A rant on college teachers cont’d…

My last post sparked a lot of discussion.  Here’s a slightly more thoughtful and reasoned consideration of the subject…but I do love me a good rant.  This post won’t make much sense unless you read the last one.

I’ll start with my perspective on what effective teaching is.  I think the bare minimum, the cost of entry, is the student leaving your course having learned whatever it is your course was supposed to impart.  Think about the favorite teachers you’ve had.  Are they your favorites because they killed it on making you understand the Pythagorean theorem? Did you love them because their course was easy?  I doubt it.

They did something more.  What was that?  Inspired you?  Broadened your world view?  Challenged you to go further than you believed you could?  Made you love a subject you had been dreading?  Just made you eager to come to class?  Some combination of those things and others?  I’ll guess the answer is some variation of “all of the above.”

Now, how did they do that?  Were you inspired by the crisp, tailored suits and flashy cufflinks of your instructor?  Was it their ability to talk for two straight hours?  Perhaps it was how they established that they were superior to you?  Maybe it was that they demanded your respect and attention and didn’t return either of those things?  Did they disregard how you learn best because they were the expert?

I set the bar for effective teaching higher than checking off a list of things the student was supposed to learn.  I have had so many great teachers throughout my life and career that I don’t think there is a scarcity.  That is why clock punchers cause rants.  They’re taking up valuable space and cause tremendous opportunity cost.

I was taken to task by a couple educators whom I greatly respect…and by a few more whom I view as the target of my rant.  For the former, I’ll expound a bit.

*”Dress for success” is a dying remnant of the baby boomer generation, and it doesn’t work.  There is a reason essentially every company in the world has moved to business casual or outright casual work attire.  There is no correlation between wearing a tie or pantyhose and work performance.  There is ample evidence that people comfortable in their attire perform more and better.  I’ll maintain from my rant that outdressing the audience is a crutch.  If you need a coat and tie to establish your position, that is a flaw in your arsenal.  One professor told me she just likes dressing nice.  I respect that.  I would still argue that it creates an additional hurdle for her in connecting with students.  There is an implicit differentiation in the student – teacher relationship.  It does not need to be exacerbated and any amplification of it detracts from….

*Connecting with students….I firmly believe that little more than checking off boxes can be achieved without the student engagement that comes from personal connection.  If you teach…pick a subject…Economics 101…no, you don’t need much of a connection to send your students on their way at the end of the semester with a solid understanding of the price elasticity of demand.  I so want you to do more.  What additional effort would it take to get your students to go research the Reagan tax cut just to learn how supply side economics is still affecting us today?  How about motivating them to do the research and math to analyze the viability of that vegan, gluten free, locally sourced craft coffeehouse they want to start?

*It is not just being “fun.”  I absolutely believe that having fun puts people at ease and makes education easier to happen, and funny works for me.  Powerful is not my forte but can be just as effective.  What are your strengths as a human?  Go with those.  Inspirational, conspiratorial, sympathetic, whatever.  Don’t be boring.  Don’t be didactic.

*I’ll fall on the sword for understanding andragogy.  You teach adults.  There is a whole science of how adults learn.  Understand your student’s motivations, fears, and objectives (back to connection) so you can teach them effectively.

*Poor powerpoint building skills, reading the text, and lectures longer than 15 minutes:  not effective teaching.  Google it.  If you’re particularly anal, EBSCO it.  Corporations, who exist to make money and try not to do things that don’t help them make money, figured these things out long ago.  This leads me to my next point….

*A self described “tenured professor” whom I don’t know took substantial umbrage at my rant.  Although the rant specifically stated why I thought I was qualified to give said rant, he dismissed my paltry experience in academia and with derision suggested I was probably a corporate trainer.  Specifically, he said he lectures for two hours because he knows so much and wants to impart that to his students.  Yes, he said that.  I’ll revert to rant mode for a moment.  Yes, I was a corporate trainer and a corporate director of training, you smug and incompetent piece of shit.  My rant is about you.  Want to learn how to most effectively distribute knowledge and change behavior?  Ask someone with a budget to make and whose every action is reviewed for outcome.  A college professor is essentially never measured on the future actions or performance of their students.  Everything a corporate trainer does will be measured and analyzed by what their students do with the training.  So, which is more likely to produce effective outcomes?  Yes, I get concept versus task and all that crap.  It is still teaching.  One is required to produce results.  One sits in the cheap seats of the ivory tower.

