Another (Catholic) case against MOOCs.

On A Catholic Case Against MOOCs by Jonathan Malesic (Chronicle of Higher Education, September 16, 2013).

The continuing discussion pro and against MOOCs produced (one year ago) a piece like this, where the case was made of a beneficial disconnect between MOOCs and Catholic schools (at least in the US). Interesting case, and strong language and thought. You can agree without being Catholic!

Catholic universities can be true leaders in higher education. Instead of following the hype, they can reassert the belief that education is a moral enterprise that develops human dignity and promotes social justice.

MOOCs not only fail to accomplish those goals; they undermine them. And if large Catholic universities pursued strategic aims through MOOCs, they could end up pushing smaller Catholic colleges, including ones sponsored by the same religious orders, out of business, weakening Catholic higher education as a whole.

“MOOCs not only fail to accomplish those goals [promoting ed as a moral enterprise etc.]; they undermine them.” I wonder whether this may stop possible developments and temptations on the route to MOOC-ifing Higher Ed at my own University.

Instead, we need “Massively Better Courses”!!

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Pass me the lithium, please

Should We All Take a Bit of Lithium? (Anna Fels, 13 Sept. 2014). This is the title of a recent article from The New York Times that got my attention. The author’s thesis, in a few words, is that lithium is one factor responsible for lesser dementia and low suicide rates.

[...] people with higher levels of lithium in their water supply had lower levels of “all-cause mortality”.

Thus, it seems that chemistry –and not just psychology– may be responsible for some (or much) of our regular behavior. Interesting, very intriguing. I mean, of course chemistry modifies our behavior. Drugs do that. But usually we’re brought to believe that somehow, the problems in our behavior are our mind’s doing, and that we have some control over them. Or, do we?

Now see this fantastic ad from a time long lost… how more politically incorrect can media be?

Ad from (Lithiated) Seven-Up

From “True or False? Seven-Up Contained Lithium Until 1950″ The Northern Star online, March 28, 2011.


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When in Rome this summer I had the opportunity to view an excellent exposition on Pasolini. There, among original artifacts, letters, newspaper articles, books, I encountered the film-maker and poet who had violently died 31 years ago. Having watched almost all his movies, including Salò, and being so much in awe of the man and the films he did it was a very touching experience. The expo was divided in the decades of his life, and ended up with the sad, black-an-white images of the Ostia beach where he was murdered. Ironically, Ostia is pretty close to my mother’s house, where I stayed.

Two or three things stood up form the show. The Millecento car in the foreground of the Uccellacci e Uccellini (The Hawks and the Sparrows) images with Totò; a letter to Godard, another to Allen Ginsberg; the newspaper publishing his expulsion from the Communist Party; The Poem to his mother. Of course, the movies that so powerfully remind me of my adolescence and which I loved: Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, A Thousand and One Nights.

Uccelacci e Uccellini (Pasolini)

The Allen Ginsberg project quotes a letter Pasolini wrote to Ginsberg, after meeting him in Italy. Fernanda Pivano, greatest Italian translator of the Beat Generation, invited Pasolini, Umberto Eco and other Italian intellectuals to meet Ginsberg. Imagine the meeting!! By the way, I do remember a Poets’ Festival, again on Ostia beach, where I watched Ginsberg reciting one of his poems. Probably the very same year he met Pasolini. Coincidences!

Caro, angelico Ginsberg, ieri sera ti ho sentito dire tutto quello che ti veniva in mente su New York e San Francisco, coi loro fiori. Io ti ho detto qualcosa dell’Italia (fiori solo dai fiorai) [Dear angelic Ginsberg. Last night I heard you say everything that came into your mind about New York and San Francisco, with their flowers. I have told you something about Italy (flowers only to be found in flower shops)…sei costretto a inventare di nuovo e completamente – giorno per giorno, parola per parola - il tuo linguaggio rivoluzionario. Tutti gli uomini della tua America sono costretti, per esprimersi, ad essere inventori di parole! – “Your bourgeoisie is a bourgeoise of insane people, mine of idiots”, Pasolini points out. “You rebel against insanity with insanity (giving flowers even to policemen), but how can one revolt against idiocy?..” –

How can one revolt against idiocy? Isn’t this a question so current to be applied so very well to today’s education, politics, and economics?

However, the most moving piece was his Prayer to his mother. Here is an English translation. Down here a verse.

And I don’t want to be alone. I have an infinite
hunger for love, love of bodies without souls.

Here, Pasolini himself reads it.

It’s very fitting then, that director Abel Ferrara asked actor Willem Dafoe to impersonate Pasolini in his last day. The biopic is just being shown at the Venice Film Festival. I long to watch the movie!

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A connected course

The semester is on and off we begin not only with the classes I am currently offering –in Spanish, Computing Fundamentals ( and Data Structures (, but I am also registering to take a course, a connectedcourse to be exact.

Offered and organized by DML the Digital Media Learning Research Center, this is one course where everybody can participate. Instructors will be people of the caliber of Jim Groom, Alan Levine, Howard Rheingold, Mike Wesch, et many fantastic al. I hope I can participate with the limited time I have and that this course process will be an occasion to further my own research on the Zen of Teaching.

I’ll be publishing stuff for this course under the tag “ccourse” and same category. I’ll also be tweeting with the hashtag #ccourse or #ccourses, I have to check which! So, loose all hope ye who enter…

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Thoughts from Annie Hall

The Happy Couple: I am shallow and empty and I have absolutely nothing to say!

I find it extremely amusing that almost 30 years ago Woody Allen was filming ideas and stereotypes still very much current today. Here is the answer to the simple question Woody Allen asked of a young happy couple: What is the secret of your success as a couple?

The second gem from the same movie, Annie Hall (1977, see IMDB) comes when the very Marshall McLuhan comes forward to rescue Woody in a heated discussion with a fellow moviegoer.

Sure, the recursion in this segment is genial: Woody and friends are as moviegoers as you and me while we watch them; and McLuhan talks about himself, straightening some points poorly understood by someone, and doing so, he addresses movie watchers directly.

If only life were like this!

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