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The Senate Will Really Miss Its Modern Cato

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Ron Johnson has some ideas about history education.

JOHNSON: We’ve got the internet ― you have so much information available. Why do you have to keep paying differently lecturers to teach the same course? You get one solid lecturer and put it up online and have everybody available to that knowledge for a whole lot cheaper? But that doesn’t play very well to tenured professors in the higher education cartel. So again, we need destructive technology for our higher education system.

WISPOLITICS: But online education is missing some facet of a good ―

JOHNSON: Of course, it’s a combination, but prior to my doing this crazy thing [of being in the Senate] … I was really involved on a volunteer basis in an education system in Oshkosh. And one of things we did in the Catholic school system was we had something called the “academic excellence initiative.” How do you teach more, better, easier?

One of the examples I always used ― if you want to teach the Civil War across the country, are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers that kind of know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns Civil War tape and then have those teachers proctor based on that excellent video production already done? You keep duplicating that over all these different subject areas.

We shouldn’t have art in schools anyway because that’s for queers and communists, but if we do, let’s just show Bob Ross shows.

The Senate is really going to go downhill when Russ Feingold replaces Johnson.

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  • Matt

    Perhaps as a further show of enthusiasm for this concept, Sen. Johnson could forgo his salary and hand his seat over to a looping tape of Reagan-era wingnut b-roll. After all, no point in taxpayers cutting him a check every year to say things that have been said over and over…

    • DrDick

      My thought exactly, and in his case it would be a strong improvement.

    • hickes01

      I think he owes us a refund. At least History Profs continued to teach the Civil War after Shelby Foote died.

    • Hells Littlest Angel

      Why even have more than one Republican senator? They vote in lockstep anyway. Pick one, give him a proxy vote for all the others and send them home. Sure the congressional cartel won’t like it …

      • AlanInSF

        Personally, I think we shouldn’t allow them on our collectivist roads.

      • addicted44

        Actually, it’s not like the Republicans are doing anything, so why have Republicans at all.

        Let’s just put up a Ronald Reagan cutout with his hand extended upwards and a placard indicating “Nay” in each of the Senate and Congress, and get rid of all these Republican Congresspeople.

    • And there should only be ONE Bible too, not the hundreds of different interpretations that are out there. And lets “simplify” the constitution to just 10 amendments (but not the 1st or 5th), make it so everyone can understand it.

  • are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers that kind of know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns Civil War tape

    I just wanted to draw attention to this.

    • RPorrofatto

      Not to mention if you want to “pop in” 14 hours of Ken Burns Civil War tape you’re gonna have to find: a) tape, b) a VCR, and c) an additional 2.5 hours of documentary somewhere since the original is only 11.5.

      As usual, they rarely even get the simplest facts right.

      • LosGatosCA

        The InterToobz can really do wonders with a Ken Burns tape, preferably 8 track.

        The conservative Republican party is still wondering how those fucking magnets work.

        It’s really easy to see why they don’t believe in evolution.

      • Jordan

        an additional 2.5 hours of documentary somewhere since the original is only 11.5.

        Thats for the commercials they’ll put in.

    • ThrottleJockey

      I have a friend who videos his lectures and has his students watch them in lieu of homework. Then during class time he has them do homework sets where he can help them. Anyone try that?

      • Honoré De Ballsack

        I have a friend who videos his lectures and has his students watch them in lieu of homework. Then during class time he has them do homework sets where he can help them.

        That’s really an excellent idea…I might well have finished college if there had been more instructors like that.

      • Ruviana

        Ahh, the cutting edge flipped classroom, sexy new pedagogical strategy beloved of deans everywhere! Full disclosure: they work really well for some disciplines, not so much for others.

        • Honoré De Ballsack

          Full disclosure: they work really well for some disciplines, not so much for others.