And that was really the point of the rant.  If you teach at the college level, you have such an opportunity to do great things for people.  It is such a substantial opportunity cost when you don’t.  Show up, be passionate, strive to be great.  I’ll reiterate my rant here.  I am not a great teacher.  I am an advocate of great teaching and a passionate student of the art.

In closing, an update about my daughter’s English instructor.  He didn’t show for class again today.  However, his wife and son did….yes, his wife and son.  His son doesn’t teach at the school but, “has an English background.”  So, she’s two classes into the semester, has yet to learn anything, and is going to be taught by the offspring of the instructor.  I get this is now more of an institutional failure than the instructor’s, but really….what the fuck?

(You didn’t think I’d go a whole blog post without an F bomb, did you?”

 

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A rant on college teachers…

I am an adjunct instructor at a community college.  “Adjunct” at a “Community College”… in the hierarchy of college teaching, I am the absolute bottom feeder.  The pay sucks.  There are no benefits.  There is no job security from one semester to the next.  I love my job.  I love my job like little kids love Christmas morning.  I love my job like my dog loves licking his balls.  I love my job like Kanye West loves himself.  This is all to say I really, really like what I do.

A few events occurred to spark this rant  (the rant is coming.)  My daughter is in a jump start program, and she is attending our local community college in lieu of her senior year of high school.  Today was her first day of classes.  Think back to your first day of college.  Remember the excitement and trepidation?  The feeling that your whole world was about to change right then?  Now, imagine how a young person not even out of high school would feel on their first day.

My daughter’s English instructor didn’t show up.  I don’t know the circumstances.  Maybe he or she is dead.  Maybe she won the lottery and said, “fuck this.”  It doesn’t matter.  A classroom full of students sat at their desks, wasting their time, and waited.  Nobody came to say, “Your professor won the lottery and said ‘fuck this.'”  The school couldn’t even post a note on the door saying class was cancelled.  This was the first class.  Want a how-to tutorial on ways to kill the learning spark?  Here you go.

The other rant sparking event was yesterday when I was in the adjunct resource room at my school prepping for my classes.  A few other adjuncts were there, and they were complaining about how their students don’t pay attention and don’t respect them.  Another, wearing a suit and tie, commented that he dresses that way to command respect.  Yes, he said “command.”  Yet another chimed in with how it is impossible to connect with students today.  I was biting my tongue so hard it probably started to bleed.

I do not claim to be a great teacher.  I have a terminal degree in creative writing, and I don’t even teach creative writing.  Where I do claim to be great is in how much I fucking care.  A student may not like me.  They may not like the teaching I provided, but no student of mine will ever say I didn’t do everything I possibly could to help them learn.  Every student who passes a course of mine will have learned everything the course was intended to teach, won’t be bored out of their fucking mind…and hopefully much more.

So, disgruntled or frustrated college teachers, here’s my list of things to help you suck less.

*Get off your high horse.  Blow your pedagogy and andragogy out your ass.  Your students don’t care, and they just think you’re a pompous dick when you start spouting off to demonstrate how smart you are.  Hint:  your students assume you know more than they do.  That’s why they’re in your fucking class.  You don’t need to demonstrate it.

*Quit taking attendance.  If students aren’t showing up for class, they may have actual lives outside of your class (shocking, I know), or they may find you boring as fuck, or they know they can ace the class regardless of showing up.  You should acknowledge the first, and the next two are all on you.

*Allow and encourage them to address you by your first name.  Yes, we’re all very proud of the advanced degrees on our walls…except your students.  Demanding the “Professor” designation is just you telling them that you think you’re special.  Want to connect with someone?  Don’t start with telling them you’re separate and better.

*Show up.  I mean this in the literal sense (recall my daughter’s experience above) and figuratively.  Want to engage your students?  Show them you’re engaged.  Do as much work, or more, than you’re asking them to do.

*Take off your fucking tie.  Unless you teach at Wharton, I doubt any of your students are wearing a tie to class.  Your “professional attire” is not demonstrating your commitment to professionalism.  It is just another way for you to set yourself apart from and above your students.  The exception is bow ties.  Bow ties say, “I’m a quirky dork,” and that is awesome.

