Many professors abhor attendance policies. There are many sound arguments against them ranging from an economic libertarianism, conscription model failures, anti-infantilism, and classroom control curbing disruptions. But I don’t care about any of this. I take attendance. It comes out of my own experience and time spent in law school where the American Bar Association requires attendance. Of course, there’s likely a bit of selection bias in the profile of law students who have a penchant to enjoy paperwork, love knowing the rules of everything, and read big, bad books for fun. My justification in requiring attendance is because business, as career area, has a quotidian component of conformity baked in to the rank-and-file professions. Besides, we are all expected to show up for work, why not show up for class? (“Adulting” as I have heard said.) Honestly, it’s mostly selfish; it’s my method of engagement of students and get to know them and make lectures fun, which I genuinely enjoy.
As I understand it, the real exasperation of most professors on attendance requirements is that of excuses for absences. Sports, illness, sleeping in (in the afternoon classes, this is always strange), snow, and death seem to top the excuse list; and all these reasons deem exception to an attendance policy. It’s the latter that spurns skeptical ire from professors with calls to produce obituaries or even death certificates for evidence. I’ve never questioned anyone on this but a recent event in my own life has caused me to look at any student giving me notice of death in their life with a new empathy.
I lost a member of my family very recently. She was one of a handful of cousins that I deem as my own; as anyone in large families knows that every other family-member has their own family-members partitioned from the larger whole. In fact, she was my God-sister (hija de mi madrina) and we grew up together since children, raised by our grandmother since our parents worked; thus, making us siblings even more so. Time passed and my Aunt’s family moved but I ended going to college with her at the University of Utah and we reconnected solidly. Life and time went on, like it does, and she got a dog, married her high school sweetheart, and had two children: happily ever after. Sadly, she had a serious health condition since birth that ultimately took her from us and her own family. I loved her very much and I’ve been heart-broken at her loss.
Connecting this back to my own teaching, I have found a new empathy for anyone dealing with loss. For myself, after hearing of my cousin’s passing, I know that I didn’t sleep well, lost my appetite, and I can’t forget the tears; I just couldn’t focus. And I’m 38-years old where the inure of progressive losses isn’t anything too new. But imagine a young student that may have not had the experience of loss in equivalency or may be more sensitive. Further, think of the loss of a grandparent or an aunt or uncle. I know that for many Mexican-Americans, families are bit more fluid; like me, my grandmother is in every one of my earliest memories, even more than my parents. A young student may not have the skills to cope with the loss. The emotions on a young mind of a student away from family and support is undeniably serious.
I know that I’m not a counselor and I am not advocating for anything more serious than kindness. I personally know how hard it can be to even breathe after a serious loss. Please extend understanding to anyone that’s lost a family member, a friend, or even a pet. Please be empathetic. For myself, I know that I will not just blithely excuse the absence but follow up with the student. Perhaps, them talking about the loss is its own plea for help, and I don’t want to miss it; especially, for a mere attendance policy.
 Marshall, K. (October 12, 2017) Why I Don’t Take Attendance, The Chronicle of Higher Education, retrieved from: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Why-I-Don-t-Take-Attendance/241428
 ABA Standards 2017-2018 (2017) Standard 311(a) Academic Program and Academic Calendar https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/misc/legal_education/Standards/2017-2018ABAStandardsforApprovalofLawSchools/2017_2018_aba_standards_rules_approval_law_schools_final.authcheckdam.pdf
Kerr, E. (May 7, 2018) Professors Are Talking About Students’ Dead Grandparents Again, The Chronicle of Higher Education, retrieved from: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Professors-Are-Talking-About/243353
Hirschler, C. (June 19, 2011) What if Her Grandmother Really Did Die? The Chronicle of Higher Education, retrieved from: https://www.chronicle.com/article/What-if-Her-Grandmother-Really/127927?cid=rclink
In the hierarchy of acquaintances, there is family, friends, and enemies. Thinner exceptions ladder amidst all three dockings for our tacit e-friends, the creepers that we lurk on so we don’t run into happenstance, the ex that is way closer than sensible, and the barbed loved and bad influence of all that blood-kin that know all the chapters of your book, especially the unpublished ones.
