors noticing).  I remember opening closets and finding bookshelves (full of books, of course) built into them.  My love of books is learned.

I, as a one trained in history, harbor strong suspicions of technology without resorting to joining the ranks of Luddites.  Technology provides tools, many of which I find useful.  Other tools, however, do not interest me.  Some of them are counter-productive.  A printed and bound book is, under the proper circumstances, of more value for a longer period of time than any electronic version of a book.  The former certainly requires less technology–such as glasses and a lamp, perhaps–to access it.  Although the Internet is a wonderful resource for reference purposes, when one knows how to use it properly, I prefer reference works when possible.

I notice that many of my students–some of them, by their own admission, not avid readers–seem oblivious to the presence of books as sources for their essays.  It is their loss.  They do not understand the pleasures of holding an old book and smelling the pages or admiring its design.  These students are, to borrow a term, digital natives.  They are not always adept at interpreting information well, analyzing sources properly, and appreciating the riches of well-edited reference works.  I still swear by my sets of Americanas (1962) and Britannicas (1968), encyclopedias more detailed in certain ways than any Internet resources I have found.

Furthermore, despite the digitization of many volumes at websites such as archive.org, an invaluable resource, not everything is there.  And, even when a particular book is there, a hard copy is superior and certainly easier on one’s eyeballs.  The physical book is also tactile; that is a virtue.

Books are superior to the alternatives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

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