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December 20, 2007


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Time for a very long holiday bat-killer? :)


Oh, you mock me with your bat loving ways. But, I'll tell you, they haunt me. I have been afraid to go into my own attic to get out decorations and boxes just in case the exterminator I hired last year was not fully successful in eliminating the filthy demonic creatures. Happy holidays down under!


Well, who am I to tell you about hauntology ...

(And not under, across - in cold, cold London.)


Your addendum reminds me of my introduction to Ancient Philosophy. I still remember many students (my self included) were very troubled by Plato's critique of democracy in the Republic. The fact that it was just one step above tyranny produced very lively discussion.

Merry Christmas!


Once in high school, during a debate at a student assembly, I told a fellow student I didn't care what she felt, she was just bloody wrong. This apparently made her burst into tears (not that I saw any evidence of this happen) and earned me the threat of suspension for being "of poor character and unhelpful to the learning process."

Evidently, being stupid is guaranteed a lot of protection these days.


Oh, and:

Happy ChrismaChanuKwanzakah!


Twelve students in a class of sixty-three described Sylvia Federici's "Caliban and the Witch" as a novel - split evenly between those who claimed to like it and those who claimed to not like it. I'm not sure what this means. One person called it "the book the readings are in."


So, in all honesty, is the sentiment expressed here that students/undergrads are dumber or lazier than they used to be? This is the proverbial complaint of all generations of teachers, of course. But that doesn't mean it's not true in the present (or proverbially, for that matter).

Is there a correlation to the neoliberalization of the university or to changes in entrance requirements? How much blame can be leveled at English departments for failing to make cogent writers and readers from American high school students (in 6 credits of English 101 or less)?

For my part, the only totally frustrating element of working with bad student writing is when students refuse to learn from detailed grading. I offer full explication of grammatical and mechanical errors on early assignments (while encouraging one-on-one help, etc.). If a student learns nothing from my pedagogically charitable grading, my sympathies recede in strict correlation to my flagging sense of purpose and pedagogical agency.

A separate but related issue is the writing of ESL students in non-ESL courses. I tend to modulate my grading criteria in accord with effort and improvement for ESL students who slave over their fractured syntax in, say, a first-year English course. Others tell me this relativistic grading practice is anathema to "higher education," however.


From Bourdieu:

The whole logic of an academic institution based on pedagogic work of the traditional type and ultimately guaranteeing the "infallibility" of the "master", finds expression in the professorial ideology of student incapacity, a mixture of tyrannical stringency and disillusioned indulgence which inclines the teacher to regard all communication failures, however unforeseen, as integral to a relationship which inherently implies poor reception of the best messages to the worst receivers.


It's so satisfying--and easy--to complain about students. One thing gets lost here, though. Students' mindsets and views are not permanent, unchangeable things. That's the whole point of an education--that they not leave the university being the same people who entered it. For better or worse, it's our job to teach them--even if combating their intense subjectivism or sense of entitlement is not our favorite thing to deal with.

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