Remembering ‘The Professor’

Russell Johnson, who died this week at 89, played the Professor on Gilligan’s Island. The_Professor_(Gilligan's_Island) The Professor could build anything from coconut and bamboo, except a patch for the boat, writes the Los Angeles Times.”He used bamboo, the ship’s horn and radio batteries to create a lie detector; he made a battery recharger from a coconut shell and a helium balloon made from raincoats sealed with tree sap.”

The Professor was a high school science teacher with a PhD, not a university professor, writes Jon Marcus on the Hechinger Report. Long before a chemistry teacher became TV’s finest meth cook, a science teacher showed the power of knowledge,

“At a time when science became mistrusted for having brought not better lives, but pollution and the fear of nuclear annihilation, he was a rock of reason, patience, and precision, level-headed and respected,” writes Marcus.

Also he was good looking.

In recent years, TV has rediscovered smart people, writes Marcus.

There has been a television series called Eureka, about a town populated by geniuses, where the whiz kids pick on the jocks. Smart people also star or have starred in Fringe, The Mentalist, Alphas, Bones, Touch, Breaking Bad, The Big-Bang Theory, and other hits. They’re newly hot (and very, very rich) in real life, too: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg.

These people, real or imaginary, represent the promise of science and the constancy of truth.

Does popular culture value science, truth and intelligence?

Prof reprimanded for ‘whiteness’ talk

A discussion of structural racism lead to a reprimand for the professor when white male students complained they’d been singled out. Shannon Gibney, an English professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, teaches an introductory communications course as well as running the African Diaspora Studies program. Gibney told the student newspaper she’d been discussing “whiteness as a system of oppression,” but a few students took it personally.

‘Porn prof’ faces sexting scandal

Pasadena City College’s  “porn professor” won’t be demonstrating a threesome in front of his Navigating Porn class. Hugo Schwyzer, whose “sexts” with a porn actress were posted online — will go on leave to deal with his bipolar disorder.

Professor may lose job for Obama vote pledge

A math professor who told students to sign pledges to vote for President Obama’s re-election should be fired, President James Richey advised the Brevard Community College Board of Trustees.

Sharon Sweet, an associate professor of mathematics with tenure at the Florida college, is “guilty of electioneering, harassment, and incompetence,” concluded a report based on a three-month investigation.

Sex and the professor

A psychology professor fired for performing in a burlesque show has filed suit in federal court on grounds of sex discrimination, charging a male professor performed partially nude in a one-man show without incurring discipline. Click the link for video of “Professor Shimmy” performing social commentary at the Hubba Hubba Revue.

Also on Community College Spotlight: A weekly “nudge” from a coach –via phone, e-mail or text — improves retention and graduation rates, according to a new study.

Unfit for a college education

Today’s students are uneducated and unfit for a college education, writes a Penn State accounting professor who’s taught for 35 years.  There’s no different in native intelligence, writes J. Edward Ketz.  The difference lies in their “educational backgrounds, analytical thinking, quantitative skills, reading abilities, willingness to work, and their attitudes concerning the educational process.”

To begin, today’s average accounting major cannot perform what used to be Algebra I and II in high school. Students cannot solve simultaneous equations. Students have difficulty with present value computations, not to mention formula derivations. Students even have difficulty employing the high-low method to derive a cost function, something that merely requires one to estimate a straight line from two points.

. . . Today’s students cannot read at what used to be a tenth-grade level. I learned this dramatically when I wrote a couple of textbooks in the 1990s. Editors at both publishing houses insisted that I rewrite my materials so today’s student could read it. I was forbidden to employ large or “fancy” words and had to simplify the grammar. For example, both editors told me never to compose a sentence with a subordinate clause because it was too complex for students to understand.

Today’s students cannot read critically. For example, I can assign an SEC litigation release for class, but students cannot read it for detail, nor can they discern the key points of the document.

Worst of all: Modern students aren’t willing to work.

But they’ve got great self-esteem.


Butt-saving web tools

MakeUseOf‘s Web Tools To Save Your Butt In School includes a tool that tells students if they’ve “plagiarized too much” and are likely to show up a turnitin plagiarism check.

Another program creates a fake file that can’t be opened.

. . . when your professor can’t open the file up, you can just blame it on your computer. Of course, many teachers are starting to not accept these excuses, so be careful when using this. This web tool allows you to spend hours browsing MakeUseOf instead of working on that stupid project.

Some of the other web tools are useful for actual students.