Category Archives: Resources
Julia Kristeva remarks somewhere (my wording may not be exact) that “in every bourgeois family group there is one child who has a soul.” And thus we meet them, in novel after novel: not only those who go literally motherless and fatherless, but also the children “with souls” who, for precisely that reason, will be persecuted by their foolish parents or parental stand-ins; ostracized, abused, made to submit to some hellish moral and spiritual reaming-out. Ruthlessly, imperviously, the realistic novels of the 18th and 19th centuries compulsively foreground this “orphaning” of the psyche; shape it into parable, and in so doing (I think) dramatize the painful birth of the modern subject—that radically deracinated being, vital yet alone, who goes undefined by kinship, caste, class, or visible membership in a group.
Here is a bell curve. I could use it. I could also have: 20% W and F, 20% D, 20% C, 20% B, and 20% A. This would up my grades, and be nicer than a bell curve since more people would have A than F.
Not that it will help you at all, but here’s my wacky system. I teach writing, and points and percentages never made sense to me for writing assignments, so I grade on a 4.0 scale. I think this is also what I was trained to do as a baby teacher. The special beauty of the 4.0 scale is that 50% of a 4.0 is a 2.0 which is a C, not an F. So grade inflation is built into the grade calculation. Throw in 5% participation, a 5% reflective easy peasy final, and 15% homework (graded on a 5.0 scale–yo, kids, doing the reading every day IS your extra credit–which means, yes, I teach college and check homework, and the homework is always to do the reading, annotate it, and bring it to class, but if I didn’t do it, I’d be lucky if three students did the reading), and I feel like I have room to assign scary college-level grades on the actual papers because they can make Ds on all the papers and still walk out with a C, if they do everything else. There are some situations in which a student can automatically fail the course: plagiarizing a whole paper (not the accidental, I don’t know how to use quotation marks crap, but a whole paper), plagiarizing two more more times, and not doing all the papers. They don’t have to pass all the papers, but they have to do all of them. I get a whole lot of Cs and a sprinkling As, Bs, and Ds. I’m not counting the WFs or Ws. No one can ever make me pass a student who doesn’t attend or turn in the work. Period. Or at least not yet.
This means that almost every student who writes all of the papers, attends and reads regularly, and doesn’t plagiarize will pass. After learning to emphasize drop dates and putting my definition of plagiarism and penalties on every assignment, I’ve pulled my average pass rate up from 50% or less to about 66%, which is, of course, pretty damned sad. I teach primarily first-year comp, so we’ve got a high tolerance for failure, and I’m not (as far as I know) under pressure to increase my pass rate, though it does break my heart to see students taking out loans for Fs.
I really dread to think what will happen if Obama’s proposals to link an institution’s eligibility for financial aid to its pass rate / graduation rate. Of course, the intention would be to make universities offer students more tutoring and support to help them succeed, but that’s expensive, so the reality is likely to affect who is admitted and, even more likely, to put pressure on us to pass almost everyone by lowering standards. I’m usually a fan of Obama, but not on this one. It’s like No Child Left Behind for higher ed.
I think I’d be tempted to dumb down my job in a way that not only makes it easy for the students but also makes it easy for me. If they don’t have to work for grades, why should you have to work so hard to make sure that they pass? When my father taught high school math, the lowest a student could get on a test was 40. Students could earn up to 60 points to add to that 40, so they only had to earn 20 points to get a D and 30 to get a C, but it was still kind of hard to get an A. Maybe something simple like that would work?
The correct academic advice is that you should decide what you want to do and concentrate on that, and insist on conversing about that, as opposed to get caught by mentoring and advice.
The problem with academic advice, normally, is that it is given by people who believe themselves infinitely superior to those they are advising and who cannot, or prefer not to imagine that the person advised might at least have an average level of intelligence and good sense.
The primordial project of academic advice, therefore, is to place the advisee in that position of inferiority and rivet them there.
Once the advisee is so located, academic advice is focused on how to survive in a meritocratic system where one does not have the requisite amount of merit. It is thus based on two fallacies: one, that the system is meritocratic, and two, that advisees lack merit.
The ideas of being inadequate and inferior, yet needing to survive, and of not being allowed to leave the system because that would be such an ungrateful act, are the banes of my existence.
What was I thinking about when I wrote these things down?