*Be accountable to your students.  If my daughter’s English prof shows up and lectures the class about commitments and responsibility, I will encourage her to give him the one fingered salute.  We, the teachers, set deadlines.  These are necessary for logistical reasons and our sanity.  Set deadlines for yourself and tell your students.  Don’t drop their grade on a paper because it was a day late then get around to grading those papers three weeks from now.

*Stop restricting their use of cell phones.  If they’re staring at their phones the entire class period, that’s on them for missing the pearls of wisdom you were dropping, and you’re boring as shit.  Plus, their phone is intricate to their lives.  You don’t have to understand.  Just accept it.

*Respect is earned.  It isn’t commanded.  It can’t be ordered.  If you want respect, earn it.  Respect is also overrated.  I’m sure half my students think I’m a goofball dork with possible mental deficiencies.  I don’t care.  I care about getting them to participate and learn.

*Recognize that your students are your customers.  They paid.  You’re a service provider just like the guy working the McDonald’s drive through.  Your masters or doctoral degree does not make you a special and unique snowflake to be revered.  It qualifies you to serve your customers.

*Stop giving lectures.  I’m willing to bet that three thousand years ago some Greek listened to Plato drone on for two hours and said, “fucking kill me now.”  Yet, we still do it today.  Think in terms of outcome.  You want the student to leave the class having learned what?  Then, back into that.  What can you do, or better yet have them do, to get that outcome?  If your answer is lecture, just quit being a teacher now.

*Your students are not lucky to be in your class….unless you were Kurt Vonnegut, and then your students were totally lucky.  Otherwise, you’re lucky to get to teach them.  You’ve been given a great privilege and responsibility.  Act like it.

*Recognize that a poor or failing grade is substantially your fault too.

*Quit regurgitating the text.  Unless you’re teaching remedial reading, your students can read.  They don’t need you to read to them what they read.  Your presence is supposed to provide insight, synthesis, application, and context.

*Powerpoint….just don’t.  If you feel compelled to use it no matter what, don’t put 346 words on a slide that nobody can see.  Worse yet, don’t read your fucking slides.  If your content consists of powerpoint slides that you read to your class, just cancel the class and send them the file, and then go to H/R and turn in your resignation.

*If you miss, miss swinging.  I have class activities that do not go at all according to plan.  I tell the class, “Well, that sucked.  My bad.”  We move on.  You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be right all the time.  Just don’t retreat to a two hour lecture.  Keep experimenting.  Every class dynamic is different.  If your approach is the same for every class, Houston, we have a problem.

*Celebrate the student who challenges you.  Give them candy.  In a not weird way, give them a hug.  Your job is to make them think.  If they thought enough to disagree with you and had the comfort level to express that, you are a rock star.  You get candy too.

*Get to know your students and let them know you.  I strive to know as much as I possibly can about each student…their job, home life, aspirations, passions, ideals, guilty pleasures, and how they learn.  Why?  Because it is easier than teaching a stranger.  After about two classes, they know all of those things about me.  Why?  Because it is easier to learn from someone you know.

*Although I told you to blow your andragogy out your ass, learn about it…..just don’t expound upon it in your class.  It is the theory of adult learning.  Adults learn differently than children do.  In college, they are there voluntarily.  They expect a return on their investment.  They want to know why the content is important and what they’re going to do with it.  They don’t assume everything you say is gospel.  Tell them what you’re doing and why.

*Some students are dicks.  Yup, I said it.  They are still your customers.  You still have to do your best for them.  If you think most of your students are dicks…you’re probably the dick.

*Make them think and question.  I’ve heard colleagues say they don’t allow essays on immigration, abortion, religion, etc.  My response is “What the fuck?”  The point of an essay is to challenge a position.  Do you have them challenge the position of what?…. house plants?  A big point of higher education is to question and explore.  Your job is to keep things on the rails.  If you can’t do that, shame on you.

I primarily teach composition.  It is a required course.  Nobody wants to take composition and nobody wants to be a professional essay writer when they grow up.  I am an adjunct teaching composition at a community college.  That is my qualification for authoring this rant.  If I can engage my students and get them to learn, you have no excuse.

I opened with the shitty pay and such of an adjunct faculty position.  If you don’t like those aspects, organize a union or quit.  Don’t half ass your way through a semester.  You’re doing a disservice to your customers, and you’re taking up space.  In spite of how much people bitch about adjunct work, and in spite of how many shitty adjuncts there are, these jobs are still very competitive and difficult to land.  If you can’t connect with your students and feel you’re not respected, learn and adapt, or get the hell out of the way.  There are many passionate, talented educators waiting for their chance to actually educate.

