Tuesday, May 09, 2017


A Tribute

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the unsung heroes of higher education:

The poli sci profs trying to teach Intro to American Government this week.

On the bright side, they probably have some spectacular new essay questions...

I'd like to suggest they employ what physics teachers call "open questions".

An open question is a statement. The students are then charged with coming up with good questions that are suggested by the statement, usually in small groups of three or four with a small whiteboard between them, but the ideas could also be written on a sheet of paper and projected on a screen for further discussion and elaboration BY THE STUDENTS. Again, the object is not to have the Sage On The Stage answer each question, it is for the students to decide which questions are the best ones and what they would need to know/learn/ask to begin to answer those questions.

I suppose you could then number them and assign the questions at random as a unique essay assignment for each student.

This simulates the kind of analytic thinking required to apply what you know in a new situation. A physics example would be video of a stuntman falling off of a tall building and landing in a big airbag, which is answerable with what students know after the first week or so. Later, it could be an event, like the collapse of a bridge or the failure of a rocket launch.

The poli sci version would just be tomorrow's headline in the Times.

Just to show how diverse the questions could be, CNBC already has this headline: "Comey firing raises concern that Trump pro-growth agenda could be slowed even more" with "President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey not seen impacting market" as the first subhead. Some see it as an existential Constitutional question (CNBC also has "Justice Department was told to come up with reasons to fire Comey, reports say") while others are more concerned with the political economy!
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