I’ve just added to my teaching portfolio a syllabus and some course materials for a proposed class in information literacy and data journalism, embedded below. These are materials that I developed for a job that just rejected me. It’s a shame I won’t get a chance to teach this course there, but maybe I’ll get a chance to do so somewhere, someday.
The course reflects a few things I believe about higher education going forward. First, I think that the traditional college major is something of an anachronism that needs to evolve to survive. Oh, you’ll always be able to major in history or biology or other subject matters, and that’s fine. But I also think we’ll see the rise (or should) of majors that are oriented around methodologies– around ways of knowing. These majors would be about how we seek, evaluate, consume, summarize, and build on information, with different ways of approaching the world being treated as just as important as particular subject matters. This course, designed to be writing-intensive and for upperclassmen, fits into that worldview. Second, and on a more practical level, I think that the rise of data journalism is exciting and filled with potential, but also fraught with potential problems. We need to be training stronger consumers of news and information, particularly of data-driven arguments, because those arguments can so readily go wrong. This course takes as one of its basic presumptions an idea that is very old-fashioned and yet remains, in my mind, more relevant than ever: that the purpose of higher education is to create citizens, not just workers. Anyway, check it out.