Friday Philosophy: creative control or censorship?

Another semester begins, to yet one more time drain the life out of multitudes of college teachers and their students.  This year begins with the periodic political campaign speech which, if it addresses education at all, displays no knowledge of life from the perspective of a college teacher.

One of the problems with being a college professor is that one is likely to be swamped with many ideas at once from time to time, which causes them not only to divide one’s time in an often futile attempt to resolve the different issues but also to consider how those issues might overlap…and why they happen to come up now, at this point in the life of a person or the history of the world.

So I’m going to carefully unwrap the twines of my reaction to the acceptance speech vis-a-vis education from another event that occurred yesterday.  More time and more thought need to go into any tirade about students who would be better served not going to college and the rest of us remodeling society so that such people could have their own form of a better life through a different vehicle than attending school not because they want to do so but because they are told to do so.  And about the amount of destruction done to educational realms when people think that the point of an education is to get a better job instead of, you know, learning something.

More time and more thought also need to go into anything written about the effects of that destruction and the destruction caused by No Child Left Behind…which has been every bit the storm Katrina was and is ongoing…on any effort to create an army of new teachers who actually have the skills and passion to teach.  The infrastructure of our education system has been neglected just as much as the infrastructure of our highways and byways…and surely for just as long, if not longer.

And I don’t even want to talk about my Internet Support Tools class being canceled because of lack of enrollment (4 students).  There will be no interns for us, OTB.

Yesterday morning I checked to see if I was scheduled for any meetings.  Thursday afternoons are our normal meeting days, on a fixed four-week rotation: Standing Comittees, AAUP, Faculty (as a whole), Divisions (i.e. departments, but we are a small college:  my division covers accounting, business, computer information systems, economics, networking, and supply-side management…yes, I am in what is, for the purposes of brevity, referred to as the Business Division.  Heavy sigh.), but normally we don’t have a meeting on the very first Thursday.  Yesterday we did, so that they could cancel the one at the end of the September so that the chairs of the committees could meet with faculty governance and plan the year.

[Yes, it really does get as boring as this.  Thirty-two years of it has taken its toll.  No worries.  The story is about to begin.  Just a bit further on.]

So that meant I had to discover what committee I was put on this year.  I drew Technology.  Excellent.  I was on that committee for three years in the past and chaired it for two of them.  I didn’t immediately pay much notice to the other people on the committee…a name or two caught my eye.

The meeting began as theater of the absurd when we discovered that two committees had been scheduled for the same space and General Education pulled rank on us. So we waited for the Chair of the committee and then hobbled over to the building which houses the Creative Arts and Technology Division she is a part of:  she knew of an empty space, albeit windowless.  That might be prophetic.

In her introductory paragraph, the Chair informed us that we had been hand picked for the task at hand.  Isn’t that worrisome.

The first order of business was to going to be to set the agenda of the committee for the year.  Then we were given our charge.  The college wishes to become part of iTunes U.  We ran a pilot project last year and this committee is charged with getting us up and running, starting with assessing feasibility, creating a plan, setting a timetable for implementation of that plan, and ending with rewriting the college’s Acceptable Use Policy.

Podcasts are us…or soon will be.

At the next meeting (October) committee members will go through the process of making our own podcasts so we can better assess manpower needed to assist faculty in producing, editing and uploading the podcasts.

What could he do?

Should have been a rock star.

But he didn’t have the money for a guitar.

What could he do?

Should have been a politician.

But he never had a proper education.

–Kate Bush

Perhaps I shall record a poem or two.

But that was decided at the end of the meeting.  In between the beginning and the end was a brainstorming session with an interesting group and a three-page memo about what would be required of the college in order to participate.  There is no doubt we can produce more than the minimum 100 files and produce quality stuff in doing so.  Of course, it was acknowledged, some professors will be hesitant, even resistant to engaging with this new medium, but we could still be every much the presence of iTunes U member Rock Valley College.  We didn’t have to shoot for being another Stanford.  Besides, this was coming down on us from above, so we better darn well accept it as our own idea and get on with it.

One of the requirements Apple has for belonging to iTunes U besides, you know, running it over iTunes (which is of course why Apple offers this “free” service), is that member institutions establish an Oversight Committee.  As we discussed what that meant, someone…in the interest of confidentiality I’ll not mention any names, but I’m pretty sure it was me who said, “We get to be the censors.”  What else is an organization which is charged with oversight of content?

That made me look around at the group some more.  Of course there were the relevant technical people:  the guy who got the job Debbie didn’t in Instructional Technology and the woman who runs the media center.  And the committee is required to have members from the Library and from Global Studies (representing foreign students, etc) and we had those.  And the faculty members, besides me and the Chair, whose art involves video, sculpture and installation, consisted of a nurse specializing in women’s health, alternative health care, and nurse/patient interaction, a sociologist and author in the field of domestic violence, a poet who actually gets his poems published, and a physicist (electromagnetics).  Absent for the day was the education professor who uses robots as a teaching tool and runs robot programming competitions.  Also missing was the Director of Telecommunications and Network.

Hand picked?  No biggie.  Just decide what is and what is not acceptible to publish and make available at this (Presbyterian) college’s iTunes U presence.

This is going to require a lot of introspection.  This has possibility of producing a challenging semester.

Focusing a Blind Eye

Creative Control

Because a thought occurs

is insufficient reason

for it to require voicing

let alone dissemination

equal time



Who speaks against

when it is necessary?


Not that.

Who decides?

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–August 29, 2008


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    • Robyn on August 30, 2008 at 00:02

    …or I could be busy setting up my brand new iMac computer which will allow me to migrate between Windows, where my art programs and programming stuff reside, and Leopard.  🙂

    Good timing, since trying to download Firefox 3.0 to this computer destroyed the program a couple of days ago and I’m reduced to using Safari for Windows.

    Truth is that I am interested in thoughts of others.

  1. teaching the most basic and nede of human endeavors should not be this hard this complex. Thank you and all who teach. One can only hope we get some relief from the bureaucracy from hell and back.    

  2. there’s always Bach.  And Gould.

    • Alma on August 30, 2008 at 04:05

    Cool  🙂

    I’m sure you’ll do a bang up job Robyn.  

    Yet again my thought process was interrupted before I could type my comment sigh.  My daughter just called for me to bring some of her money tonight, when I pick her up, so she can loan it to a regular customer so they can get their childs ear infection treated.  Have I ever mentioned my daughters a sweety? (And an easy mark?)

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