A student who spent the entire day arguing with me over email about whether the word “surrealism” is a synonym of the word “subconscious” just sent me an angry rant complaining that I don’t praise her for her effort.

I keep forgetting that I need to exclaim “Good job, sweetie!” whenever I see adults manage to use the potty successfully and tie their shoelaces.

Why There Will Be More Drones and Kill Lists

As a conclusion to our discussion about the drones and kill lists, here is an announcement I just received:

This morning during Deans’ Council, the Provost informed us that by directive from the Chancellor, we need to prepare a 5% (ca. 1.2 million dollars) budget cutting exercise for FY14 (July 1st, 2013 – June 30th., 2014). This is just the beginning of a larger process that will culminate with a total possible reduction of budget of 25% over the next three years.

I rest my case. If we refuse to educate our population and make it competitive on the world arena, what is left to preserve our standard of living? Just think about it.

Of course, instead of trying to see the connections between these phenomena, we could continue getting angry with me for not joining the ultra-productive hand-wringing over the drones.

What Puts Male Students at a Disadvantage?

There is so much stupidity floating around that people have to waste time proving the obvious:

Our research shows that boys’ underperformance in school has more to do with society’s norms about masculinity than with anatomy, hormones or brain structure.

Gender expectations put both men and woman at a disadvantage at certain times. Right now, I’m observing how an activity where female students flourish proves more difficult for male students and not because of any intellectual limitations but simply due to the weight of gender roles.

In my literature seminar, each student gets to play the role of the professor once in the semester. They have to analyze the text assigned for that day and prepare a series of interactive activities aimed at involving everybody in the discussion. Most of the students have already had a chance to present, and I have noticed that, irrespective of the level of language competence and the understanding of the texts, male students consistently do significantly worse than female students.

In order to engage successfully with a group in these kinds of interactive exercises, you need to be able to play the role of a clown. It is crucial to have the capacity to leave aside any pretense at gravitas and become playful. Male students, however, seem terrified of playfulness. It is very sad to see the castrating “all work and no play all the time” philosophy of life set in so early in these adolescent males.

This is the reason why male students do significantly worse in language courses than female students  Idiots explain this issue referencing some completely imaginary brain differences but the reality is much simpler. Language courses are all based on group activities, games, role playing, etc. Men find these activities very wounding to the stereotyped image of a male they adopt early in life. According to my observations, gay men – who have a lot less interest in patriarchal gender roles – do extremely well in language courses even though their brains, bodies, and everything else is just as male as those of straight men.

A student came to my office yesterday to discuss his ideas for the final essay.

“This character can’t understand the damage caused by traditional gender roles because he is male,” he said. “He has no experience of this. Not like women do.”

If you are surprised by his statement, note that the current post was not written by a male blogger either.

Cultural Anxiety

I haven’t read my favorite blog for a while because I’ve been overwhelmed with life, but I just started reading the posts I have missed, and they are sensational. Here is an example:

I haven’t looked, but I can guarantee that I could find a cultural studies article arguing that zombie tv shows and movies express a cultural anxiety about whatever the critic happens to think people are worried about.

Or see this brilliant observation:

If you think studying “culture” is something different from studying literature, that it leaves literature behind, I have a different perspective for you. While you may be studying rock songs or comic books, or the gendered construction of bicycle riding in the 1920s, you are still doing it from a literary point of view, because you are practicing a literary genre (the essay) to construct a culturally constructed narrative, a fiction.

How great is this?