Category Archives: Teaching

Une question

How much do students know about you? It appears that they know (correctly) that I had two straight parents who did not divorce, and one brother. They do not know more although they guess (incorrectly) that I am (a) Mexican or Argentine, (b) from “Europe,” and (c) lesbian (reasons for this are wearing black, not wearing stilettos, having strong opinions, going to New Orleans a lot, and never discussing boyfriends or husbands in class). They change their opinion on sexuality and marital status a lot, depending upon which of my mother’s rings I have fancifully decided to wear. They say they feel they know less about me than they do the other professors. I feel they know much more than they would know if we lived elsewhere, because in this culture much more is revealed than would be at home–although at the same time I note that I am far more comfortable than it is said I should be with events such as running into students at the gym. Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Axé.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Questions, Teaching

ERIP, Tlatelolco, Theatre

In October, I am going to Morelia, Mexico for a week and it is excellent. I must remember to make these arrangements for ERIP. (And Washington/Baltimore in November, and California in December, but ERIP comes first.)

There are other things to remember, as well, including this inspiring article by Jacqueline Bixler on memory-theatre and Tlateloloco. Its bibliography and comments are enough to create a marvelous course and I would like to do this. And there are simple things I do not know, such that Paz’ Posdata was a posdata to Tlatelolco.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Teaching

Alain Resnais

From Austerlitz, I learned about this Resnais short obliquely based on Borges, Toute la mémore du monde. This article, about architecture in the Bibliothèque Nationale of France, complements the film and the novel very well. And here is a set of 13 films of works by Borges and Bioy Casares.

How do you see film “à la Alain Resnais”? There is a moment in Hiroshima mon amour where Emmanuelle Riva says “Bien regarder, je crois que ça s’apprend.” The entire film is about vision, and it is about war, so it is related to Austerlitz.

Related to both Borges and Resnais: Mon amour, reading films; another list of films on Bioy, in a book; another discussion of Bioy, Resnais, and film.

Axé.

1 Comment

Filed under Arts, Bibliography, Cinearte, Primary texts, Teaching

Spain in the Holocaust

This would be an interesting course to give, by the way, and an interesting topic for a freshman seminar. There are all these people and materials I did not know about, like Francisco Boix the photographer of Mauthausen. There was an exposition on him, and there is a book. Another point of interest is Xavier Güell’s novel Los prisioneros del paraíso, on the many composers of Theresienstadt. One could read this book and listen to the music, which is widely recorded. Related is the propaganda film on Theresienstadt that one can see, and I am sure there are many more works of art and documents.

I found all of these and related things in part because various of my distant cousins, who I thought were Christian but were not, turned out to have died in camps, and also because I read W. G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz and followed up. Then I rediscovered Viktor Frankl, whom you can observe here. Meaning, he says we need.

In research-related news, Nazi Germany used the segregated United States as its model. Race has to do with land and space; you need Lebensraum for the Aryans. And we, the United States, are on the road to tyranny.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under ALFS presentation, Historic, Race book, Teaching, Theories

Domingo

⇒ The best political action we can take right now is to work against voter suppression. (Z)

⇒ The roundups of indocumentados are a beginning, and we should pay attention. (Z)

⇒ The use of indocumentados is a form of slavery. Capitalism requires slavery, and slaves must be foreign. (Z)

⇒Racist imperatives fuel the militarization of the border. (Nicky)

⇒Poetry is only a havoc that restores. It dissipates the false pretenses of an ordered world. (Bataille 1943)

Today in culture:

Let’s look at a timeless Vermeer. And another. And more.
An interesting translation magazine: Palabras errantes.
Cinema tropical.
Huizache.

Fifteen Afro-Latin films everyone should see.
I am not your negro is playing now and must be seen.
On Netflix, we must see 13th.
We will see Ixcanul on Netflix as well, and Herzog’s Into the inferno.

Sidney Blumenthal has a smart history of the Trump family in the London Review of Books.
Jonathan Mayhew has good advice on how to learn foreign languages.
Rosie Gray discusses Bannon and the white supremacy movement in The Atlantic.
Nikil Saval writes about Gareth Dale writing about Karl Polanyi, and I would have liked to converse with this man; he is important.

Activism:

I have heard there is a number you can text to your phone, that will program in the numbers of your senators and representatives. You can do this, too.

Work:

I was going to make an announcement about, and a commitment to archiving bibliography in Zotero and/or JabRef, and not an Amazon wishlist or even Evernote. Instead, I simply started.

Axé.

1 Comment

Filed under Cinearte, Movement, Poetry, Teaching, Working

What is Critical Thinking?

This piece by Rob Jenkins was in the CHE and I am reproducing it. The words from here on are not mine.

Axé.

The longer I teach (I’m now in my 32nd year) the more I’m convinced that the best thing we can do for our students is help them learn to think for themselves.

That involves explaining what critical thinking actually means — a step I fear we often skip — as well as equipping them with the requisite skills. That’s why I recommend talking to students on the first day of class about critical thinking. What is it? Why is it important? How can they learn to do it?

