Ack. Both Carl of Dead Voles and Sinthome over at Larval Subjects tagged us here at Perverse Egalitarianism with a meme. I’m particularly irritated today because even while all the grades for my five courses were turned in on Monday morning, I have been–predictably enough–inundated with student complaints, or rather, weak petitions/pleas to “reconsider” or “further discuss” the grade I gave them (I had two emails that started with, “I don’t mean to disrespect you, but…”–if only I could send emails to students in that respect). Is this a practice limited to my institution or is it a generational thing? Anyway, sometimes this stems from a simple misunderstanding, no complete ignorance, of the concept of averages. So, some of my students just don’t understand that even though they may have earned a B on the midterm, but an F on the Final–their average is a C, not a B. Yet, most of these complaints take two forms: (1) I can’t get this grade because I will lose my scholarship (not my problem, do the work) or (2) Here’s a bunch of family/life drama that I didn’t want to tell you about, but now since you gave me a lousy grade, I’m telling you so naturally you will be compelled to change it. (Why tell me all this now?) Yes, I understand that many of my students are dealing with difficult problems (single mothers, broken homes, working two jobs) and I’m often very sympathetic (when they aren’t giving me bullshit cliches), but they made the choice to enroll in the class which means doing the work and showing up regularly (I had one student that missed 14 classes and wondered why he failed the final). I’m sorry, but some people just shouldn’t go to college. In fact, I had a student living in a homeless shelter that earned outstanding grades this semester so I’m rather wary of the two excuses I noted above.
I don’t know, it’s not that many of my students can’t do it, they can, but more often than not they lack the will, or much more frequently, they lack the intellectual skills (which I end up teaching throughout the semester, almost constantly) to succeed in the class, but really, I can’t believe that some of my students actually passed high school. It’s a problem, indeed. I try different things in the classroom, I’m aware of different learning types, I make myself accessible, but very often my students simply want me to tell them the answers, they don’t want to be bothered with any of the philosophical work, if it smells complex, it’s immediately suspect or worse, not worthy of their attention. I know this is cynical, but I always feel conflicted at the end of each semester. On the one hand, I got a few very nice emails from students thanking me (one to the effect of “I always thought of my courses as hoops to jump through for the grade, but your class really made me think differently about things” Aces!!!), but on the other hand, I have to take it up the ass after the fact from a bunch of ingrates that didn’t bother to do the work who are all trying to appeal to my pity so I’ll give them a passing grade (for some reason my students think D is not passing, it’s not great, but it’s passing I always say). Sometimes I’m Pollyana enough to just think to myself “I reached someone, very cool,” but it’s far more depressing when I think of the bulk of my students that are willfully ignorant, uncritical, and who simply refuse to think.
Enough of my ranting and raging, here is the meme:
“Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what YOU are most passionate for students to learn about.
Give your picture a short title.
Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt.”
Link back to this blog entry.
Include links to 5 (or more) educators.”
Ok, so the picture I have chosen is this:
I guess I will give it the title “Brains?”
I could give a bunch of fancy bullshit from my statement of teaching philosophy, but really what I strive for is to collapse the pornographic distance many of my students seem to embrace. I try to dismantle this distance (what I also refer to as the mouthbreather syndrome) through a combination of theory, analysis and experimentation. Given the fact that philosophy is both abstract and concrete at the same time, by which I mean that many of the concepts we use to talk about philosophy are formal while the meaning-making process is itself an abstract process of our minds. Yet, the texts themselves are concrete objects and we depend on them to generate meaning. So, I try to encourage and teach my students to both learn and negotiate differing strategies and tactics when approaching texts. This way students are forced to use their brains to explore differing approaches and avenues in a variety of creative and analytical ways. Most importantly, is helping our students in establishing and fostering a critical posture or distance with respect to both thought and language. I like the single mindedness of “brains?” and hey, who wouldn’t like the joke?