If you can’t show up for the first class of the semester, and your school can’t notify your students in a timely manner, go work at the DMV.  You’ll fit right in, and you don’t deserve to be a teacher.

 

 

 

 

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Our death by gun epidemic

We had another mass murder.  I might ordinarily feel a moment of sadness then yawn and think, “This is America.  We have them daily.  It’s what we do.”  This one, though, was a record breaker.

We’re still shy of the year’s halfway point, and we already have almost six thousand deaths by gun.  Yes, I know we have many deaths by auto, deaths by medical malpractice, and probably a bunch of deaths by crockpot.  I didn’t research the last one.  The distinction I see is that cars, medical treatment, and slow cookers contribute to our lives and societal well being.  Guns do not.  So, save the strawman argument about the number of deaths by tinfoil or bubble gum.  Guns have a singular purpose, and that is to kill.  There is a reason the mass murderers use guns and not tinfoil or slow cookers…because the guns are efficient at killing and Reynolds wrap is not.

Yes, deranged people will find a way to kill regardless of the tool.  I get that.  I’m suggesting we actually do something to address the dead 6K, not hopelessly attempt to eliminate violence.  If you’re adamant about having your guns, what is your number?  How many dead does it take for you to care enough?  It is clearly more than 6K for many.  I find that in itself appalling, but okay.  What if we could make it just 6K annually?  Is anyone opposed to decreasing the number of deaths by gun?  Don’t jump ahead to costs and ramifications and start saying, “Yeah, but…”  Just consider that question by itself.  Would you like fewer than 6K people to be dead right now?  I think a good place to start is prohibiting anyone who opposes the decrease from having a gun.

I refuse to believe we can not at least improve our death by gun epidemic.  Many free nations do not have our daily mass murders.  Clearly it is possible.  Yes, we have more guns than all the rest of the world population combined (I’m speculating there.)  That isn’t a reason not to try.  “Aw, fuck it.  We just have too many guns.  Let’s resign ourselves to daily mass murders.”  That is actually pretty much what we are doing.

Yes, gun ownership is a constitutional right.  So what?  We’ve amended the constitution many times.  Why is that rule a sacred cow?  I think it should be amended, but I’m interested in actually addressing the problem, not with an endless legislative debate ultimately decided by NRA political donations and a spineless congress.

Normal people want guns to protect themselves, to hunt, or for sport.  I’m fine with all of those.  I don’t agree with them, but I respect that others view the guns as important.

So, I propose to not inhibit anyone from having all the guns they want, but implementing the following steps:

  1.  Any diagnosis of mental illness precludes you from having a gun.  Right now, you have to have a court say you’re insane or have a court involuntarily admit you to a mental hospital for you to be precluded from getting a gun.  Both of those are very rare and don’t address the millions of unstable people with access to weapons.  I’ve attempted suicide more than once.  I can buy a gun.  Hospitals already are required to report certain injuries like gunshot wounds or drug overdoses to the police.  I’m fine with therapists having to report all patients to a database.  Yes, that would include me.
  2. Any time in prison precludes you from owning a gun…forever.  You committed a crime.  You don’t get a gun.  Right now it is decided by state and varies widely.
  3. All gun sales must have a background check.  ALL.  Gun.  Sales.  The ridiculous loopholes in this current law are entirely due to the NRA, and they can blow me.
  4. All gun owners must pass a training course.  Just like driving a car or selling insurance.
  5. All guns must be registered and insured.  Yeah, yeah, registration allows the government to know who has guns when they’re ready to initiate their tyrannical, martial law takeover.  First, that gives far too much credit to the competency of our government.  Next, the 2nd amendment was written when citizens and the military all had muskets.  Have all the guns you want.  In this century, you’re not stopping a military takeover with firepower.  We have to insure our cars in case we run over someone.  The registration requires annual inspection and proof of insurance.  This enables us to confirm you didn’t sell the gun.  The insurance covers your gun being used to kill someone, by you or someone else.  Don’t want to undergo inspection, registration, and insurance for your already owned guns?  No worries.  Amnesty window to turn them in.  If you’re not willing to do these simple steps we do for cars, your gun ownership conviction is not strong.
  6. Any crime committed with use of a gun carries a sentence of life in prison.  No parole, no loopholes.  Use a gun to commit a crime, go to jail forever.
  7. If a gun you own is used to commit a crime, you are as liable and culpable as the perpetrator unless it can be proven you properly secured it.  Responsible gun owners should have no problem with this.
  8. All gun sales will have an additional “sin” tax to deter use.  We do it with tobacco and alcohol.  It is your constitutional right to own a gun.  The constitution doesn’t say it has to be cheap or easy.  The revenue will be used to advance “smart gun” technology such as finger print detection so only the owner can fire a gun.
  9. All gun purchases require proof of trigger locks and safes.
  10. No modifiable guns can be owned, sold or brought into the U.S.  Every fucking mass shooting, some dipshit has to point out that a semi-automatic rifle is not an “assault weapon.”  An assault weapon fires on full auto.  AR-15’s can be easily modified to actual full auto or simulated full auto.  On semi-auto, they’re inefficient for home defense so the only real reasons to own them are penis size compensation or killing a bunch of people.