          Obviously. However, I had plenty of professors in college whose lectures would’ve been vastly improved if they’d been replaced by videos of a good speaker on the topic– one who didn’t consider teaching undergrads an onerous chore.

        • DAS

          The question I have about flipped classrooms is when my students, many of whom are both full time students and working full time and/or are pitching in to take care of grandparents, are actually going to have time to watch a lecture on video?

          • Ruviana

            Definitely one of the drawbacks. On the other end of the college-student spectrum, some of the younger traditional ones don’t understand the idea of watching the lecture before class.

          • Honoré De Ballsack

            when (are) my students…actually going to have time to watch a lecture on video?

            When they’d otherwise be (unsupervisedly) doing the homework they’re now doing in class?

            In my experience both as a student and a teacher, individual attention is by far the single biggest contributing factor to producing improved outcomes.

          • Manny Kant

            They will not watch a lecture on video, just like they don’t do the reading.

            In history, at least, the major advantage of a lecture over reading is that you have a captive audience who won’t really take in the information any other way. A taped lecture for watching at the student’s convenience entirely removes that advantage.

            • They will not watch a lecture on video, just like they don’t do the reading.

              I had been going to say that, but then I thought maybe it was only in math classes that the students don’t do the reading. Now I wish I could say that I’m glad to find out it isn’t.

              Mind you, “the reading” corresponding to any given lecture (in calculus or below) is often 2 pages or less.

        • Lurker

          I have one question: are there no tutorial sessions? At my Alma Mater, a typical physics course (my major) would have two or four hours of lectures per week, but always also a weekly two-hour tutorial for homework. You would arrive at the tutorial with your weekly homework done, and the solutions would be explained. The post-grad in charge of the tutorial would be your most important instructor. Chemistry and mathematics worked very much the same way.

          The actual, personal help for the homework took place at the student fraternity. There, you would sit together with others to solve the problems, and if necessary, ask more senior students for help.

          I’ll ever forget one homework problem, though. It was clearly out of the scope for the course and damned difficult. None of us was able to solve it. When we complained that it wasn’t in the material, the professor just answered: “Nah, it was for your tutor. She has never needed to solve that problem, and now that she’ll get her Ph.D the next week, it did her good to do that exercise.” Well, it didn’t matter for the grade.

          How is the homework normally returned in American universities?

          • ThrottleJockey

            Lurker, you’re making me smile at the memories. My undergrad physics instruction was exactly the same. But I was last in college eons ago.

            Hopefully one of the young cats on the blog can tell you how its done now. JL had a technical education I believe and may be able to shed some light.

          • DAS

            We had something similar where I went to school (UC Irvine) although we called them “discussion sections”. Where I teach, though, we simply don’t have the pool of grad students to staff discussion sections.

          • Redwood Rhiadra

            We had no such thing when I went to college twenty years ago. Homework was turned in to the professor at the beginning of class.

            This was probably because we had very few post-graduate students – my department had *one* student working on her Master’s when I was there, and no doctoral students. (In fact, checking my school’s web page, there’s only one doctoral program, in Education.)

            So there wouldn’t have been anybody except the professors themselves to run tutorials.

            Also, there weren’t any student fraternities on the campus so far as I know.

      • Ken_L

        It’s becoming more widely-used: use valuable face-to-face time for assessment with lots of constructive feedback, and let students do the initial learning at their own pace with online materials. Assessment then becomes the core of an interactive learning process as well as a measure of achievement.

        The problem with the Johnson approach is that the temptation to start pruning the face-to-face time and outsource assessment to India would prove irresistible to the bean counters who run higher education.

        • ThrottleJockey

          I hadn’t really considered that because it seems so damn bad. Who would want that? But I’m meeting an increasing number of students who *enjoy* taking online classes. I’ve only done it in a professional setting but I’ve found what little online instruction I’ve done to be boring as hell. There’s nothing more *interactive* than a classroom.

        • Manny Kant

          This seems like a thing that might work in classes that have problem sets and labs, and that will definitely not work in humanities classes.

