Inside Higher Ed
August 27th, 2014
The student didn’t probably didn’t mean for her words to sting.
"[A]ll classes are sorta boring,” she said. “Yours was less boring than most.”
But sting they did – a searing capstone to what Mark C. Carnes
already knew was a lost semester, both for him and for his students.
They said they liked the class well enough, but their disengagement –
the blank stares, the palpable ennui – said otherwise.
No one was necessarily to blame; after all, Carnes remembered, he,
too, had found his own undergraduate coursework “sorta boring.” And the
sentiment went way back in American higher education, he thought; Henry
Adams wrote in 1918 that his Harvard professors had “taught little, and
that little ill.”
But the notion of being boring ate away at Carnes in the winter break
after he heard those words. Luckily, the professor of history at
Barnard College didn’t stay down for long. He set about crafting a
radical new way of teaching that, nearly two decades later, has a kind
of cult following among professors in the U.S. and abroad.