Not sure how this happened, but I realized over the last two weeks that nothing really calms me down (and allows me to regain a sort of equilibrium one generally takes for granted) like good old writing – writing anything, but especially catching up on old writing projects, reading drafts, looking at old notes, deciphering old papers – why is that? what is it about scribbling away on a piece of paper that makes for a calming exercise? It has to be handwriting though, am I too old school for computer? I’m sure someone already wrote something about that somewhere…
I’ve been too busy to weigh in seriously on the recent debates over speculative realism, weird realism, who’s reading Kant fairly, and object-oriented philosophy this week, but I think that I’m going to make a “Kant police” badge for Mikhail. Regardless, I did want to call attention a post written by the always delightful Carl Dyke over at Dead Voles: “Shhhhhh….it’s just me, the Prof Whisperer!” Carl’s title is “Tell me I’m beautiful,” but I like mine better.
By the way, am I the only one who hates those toilets that have sensors and automatically flush at the most inappropriate moments? Annoying.
Someone sent me this recent article from The Atlantic Monthly. It’s quite interesting and a good deal of the issues that come up should be interesting to anyone that teaches college. The question that grabbed me was on the author of the article, Professor X, broaches towards the end: Is college really for everyone? Is it actually doing as much good as we think by making a college education a necessity? One could point out to Professor X that er…according to my unscientific knee jerk poll about half (or less than half) of the American population actually holds a college degree. Regardless, Professor X tells us about his or her students, a good many of them can’t string together a coherent sentence and are subsequently perplexed (shocked) by the craptastic grades they are doled out. After all, they have gone back to school to “do themselves and their kids right” (as some of my students have said to me) and equally important, satisfy the demands of the broader culture. Anyway, here’s an excerpt, but the whole article is worth a look:
Sending everyone under the sun to college is a noble initiative. Academia is all for it, naturally. Industry is all for it; some companies even help with tuition costs. Government is all for it; the truly needy have lots of opportunities for financial aid. The media applauds it—try to imagine someone speaking out against the idea. To oppose such a scheme of inclusion would be positively churlish. But one piece of the puzzle hasn’t been figured into the equation, to use the sort of phrase I encounter in the papers submitted by my English 101 students. The zeitgeist of academic possibility is a great inverted pyramid, and its rather sharp point is poking, uncomfortably, a spot just about midway between my shoulder blades.
For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.
America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track. We are not comfortable limiting anyone’s options. Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist and British, as though we were sentencing him to a life in the coal mines. I sympathize with this stance; I subscribe to the American ideal. Unfortunately, it is with me and my red pen that that ideal crashes and burns.
I spent this morning reading the final argumentative essays for one of my Logic and Critical Thinking sections. Happily, out of 21 papers, I only found one paper that was shamelessly and egregiously plagiarized, mostly verbatim from Wikipedia. I found myself mildly annoyed, but more at the fact that I (with my 70 pound dog) had to go back inside my house on such a lovely day, fire up the computer, and google the offending passages (er..whole paper) instead of being crippled with some sort of moral outrage or worse, feelings of betrayal. Luckily, this student was dumb enough to copy from Wikipedia, which made for a fast corroboration, but the student also peppered the paper with paragraphs lifted from other websites which took a bit more time to dig up. Sadly, every semester I fully expect to have at least one offender in each of my courses. In one of my Introduction to Philosophy courses this semester I had a chronic plagiarizer who I found consistently copying passages (from Wikipedia) for a journal entry which I do as a sort of non-threatening say-whatever you want as long as you are engaging the text type of thing.
Very silly, despite his protestations that he didn’t copy the passages (even thought I stapled them to the front of his papers) or was confused about “how to cite them” after the second time I flat out told him he’s going to fail the class next time and be referred to the disciplinary committee. What did he do? He played the old maybe if I don’t show up to class all that much Prof. Shahar will surely forget. Wrong, and he totally fucked himself. The question I always ask myself is why do they do it? Are my assignments impossible? Are they too dumb? Poor time management? Are they too lazy? Just desperate for the “A”? Continue reading