          • Ahuitzotl

            If you think of video lecturing as just a text book, it makes more sense.

      • MAJeff

        Ah, the flipped classroom.

    • Judas Peckerwood

      are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers that kind of know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns Civil War tape

      Actually, why bother teaching a whole bunch of kids about the Civil War when you could just focus on one student? Spending a bunch of money to educate more than one kid on a given subject is clearly redundant and wasteful.

    • Pretty obvious to me that Sen. Johnson is a functional illiterate who prefers to be told things rather than having to wrap his lips around every syllable as he reads.

  • encephalopath

    The thing he is describing is called a “textbook.”

    • ASV

      Except there won’t be anyone there to teach them how to read.

      • DrDick

        From his, and the Republican Party’s, perspective that is an added benefit.

  • How do you teach more, better, easier?

    Mon Dieu.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      How do you teach more, better, easier?

      Like most questions involving stuff like “education”, “rationality”, “making things work”, the first step is to eliminate the Republicans.

      After that, it’s relatively easy.

      • DrDick

        Indeed.

    • dmsilev

      I think I saw that TV series. We need bionic teachers, right?

    • hickes01

      Ignore and defend the whole kiddie rape thing.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      Isn’t that one of those things were the answer is you can have any two of the three, but not all three?

    • leftwingfox

      Harder, bitter, fester, wronger.

    • MAJeff
  • c u n d gulag

    Yes!

    Leave it to this dip-of-shite, and we’ll hav David Barton teecheing an’ instructinationi-atin da yoof ov ‘Murka onn watt’s watt!

    JAYXOOZ,
    This “MORAN!” makes a dying and fluttering birthday-candle, look like a fucking SEARCH LIGHT!!!

  • Woodrowfan

    why do we need 100 senators? Can’t we do with one?

    • Ken

      You remind me of the old joke about the efficiency expert and the orchestra. “There are over 30 violinists, most of whom are playing the same notes. Their number could be reduced considerably with use of amplification.”

    • Bikecrasher

      There’re a hundred? I thought there was only 25. Y’know, one for each state

  • Owlbear1

    Dear Senator Johnson, office space is valuable in Washington, D.C. Please relocate you and your staff to the 16×35′ Streamliners America is now providing for you. That will allow us to convert the House and Senate Buildings into National Parks to hopefully generate enough revenue to cover your paychecks. (I’m just a Bill)

    Think that about covers it.

  • c u n d gulag

    To bastardize the words of the GREAT Peter Sellers:
    “Ah, THERE YOU ARE, Cato!
    You lily-white fool!”

  • Nick never Nick

    I wonder if these guys ever listen to themselves as they speak, and suffer deep existential dread. “Christ, that’s stupid! But everyone’s paying attention to what I’m saying . . . there must be more than this, there must be, something’s gone wrong.”

    • LosGatosCA

      I wonder if these guys ever listen to themselves as they speak

      No.

      SATSQ

      suffer deep existential dread

      Also, too, the brain is not actually controlling the mouth nor is there a conscience to evaluate the usefulness or morality of the noises it makes.

    • Yankee

      no more than most

  • I work on postal policy and issues. Johnson has been on the Senate committee that has oversight of the Postal Service and is now the committee chair.
    The statements Johnson makes in the interview referred to by the OP are probably the most intelligent things he’s said in the last five and half years which ought to give you an idea of what a complete and total ignoramus he is. He brings a special meaning to the words vapidly obtuse.
    He’s an accountant by training (became a millionaire by marrying the boss’s daughter) and once spent the better part of a Senate hearing making a complete and total mess of the concept of present value as a way of “proving” that GAO estimates of Postal Service liabilities were not nearly dire enough.
    He’s an ideologue without ideas. Word salad is his native tongue. The man is the poster child for the negation of the idea that success in business equals success in government. He may be the only person in Wisconsin who can make Scott Walker look like a reasonable person.

