Oh, What a Difference Two Years Make!

The best thing about students is that they grow. In college, they grow really fast, too. In the first year, they resent the written assignments I make them hand in every day of class. There is a lot of eye rolling, exasperated sighing, and shoulder twitching. The freshman class always hands in tiny little paragraphs written carelessly between classes.

By the third year, however, they begin to realize that these written exercises are extremely helpful. Sometimes, I get small written notes attached to the assignments where students thank me for taking the trouble to work on their writing every day. The responses they hand in become long and detailed. I can see that they want to get as much as they can from each assignment. In my Culture of Spain course, for instance, nobody – not a single student – has handed in a response that is shorter than one page. They could have easily limited their responses to one or two sentences but these are third-year students who realize that they would only cheat themselves out of extra knowledge if they did that.

If one survives the laziness, the immaturity, the cheating and the indifference of Freshmen, one can be very happy with more advanced students. Students come to college with grievous problems in basic socialization and a stunning degree of immaturity. With Freshmen, I feel like I work at a daycare. It is very rare that you see a student whose parents did a good job and sent their kid to college with the basic knowledge of how to exist in human society. To give just one example, whenever I teach a Freshman class, I know that I will often have people fall into my office and address me with, “I want. . . ” or “I need. . .” It takes a couple of years to teach people that they need to knock, greet the person in the office, and say something like, “I’m sorry, am I disturbing you?”

Last week, an angry disheveled person stumbled into my office. She plopped a stack of books on my desk, knocking off my own papers, placed a bag on top of the books and began to rummage in it. All of it was done in complete silence. After five minutes of silent shuffling of stuff in her bag, the student announced, “I need you to sign a form but I don’t know where it is. Do you have this form?”

“You must be in my Freshman course,” I said. “Would you like to introduce yourself?”

I can’t wait to see her two years from now and hear her tell me, like students sometimes do, that she cannot believe how wild she used to be.

Guilty Reading

Reader Twicerandomly asks:

One of my guilty pleasures is novels by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I suppose I don’t take them seriously because they are historical adventures with dashing heroes and beautiful women. What do you think of his novels?

I understand Twicerandomly’s feelings very well. I’m also kind of ashamed of my love for mystery novels. I never managed to get into Perez Reverte because the mix of historical novels and mystery writing is not my cup of tea. However, Perez Reverte is generally considered one of the better mystery authors today, and deservedly so. He writes well and tries to be very conscientious about his research. I’m not personally into him but I understand people who are.

My favorite mystery writers are Ruth Rendell, Elizabeth George, Michael Connelly, John Lescroart, and Peter Robinson.

Do you feel guilty about any of your reading preferences?

Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion

And I’ll make the same observation about Mourdock now that I made about Santorum then: This guy is so catastrophically incapable of self-reflection that he is able to acknowledge that rape (forcing a woman to do something with her body she doesn’t want to do) is a Terrible Thing, while simultaneously asserting that the denial of abortion (forcing a woman to do something with her body she doesn’t want to do) is a Moral Imperative.”

One year after college graduation, women are paid 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male peers, according to a report from the American Association of University Women. The gap is evident even when comparing women and men who work in the same field, and had the same college majors.”

Academics, on average, lean to the left. A survey being released today suggests that they are moving even more in that direction.”

Let’s narrow the topic to the act of writing scholarly prose. On my view, this act takes about 30 minutes and, properly speaking, only really happens if it happens daily. (That is, you are not behaving like a scholar if you write once every three months for 72 hours straight.) A scholar can commit between one and six acts of writing every day. I recommend 27 minutes of writing followed by a three-minute break.

We have the right to interpret the universe in a way that makes sense to us. What we don’t have a right to do is expect — never mind demand — that other people share our worldview. This flies by some Republicans, and they trip over it. Particularly when it comes to abortion. They are so lost in their own religious belief — that a fetus is a baby, that God is against abortion, contraception, often sex itself — that the idea that other people get to form their own beliefs too on these issues, just like they do, flies by them. It boggles their minds.”

An absolutely sensational musical video on the presidential debates. Enjoy!

I always hated Monk but never knew why. Here is a brilliant analysis of the show that made it clear to me why I never could get into it.

If your God condones forced pregnancy, get a new God.” I don’t think anybody could put it better.

If you still fear that psychoanalysts will tell you what to do, read this en enlighten yourself already: “I would never have signed up for this job if my sole goal were to help someone figure out how to live and die in accordance with the Big Other’s wishes. This is why neutrality is fucking key. If clinicians actively encouraged bourgoisie values such as the importance of the nuclear family, gainful employment, a comfortable retirement and some (but not too much) community activism then we would undoubtedly miss out on loads of conflicts and problems that often remain un-analyzed if these normative values are upheld as sacrosanct.”

Other than purple hair and the sweatpants, I already do everything the author of this great poem plans to do when she is an old tenured woman. So now I don’t even know what I will do when I get tenure. By the way, how can anybody buy a piece of clothing that has the word “sweat” in it? What next, an excrement dress? Poop jeans? Blood scarf?

The title of the post of the week goes to: “When people ask me why I am voting for Barack Obama in this election, I say, “Because I am a Christian and I vote my values.” I am pro-life, and when you line the two candidates up side by side, there’s an overwhelmingly clear choice.” I’m totally with you, Nerissa. (And what a beautiful name, too.)

And the most idiotic post of the week: “Can heterosexual men and women ever be “just friends”? Few other questions have provoked debates as intense, family dinners as awkward, literature as lurid, or movies as memorable. Still, the question remains unanswered. Daily experience suggests that non-romantic friendships between males and females are not only possible, but common—men and women live, work, and play side-by-side, and generally seem to be able to avoid spontaneously sleeping together. However, the possibility remains that this apparently platonic coexistence is merely a façade, an elaborate dance covering up countless sexual impulses bubbling just beneath the surface.” It is unbelievable that anybody older than 15 can be so ignorant about the nature of human sexuality and the definition of a friendship. I have somehow avoided “spontaneously sleeping together” with my close male friends for years. And they managed the great feat of not “spontaneously sleeping” with me. I think we all deserve a medal now! Jeez, this makes me want to barf. The article’s author needs to go get laid already to stop seeing those bubbly sexual impulses where they don’t exist.