A much purer distillation of association is the binary classification of the people you travel with and the people you don’t. My earliest forays abroad were in labor in the Navy. Witnessing fist-fights aboard ship over seating places in the enlisted galleys (a mix between the cell block and junior high) or pier-side brawls between lieutenants (officers and gentleman), I’ve learned the gospel of becoming a good traveler as well as discerning those that I go with to avoid bad company poisoning the experience. This past May, not by design, I found myself honing this skill in others.
Back to the Navy – just as I was turning 20 – in the monotony of being at sea, on a boat, in the middle of the Pacific with nothing but work and writing letters (yup! It was still the 1990s) to keep one busy, I found that I loved to read. My brother had given me a copy of The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Guevara before I left and by chance our boat was performing anti-narcotics operations off the Latin American coastline. My attention was focused on all that he and his friend, Alberto Granado, were seeing in the 1950’s in the same countries and at the same age as I was seeing them then. Nothing had changed. Poverty, inequality, racism, communism, dictatorships, corruption, violence, classicism, colonialism, nationalism; it was still the same story. The book coupled with the Navy were essentially my own bootstrapped study abroad trip. That trip, that book, changed my world and led me to study economics when I finally made my way to the university. It also showed me how friends travel and how it matters to be open to the waves of experience that lap over you when traveling.
Now, to May 2018 and our multiple program, faculty-led Study Abroad London-Dublin trip: I hate to sound overly poetic, but witnessing the students’ wonder and excitement was one of the most validating experiences I’ve had as an educator. The clichés fit of horizons actually broadened and minds actually opened. From the banal chores of exchanging money to the overwhelming scrum of London, the misplaced bank cards, the long days and their late nights, their excitement never waned. They even made the purgatory of stumbling through enormous airport corridors, jet lagged, enduring hours of security checks and the customs’ circuses almost passable (the Gatwick exchange was straight out of Dante!).
In reflection, I helped my students experience what I did at their same age. Seriously, I saw the “click” of connecting theory to reality as well as seeing them behold what could only be imagined before. On my own revelations of the once cerebral, we had the fortune to visit Belfast. As Catholic kid growing up in the 1980s, my thoughts of Belfast were of incredible violence and fear during “The Troubles.” We had an Irish priest in my home parish, and I remembered the constant prayers for Ireland. I was honestly nervous about going (I think I gave myself a migraine about it, too). But the students didn’t have that stain on their memories and their interest and energy soothed me. It was then that I noticed that they’d become good travelers. They knew how to roll from their interesting late nights, no sleep, muggy rooms, crazy food, hot weather (London was in the 90s!), allergies, missed stops, cold rain (Dublin was cold), all with alacrity. Never comparable to the barbarians of my Navy days; but they still transformed into interesting, fun people that everyone wants to be around. They became people-you-travel-with.
I know that there are a lot of fluffy outcomes to a college education – critical thought, deportment, citizenship, public speaking, numeracy, literacy, conformism, team work – but the returns to global travel are underrated or missed. I am happy to say that it isn’t so for our 27 students. I know that they will have a more interesting life without fear of exploring the unknown.
In my first couple of years spent at CSC, I remember that I had to meet with my dean concerning a “quality initiative” during my annual review. I have since learned that this was part of our Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation program. This quality initiative was meant to create an attitude of reflection in the faculty. At the time, I contemptuously complied as the small report seemed to be a redundancy to the other faculty annual performance evaluation (PAR).
Honestly, in retrospect, I confess that there was a virtue to this exercise; I now use my own version of reflection after my courses run to completion as an embedded practice. Sticky notes adorn my texts and lecture notes. What went wrong? What went right? Did the law change? Are my links still active in the learning management system? Perhaps I would have adopted this practice on my own, but I can see the forced exercise offered results.
