What We Care About

Suddenly, everybody is submitting very honest essays to me. Another student writes:

The last thing I care about at this moment is how other countries are doing. All that matters to me is when the domestic economy will improve and I don’t care what price other countries will have to pay for this improvement.

I guess this is somebody who didn’t tune into the last presidential debate on the foreign policy. But that’s OK since both candidates barely tuned in to this topic.

Note that the students are submitting this to me, a professor who is very obviously a foreigner. I think this is a good sign. They must feel very comfortable around me.

P.S. I don’t know if I need to mention yet again that I don’t grade people on their opinions. I grade their grammar, vocabulary, style of writing, and the way their argument is structured. So there is no need to worry about the students. I’m only sharing these quotes because I’m human and nihil humanum mihi alienum est.

P.P.S. The absolute majority of the students improved their writing dramatically since our first written assignment in late August. Today, I showed them a really badly written paragraph I created and they all recognized that it was bad and could point out what was so bad about it. All of my hard work is paying off.

Arrogance and Patriotism

Brace yourselves, people. I have a lot of grading to do this semester so you will be inundated with quotes. I need to share this stuff or I will burst.

A student writes:

People often blame Americans for being too arrogant. I believe, however, that patriotism is always accompanied by arrogance. Since a country is an imagined and imaginary space, where else could one’s love for it conceivably come from? I love my country and do not feel any shame over the arrogant nature of that love.

My job can be anything but it is never boring.

Drunk Driver Update

While I was trying to figure out what to do about the bus driver who reeked of alcohol, passengers who had entered the bus before me were calling the authorities. The bus driver received a command to stop over the radio. We were approached by a van that took everybody where they needed to go, leaving the drunken driver behind.

This was a very well-organized rescue. I arrived at work only 7 minutes later than usual. The public transportation in this area is very good.

What Matters More, Self-Development or Relationships?

Trying to psychoanalyze people on the basis of the books they read is always pretty stupid. But the following attempt to do so is even more idiotic than I expected:

Have you ever read Ayn Rand?

What do you think Paul Ryan’s obsession with her work would mean if he were vice president?
Well, you’d have to ask Paul Ryan what that means to him. Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a “you’re on your own” society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.

I had no idea anybody in their right mind considered “the entire project of developing ourselves” as less important than “relationships to other people.” I understand, of course, that this is said within the context of a political campaign for a very specific reason, but still, the statement bothers me. Choosing relationships over one’s own development, over the core of one’s self sounds hugely problematic in absolutely any context.

This is my candidate speaking, for lack of anybody better, but his philosophy, in this instance, could not be further from mine. Relationships first, self-development later? I can only imagine what kind of relationships a person who has betrayed her or his own development for the sake of having as many people around as possible can end up having.