This is a Winter Break post for reflections on the blog and future activities for Man Nor Beast. Regular posting resumes January 4, 2016.
You know what I’m going to do in 2016? Teach some classes.
A course will include six people besides myself. I can only do one course at a time, so when one of the topics fills up, then we’ll start. I’m using the model from University of People: registration fee is $15, but after that, you pay only if you want to take the tests, $100 per test – which in my case will be two per course.
At least as far as the given course content is concerned, I plan to make it credit-worthy at the college level. Here at the start, I have no official recognition of any kind and no way to guarantee that, but I’m building the courses to accord with the state of Illinois standards for distance learning, and also to accord with competency-based grading standards. Prior to getting those recognized, which can only happen after I actually do it, that decision will rest with whatever institution you take it to. A spiffy course packet and credentials and so on will be available for them to examine.
I’m working up a page at the blog to cover available topics, general procedures, the sign-up process, a syllabus for each course, and anything similar, but to do that, I need some feedback.
My current thoughts on opening topics include:
- THE SELF – taking the experience to be a real thing, but then considering cell life vs. body life, mitochondrial DNA, retroviral DNA, parasite load, cellular and tissue brain activity, and any number of other disturbing phenomena. Plus genetic and developmental variation, data-driven social positioning, and ultrasocial self-perception and others-perception.
- NO MISSING LINKS – Cover the wall like a psychopath with branching lines and creatures’ names, to learn how evolutionary relationships are proposed and tested; find out why systematists are feared by all other biologists. Hint: it’s not a tree and it’s not a chain.
- CRITTER LOVE – everyone chooses a favorite beast or plant or squishy, and we do the four questions on them like you would not believe beforehand. Plus a look at how ideas become real-world projects.
- PHENOTYPE – fearlessly forging into the question everyone keeps bringing up: how much does a gene “make” a thing a creature is or has, and how does that happen anyway? Gay? Brown-eyed? A person not a pine tree? A genetics class about what genes really (do not) do.
Here are my current brainstorming ideas on format. I put up signups for all of them, and when one fills up, that’s what I teach. It’s scheduled for five sessions, one per week. The first and last sessions are group meetings via online hangout or Skype; the other meetings are individually with me. My current thoughts on the curriculum is as follows:
- One assignment everyone does individually, due the second week (i.e. first individual meeting).
- One assignment each person customizes at the first individual meeting, due during the third week.
- One DIY lab activity done during the third and fourth week – you’d be amazed at what you can do without fancy equipment. “Isolate some DNA? I can get you some DNA. 9:00 tonight. 6:00 even.” (warning: not all of them will be this cool)
- A final assignment due during the fourth week, with full access among the students, to be discussed at the final meeting.
Help me out – all of the above is what I scribbled in my little notebook very much like you see on the crazy person’s bedroom walls in a Hollywood movie. If you’re interested, comment to let me know what looks practical/impractical, desirable/undesirable, and anything else you think I need to consider.