A few months ago, I read this post in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It was written by a professor at Cornell who, after years of lamenting how his students didn't get his pop culture references to things like Laurence of Arabia, started a weekly, half-hour meeting where he talks about three things worth knowing. Naturally, this blew up among my acquaintances on facebook; everyone thought this was such a great idea, and yes! we're going to try to do this at my campus, etc. I was among them of course, but then nothing happened. Well, I was determined not to let it die. This has been an unusual summer for the Honors Program. Our new admissions procedure resulted in our admitting more Summer B students than in years past; we thought we should try to engage these students now, rather than waiting for the fall. Thus it was a perfect opportunity for me to try out this idea.
We scheduled Three Things You Should Know (According to Dr. K), for Thursday, July 21, at 4:00 p.m. in our big conference room. We ordered pizza (it's too hot for English tea in July in Florida (and yes, I know what the British advise about hot liquids in hot weather, but I'm not buying it)) had some soft drinks, and experienced technical difficulties (the sound wouldn't work). We invited students via email and by creating an event on facebook. We also decided to stream it live on UStream.
So what were the inaugural three things? I began with some poetry by Wallace Stevens; I read Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, The Sun This March, and The Emperor of Ice-cream. The last of these leads naturally to the band They Might Be Giants, as they used a part of a line from the poem in their song Pencil Rain. Rather than talking about TMBG, though (who I love), I was planning on using them to segue to a discussion of early 80s jangly pop. TMBG name-checks the great Winston-Salem band, the dBs, in one of their songs (and the TMBG song Hypnotist of Ladies sounds very dBs), and since I am a Winston-Salem native I wanted to take the opportunity to tell the students about them, and their contemporaries in town, Let's Active. Really, Let's Active was mostly the founder Mitch Easter, who operated Drive-In Studio in his parents' garage. A very famous band recorded its first single and EP there; maybe you've heard of R.E.M. and their song Radio Free Europe. Anyway, I created a playlist on Grooveshark getting from Pencil Rain to R.E.M.'s Wolves, Lower (from the Chronic Town EP recorded at Drive-In); listen closely to the dBs and Let's Active songs and note how they sound a lot like the early R.E.M.; this is clearly Mitch Easter's influence.
Finally, I couldn't resist doing some mathematics, so I talked about the different levels of infinity (countable and uncountable--there are others, of course, but this is a good place to start). I showed the students how the number of whole numbers and the number of fractions is the same, but there are way more real numbers.
Overall, I was pleased at this first attempt. The plan is for this to be a weekly event in the Honors Program, beginning the second week of classes. I'll be sure to post links and topics as we move on.