So, if you want to own a gun just for protection, hunting, or sport shooting, you still can.  You can own all you want.  It will require a little more effort and more money.

Will this stop the deranged psychopath from acquiring a gun and mowing down a school, church, or nightclub?  Nope.  What it will do is decrease the level of ownership and the rate of purchase of guns.  Will it create a black market for existing guns?  Yup.  Ever bought anything on the black market?  Costs a fucking fortune.  Will death by knife, tinfoil, bubblegum, and every other strawman argument go up?  Probably, but the net will still be a decrease in deaths.  How do I know this?  Because half the fucking world has already done it.

I think I lowered the 6K.  Don’t like my suggestions?  Great.  Offer some actual solutions instead of the clichés about only criminals will own guns and it takes a good guy with a gun.

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Miter saws, foot lockers, and history…

Last week the BSW and I went wandering.  Our wandering always starts with a general goal or destination, no wandering intended, that gets sidetracked by shiny things…and we wander.  We are particularly good at this random pursuit of shiny things that catch our attention…a brewery, a yard sale, an old cemetery, a road with old stone walls, etc, because our individual crazies match up well in this regard.

That day our goal was what we thought was a salvage yard.  We like odd metal objects with which we might do something clever.  It turned out to be a store where other people did clever things with odd metal objects, but it was also in an old mill building full of antiques and artist’s shops.

I bought a World War II army foot locker for a few bucks.  I like old steamer trunks and such because I like their journeys.  I wonder where they’ve traveled and why.  I’ve seen these old army trunks before, and I’ve always admired them because when I was in the army we just had a duffel bag.  A foot locker has so much more heft and history than a bag.  I bought this one because it wore its history on the lid.  Lieutenant Frederic Newman, Infantry, was traveling on the U.S.S. Constitution to New York.

A google search showed me that Frederic lived a long and full life and only recently passed away.  Maybe it is the writer in me, but I long to fill in the blanks in such stories.  He stayed in Europe after the war to rebuild.  What was that like?  He returned to America with a family.  How did he adjust?  He was a banker with several children.  He was active in the Boy Scouts.  He retired to Florida.  There are so many mileposts with so many unknown stories between them.

I have reached out to a few of his great grandchildren that I could find on social media asking if they’d like to have the foot locker.  To me, it is an amazing, perhaps romanticized, heirloom.  To them it might be the annoying box they tripped over all their lives.  I have no idea.

This past weekend, Lori and I built a catio.  That is an entirely different story, and all her crazy, but it required use of my miter saw.  My miter saw was originally my grandfather’s.  It is at least sixty years old.  It is all metal, weighs about fifty pounds, and it has been cutting lumber for my entire life.  It was in my father’s workshop when I was growing up, and I have been using it for thirty years.

In this age of planned obsolescence and product horizon, when hot water heaters are built to last seven years and televisions are designed to stop working after a certain number of viewing hours, this saw still does its job, barely.  The motor runs but so slowly that I do more wood burning than cutting.  It and I generate a lot of smoke and noise, but we still get the job done.  That saw is the only thing I have that was my father’s father’s.  He died before I was born.  I was told the important milestones of his life, but I don’t know the stories in between.  However, I have his saw.

