Class today went so much better. We got into what was interesting about the articles that we read, essays by Horace Mann, Michael Moore, and John Taylor Gatto, education-libertarian extraordinaire. A lot more students got involved and most actually seemed to be interested. Not "Samantha" and the other girl that sits in front of the class with their back to me. Oh well. Early in the class I interrupted "Pam" sort of on accident--I got carried away. Am e-mailing her right now...

Here's what I wrote:

I just wanted to apologize for interrupting you early in class this morning. My bad.

Thanks for your comments in class; you have intelligent things to say. --Adam Schenck
I don't think that this breaks any codes regarding confientiality; it is cool that this particular student has expressed interest in being an English major.

Anyway, we discussed what makes for good education, and I got an awesome snipe in on the Writing Program (for whom I represent of course). During the meeting for all instructors of English 102 in January 2005, our course director, Carol Nowotny-Young, let it slip that the 102 curriculum "prepares students for middle management." I told my students how hopeless this is as a teaching philosophy; my point was brought home by my mention of Office Space's character Lundberg. Who wants be middle management, anyway? "Yeah, I think you need to come in on Saturday"; "Peter...how's it going?" Ah, that coffee mug. Such an interesting character. The reason I like Office Space and the NBC show The Office so much is be I can say, "That's where I worked!"--that place being Financial Brokerage, Inc., in Omaha, Nebraska. "Getting the Snickers, huh?" What a place of oblivion and bored senescence. Anyway, my pedagogy in 102 this semester has a "mild hostility" to the idea of assimilating average people to average lives. That's the phrase I used in class. Then I said, "I think students should be taught as if they're going to be exceptional even if they're going to end up being normal." I think that this is defensible. Anyway, as of now, we're talking about ideas in class, not doing too much killer reading, and I'm not taking the required assignments (that come w/ the curriculum) very seriously at all. I told the students that they can have "any article!" to summarize and analyze as long as it can be analyzed according to these things:
Thesis / Main ideas
Rhetoric / Argument / Persuasion
With this list, I should have the opportunity to totally blow some people's minds by showing them how complex an article in US Weekly or People can actually be.

As for the "rhetorical analysis" paper that we have to eventually do, I'm putting it off. It's a little different teaching Tues/Thurs than MWF. Harder to keep the pace the semester, since an interesting discussion that goes on for most of a class period ends up taking up time that could (but shouldn't, I believe) be spent on English stuff: grammar, citation, intros and conclusion, PIE structure for body paragraphs, and all of that. I just get tired of hearing myself talk about that stuff. Not worth it. I'd rather talk about what I think are interesting things--and these things change for me, of course--and what I think is interesting right now is talking about education, conformism, assimilation, authority, how to involve students at a critical level intellectually, and any idea or idea-type thing that pops into my head.

One last thing: the funny thing about the Michael Moore Idiot Nation chapter is that his ethos is to forcefully blame people, and he places the blame for our education system's "failure" on politicians, while not offering any sort of solution other than the Ted Kennedy "it takes money" theme. Although the writing does not exactly say it, in the text Moore seems to actually hold up self-education as a ideal or a better mode than education-proper. What this does is offer no solutions to the very problem that he elides: the fact that our education system, instead of "liberating" people, actually turns them off. Again, my idea for education is to involve students intellectually with ideas with the hope that this will transfer into their daily lives. I think to teach this way is to do something much better than to teach them the conventions that could, G-d bless, get them to middle management.

Another last thing: why were the students so silent when I asked them if we should inflate the grades in our class? Probably they were not taking me seriously, but I was serious. I think it's important to present "the other side of the coin"--the daily things we don't notice anymore because Twice is a Tradition.

Yes, it was a great class; I trust that the students were both involved and interested. Hopefully they brought what we talked about to their other classes, like the Accounting lecture with 250 people. --ams

Note: "Where's the harm?"--awesome way to critique an argument. Next killer idea to present: how to define "success" as getting the most out of doing as little as possible. If the class does not involve you or better you, and won't help you get or do your hoped-for occupation, the intelligent thing to do would be to get the grade you want with minimum effort, right? Why not?

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