Reflection is hardly a new tool. Business uses many versions, the Lawrence Fine SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis is my personal favorite method; law uses the IRAC (issue and facts; black letter rule; legal analysis; holding and conclusion) method for summarizing cases; the military uses AARs (after action reviews) to examine combat; and the Jesuits are famous for their daily examen, which is part of the larger Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola. The objectivity of analysis helps one see their flaws, overlooked possibilities, and plan better for the future. It makes us better professionals, more humble practitioners, and open to feedback, which is something that I struggle with.
Thus, in this practice, I’d like to indulge on a meta-reflection analysis of the five previous blog posts of this year.
In September, I posted a blog on my first semester teaching and my first encounter with cheating. Looking back to the topic of cheating in general, I am saddened to see the ubiquity of it all in higher education. I see plagiarism quite regularly, and I am convinced that this is less of cheating than it is of ignorance of convention or just laziness. I feel that cheating is an affirmative action; it requires scienter, mens rea, and actus reus, which turns my stomach as one is doing it with eyes wide open. I like to think the best of my students and hope that college is seen as a way to grow not to devolve and slip into vice. My reflection going forward is to reiterate the purpose of their course work and infuse the needed ethics speech to assuage the anxiety to perform and chance cheating.
In October, I thought upon my own strengths that vouchsafed my own journey through higher education. The missing piece is that these “strengths” are also my weaknesses. I have dealt with pressure in my own head to do my best, reach my goals, not settle. This is a pernicious flaw to my own character that I labor to lessen. What benefits a man to gain the world and still lose himself? In reflection, I am trying to add in joyful goals to my ever present to-do-list (it’s folly to think I could eliminate the checklist) like travel and seeing family: balance.
In November, I wrote on the wired world we live in. I have sought to eliminate distractions in my own life, like TV and Netflix and sports, to concentrate on reading more and slowing down. However, I read the book iGen by Twenge (2017) and it scared me to learn about the distractions my students grow up with. The amount of information that flies at them daily is incredible. There is also disturbing evidence of the superficiality of their relationships and even the insincerity to their love. My reflection is, again, to be sure to make my courses substantive. I mean to build my courses on solid materials all for the goal of giving my students the skills to wrestle with difficult material and not cater to the multimedia circus that is their constant reality.
In February, I wrote on Open Education Resources (OER). I am now finishing my spring semester where I used OER materials heavily in my international business course. I must reiterate that I (re)learned the material a lot better than I would have using a canned publisher package. I feel virtuous that the students weren’t forced to bear the high prices (I’m waiting on that T-shirt). My largest takeaway is the reality of the time devoted. I will not use the OER method in my high-volume courses, but I am happy to declare that I have experience in this method and can add it to my toolbox.
In March, I wrote on where I feel that I fit on the teaching spectrum in higher education. There are generalists and specialists in the academy, and I personally wonder at the danger of specializing. For my part, I have found value in probing cross-disciplinary approaches and teaching courses beyond my field of business law. I enjoy economics, ethics, leadership, and literature just as much, and I love to flavor my own courses with the panoply of all else. I take pleasure in being a generalist. I know that I will eventually make the transition to administration, as this is an eventual goal, but I enjoy teaching and teaching with the broad brush.
Reflecting on the reflections of the 17-18 academic year, I am pleased to have found my rhythm in my 10 preps in business law and economics, I am blessed to have been promoted in rank to associate professor, and I can say with sincerity that I believe in the mission of Chadron State College. Sometimes all I can see is the arbitrary minutia, marathons of meetings, the grind of grading, the work, and without stepping back with reflection, I miss the gift. Marxist ideology offers warning of divorcing the laborer from the work. Mindset matters; am I laying bricks all day or am I building a cathedral? Spring graduation is quickly approaching and the ceremonies always offer the opportunity to view the final product. Indeed, we professors are truly fortunate to be able to build better people. It’s a virtuous cycle where our students succeed, our community succeeds, and our world is just a bit better than it would be otherwise.
