Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Fantastic Voyage

Well, we're off for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend/Toddler Trek from Hell. The good news? Raffi makes my son cry, so we won't have to listen to that crap. The bad news? He recently discovered his "special purpose," so there's gonna be all sorts of opportunities for public embarassment. So to everyone who happens by--Happy Thanksgiving! And if you don't celebrate it where you live, well, go out and have one helluva Thursday. I may be posting, but it probably won't be much.
Read This. Now.

No, really. From Critical Mass, perhaps one of the most articulate student expressions of what's wrong with higher education that I've read in a while. It's also helped me to clarify some of my thoughts about why I didn't stick it out in academia...

Like the letter writer, I went to college and grad school with the idea that I would become a professor, an expert in my chosen field. But the longer I stayed in school, the more aware I became of gaps in my knowledge. It is difficult to be a medievalist without a really good background in the classics, and I was sorely lacking--not because I wasn't a good student, but because the classics courses I took focused on anthropology, not content, course descriptions to the contrary. And like any TA, I didn't have the time to fill in the gaps on my own while keeping up with my other courses and that part time job I had to have because the "living stipend" for TAs was a joke (and didn't include tuition). I was frustrated by my own ignorance, and increasingly cynical about my ability to churn out A level work with a minimum of thought, by simply performing what we referred to as "english algebra"--take text A, plug in theory B, get 4.0. My Master's Degree is a testament to my street smarts--my ability to intuit the professor's biases and play to them--not my intellect.

The overt politicization of EVERYTHING, the competing schools of theory which are the intellectual equivalent of mental masturbation, the disdain of the "theory-heads" for the traditionalists, the balkanization of literature into tiny little cubby-holes dominated by special interests, and the inability of the freshmen I was teaching to even recognize a thesis statement--it all convinced me that a college education had become degraded to the point where a degree was roughly equivalent to a high school diploma from the 1950s. I got mad as hell, but decided to stick it out for the piece of paper, which I got. Pardon me while I celebrate. whoo.

Students go to college to learn, not to be indoctrinated. They shouldn't have to create their own supplemental outside reading lists in order to benefit from education--they have neither the time nor the information/experience necessary to do it. What, exactly, are we paying for when we send kids to college?

Monday, November 25, 2002

Thanks for Pointing That Out.

Dumbest thing I've read all week, from (where else?) The Chronicle of Higher Education (Chronicle Review Supplement, dead tree only).

In a story about bringing feminism to Valdosta State University in deepest darkest Georgia, the author describes a "speakout" held on campus with Kate Millett, feminist of doom. I'm skipping over all the hand-wringing that normally occurs in these articles about:

  1. The obstinate backwardness of the South

  2. The obstinate backwardness of Christians

  3. The obstinate backwardness of any person, place or thing that does not immediately fall to its knees screaming, "At long last I am delivered from ignorance into the warm, life-giving light of feminism!" when confronted with a women's studies program, because the condescending attitude that accompanies such remarks makes my head spin. So we're heading straight to the money paragraph:

  4. "Kate Millett participated in such a speakout with our students, at which they described their concerns about domestic violence and family values, hypocrisy in their religious communities, sexual harassment in the workplace, low pay and other issues. As we were driving back to her hotel, she said in that distinctive gravelly voice: 'Wow, there is a lot of reality here--what are you going to do about it?' Kate, everything we can."

    I am assuming that Ms. Millett is contrasting her experience in Valdosta with the one she had with Salvador Dali, where she experienced a lot of surreality, or perhaps she is comparing the experience to her daily life, which must be spent in some alternate reality where that remark passes for thoughtful reflection. I am further supposing that the author of the piece, in vowing to "do something" about all this reality, is going to try and align Valdosta State U with Ms. Millett's view of the universe, and will thus drag the entire town into la-la land. Well, thank God that they were there to identify and correct the reality problem.

    Interesting sidebar: see how the author ties domestic violence and family values together by grouping them within the same clause and tying them together with "and," instead of just putting down a laundry list of issues. Notice also the order in which the issues are grouped--I don't know if it's deliberate, or just a nice window into the writer's own priorities and motives. Ahh, feminism.