    • Ruviana

      That was beautiful!

      • skate

        Wow, yeah.

    • cpinva

      “He’s an accountant by training”

      but not, it must be noted, a cpa. this might well explain his inability to explain a relatively simple financial concept, such as Present Value. he literally slept his way to becoming a millionaire.

  • Fighting Words

    Does this mean that for sex education we’ll just watch pornos?

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      Will there be labs?

      Asking for a friend.

      • N__B

        Sex Lab 101: 3 credit hours, 14 contact hours.

      • Woodrowfan

        Bestiality is an upper division class.

        • MAJeff

          The advanced fisting independent study has some hellish pre-reqs.

    • Porlock Junior

      Right, but you’ll watch them at home. Classroom time is for hands-on, one-on-one attention.

    • sparks

      We did that! Seriously. It being the ’70s is my only explanation. There was a v/o track that was as funny as the sex was hot. Imagine hearing Ben Stein blandly describe sex acts as they appear on the screen.

  • AMK

    We need destructive technology for our higher education system

    Oh Christ, he can’t even manage to get the clickbait marketing intern-grade buzzwords right. If you’re going to shill for online ____, it’s disruptive technology.

    But then again, it’s actually kind of a Freudian slip.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      We need destructive technology for our higher education system

      That’s not history class. That’s CHEMISTRY.

      Sen. Johnson’s kitchen is the perfect place to try mixing up rocket fuel recipes, then.

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        Or maybe he’s come up with the Big Bang theory for history.

        • cpinva

          “Or maybe he’s come up with the Big Bang theory for history.”

          correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t the Big Bang theory actually explaining how history started, in this universe anyway?

    • IS

      I thought it was just a reference to “creative destruction.” But then, maybe I was making the fallacy of giving too much benefit of the doubt.

      • Davis X. Machina

        It is my sad duty to dispel you of this notion…

  • Judas Peckerwood

    We shouldn’t have art in schools anyway because that’s for queers and communists, but if we do, let’s just show Bob Ross shows.

    Personally, I think that mandatory viewing of old The Joy of Painting episodes would be a positive influence on the youngsters. Bob Ross rules!

    • Nobdy

      There’s nothing wrong with Bob Ross per se, but the art produced in his show is so anodyne as to be of limited pedagogical use for an art appreciation course, and his painting technique is very specific and limited for something to be used in a practical art course.

    • evodevo

      The kind of constituent that this idiot is appealing to would find Thomas Kinkade too intellectual and effete. Sculpture by Franklin Mint?

  • efgoldman

    I assume the voters of WI have seen the error of their ways, and will send Russ back to DC at the same time they deliver the state to HRC.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      yeah, but will they remember that the thing to do with Scott Walker is to turn him out of office so that he can fulfill his true destiny to be Donald Trump’s caddy?

      • Ahuitzotl

        Donald Trump’s caddy golf bag?

        caddies actually perform useful functions and require skill and knowledge, so Snotty is unqualified for that

    • Musashi

      Speaking as a Wisconsinite, I sincerely hope we’ve learned our lesson, but we really haven’t had a spectacular track record as of late. I don’t know what the hell happened, we used to be pretty good with politics. Lately though we’ve just gone off the rails on a crazy train. I mean we had three chances to not elect Scotty Walker and we cocked each and every one of them up. It’s embarrassing

      • The contrast with neighboring Minnesota is getting more and more striking. Note that the MN economy and jobs picture is far better than Wisconsin’s.

        • Musashi

          With the way Walker types have been eviscerating education there is a chance we may no longer have the cognitive capacity to notice the disparity between Wisconsin and Minnesota and/or understand the correlation between electing maniacs and not having nice things

  • JonH

    Hey, it could be worse. He could have suggested watching TEDx talks on the subject.

