So this week I finished up my fall semester for the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, where I taught two sections of a course on American Political Economy—one for the undergraduates in the Ashbrook honors program, and an online master’s section for high school teachers in the MAHG (MA in History and Government) program. (There’s actually a photo of me on the website from the summer session, and boy do I need a haircut.) It was my first experience with online teaching, which is the new thing sweeping higher education these days, so I’m still getting used to it.
Among other things about the Ashbrook approach that separates it from ordinary coursework is the emphasis on original source material. There are no textbooks. It’s more like the “great books” approach.” Instead of reading about James Madison, we read James Madison. Anyway, one of the teachers in the program posted the following reflections on his FaceBook page:
“Four and a half years ago, I got a flier in my mailbox at school advertising a class from Ashland University’s Master’s program in American History and Government. Thinking that I would just use it for the professional development hours to renew my license, I applied for a class and got accepted. That summer, I spent a week at Ashland immersed in the most strenuous academic challenge of my life: cramming a semester’s worth of graduate-level coursework into an intense week of seminars and reading assignments. I loved every minute of it. It’s not hyperbole to say that from that point on, my life (and my teaching) changed in ways I could never have imagined.
“This year they started to offer webcam classes during the school year as well as their summer classes, and since I only had 3 left in the program I decided to sign up for them. Tonight, I finished my last class in the program. Assuming I passed the class and the comprehensive exam I submitted a couple weeks ago, I’ll be graduating on the 15th.
“I’ve met truly remarkable people in this program, including students, professors, and the administrative staff. I could always count on the time spent there to rejuvenate my enthusiasm for teaching and excited to head back to school each August.
“Any former students of mine who always wondered why my class suddenly went from being generally easy one year to far more challenging the next, it’s because of the intellectual awakening I had through this program and my desire to share that experience with you guys. I am incredibly happy to be finished with the degree, but I will thoroughly miss the friends and mentors I’ve met through it (and the opportunity to immerse myself in academic pursuits).
“I’m very thankful to have been blessed with this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to seeing where my professional career takes me next.
“(Sorry for the length of this post…they don’t teach brevity at Ashland).”
We’re thinking, by the way, of expanding some of the online course offerings to all comers, instead of just high school teachers working on their MAs. Stay tuned for more details.