Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Tuesday Links

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* In case you missed it last night: “Some Preliminary Theses on MOOCs.”

* New York Times editorial: The Trouble with Online College.

A five-year study, issued in 2011, tracked 51,000 students enrolled in Washington State community and technical colleges. It found that those who took higher proportions of online courses were less likely to earn degrees or transfer to four-year colleges. The reasons for such failures are well known. Many students, for example, show up at college (or junior college) unprepared to learn, unable to manage time and having failed to master basics like math and English.

* “Yale is Elitist in Its Basic Design.”

* The problem isn’t the idea of a postdoc, Stephan said, but the way that position has evolved as so many more people end up in the role. “Ostensibly the postdoctoral scholar is to train someone to be a researcher, and an independent researcher,” Stephan said. “Putting people into postdoctoral positions is great training if they are going to go on and use that training,” she said. But increasingly a postdoc doesn’t lead (certainly not quickly) to an independent, tenure-track position, Stephan said. And postdocs are being used, not trained, she said. “Postdocs have become cheap staff scientists,” she said.

* A people’s history of Pulp Fiction. Catching up with Marvin.

* Oxford blocks access to Google Docs over security concerns.

* Does childhood TV viewing lead to criminal behavior?

* How much would the sea level fall if every ship were removed all at once from the Earth’s waters?

* Los Angeles Review of Books considers the pope.

JT: The pope simply felt that he didn’t have the physical strength to carry out the duties of the papacy in the modern age. He has clearly grown frailer in recent months, but I think Benedict probably had this in mind from the beginning of his pontificate. He, along with others in the church, watched Pope John Paul II struggle with illness right up until the end, and I’m sure he felt that was a great witness to the value of suffering. But I’m also sure Pope Benedict saw the dangers of a moribund pope who might linger in office for years. He wanted to break the taboo against resignation, and I think it sets a precedent that will alter the way the church looks at the papacy. For one thing, the cardinals who come together to elect his successor may well look to someone younger, knowing that resignation is an option.

Is there another developed nation that has a standing monument to a dictator, built by the forced labor of the defeated? Letter from Madrid.

* And Mississippi bans slavery a mere 148 years late. At that point, my impulse really would have been to pretend I sent the email. Oh, you didn’t get our ratification of the 13th Amendment? Oh no! Let me send it again…

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