More Recent Comments

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

TV Ontario's Best Lecturers

 
It's that time of year again. TV Ontario (TVO) has chosen its ten finalists for best university lecturer. you can see the list on the Best Lecturer website.

Some of you might recall that Michael Persinger of the magic motorcycle helmet was one of the finalists last year and he went on to win the $10,000 prize [TV Ontario's Best Lecturers]. I was a bit peeved at this. I wrote,
This is a popularity contest. The last one was very disappointing because some of the most important aspects of being a good university lecturer were ignored.

I'm talking about accuracy and rigour. It's not good enough to just please the students. What you are saying has to be pitched at the right level and it has to be correct. Too many of the lectures were superficial, first-year introductions that offered no challenge to the students. (One, for example, was an overview of Greek and Roman architecture by an engineering Professor.) The students loved it, of course, and so did the TV producers because they could understand the material. Lecturer's in upper level courses need not apply.

Some of last year's lectures were inaccurate. The material was either misleading or false, and the concepts being taught were flawed. Neither students nor TV audiences were in any position to evaluate the material so accuracy was not a criterion in selecting the best lecturer of 2006.

I wrote to the producers about this, suggesting that the lecturers be pre-screened by experts in the discipline. TV Ontario promised to do a better job this year. I'm looking forward to seeing if they keep their promise.
Are you wondering how they did? They chose Michael Persinger, a "fringe" scientist, to put it politely.

How are they doing this year? Here's the list of judges.
Zanana L. Akande (born 1937 in Toronto, Ontario) is a former Canadian politician. She was the first black woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and the first black woman to serve as a cabinet minister in Canada.

Barry Callaghan has done work in journalism, television, and filmmaking in addition to his own writing. He began his career as a part-time reporter for Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) television news and gave weekly book reviews on the CBC radio program Audio.

Tony Nardi is an actor/ writer/producer. His acting experience has been diverse and prolific, in live theater, television and film. As an actor he received his training in Montreal at the Actor's Studio, The Banff School of Fine Arts, The Stratford Festival, and Italy.
Isn't that interesting. The best people to judge whether a university Professor is delivering a good lecture are a politician, a writer, and an actor.

Silly me. I thought that Professors might be on the panel of judges. I guess they're all too busy serving on juries that evaluate politicians, writers, and actors.

The top three criteria for evaluating university lectures are: (1) accuracy, (2) accuracy, and (3) accuracy. The only people who can judge whether those criteria are being met are other academics in the same discipline. If the lectures aren't accurate then nothing else matters. If the lecture material is accurate then you can start looking at other things, such as style.


9 comments :

  1. Persinger a 'fringe' scientist? So what's his 'heresy' then?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was not nominated this year (last year I didn't even know about it). Shame too, because the lecture I probably would have used was about evolution as fact and theory, which includes a case study on whale evolution.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Persinger a 'fringe' scientist? So what's his 'heresy' then?

    just google his name and look through his website and the wikipedia article about him.

    btw, I thought the first guy to win the competition was pretty good. his winning lecture on WWII from the Russian perspective was very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Post-Diluvian Diaspora,

    btw, I thought the first guy to win the competition was pretty good. his winning lecture on WWII from the Russian perspective was very interesting.

    Really? I learned most of that in high school. Most of it was just common superficial mythology.

    Tell me honestly, what did you learn that was new and insightful?

    ReplyDelete
  5. when I was in high school, WWII was taught with emphasis on the British/American (and Canadian) perspective -- that is, only the western front of the European theatre. So essentially, all I knew of Russia was that they were an ally but we never learned much about the eastern front. That was a pretty important aspect of the war, wouldn't you say?

    But maybe the reason I found the lecture interesting was just because my high school history class was so deficient...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Post-diluvian Diaspora said…

    just google his (Persinger’s) name and look through his website and the wikipedia article about him.

    Yes I see what you mean … he hasn’t explored alternative explanations for his correlations, for example.

    However, (and the times I said something like on this blog) some domains of study deal with ontological areas with many impinging factors that are difficult to isolate, that yield up paltry data in relation to the size and intricacy of the objects with which they deal, and do not allow for the easy collection of data at will; that is, they are far from an epistemological walk over. In Persinger’s favour let me say that I think that he is brave individual who is working in one of these tough areas. I don’t want to blunt the knife of criticism against him, but I think that Persinger is doing his best to tame an uncooperative ontological catchment area where the cognitive pitfalls open up like chasms. I try to be as equally magnanimous toward evolutionists as theirs also an ontologically complex cross-disciplinary domain. In such domains the necessary tension between creativity and criticism is all the more intense.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I found your blog posting by looking while looking for silly pictures of Stephen Harper, and coincidently i am enrolled in one of Dr. Persinger's classes.

    Dismissing someone as a "fringe scientist" is counter-productive, it's a term that suggests some areas of research are disreputable, and all ideas that are "out-there" are immediately wrong and not worth considering, because those researchers that propose them are on the sketchy fringe.

    The "magic" motor cycle helmet works, It looks like a piece of crap, but it demonstrates how electromangnetic fields can bring about altered states of conciousness. I don't know much, or really anything about it as it is doesn't fit into the course.

    I think accuracy is important, obviously bad information is damaging, but in persinger's case, it is mostly the hypothisis he builds on solid data that our sometimes outlandish, (ie, What if Jesus did not die, but was intentionally doped , TWICE, and put into an unconcious state resembling death(obviously paraphrasing)) the science behind them being solid. A student can discriminate between fact, good theory and weak theory. Persinger is an excellent educator, in that he gets students interested in the information, as well as conveying it effectivly, and thouroughly answering any questions raised in class.

    I think what I'm trying to say is that while you may be right to disagree with the criteria and judges used by the program, you are wrong in your introduction, by dismissing a valuable researcher, practitioner, and educator as someone to be ignored. You may not say it explicitly, but it is certainly implied by your diction.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Conveniently Confused says,

    Dismissing someone as a "fringe scientist" is counter-productive, it's a term that suggests some areas of research are disreputable ...

    But it happens to be true that some areas are disreputable. Do you think there's no such thing as pseudoscience?

    ... and all ideas that are "out-there" are immediately wrong and not worth considering, because those researchers that propose them are on the sketchy fringe.

    I'm not sure what you mean but it doesn't resemble anything I ever said. I certainly do NOT believe that *all ideas* are immediately wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Some things may be disreputable by reputation, but i think all phenomena should be investigated.
    I can't think of a single example of something not worth investigating. except for maybe things like crop-circles and big-foot, things that don't exist are not worth further investigation, but finding out something is untrue is still beneficial in the first place.

    Pseudoscience exists, because it is not real science. I'm not really familiar with the intricacies of the term. but i'm under the impression it's to do with the dressing up an idea to appear scientifically verified. I'd acknowledge things like homopathy are pseudoscience.

    I'm confused on what you meant Fringe Scientist means, I'm sorry for putting words into your mouth. That's just how i interpretted the phrase in the context you used it. as someone who deals with the strange, and should not be listened to or acknowledged.

    Thank you for replying to my comment.

    ReplyDelete