  • Nobdy

    I am shocked he would recommend Ken Burns’ series on the civil war, considering that it acknowledges slavery as a cause and doesn’t stress the fact that the conflict was essentially about states rights.

    Can’t we get Newt Gingrich to produce a video that is a little more historically accurate? It can really emphasize how happy the slaves were and how much they resented Northern aggression against the system that was caring for them so well.

    Note: If you think the above is sarcastic hyperbole about what the video actually shown in the high schools of certain states would be like, I’m pretty sure it’s an UNDERSTATEMENT.

    • Cassiodorus

      As someone who went to high school in the rural South not too many years ago, I can definitely vouch for that. When one of my teachers referred to it as the “war of Northern aggression,” I asked if it was customary for the aggressors to be the ones being shot at in the opening battle. Needless to say, that was unpopular question.

      • CrunchyFrog

        2 or 3 years ago one of my kids was taking a Government course at our local community college here in Wingnutopia. On the first day the teacher said that he wasn’t going to reveal his opinions, he was going to take an objective stance on everything. I told my kid that if he was successful then he was almost certainly at most center, but probably center-left or left. Because people to the right of center are, with rare exceptions, incapable of accurately describing the opposing point of view. Such as: “Republicans want small government, Democrats want big government” and oversimplifications like that (and much worse).

        Sure enough, on day 2 he was telling the class that Tesla was near bankruptcy – a tidbit of info that was considered “true” only on sites like WorldNutDaily. By day 3 he was arguing with a student who was self identified as being liberal about what the liberal point-of-view was on a given issue. I told my kid that the only way to get an A with a teacher like that was to play along, which fortunately he did. In the end several students complained about the teacher’s bias and how it affected grades – I don’t know how that was resolved.

        Obviously, this teacher should transfer to Alabama and the complaints will cease.

  • CrunchyFrog

    I’ll just note that this is one of the fundamental differences between conservatives and the rest of us.

    When you hear someone opine on a very complex topic and propose a very simplistic solution that may sound good to someone with zero background but in fact is not only inadequate but would make things far worse – well, the odds that this person is a conservative is well over 95%. Part of being a conservative is zero respect for the dreaded “experts” – everything worth knowing can be learned in a short session of an hour or less (oh dear, don’t mean to make this another Scott Adams thread).

    A rational person – in this case “rational” is defined as the opposite of “conservative” the way “dark” is the opposite of “light”, “high” is the opposite of “low”, and “dog” the opposite of “tree”* – would ask some questions, starting with “has anyone ever looked into whether we can replicate the work of a single teacher to hundreds of thousands of students nationally and if it would be effective”? That can start another rational discussion of various attempts to do this and the trade-offs that were found.

    A conservative, OTOH, has the two remaining brain cells in their skull collide together, form a thought, and make a Reagan end run** to the conclusion without it occurring to them that there might be intermediate steps.

    * SNL, inaugural season, classic skit.
    ** This reference is left as an exercise for the reader.

    • Ken_L

      What a longass comment. Anything worth saying can be condensed to a tweet.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Or bumper sticker.

    • Ahuitzotl

      A Reagan end run? you mean fall asleep, then have the thought whispered in my ear by a trusty adviser?

  • It will all be reduced to good/not-good.

    [Or reply/not-reply.]

  • sibusisodan

    Why do you have to keep paying differently lecturers to teach the same course?

    This is like a zen koan.

  • Donalbain

    This all becomes a lot clearer if you just add the missing words “for the poors” at the end of each of these ideas. Sticking a video on for 12 hours is a good enough education for the poors. The poors don’t need to have lots of different lecturers. The internet is good enough for the poors. Now, if you tried to implement a system like that at the exclusive boarding schools or prep schools that Republican children should be attending, then it would be an utter disgrace.

  • LeoFromChicago

    …when Russ Feingold replaces Johnson.

    The guy (Johnson) is a total dummkopf but something about chickens and hatched.

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