Hey kids, lying is bad...
August 6, 2012 8:00 PM   Subscribe

So I'm thinking it's a bad idea to include a chapter by Jonah Lehrer in my college's first-year experience course, given that it would be placed right after our discussion on academic dishonesty. Can you help me think of a replacement?

Specifics -- the selected reading is the chapter "The letting go" from Imagine, in which he talks about the creativity of the area between having strict control over something and not having skill in that thing. So there's something about improv, surfing, art, music, and so on. There are several of us teaching the same material, so it's helpful when any readings cross several different areas. We're using the reading to open up a discussion on divergent thinking, particularly in terms of how that might relate to the future of education.

So, any ideas at all are welcome. This certainly includes fiction, poetry, TED talks, etc. If you think I'm being crazy and that I should just fact-check the chapter and go with it, tell me that too. If it were my class alone, there's no question I would drop it, but sometimes I feel like I'm overly reactive on things like this.
posted by bizzyb to Education (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Dan Pink's TED Talk is totally brilliant.
posted by spunweb at 8:05 PM on August 6, 2012

Best answer: I think you should use it, and make it an object lesson on the importance of academic honesty. Have them fact check it, have them read the article in Tablet that exposed him, Lehrer's self-plagiarism mea culpa from The New Yorker.

Show them that gloss and impact won't cover fundamental academic dishonesty in the end, and that a proven incident can cast doubt on an entire ouevre. Given the rates of plagiarism, paper-buying, cribbing, etc. this might make a real difference in how these students approach their entire academic careers.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:09 PM on August 6, 2012 [17 favorites]

I really liked teaching with "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" - fast read, great creative inspiration.
posted by Gucky at 8:13 PM on August 6, 2012

Something that might work, while at the same time having a delicious irony, would be Austin Kleon.
posted by jbickers at 9:03 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of the best books I've ever read on the creative process is Bob Dylan's Chronicles. You might have to hunt around a bit in the text to find something that fits, but the sections on how he sort of floated into his peak creative period while kicking around New York and how he hunted high and low for the right conditions to tap back into it once it left him were fantastic.
posted by gompa at 12:23 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

charmcityblues said exactly what I wanted to say, only better (I have taught these kinds of courses before, and taken them.) The hoped-for discussion will surely ensue, especially if you put them to fact-checking and reacting to the follow-up events.
posted by whatzit at 3:06 AM on August 7, 2012

Given that the book has been recalled, it seems unlikely you'd be able to get reprint clearance anyway.

I would suggest a chapter from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book Flow as a substitute.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:19 AM on August 7, 2012

Ooo, definitely go with Austin Kleon. That guy's great, and the book is really good, too.
posted by limeonaire at 5:03 PM on August 7, 2012

Sidhedevil: "Given that the book has been recalled, it seems unlikely you'd be able to get reprint clearance anyway."

While IANAL, given the verdict in the recent Georgia State copyright case, it seems like that might weigh in favor of a Fair Use argument:
In weighing whether Georgia State went too far in its use of unlicensed e-reserves, the judge considered four factors laid out in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. Those factors are: 1. whether the use is for commercial or nonprofit educational purposes; 2. the nature of the copyrighted work; 3. how much of the whole work is used and how substantive that portion is; and 4. what effect the use in question has on the "potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."

In the judge's analysis, factors Nos. 1 and 2 "favor the defendant every time," Mr. Butler said. He noted that factor No. 4 played somewhat better for the publishers. "She basically said, If there's a licensing market, that favors the rights holder," he said. If the amount of copyrighted material used is small enough, though—a question covered by factor No. 3— "then the judge says, essentially, this is not affecting the market for licensing," he said.

Ms. Sims said that the judge took the educational purpose of each use seriously and did not focus just on market considerations. "That was one of the contentions here—that if you can pay for it, you should be," she said. "And that's clearly not what the court is saying." (source)
Like I said, IANAL. And the difficult thing about Fair Use is that it's a defense after getting hauled into court, not a protection against sued in the first place.
posted by Lexica at 8:34 PM on August 7, 2012

Response by poster: We'd only planned on using the one chapter, so I think it fell under fair use, but I'm not the main person in charge of the clearances, so I'm not sure.

Thanks everyone for your feedback! I'm passing this along to my teaching cohort early next week, when we'll decide what we want to do. I think we're leaning toward "teachable moment" but perhaps without having them read the full original. We only have 1 50-minute period to spend on the discussion, so that limits us a little, but surely we can do something.

(We're also referencing Pink our first day of class; then bringing in "Everything is a Remix" later on, which is interesting too when you consider the Lehrer concerns...)
posted by bizzyb at 2:21 PM on August 8, 2012

Response by poster: Today was our common session on Lehrer. We ended up leaving in the chapter, which students read and came prepared to talk about. After doing that a bit, we launched into the controversy. We talked about the consequences, how it impacts their impressions of the work, and so on. The general outcome is that a lot of them are mad, upset, and a little let down. Right now we're hoping it's more at Lehrer than us! We discussed how their feelings might influence their own actions through their college careers, which was useful as this piggybacked on a plagiarism convocation they had on Tuesday.

We will still be replacing the reading for next year, so all other suggestions are appreciated!
posted by bizzyb at 8:49 PM on September 10, 2012

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