 Fine, L. (2009) The SWOT Analysis:Using Your Strength to Overcome Weaknesses, Using Opportunities to Overcome Threats, North Charleston, SC: Createspace.
 Boss, J. (2018, December 1) Don’t Skimp On The After Action Review: 6 Ways An AAR Will Catapult Your Situational Awareness. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2016/12/01/dont-skimp-on-the-after-action-review-6-reasons-why/#23596338ba3d
 Daily examen, IgnatianSpirituality.com Retrieved April 28, 2018, from https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen
 Wolverton, B. (2016, August 28) The New Cheating Economy, The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-New-Cheating-Economy/237587
 Twenge, Jean. (2017). iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us. New York: Atria Books.
 Wade, L. (2017), American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus, New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
 Marx, Karl, 1818-1883. (1974) Estranged Labor. In Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Moscow: Progress Publishers.
 Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio.
Amid the meanderings of my early twenties, I attended a seminary discerning the Catholic religious life contemporaneous with college. The leftovers in philosophy, theology, hermeneutics, basic Latin, and Koine Greek gave me the classical approach to enhance the rest of my education built on western thought, little different from the curriculum of Charles W. Eliot. (Plus, it made me wicked sharp at Scrabble.)
One foresaid leftover in understanding Ancient Greek were in its fables. The poet Archilochus wrote much, but his famous riddle is my favorite: “Many things the fox knows, but the hedgehog one large (important) thing.” Brighter and more creative minds than my own have wrestled with this idea, from Erasmus and Tolstoy to Woody Allen, Jim Collins and Phillip Tetlock. Many interpret it as the virtues of a crafty fox, the vices of a lazy hedgehog, or in predation. For me, I see the fable in the world of work: the world is made up of either specialists or generalists.
For good or bad, disciplines continue to slip into further fractures of subdisciplines. Lawyers specialize, for fear of malpractice, in complex subject matter, physicians continue to focus as medical knowledge grows, and science is broken into wider sub-flavors. The generalist is often seen as a dinosaur, if not a fool in certain fields. Specifically, in the professorate, I am seeing this as the differences in mission and method among the larger R1, R2, and R3 flagships and heavily-endowed privates pitted against the larger body of regional colleges. The bigger and better-funded schools niche into their focuses while generalists fill the regional colleges. Yes, there is incredible value to society with esoteric, specialized research and this should be an end in itself. But there is a risk in holistic replication across academia. There seems to be an obvious dichotomy between professors who research and the professors who teach. I see Archilochus’s fable as the difference of research professors (the hedgehogs) and the teaching professors (the foxes).
These thoughts were spawned in reading a series of articles and editorials in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Brian Nosek’s Atlantic article, and some of the works of Phillip Tetlock. To keep out of the weeds, there are incredible issues with the research professor model of education related to teaching (distinct from research). In The Chronicle of Higher Education’s articles, the research professor model has teaching as an afterthought instead of its focus. The articles further sound alarm that this model is being emulated across the academy as if it’s a goal to hole-up and go nitty-gritty cranking out obscure work that may have marginal value. Tetlock and Nosek have issues with the whole research system given the positivity bias where bad outcomes are not reported, conflicted interests showing selection bias of topic study linked to corporate ties, scientific method shortcuts, short memory of poor predictions, lack of accountability of “experts,” and the broader public’s lack of interest in the majority of the work published.
So, looking forward, will the hedgehogs trump foxes? I’d go all in on the teaching professor. Just because one may excel at research does not necessarily mean one will excel at teaching; they’re nearly completely different events. A marathoner may have the wind that lends well to swimming or biking but technique is a wholly different matter. A teacher may not be the best administrator or researcher despite the contextual, institutional and subject overlaps. Arguably, a teaching professor will likely be more in demand in the future than the researcher. The very real and unique skill of distilling and presenting difficult subject matter will not soon be replaced. Besides, the business model of big research flagships will continue to stratify where the divide of researchers from teaching professors will likely continue. The virtues and strengths of competent teaching professors will likely become distinct and not necessarily binned with researchers. In the coming years, it’s completely likely that these flagships will either spinoff research operations or eliminate the teaching requirement of their research professors.
