Update From the Seinfeld Chain

The second week on the Seinfeld Chain was much harder that the first one. Writing every day still hasn’t become a habit for me. I have struggled with my writing all week and the culmination of that struggle was yesterday.

I had spent a completely sleepless night (as people probably noticed from the many posts and comments I had been leaving on this blog all night long). As a result, on the next day I was feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. The weather is changing, too, so I had a headache and felt completely exhausted.

So I realized that I would not be able to do any writing. When this happens, I turn to my secret weapon, a.k.a. Jonathan’s website Stupid Motivational Tricks. It is absolutely uncanny but Jonathan somehow always posts articles that I need to read at every given moment. Yesterday, he shared how difficultit was for him to stay on the Seinfeld Chain and shared the following important insight:

Since the power is in the continuity, not in the efficacy of any one day’s writing, I try to do something on the project every day, even when exhausted and spent like today. The writing got done, that is the important thing, not how I feel.

I found this really helpful. I had no energy or brain power to generate any important new ideas for my article but, still, there is always some work that can be done even when one feels exhausted.

I opened my article and decided that today I would work on polishing the writing, organizing the notes, and fleshing out some paragraphs that needed it. This was not a long writing session but at the end of it I discovered that I now had one new page of writing that somehow magically added itself to my text.

It makes me feel really good to know that I managed to get over myself and continued on the Seinfeld Chain.

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A Catholic Priest and Sex in the Movies

This is a true story.

Once, a student told my colleague that he was traumatized by the content of some sexually charged films that were shown in class because he was studying to become a Catholic priest and he couldn’t deal with all of that sexuality on the screen.

“I think it is actually very important that you watch these films,” my colleague said. “You need to prepare for all the stuff you will hear in the confessional. If you are flustered by what you see in the classroom, how will you manage to hear the stories of your parishioners in a calm and detached manner?”

The future Catholic priest agreed and thanked my colleague for offering him a very important insight.

I just thought we needed a more positive story about student-teacher interactions on this blog.

Academic Self-Censorship

Reader Z writes:

That still bothers me and I don’t know that the advice was correct – although it of course was
the safe path for me. It is unfortunate that we self censor in this way since, after all, abortion is still legal!!!

And this is precisely what bugs me!

A colleague had a student complain because he showed a movie in class where adultery was portrayed.

Another colleague is doubting whether he should offer a course on Spanish horror film because he doesn’t want to be sued for traumatizing students psychologically by showing these movies.

A colleague at a different university had students lodge a collective complaint against him because in his lecture he listed the legalization of gay marriage as a positive achievement for Spain.

I have spent several days searching for a movie in Spanish that doesn’t contain any nudity, profanity, references to abortion or adultery.

I stopped showing one movie in class because students complained about a scene of spousal violence. I stopped showing another movie because there are “bad words” in it.

I don’t know how to teach my Hispanic Civilization class because students keep complaining that we always end up discussing tragic and depressing things in class. As if it were my fault that these tragic events occurred.

I sit there, self-censoring myself like an idiot, wasting time and energy on trying to make my language and literature classes as innocuous as possible. It has gotten to the point where the texts I assign in my advanced language class are all fairy-tales or stories about animals because those texts are inoffensive.

And then we read a text about Salvador Dali’s college life and one of my students says, wistfully: “I wish we also had intellectual and political debates in our classes, like Dali and his friends did. Why do we never get to discuss any controversial topics in class?”

Good question, that.