Category Archives: What Is A Scholar?

Je ne le dirai pas

Preamble to comment on strategic plan: I notice a language drift in the university. The intranet no longer calls faculty faculty, but says employee. At the same time, I keep hearing mid level administrators refer to faculty as “teachers.” It is as though faculty as a category were being eliminated. That is one of the characteristics of for-profit institutions and it is not going to drive us up in rankings.

Comment on strategic plan: The conception of the strategic plan seems to come from this mentality. I see that research productivity is to go up, which is good, and support for faculty is to go up, which is also good, but the plan as a whole does not seem to imagine us as a community of scholars or an institution of learning but as a vocationally oriented, corporate entity that is trying to achieve market dominance. We are to better our designated peers, beat them on certain scales and measures.

I would like to do something more substantial, specifically educate the people of this region and state who are still the vast majority of our students. But perhaps now that the state has cut so much funding we no longer serve it, but our corporate partners?



Filed under Da Whiteman, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Si yo pudiera…

If I could run these language courses in a way that would work for me and the students, I would:

1/ Walk in with review and warm-up questions (5 minutes)

2/ Go over homework (5 minutes)

3/ Have a short quiz (5 minutes)

4/ Introduce a new reading / vocabulary theme / grammatical structure (depending on the day) (15 minutes, including showing audio, video, images)

5/ Explain #4 after having immersed students in it and engaged them with it (5 minutes)

6/ Do some easy exercises with this new material (10 minutes)

7/ Assign some more complex exercises as homework, make announcements, wrap up (5 minutes)

What do you think? And — why is it that I cannot do anything this rational? Can I find a way to do it, in the current situation?



Filed under Questions, Teaching, Theories, What Is A Scholar?, Working

También sucede en México

La colocación en la Rectoría de la UNAM de una persona fiel al actual proyecto de autoritarismo neoliberal es de suma importancia para el régimen. Una Universidad Nacional verdaderamente democrática, participativa y plural rápidamente se convertiría en una enorme piedra en el zapato para la clase política dominante. Desde la perspectiva de Peña Nieto, urge clausurar cualquier posibilidad de surgimiento de nuevos liderazgos juveniles o de proyectos intelectuales que podrían poner en riesgo sus planes transexenales.

Read the whole thing.


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Filed under ALFS presentation, Banes, Bibliography, Da Whiteman, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Dear colleague

You cannot say we have a language program because we have a common textbook and departmental tests, and then say that you will teach how and what you teach in a multi-section course regardless of book, and at the same time refuse to articulating departmental goals and benchmarks for student progress except to say the goal is “to cover the book.”


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Words of wisdom for today

Tenured faculty are the only thing that can stand up to an increasingly cynical administrative team. (Strangely, A seems to be the exception to this, but she is fighting years of organizational culture and the entire machine that B carefully crafted, e.g., the dean of C.)

Someone said that, and I want to find out more about what they mean.

We are considered a teaching institution but college-level teaching that is not based on an active and busy research agenda is not serious teaching. It’s a scam.

Clarissa said that.


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On my glorious past

I was asked to name my most inspiring professors ever, and here is the list that came to me offhand. It does not even include many very good ones, or really famous ones who were differently inspiring, like Julio Cortázar and José Emilio Pacheco (people I would include on a list if I thought about it). Just offhand, I said I had had some very erudite professors:

Leo Bersani
Peter Brown
Phil Damon
Natalie Zemon Davis
Denis Hollier
Leon Litwack
Luis Monguió
José Miguel Wisnik

The reason these come to mind is that I took their classes without knowing ahead of time who they were — they just happened to be the person teaching the class I was required to take, or had decided I should opt for. I therefore walked in without expecting to meet such singular people. Wisnik, for example, in professor mode starts talking here at minute 30, but is also a rather well known composer and musician.

The meaning of it all is that I should realize that these are my ancestors, so to speak, this is the tradition I come from — and that I should not let Maringouin separate from me.



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On close reading

Close reading shapes how I teach in decisive ways. In order to help students find topics about which to write, I let them read texts closely. Not only do I teach the critical thinking skills discussed above, all of which rely on close reading, but students practise these skills regularly. Before most class meetings, students read at least one new text. I guide their reading in the form of worksheets uploaded to the IVLE workbin two to three days before class. Each sheet provides a clear outline of the aims and objectives for the class concerned, and situates the class in terms of the module while providing context to the readings for the day. The sheet further poses questions concerning the reading and requires students to pose their own questions on it. Thus students are constantly required to engage closely with the texts they read and justify their reading of the texts. This forms the basis of all class meetings, which in turn are linked to their paper assignments. Close reading of sources (whether texts or real-world phenomena being studied) is thus fundamental to my teaching. It serves not only to equip students with the ability to observe closely and ask critical questions, but to produce well-crafted and persuasively argued essays. Far from fetishising close reading, this is merely an acknowledgement of its centrality in the process of independent inquiry.

Here is the entire article. I am not always up on everything and it has come to my attention that close reading went out of fashion as “elitist” and is now coming back in. This is how I should teach the introduction to literature, but I might also want to have creative projects. Perhaps ONE creative project. I used to not believe in these, for various reasons I am sure you can guess at (ask if you are not sure), but I am starting to wonder whether they might not be a good idea.


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