Parker Palmer is the sage for the teaching professor. He calls for us to honor the vocation of the teaching professor as the goal for the academy. Again, not that research is wrong, but it’s incomplete. Arguably, he urges abstention from the pernicious pressure to hedgehog up and specialize, grinding away on esoteric, niche sub-subjects. The gist of the fable may truly be in the differences between predator and prey, where the generalist benefits in the virtues of the fox, never missing the entirety of the situation. The hedgehog misses out on the finished product, the bigger picture. Or maybe it’s just as simple as taking in the beauty of the forest and not getting distracted by the details of the single tree. Be it existential or aesthetic, the best path to provide quality education for our learners and for the improvement of American higher education is to fox-out and embrace the full borders of our fields.
 Πόλλ᾽ οἶδ᾽ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἕν μέγα.
 Blanchard, K. (2015, March 2). “You Publish, We Perish” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from
 Noske, B. (2015, August 27). “How Reliable Are Psychology Studies? A new study shows that the field suffers from a reproducability problem, but the extent of the issue is still hard to nail down.” Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/08/psychology-studies-reliability-reproducability-nosek/402466/.
 Berlinerblau, J. (2015, January 19). “Teach or Perish” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from
 McCormick, T. (2017, January 8). “Publish and Perish” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/PublishPerish/238816.
 Tetlock, P. (2005, December 5). “Everybody’s an Expert: Putting Predictions to the Test” The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/12/05/everybodys-an-expert.
 Kestenbaum, D., Goldstein, D. (2016, January 15). “Episode 677: The Experiment Experiment” NPR Planet Money. Retrieved from
 Palmer, P. (1998). The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
I started at CSC in 2013 and was immediately hit with an administrative push for OER. To a then 32-year old, academy neophyte, I thought OER this was a great band I heard at ACL a few years ago. Way off!
Open Educational Resources (OER) is basically a movement across education to provide open source materials for courses. Much of the U.S. copyrighted educational material must be licensed for a fee. OER are free and openly licensed educational materials that reside in the public domain, such as exempt materials like government documents and lapsed copyright works, or resources that have been released under dedicated Creative Commons licenses. Certain countries have special perpetual copyrights, but thankfully, America has constitutional limits on intellectual property protection duration. So, OER has the potential to keep instructional materials inexpensive; however, the highway to hell is paved with good intentions.
OER in practice is incredibly labor intensive on the faculty end. One must proof the materials as they can be abstract, broad, weak, simple, complex, incomplete, or out in the weeds. The power of major publisher materials is that they’re well-researched, grounded in contemporary subject matter, and accompanied by incredible support materials such as test banks, PowerPoints, lecture notes, and remedial videos. The open model can’t compete. Further, there is a certain catechism to certain subjects (like business or general studies) for which accrediting bodies delineate major pieces of the curriculum. Publishers know their market.
Personally, I confess, I hate OER. But(!) there has since been some defining mitigation from my earlier modus operandi of pure OER abstinence. Publisher materials are extremely helpful to myself in efficiency and beneficial to students for subject matter for core classes, e.g., business law, business communications, economics. There are two exceptions: 1) flat out subject obscurity; and 2) unconscionable cost.
Second, I ran into a real philosophical/teaching methodology/economic classism crisis in December 2017 when confronted with textbook costs while building my current International Business Study Abroad course. The international business texts were close to $500 for students! I remember my own heavy bookstore bills from focusing on the expensive experimental stats and econometrics texts during my bachelor’s and master’s programs, not to forget the cold sweats from the book costs of law school. Thus, I chose to cook up my own course from scratch, and I used OER materials as ingredients.
