Thursday, June 30, 2005


We know Walt Whitman as a character of fiction (consider Michael Cunningham's just released Specimen Days, or Chris Adrian's Gob's Grief), but it's interesting to use itunes to scoop up Whitman as a subject of popular music.

Whitman Synthesized. "Walt Whitman" by My Robot Friend. Man oh man, if you have itunes, sample this baby please! I can't do it justice here. And here's an article about it.

Woody's Whitman."Walt Whitman's Niece" (by Woody Guthrie, recorded by Billy Bragg and Wilco on "Mermaid Avenue")

Whitman All Smooth and Jazzy."Walt Whitman Where Are You?" (from Gino Vanelli's Yonder Tree)

Country Whitman. "Whitman in 1863" by Brady Earnhart (scroll down Earnhart's page to find the lyrics to this countryish, guitar ballad).

New Age Whitman. "Leaves of Grass" by Saxxon Woods, in Here and Now. It's muy folky.

Fun stuff that someone should write about at length, if it hasn't been done already. And some of this stuff would be a hoot to use in class. Wouldn't it be cool to have a Whitman index of some sort that charted pop culture references to Whitman as they appear on the scene?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Have any of you experimented with having your own students set course requirements? I'm planning a course that relates to democracy and freedom and I thought that it would be a good idea to involve students in the creation of the course and its requirements.

How far to take such a system? At Famous U where I used work, I knew of faculty who allowed students to self-grade and who claimed that students graded themselves fairly. I was surprised to learn that the Supreme Court had weighed in on the subject in Falvo vs. Owasso School System. See the Harvard University Gazette article "Self-grading gets an 'A' from researchers" for more information on the case and on the positive spin researchers put on self-asessment. Robin Keehn of Cal State San Marcos documents the benefits of this approach in "Changing Places: Why I have Students Grade Their Own Essays First"in the Cal State on-line journalExchanges. And there's an interesting PDF report by Bruce Ross, Ph.D., titled "Student Self-Grading in a Bachelor of Physical Education Course." Report here (PDF).

For me, letting the students set the course requirements would require a pretty big leap of faith. The self-asessment part seems less daunting than the communal, "social experiment" dimensions of what I'm thinking about. Maybe it would be more practical to do something less ambitious, involving self-asessment and leave the rest alone.