This has to be shortened and made less challenging, as it will be an e-mail. I seek editing suggestions.
Cher J, et cher R,
When we chose V as a textbook, one reason was that it was the abbreviated version of another textbook we liked (SQ). We had decided that to work toward consistency without sacrificing individuality, we should have a brief textbook that could then be supplemented with readings. We considered several textbooks in their brief versions.
If we had been given the chance to discuss the choice of P, I would have raised the question of its length. It is long enough and ponderous enough that we are unlikely all to cover the same parts of each chapter, unless a decision is made as to what should be emphasized, and which activities should be completed without fail. I strongly recommend that we in fact make such a decision.
The instructor’s edition of P has an introduction but the remarks in it do not necessarily amount to the presentation of a method. (The adoption of V was the adoption of a method, but it was a method with which half the faculty disagreed and was not willing to adopt.) Every other FL department I have worked in had a sheet of paper that was handed to new faculty. It explained what the department’s approach to FL teaching was, what skills and what kinds of activities they considered important, how the textbook addressed or supported these emphases, and how this book was used to the ends of that institution’s program.
Our consistency problem stems from the fact that we have never articulated our intentions in so precise a way. We have bowed to ACTFL and CEFR standards, and we say we are interested in developing all four skills. We have made goals lists pegged to particular textbooks, and decided how many exams we will have and how they will be weighted to the final grade. We have, however, never made a fundamental decision on methodology and approach, and then followed through by considering its practical manifestations in a concrete way. It is thus to be expected that each person teaches their classes in the way that makes the most sense to them.
I suggest we receive, at the very least, direction on which portions of the P text we should emphasize, and ideally, clear information as to the approach and methods the department would like us to use. (The current move to consistency in testing strategies is a good step, but it is a first step).
So I saw the pile of four books with which my colleague, hired after me, is coming up for promotion and I said: why have I not produced four books?
But my colleague was hired with joy, not begrudgingly, and was welcomed upon his arrival, not suspected of low designs. He has a housewife who is ABD; she gets the errands and a certain amount of his work done, and she takes care of the house. He comes home to organic meals and brings carefully packed, gourmet lunches.
Their parents provide them plane tickets to their sophisticated home cities when the weather is bad here. They keep apartments in these places, which have good libraries, and get a lot of work done.
My colleague is also not required to teach in the basic language program, and he is given new computers. He also has a far narrower teaching range than I do generally, and is not required to present his projects for local approval to a panel composed of instructors with M.A.s.
His field is considered a “center of excellence” here, whereas I have it in writing from the university that I am “in a narrow field [it] does not support.”
I am noticing the male privilege here, and the class privilege owning apartments in certain cities represents. The rest of it is discrimination. I am not willing to tolerate it any more.
At this point I would consider, for six figures, a job in language program — almost — because I have so much experience of the language program wars, I might as well. I could do better than the average, narrow SLA person, I am sure.
Everyone wants to get the language program taken care of and have done with it. If we have to touch it at all, we all want to do what we did as TAs and think no further. That puts 10 different models at war with one another, war without end. The language requirement makes students and faculty alike miserable, all swirling around with our notebooks, none knowing what we are doing or why, really.
You have to actually think about what you are doing. If things seemed fine to you in your graduate program, that was probably because the students there were strong enough to handle whatever. It does not mean that the language program where you went to graduate school was good. There, too, it was relegated to the lower orders, who stewed.
This is therefore one of the myriad ways and areas in which it thus falls to non-elite schools like mine to innovate and lead.
Students in Spanish 3 think it is strange I would assume acquiring the ability to speak Spanish is the goal. They and their instructors say I am cracked, while random chairs at other universities write in and say they do not know me but I seem to be someone they would want to talk to.
It has always happened. Today’s random chair wrote in to announce that he could tell I was not at a good enough university, and I should move. He had seen me because we have a mutual friend on Facebook. Perhaps he has a job opening.
“One of my oldest crusades is against the distinction between thought and feeling, which is really the basis of all anti-intellectual views: the heart and the head, thinking and feeling, fantasy and judgment . . . and I don’t believe it’s true. . . . I have the impression that thinking is a form of feeling and that feeling is a form of thinking.”
Susan Sontag said that some time ago. Reeducation decided that since I could think, I must not have feeling, and that was, of course, a bad thing.
This is why actual education is a good thing, and philosophy is more interesting than psychology or at least, than psychotherapy. I am interested now in the point that the distinction between thought and feeling is the basis of all anti-intellectual views.
It is a week or so early but I am declaring myself undepressed now for four months, although November is always stressful. I had an emotional crisis that I let run, so that I could see what it was. I could have shut it off by keeping busy, but I wanted to see what it was.
It started when I stood up to someone on something. I never know for sure whether I have the right to stand up or whether I am fair when I do so. Mars in Aries, Moon in Libra is a difficult opposition.
I stand up to people and get flashbacks about things I was told early on. I was unlikeable and unemployable. I was only tolerated out of underserved charity.
I was tolerated as well because I could be used to satisfy the requirements of valued people who needed someone to mistreat. If I stood up to anyone, if I refused this role, I would be out on the street and I would find that that situation was yet worse. I was only inches from it at any given moment. I would be put onto the street with no time to prepare.
You should not raise people with these ideas, as they are weakening and not strengthening.
It fascinates me that even the most abject of the motivational videos various well meaning persons sent me to help with this crisis said one should take control of situations.
In Reeducation one was not to take control of anything, and one was to allow oneself to be felled by events, as otherwise one would be commiting the sin of denial. Now, one is to be positive and in control at all times.
I discern that this is some sort of pendulum swing, surely designed to serve the interests of capital. In my view both false negativity and false brightness, or anything else false, are highly stressful to maintain as attitudes.
Luis Enrique Galván has an article by this title in Amauta 20 (January 1929): 58-63. It is a brilliant critique of examinations, particularly standardized tests, and particularly those administered by a central authority.
“Como un regazo anacrónico de las viejas máquinas usadas para la tortura escolar, desde las humildes escuelitas primarias hasta nuestras universidades hinchadas de sapiencia, se encuentran los EXAMENES con un señorío cada vez más avasallador, dentro de un régimen que por antonomasia y por ironía halagadora, hemos adquirido la costumbre de llamarlo ‘educacional’.”
It is very current, muy actual, and everyone should read it.