July 2013

Of MOOCs and Luddites: teaching and the limits of technology

It seems like everyone is talking about MOOCs. According to proponents, massive open online courses will revolutionize higher education and turn traditional academics into the hand weavers (and potential Luddites) of the twenty-first century. But can the efficient delivery of talking heads to far larger audiences than permitted by even the largest lecture halls, all without the geographical constraints of physical buildings, really replace today’s in-person classrooms?

April 2012

The problem of expertise in a liberal democracy

Stephen Turner’s book, Liberal Democracy 3.0, provides a useful background to the problem of expertise — especially scientific expertise — in a modern liberal democracy. What is a liberal democracy? First, of course, it’s important to define what a “liberal democracy” is. The term liberal, unfortunately, has acquired a negative connotation for many today, especially amongst conservatives in the […]

Civil law’s influence on early United States law

It is a law-school maxim today that the United States is a common-law country, while most of Europe uses civil law: English-derived common law has as its most basic tenet the binding nature of judicial precedent, while Roman-derived civil law privileges statutes. But the more I investigate the history and details of each, the more clear it becomes to me that the United States, at least, owes (almost?) as much of its legal system to civil law as it does to “pure” common law.

How I use a blog in my research and writing

As someone who does not blog to earn money (I like to pay my hosting fees, but that’s only because I’m a poor grad student), I thought I’d run through how and why I blog, and why I find it a critical part of my “real” work of academic research and writing.

March 2010

Are universities about selling information?

I don’t believe universities (in their best form, at least) are easily replicated by technological means of information dissemination. But despite the advantages their physicality and tradition offers, many universities have tended to see themselves as simply the means to fill students up with information, stick an “approved” stamp on them, and send them out into the world.