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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “March 1, 2017”

The Economic Benefits of Mass Deportations

A propos the link left by reader el, I have to say that I find the deportation enthusiasm so frustrating because I don’t understand what it is people think they will achieve. Let’s say it’s possible to remove the 12 million illegal Juanitos from the country and move 12,000,000 native Johnnies to take their jobs. let’s even assume that Johnny will want to take the job picking strawberries at $8 an hour that Juanito was doing for $5, although I can’t imagine what the hell might motivate Johnny to do such a thing instead of claiming disability and food stamps. 

But OK, whatever, let’s say we achieved this huge swap, in spite of the enormous cost and the human suffering entailed. And I don’t mean the suffering of Juanitos and Pepitas because who cares about them. I mean the hardship caused by moving half of West Virginia and a third of Ohio to the fields of California and the hotel chains of Florida. What is precisely that we will have achieved? Moving millions of first-world people to a third-world life style without an attendant third-world motivation and reasons to lead this life? Yippee. That will certainly bring tons of happiness to everybody involved.

Johnny and Jackie will never bust their chops bussing tables and living in barracks like Juanito and Pepita do. This is not because anybody is better or worse but simply because a first-world person has different motivations, goals and ways of managing life than a third-world person. Johnny needs help building his life up. He doesn’t need to be knocked down into a space that will be freed up for him by deporting Juanito. 

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How I Get People to Talk

I’m very unsociable but I like drawing people out about their political beliefs for non-scholarly research purposes. I have a few easy tricks that help me do that.

With people who are likely to be of Liberal persuasion I say, “As an immigrant, I. . .” or for those who look like tougher customers “When my husband was an undocumented seasonal workers in the fields. . .” When they hear that, they put on this look of intense compassion, and that’s it, it’s easy from there.

With people who look conservative, I say, “I’m from Canada, and taxes are so much higher there. And what do we get in return?” My interlocutors get this glazed, shellacked look on their faces that I will have once I’m finally reunited with my phone. And then stuff starts pouring out of them.

United to Shop

So guess what we talked at the first union rep meeting?

Shopping, of course! A nice fellow called Justin or Jake or maybe Peter (I’m bad with names) told us all about the massive amount of online shopping we can do at discount prices as union members.

It was fun.

Mea Culpa

I microaggressed against the workshop on microaggressions by missing it. I’m sorry, folks, I suck. I built up expectations about it and then failed to get myself over there. Mea culpa. I went there at 11 and the workshop was at 10.

I’m very tired this week, and when I’m tired, I get erratic. I left pea soup stains on my Canadian passport renewal form, and now I have to redo it. I don’t want the people at the governmental office to think I’m disrespecting Canada. Of course, I could always hope that Canadians would look kindly on me eating Canada’s national soup in the US but you never know if you get a maverick split pea soup hater to read your application.

Now I have my first meeting as a union rep. Or at least I think I do. I feel lost and confused without my phone. I don’t keep my calendar on it but the phone allows me not to have to run to a stationary computer every five minutes for everything I need. And before anybody starts smartassing all over my pain with “And how did people survive without smartphones before they were invented?”, I ask them to wonder how they would do without, say, running water or electricity. Or antibiotics, for that matter.

Go Stuff Yourself, Wiley!

So remember the dang Wiley publishing house that tried to rip me off for quoting one of the writers they represent in my book of literary criticism? I cut out the quotes from my manuscript and wrote to tell them I no longer need their stupid copyright clearance. I also informed them that, in my future scholarship, I will take particular care never to analyze any of the writers they happen to represent.

I’ll be damned if I participate in this ridiculous form of exploiting copyright laws.

By the way, Spanish publishers all granted me permissions with ease and enthusiasm. There was just a single writer who happened to be represented by a US agency, and that was stupid Wiley.

Those Freaky Russians

N’s relatives keep sending money for Klara. Honestly, I’d much rather they sent an actual gift, or even just a card. I’d like to be able to show her a physical object and say, “This is a gift from grandma / aunt. They love you.” For instance, my parents sent her a talking doll called Masha and a raincoat for her birthday, and now whenever I give her the doll to play or put the raincoat on her, I tell her that this is a gift from grandpa and grandma who love her and can’t wait to see her again. We go through the house and I keep pointing things out to her, “This is a gift from your aunt Graciela, this is a gift from your aunt Regina, this is a gift from uncle Olivier*, they love you.” What am I supposed to do with a money gift? Show her a wad of bills?

Of course, I can buy her a gift with the money but it’s not the same thing. I buy things for her all the time anyway. I’d like to have something they personally picked out for her, even something tiny and cheap.

*We are like people in India: every friendly adult is uncle or auntie.

Looking for a Native Speaker

Another problem we have with hiring for this teaching position is that I’m convinced we need a native speaker. What students need to succeed in language and culture courses is wild enthusiasm and love for the language and the culture. Our beginner-level students mostly don’t want to be in the language classes at all. They are there to complete a requirement. And these are students who probably have never even seen a native speaker of Spanish. And I believe that letting them interact with an actual representative of the culture in the classroom will bring excitement to the process that they don’t have otherwise.

My first (and only) Spanish instructor was from El Salvador. Had he been called Jack Smith from Ontario, I wouldn’t have even wanted to be in the class, irrespective of how amazing Jack might have been as a teacher. 

Non-native teachers and professors of a language, literature or a culture always need to compensate for not belonging to the culture they are teaching. The standard line is “I’m a good teacher precisely because I’m not a native speaker, and if I learned how to speak well, I can teach you.” And I just died of boredom writing this because this is an argument that can only inspire love and enthusiasm in the most cerebral, robotic person ever. And if you think that love can be inspired by rational considerations, please check the news headlines for November 9, 2016.

I know that students feel a letdown when they first enroll in my courses and learn my name. “Professor Bulochkina” doesn’t inspire much interest as a professor of Spanish. And that’s fair, so I’m not upset. But I compensate for not being part of the culture I teach by having an interesting life and being a fascinating person. (Would you be wasting years of your life on reading my blog if I weren’t?) So this is my selling point. People want to be enthusiastic over whatever I’m enthusiastic about because they are drawn to my personality. But these are students who have already chosen Spanish as their area of interest. To beginners I can’t even begin to give what a native speaker gives just by the fact of existing.

Describing Teaching

Hearing candidates try to describe what their teaching is like reminds me of the time when I tried to explain to a Latin American friend what an orgasm is. My explanation sounded weak, confused, and unconvincing.

“I knew you were faking it, just like everybody else!” the friend exclaimed triumphantly.

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