Manzano’s Autobiography of a Slave
Sibylle Fischer’s 2005 introduction to Lane’s translation of Cecilia (I think it discusses the certificate of whiteness; in any case, I have this book); it also says other tings I like
Lamore’s introduction to the 2004 Cátedra edition, mentions the certificate of whiteness on page 11
Seminario de San Carlos; Academia San Alejandro
Paradox: limpiza de sangre and anxiety about legitimacy … and inclusivity (inclusion with exclusion — both together)
DREAMS OF LEGIBILITY
Adultery: is she Cándido’s, or not?
Limpieza de sangre: do they have it, or not?
Mestiza/octoroon: are they, or not?
Incest involves: illegitimacy-mestizaje, and adultery-impure blood
The ojo conocedor is a SUSPICIOUS EYE, like the eye of the Inquisition
What is incest? See Pardo-Bazán, La madre naturaleza
The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “emergency situation” in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve. Not the least reason that the latter has a chance is that its opponents, in the name of progress, greet it as a historical norm. – The astonishment that the things we are experiencing in the 20th century are “still” possible is by no means philosophical. It is not the beginning of knowledge, unless it would be the knowledge that the conception of history on which it rests is untenable.
I have now been un-depressed for over three months and the way to become un-depressed is to resist oppression. I am not entirely there yet: it took all Sunday to submit an article and all of today to work on my vita, a project with which I am still not finished; these were in fact easy tasks and would have taken much less time if I did not transfer so much onto them. But still, I am un-depressed.
One form of oppression, that one can slough off as simply wearing but which is nonetheless oppression, is explaining kindly and diplomatically to the general public that what one says professionally is not just a personal opinion, but is based on professional expertise. I do this a lot and today, I ended up doing it with or for a friend who is even an educator.
I did it without throwing in his face that he homeschools and adjuncts for a for-profit, or lacks a Ph.D. in any field. What I had to hear was that the professor does not necessarily know more about their field than the parents of the students. But I do not think anyone who would say such things is actually for the students.
Then tonight I ran into a student from years ago, whom I nearly failed. She said she had “done well” in earlier classes because other students wrote scripts for skits that she could memorize, and she figured out how to pass the tests. In my class she was suddenly expected to actually work with the material, and that was what got her.
I keep getting this reaction of surprise: oh, you actually want us to speak, you actually want us to be able to write something of our own, you actually want us to read something, not just guess what the topic must be by extrapolating from a few words we recognize.
I say: if these things are not the point, what is the point? I really want to know (although I know the answer is, the goal is to pass without learning much). But I am actually considered by many to be a “poor teacher” because I challenge the students to learn things. A “good teacher” finds a way to get them through without actually learning; that is called “facilitating learning” … but learning what, beyond strategies for passing classes?
I have been depressed all this time because of the double-talk and the meaninglessness, and because “time management” and “picking battles” when exaggerated or when those concepts do not speak to the problem at hand, turn everything to pointless drudgery.
To become un-depressed one is supposed to say that one has a problem and should change oneself, but I have only found that to compound the situation. To become un-depressed, one must resist oppression and abuse, and have confidence, and be an autonomous being even though that may seem threatening or intimidating to others.
Look. My research interests are not out of date at all and there are grants in my home town for these — although I think they are limited to UC faculty. Still, I think I should find a way to go hang out in S.B. sometime. The next time I go to San Francisco, I could fly to LA and drive up.
I cannot believe how much time I blew, not seeing how to resist the local oppression, and how many interesting opportunities to make academia creative I missed. Had I had the Internet, I believe I would not have had this happen — things started to improve when I started to exist virtually.
Anxious doctoral researchers can now call on a proliferation of advice books telling them how to produce their dissertations. This article analyzes some characteristics of this self-help genre, including the ways it produces an expert-novice relationship with readers, reduces dissertation writing to a series of linear steps, reveals hidden rules, and asserts a mix of certainty and fear to position readers “correctly.” The authors argue for a more complex view of doctoral writing both as text work/identity work and as a discursive social practice. They reject transmission pedagogies that normalize the power-saturated relations of protégé and master and point to alternate pedagogical approaches that position doctoral researchers as colleagues engaged in a shared, unequal, and changing practice.”
–Barbara Kamler and Pat Thomson, The Failure of Dissertation Advice Books: Toward Alternative Pedagogies for Doctoral Writing.