Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I wanted to be the first (of what I'm sure will be many) blogger to link to this article at the NYT about Walter Lewin's popularity in his online lecture videos. You've probably seen this MIT physicist on many NOVA shows such as "The Elegant Universe."

Speaking of vids, I just finished watching "No End In Sight." I watch it and just cannot fathom how otherwise respectable people still support this administration. If nothing else, it is at least somewhat heartening to think that the legacy of these people (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and probably to a lesser extent, Rice) will in fact suffer quite a bit...though I suppose we'll have to see who writes the textbooks under possible legacy administrations by Jeb and Jenna.

This viewing follows a recent viewing of "Sicko" which interestingly points out an apparently key decision by the Nixon administration leading to a for-profit health care system in this country. Both of these really go a long way toward showing sane people how important government and competence is (as I expect will my planned viewing of "When the Levees Break" about Katrina). Of course on the other hand, I suppose insane people take such documentaries as signs of a liberal or terrorist conspiracy (if they see a distinction between the two).


Alison Chaiken said...

My first thought on reading the Lewin article was that such excellent teaching at an elite institution like MIT is only made possible by the existence of the tenure system. Lewin spends so much time preparing his lectures and demonstrations that he must not be doing any research let alone bringing in outside funding. It's hard to believe that MIT would tolerate someone like Lewin in the absence of the tenure system, let look at all the great publicity he's bringing the Institute. The related question in physics departments is whether physics education research is "real research" or no. As an industrial researcher, I don't have strong views on these topics.

Angry said...

Interesting point. Certainly he wouldn't get tenure just doing excellent lectures. But, in a world without tenure, would MIT feel any compulsion to get rid of him? I have my doubts.

I suspect that in a world without tenure, departments would in fact be a bit more appreciative of a wider range of activities. I could be wrong of course, and perhaps one shouldn't discount agism. But certainly the prospect of giving tenure would give pause to any department because it's such a commitment. Without tenure, a department could much more easily see the benefits of any given faculty member without the tremendous pressure of having to extrapolate literally a half-century out in some cases.