Finally, if you want to capitalize on some good stoic virtue, consider going OER. Full saint status may elude you with collating and authoring your own materials; as asah differs from bara; but it’s still pretty hard core….T-shirt worthy maybe. Plus, there are dividends in subject mastery and course familiarization that your students may venerate all the same. Carve out the time though.
Keeping abreast of the morphing demographics of generational characteristics seems an essential sin for marketers, poli-sci profilers, and educators. I say sin because no one really likes to suffer the stereotypes. (As a Mexican-American, I am always reticent to confess my love of beans and tortillas. But they really are good!)
There is an entire dogma to the millennial demographic that can be ascribed to Dr. Leonard Sax  and Dr. Jean Twenge who is likewise an authority on the characteristics of iGen – the generation born between 1995 – 2012.
At 37-years old, I do not feel too distant from the characteristics of this youngest generation. Born in 1980, I’m barely a millennial, thus the iGen’s overarching generational trends of foregoing a driver’s license, obsession with safety, and not having as many friends are relatable to me as an introverted SoCal refugee who abhors traffic and has paralysis-inducing fear of germs.
My beef with iGen is with their trends in learning. In Dr. Twenge’s Atlantic piece, she documents that these post-millennials do not read. Yes, they do not read. They are literate (I assume), but they eschew the hard-won, time-honored, species-defining, practice of reading books in favor of videos and podcasts. As a lawyer, an author (albeit of law articles that no one reads), a once grade school “slow-reader” turned connoisseur of lit worthy of qualifying antecedents, and oh yes, an educator, this characteristic of not reading textbooks, ebooks, or book-books is scary on many levels.
I went existential after reading Twenge. Am I a dinosaur? Am I causing issues for my students in expecting them to read 60+ pages a week? (We do 8-week sessions in the business department.) I am trying to be positive and objective (to keep from crying): iGen-ers dislike lectures, dislike reading, dislike long formatted papers. In fact, Twenge remarks that newer textbooks are packed with pictures, a full-color palate, and must be updated at least every 2 years to fight the slide; never mind that every economic undgrad in America used Chiang’s Quantitative Methods text for the past 50 years and society progresses still.
There’s redemption. A University of Michigan economics professor, Dr. Susan Dynarski, challenged higher ed to keep laptops out of the classroom. There is an incredible amount of research showing that laptops are not as effective as old school note-taking. There’s something about processing the information and writing it down that straight transcription misses.
Anecdotally, I actually followed the old script of never missing class, sitting at the front of the room, outlining, never pulling all-nighters, and I never used my laptop in any of my classroom lectures ever. I know enough about myself that my focus will be destroyed with electronics in my proximity, and why would you blow your tuition not being fully present? This may win me some virtue points with the nerd gods, but I honestly believe that this was the best way to learn, and I try to shepherd my students in my antiquated ways. I won’t go as far as banning laptops from my classes as I am too libertarian for it, but I can present information and hope that students will aspire to the challenge. Maybe it’ll catch on.
I saw that this company called Moleskine actually sells paper notebooks for $15 and up. This is called a Giffen-good in economics and some of the irony is not lost on me that Dollar General sells a similar product at a striking discount. But if a huge markup makes the basics hip again, I welcome it.
 Twenge, Jean. (2017). iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us. New York: Atria Books.
Twenge, Jean. (2017). Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Atlantic, Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/
 Chiang, Alpha. (1967). Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics. New York: Mcgraw Hill.
 Dynarski, Susan. (2017). New York Times. Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/business/laptops-not-during-lecture-or-meeting.html
I have secret powers, yes, I dare say super powers. Nothing as feckless as being bulletproof, outrunning speeding trains, or bending steel; these powers are of the mind.
