Saturday, August 01, 2015

Heroes for zeros

The new big thing in education is the MOOC (massive open online course), which I have been exploring this year, with mixed results. The notion of "discussing" a subject with a thousand or three thousand other students is absurd. But I've made a great discovery: when a course ends, it may be (and perhaps always is) archived! Everything stays in place, except the obligation to read and reply to hundreds of mostly witless comments. (Sample: in a course on reading Dubliners, by James Joyce, there was much ado about a story in which the main character goes into a cafeteria for a meal of peas and ginger beer. Green and gold, get it? -- Joyce is sneering at the Irish flag!)

Anyhow, I'm now engaged in Gregory Nagy's wonderful (and rigorous) The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, which finished a while ago but presumably will be offered again. (It's also available through Harvard Extension for college credit.)

My daughter finds this hilarious. It seems that when she was a student, Mr Nagy's course was famous as "Heroes for Zeros" — i.e. tailored for the hockey team. Well, either the professor has beefed it up since she graduated, or Harvard has a most remarkable set of student athletes. (There is, of course, a third possibility, which I will not discuss here.) Blue skies! — Dan Ford

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