An aspirational goal for teaching (more music)

Andy Narell frequently plays and teaches with young people. Here he is visiting with the UNT steel band, playing with their admirable jazz ensemble. Everyone here is making music at a high level, but compare the affect–expressions, body language, everything–of the kids on the left side of the screen (who are actually wearing uniforms, symbols of identity suppression and servility) with those on the right (who are not). Which would you like your students to display?

How do we make this happen in, say, a statistics class?

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

6 thoughts on “An aspirational goal for teaching (more music)”

  1. Well, there’s also a difference between sitting and standing, so the comparison is a bit apples and oranges. When you see the brass sections in those southern university “step” bands that take the field at halftime, the trumpet and sax and trombone players get into it.

  2. The best statistics course I ever taught was one in which I gave each student a single state’s data on homicides (from a multi-year data set of the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, available from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data). It included such variables as age, sex, and race of victim(s) and, if known, offender(s): weapon; circumstance; month and year of occurrence; victim-offender relationship; etc. The students’ job was to go through their data set and write a report, for their governor, on the homicide problem in their state.

    I likened it to a “studio” course, where the instructor looks over the shoulder of the student and suggests, “Maybe you should make the sky a bit bluer over here,” but instead of color, suggesting different ways to slice and dice the data. They would present their analyses to their classmates frequently through the semester, and since all of them were dealing with similar problems but with different data and using a different sequence of methods, they all learned a lot of statistics and how to present them to an audience.

  3. Well. This happened to a … very, very good friend of mine. (ahem) She showed up for jury duty – as one is forced, I mean privileged, to do – and accidentally got put on as an alternate. That isn’t the bad part.

    The bad part was … there were two co-defendants in a homicide case. The jurors were told that one defendant’s blood match was a “million to one” match, and one was a “billion to one” match. The hapless juror had forgotten pretty much all the statistics she’d learned in a one year graduate course, and she didn’t get to deliberate anyway.

    Both got convicted. Alternate Juror was left feeling rather non-great about the whole thing.

    So, I would argue that there are probably a lot of real world examples one could use in a classroom, and a murder trial might not be a bad way to go about it.

    Plus, if you want to do a good deed for the world … make a Schoolhouse Rock version of this. I am not kidding. I don’t think this should be left to lawyers, and it shouldn’t be done from scratch every single time somebody gets killed. Which is *what is happening now.*

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