First, I can focus. “Pfffft.” You may sneer, but I assure you that I have capabilities to down 70 pages of Tolstoy in a single sitting in the zoo of the ATL terminals. My dean could kick open my basement office door (as he is apt to do) and order through gritted teeth to read the phone book by week’s end summarizing it in a report. I’d happily turn it in a day early with fancy graphs and flashy pastel colored thumb tabs thrown down like a tomahawk jam. In a world of foxes that worship at the altars of multitasking, my demure hedgehog-ness power goes unrecognized.
My second power borders on the angelic/demonic: it is an ostensible photographic memory. No, don’t confuse this with a visual memory where learning is best done with visual aids that hook concepts – although I must confess some ability here as well. Nope, this is the full-on freak mode to look at a paper, a tableau, an address, a face, and see it after. I almost confessed ethical issues on my bar exam with memorizing my outlines.
And third, my magnum potentium might be best called obsessive anxiety. Odd? Some may say that my nightly logging of pages (exactly 33) from a panoply of war histories, English literature, economic theory, the Holy Bible, and a select style and grammar manual is circumstantial evidence of a personality disorder. However, from a distance, one would see that the professional skill of executive function was mastered in grade school.
Lo, do not envy these powers, this magic, as the rose has thorns. Though I can quote the 7 axioms of a perfectly competitive market or the nine justices of the Supreme Court, alphabetically (Alito, Breyer, Ginsburg, Gorsuch, Kagaen, Kennedy, Roberts, Soto-Mayor, and Thomas) at a rock concert, memorize entire prayers in Latin, and check off (Chekov ;)) dead Russian authors’ works rivalrous of Netflix binge-watching, but there’s a caveat wrapped in this reflection: be super cautious with superpowers. I expose my favor to certain modes of learning in my teaching. This is bias in every sense of the definition; blind spots. For instance, I know I personally despise group work, hate it passionately, but by building my courses with avoiding this method, I risk dusting those students that may excel with it. Thus, my secret superpowers that allowed me to conquer my own higher education challenge, may obstruct another student’s experience. So, be careful with your own powers.
I discovered cheating in my professional ethics course during my first semester of teaching. The irony shouldn’t be lost. But it was so much more than just cheating; this was a vocational existential shock. This was in my first semester in a new career path as I was making the shift from industry and law to loftier goals in academics. So, this cheating event was no less oracular than seeing owls in the daytime.
To my detriment, I must confess some (much) naïveté to the practice of cheating. As a Mexican (grand)momma’s boy, an experienced Catholic altar boy, a Navy NCO (noncommissioned officer), and as an oath-sworn lawyer, cutting corners carries the connotation of shame, dishonor, and the very real possibility of burning in hell for eternity. Furthermore, I unwittingly functioned on the assumption that everyone operates on my same code. This cheating event made me question what I was doing; I was weighing whether to return to the business world where the predators are easily spotted or staying in education. I obviously chose the latter; and needless to say, my pedagogy needed to be amended after realizing that there were wolves acting as lambs in my flock.
Serendipitously, the poison was the antidote in this case as the very subject matter of ethics that I was teaching in the course held the cure. I was literally teaching the redeeming concept of my own crisis, which had originally attenuated the sin. My ethics course came to a place where we all define our ethical code. Not to get into the weeds too deep here, but there are 5 or 6 big philosophies of personal ethics. Personally, I know that I align with the Platonic thought of virtue where the thought is we make ethical mistakes but we strive to be better. Transversely, in a contemporary ethics branch, there is the philosophy of relativism, which holds that morality is relative to the norms of one’s group or tribe or society or (oh yes) class.
Thus, my reflection and reaction to a potentially disparaging situation was to refuse my Platonic judgments of moral superiority with the urge of throwing all sinners to the flames. Rather, I adopted the thought that we are all are relativists and in the “society” of this face-to-face spring 2013 second 8-week session of BA 431: Professional Ethics, I would raise the ethical bar by including honor oaths before tests, give real world case studies of ethical gray area, and challenge my students to adopt virtue. The exam timers stopped clocking common start/stop times, the football players stopped getting the exact same scores, and one student’s final reflection on formulating his own ethical code was ultimately soul-redeeming.