What follows is an example of my opening-day remarks. For graduate students and Ph.D.s new to teaching, if this talk resonates with you, feel free to adapt it for your own classrooms.

These days, the term “critical thinking” has been overused to the point where it has almost ceased to mean anything in particular. It has become more of a popular educational catchphrase, so that even the people who use it often don’t know exactly what they mean by it.

Get any group of teachers in a room — kindergarten through college — and throw out the question, “What can we do to help our students learn better?” Within minutes, someone is bound to say, “I know, let’s teach critical thinking!” Then another person in the group will say, “Oh, that’s good. Write that down.” And so they dutifully put it on the list, and everyone nods sagely, including the people who eventually read the list, and no one ever takes any concrete steps and nothing ever changes. This process is known as “educational administration.”

None of that means, however, that critical thinking is not a real thing. It is — and it’s vital for you to understand what critical thinking is and how to do it. The extent of your success in college — not to mention life — ultimately depends on it.

Critical thinking, as the term suggests, has two components. The first is thinking — actually thinking about stuff, applying your brain to the issues at hand, disciplining yourself (and it does require discipline) to grapple with difficult concepts for as long as necessary in order to comprehend and internalize them.

This is important because we live in a society that increasingly makes it easy for people to get through the day without having to think very much. We have microwaveable food, entertainment at our fingertips, and GPS to get us where we need to go. I’m not saying those things are bad. Ideally, such time-saving devices free up our brains for other, more important pursuits. But the practical effect is that we’ve become accustomed to setting our brains on autopilot.

Actual thinking requires deep and protracted exposure to the subject matter — through close reading, for example, or observation. It entails collecting, examining, and evaluating evidence, and then questioning assumptions, making connections, formulating hypotheses, and testing them. It culminates in clear, concise, detailed, and well-reasoned arguments that go beyond theory to practical application.

All of this, as I mentioned, involves discipline. And what better place to develop that discipline than in college courses, especially the ones you don’t want to take because they’re “not in your major”? After all, we can increase our brainpower, just as we can increase our physical strength, and in much the same way — by pushing against resistance. The greater the resistance, and the more we persist in pushing against it, the greater the intellectual benefit. That’s why it’s in your best interests to apply yourself to the courses you dislike the most and find most difficult: Those courses actually constitute “cross-training for the brain.

The second component of critical thinking is the critical part. In common parlance, “critical” has come to mean simply negative — as in, “I don’t like to be around him, he’s always so critical.” But of course that’s not what it means in an academic context.

Think of movie critics. They cannot simply trash every film they see. Instead, their job is to combine their knowledge of films and filmmaking with their extensive experience (having no doubt seen hundreds, even thousands of films) and provide readers with the most objective analysis possible of a given movie’s merits. In the end, what we’re left with is just one critic’s opinion, true. But it’s an opinion based on substantial evidence.

To be “critical,” then, means to be objective, or as objective as humanly possible. No one is capable of being completely objective — we’re all human, with myriad thoughts, emotions, and subconscious biases we’re not even aware of. Recognizing that fact is a vital first step. Understanding that we’re not objective, by nature, and striving mightily to be objective, anyway, is about as good as most of us can do.

To be critical also means to be analytical, to be able to look at a problem or question and break it down into its component parts — the way a chemist analyzes a compound. What makes a film good, or bad, or mediocre? Is it the acting? The directing? The script? The cinematography? All of them combined?

Finally — and perhaps most important — to be critical means to be dispassionate, to be able to separate your emotions from the situation at hand. That’s not to say emotions are bad. Perhaps there are some decisions that, as human beings, we should make based primarily on emotions (although I would recommend giving your head a vote, at least). And we should certainly take emotional factors into account in all our decision-making, as in the case of compassion, for instance.

But in professional life, and to some extent in our lives in general, we simply can’t make most decisions based primarily on emotion. We can’t trust our emotions because they aren’t necessarily grounded in reality. They are inconsistent, changing with our moods, with the seasons, with the time of day, with that last song we just heard on the radio — or the last presidential election. Emotions are, by definition, not based on reason and, therefore, form a poor, shaky foundation for decision-making.

Like thinking, learning to recognize and set aside our emotions requires a great deal of discipline. As humans, we’re emotional creatures. Being dispassionate doesn’t come naturally to us; we have to train ourselves to do it. And again, what better place than in a college classroom, where you’re exposed to all kinds of ideas and information, including some you don’t like?

– See more at Chronicle Vitae.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching, Working

On teaching college composition

“The common use of the argumentative essay in US schooling dates back to unprecedented growth in higher education and a literate middle class in the early 20th Century. College was no longer the purview of an elite group from similar backgrounds, and more students meant two things: an insufficient number of teachers trained in writing instruction and a more diverse student body, less likely to share knowledge of the same philosophical or literary texts to write about.”

Read the whole thing.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movement, Resources, Teaching, Theories