I hate you

24 12 2015

Oh my fucking Zeus do I hate Twitter right now. NOT WORKING!

That’s under 140 characters isn’t it?

Fuck. I have to finish grading, but I sure as I hell don’t want to look at papers when I am this fucking aggravated.

I can’t believe that after all my to-ing and fro-ing regarding this stupid platform that I’m still trying to work with its sorry fucking ass.

Fuck fuck fuuuuuuuck.

Oh, fuck.





Pop goes the weasel

9 12 2015

I finally gave in and joined Twitter.

Initial response is not favorable.

It says I need to confirm my email address, but won’t send me the confirmation. The FAQ on this issue sends me in a circle. I can’t upload a profile photo; the FAQ doesn’t address the issue I’m having. This second issue may be related to the first, but I have no way of knowing this.

Now, I know I can be increddddddddibly tetchy beginning something new and unable to process even helpful help; that is, there may in fact be helpful help in the FAQ, but all I’m seeing are heaps of unhelpfulness.

Anyway, I’m sure I will, eventually, figure it all out, and my fears about Tweets-as-Pringles will in fact be realized.

Today, however, Twitter is as appetizing as a dead possum on hot asphalt.





Don’t forget your books

16 01 2013

Yes, I am going to comment on David Brooks’s syllabus and no, I am not going to make fun of it.

Easy stuff first: attendance and participation–20%; two 2500-word essays, 40% each. That’s not far from my 300-level bioethics course: 20% A&P, 20% science quiz, two research papers, ~2500 words, 30% each.

No, what caught my eye was the reading list: Look at all of those books!

General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman” by Ed Cray

“Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do And Who We Should Be” by Mark Schwen and Dorothy Bass

Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy by Donald Kagan

“Augustine of Hippo” by Peter Brown

“How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer” by Sarah Bakewell

Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke

“The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist” Dorothy Day

The Irony of American History by Reinhold Niehbuhr

“Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin

I’d rather have the students read Pericles (via, say, Thucydides—and hey, let’s toss in the Melian dialogue while we’re at it) than read about Pericles—ditto Augustine and Montaigne—but if the Kagan, Brown, and Bakewell books include large chunks of these thinkers’ words, it’s defensible.

I like the Dorothy Day (of course), think de Tocqueville would have been better than Burke (and, perhaps, Niehbuhr), and while I have the Kahnemann book on my to-read list, I wonder what he’ll do with it. Berlin, eh, but perhaps fitting.

I also think  “The Character Course” would be a better title than “The Humility Course”—I think a fair amount of the snark is due to the title itself (the other part, of course, due to Brooks himself)—but it’s the content that matters, and, again, the content is defensible.

That’s not a major endorsement, of course, but its minimalism isn’t meant as a slam. It’s hard to put together a syllabus, especially the first time, and what’s on the page and what’s in the classroom are not always in sync. And that were I to teach a course on, say, political character, I’d probably keep Pericles (and the Melians) and Augustine and Day, add Plato and Machiavelli (of course), perhaps Voltaire, probably something from Foucault’s History of Sexuality, focusing on ethos and self-care. Something from Mandela. Portions of the Nixon tapes, perhaps. Some James Baldwin.

At least, that’s what I’d like to offer; I wouldn’t actually be able to do so: There is no way I could assign that many texts. My previous chair actively discouraged me from assigning too much reading (too much for a 200-level course: more than 25-50 pages a week), although the current chair might not have a problem with my overloading 300-level students.

More to the point, the students wouldn’t do the reading. I got my 100-level American government students to read the text by assigning near-weekly quizzes, and by requiring them to pull from the supplemental book (journalistic essays) for their take-home mid-terms. I’m wondering how to get my 100-level contemporary issues students to read their short-short pieces before class, and am tentatively planning to require them to hand in a brief summary of the readings before each and every class.

In other words, if they’re not being graded directly on the readings themselves, they will not do them.

I recognize this with my bioethics class, and while there is a fair amount of reading on the syllabus, I’d bet that more than half the class doesn’t bother to do all of the reading. Why would they? No final exam.

Given that, I’ve concentrated less on the answers the various authors provide and more on the questions. They won’t remember the readings, may not need most of them for their papers, so if I want them to get anything out of the class, I have to find something that will stick to the roofs of their minds.

(Another image I’ve used? Questions-as-earwigs.)

I ask them questions, I poke their answers, turn them around and push ’em right back at ’em. Oh, you think this is settled? Well then, what about that? What, you say that that has nothing to do with this? What about p, q, r? If you approve of red, why not orange? On what basis do you disapprove of triangles?

I can do this because these kinds of troubles are inherent in the material itself; when I half-joke that I aim to trouble you, it’s less about what I come up with sui generis than what I can point to in the rumpled textures of, say, enhancement technologies. Having ranged over this ground for some years, I’ve become, to switch metaphors, pretty good at kicking up the artifacts half-buried in the dirt—and showing them how to do so, as well.

It’s be great if my students would read everything that I assign because they truly want to learn everything they can about the subject, but that ain’t gonna happen.

So I work around that, and try to get them to care enough to learn, anyway.





They tell you not to hang around and learn what life’s about

4 06 2012

Another late-late, quick-quick:

Started my summer class last week, and man, it was a good start. A small class, but lively, and ready to talk about anything—crucial when you’re stuffed in a room together for 2 1/2 hours at a pop.

(I give them my standard warning: I do love the sound of my own voice, but ye gods, that’s too much even for me. If y’all don’t participate, we’re all going to want to throw ourselves out the window. . . .)

Anyway, what I wanted to mention was their reaction to my standard epistemological-ontological-practical mini-lecture: they could not get enough of it; specifically, they could not get enough of the ontological piece.

Only one student had any familiarity with the word (which, for the purposes of this course, I define as being or being-in-the-world) itself, but they keyed in immediately on the meaning of the concept, especially after I mentioned that while most folks don’t think much or ever about epistemological matters, and while most of live day-to-day at the practical level, the ontological does intrude. Moments of crises or transition, I observed, are when we really question ourselves, who we are and what are we doing.

And with that, they were off, offering all kinds of insights about being and how they’ve handled their own experiences with the question of being. They kept going and going and it’s quite likely almost the entire class would have stayed past the third hour had I not signaled that it was time to go.

And even then, that wasn’t enough: They came up one by one to say something more, anything more, to keep the conversation going. One man, probably around my age, came up to me, eyes wide, and said, I never heard of that word before, but I know exactly what that is. I didn’t know there was a word for that, but I know it, I’ve lived it. He was, simply, stunned.

I joke that my pedagogical mantra is I aim to trouble you, but, honestly, this is the best kind of trouble.

This is why I teach.





Unpause

25 04 2011

Situation preliminarily resolved.

And no, I don’t really want to blog about it, at least not now. Given the amount of time I gave over to thinking about what was a (low-level) shitty situation, I’d just as soon move on to something else.

And yes! I do have ideas! Which I’ll blog about! . . . soon.