Okay, today's classes went okay, but I thought they'd go better. The students seemed reluctant to be back in school after the long weekend.
What I set up in class was a discussion of Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener" matched with watching the opening sequence of Office Space. Which I think is sweet, both the story and the film. They do go well together; the second class was more talkative, which is not the norm.
Anyway, what I wanted to lead to was a discussion of societal norms and changing standards of expectations due to economic change -- hard to get first-year students to that point. Sometimes I think they're like artists from the Early Modern (layspeak: Renaissance) period, putting Jesus Christ and ancient Greeks in modern clothing -- it's hard for most people to realize the the unfixed nature of every darn thing we do and how we do it -- perfect example, language.
One excellent argument I read about this kind of social-historical evolution/change was regarding gay marriage. Those that say marriage is a fixed, permanent, sacred institution "between a man and a woman" seem to really believe that institutional structures don't change, as if marriage in 1650 was like it is now. Here's the excellent rhetorical turn: insert "religion" into the space gay marriage occupies in the argument: Religion is a fixed, permanent, ahistorical, sacred institution -- it'll never change and never has. Well, that's bogus as hell -- if that was true, there'd be no Christianity, and if there was Christianity, there'd only be the Roman Catholic Church. Few anti-gay marriage folks, in their suburban enclaves of Mormonism, Protestantism, and Baptist churches and so on would want to be Catholic.
So, anyway, accuse me of being a Marxist English composition instructor: it was Marx, after all, that showed us that the economic situation prefigures our notions of right and wrong, what status quo we think "works," and what is good and bad -- i.e. at racial, class, gender, artistic, critical -- every...level.
Anyway, this is all highfalutin talk for what Bob "Mr. Skank" calls "teaching the complexity," or something like that. It's the least someone can do. Simplicity, and black and white understanding of the world, often lead to things like Bush/Cheney imperial adventures and mob violence. Hitler blamed the Jews for everything; read his suicide note. It was that simple.
Anyway, I like teaching and I really believe in it. And G-d bless. --adam