A miter saw is used to cut precise angles and make quick cuts of dimensional lumber.  I don’t know what my grandfather built with it.  I know I’ve built a treehouse for my son, a tiny casket for my daughter’s pet rat, furniture for my first house when I couldn’t afford to buy any, an Adirondack chair for my BSW, and many other things with it.  I was told my grandfather was a very pragmatic man.  I like to think we used this saw to build similar things.

Frederic Newman and I were both in the infantry.  It is likely he also passed through Ft. Benning since it has been home of the infantry since 1918.  My barracks at Ft. Benning were WWII remnants.  It isn’t likely that we shared a barracks, but it is probable that we double timed the same roads and did push ups on the same fields.

My grandfather and I have more obvious connections, but I like the ones that relate to the saw.  We both lined up a cut holding that handle.  We both made things to help or please our loved ones.  We both inhaled the smell of sawdust and thought we had made just the right cut.  That saw has been involved in the construction of things for four generations of my family.

I am fascinated by our colliding histories.  I yearn to know and tell the stories.

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Making magic…

Trees retreat group shot

How do you make magic?  Since I don’t have a cauldron or a wand, and I am unfortunately all muggle, my method was less Prospero and more Field of Dreams.  “If you build it…”

This past weekend, twenty some odd writers gathered at a one hundred fifty year old farm house in the rural north country of New Hampshire.  It was the first reunion of Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA alumni.  These writers traveled from Oklahoma, Michigan, New York, Tennessee, and one even sneaked in from Canada.

The magic was not a slow build.  It did not need to percolate.  It burst upon us and just gained in power like a flywheel hurtling at maximum speed.  People who had not seen one another in years, or had never met, immediately curled into chairs and nooks and shared writing and ideas.

We called our grad school residencies “the bubble.”  In the bubble we were not teachers, accountants, or nurses.  We were just writers among our own kind.  It is not hyperbolic to say the creative juice it distilled was palpable and potent.  This weekend we made our own bubble.

People who had not written since they turned in their graduate thesis picked up pens.  Others, trying to make newly released novels stand out in the sea of the marketplace, got tips and ideas.  Works in progress were read and discussed.  Think comic con is a nerd fest?  Watch a group of writers geek out over word choice and dialogue tags.  Two of our professors, pretty good facsimiles of Dumbledore and Gandalf, gave readings and let us once again pick their brains.

On Saturday night we circled a campfire.  We shared stories, words, laughs, and a bottle of Fireball.  I sat back, watching, listening and thought, “Yeah, we did this.”  We made magic.  Of course magic is easier with help, and we had two house elves who worked tirelessly for us.  I think the magic of the bubble is not just being among one’s own kind, but the reassurance that there is a “kind.”  Although the act of putting words on a page is a solitary pursuit, there are others out there smacking their heads against the same blank screens or floundering before a deadline.  We are part of a literary community, and we renewed that fellowship this weekend.

Yeah, we did this.

#treesandotherremedies #writersretreat #mfa

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The community college student

I teach English composition at a community college.  For many of my students, English is not their first language.  For others, they have not been in a classroom in twenty plus years.  Some finally concluded that they should have learned something in high school.  The commonality among them is they all want a better life.

Generally, people don’t attend a community college because they want to explore the metaphysics of pottery.  I’m not denigrating the metaphysics of pottery.  I have degrees in English Lit and Creative writing.  I’m not the poster child for career advancement through education.  I could hold up my resume and write forty thousand plus words on the value of so called “useless” degrees in the workforce.  I could write another forty thousand plus on the value of education for its own sake.  That is not what I’m talking about.  My students want a point A to point B advance of their positions in life.  They’re willing to work hard, but education is a means to an end for them.  It isn’t just exploration and intellectual stimulus.  It is career planning, and that is a worthwhile endeavor.

I’m teaching them composition.  None of them want to take composition.  It is required.  I’m supposed to teach them the skills to succeed in the courses they want to take.  I love that.  On day one I ask what they want to be.  I’ve never had a student say they want to be a professional essay writer.  I frame the entire course around critical thinking, effective communication, and the awareness that rhetoric is all around them.  Along the way, they learn to write a good college essay.  That is nearly irrelevant to me.  I care that they learn to see the rhetorical manipulation of political campaigns, news broadcasts, or advertising.  I care that they learn how to formulate an assertion and defend it.  I care that they learn to assess their views and biases and understand opposing views and biases.  I care that they can defend their positions with reasoned, rational, and effective evidence.

I think it is important and valuable to understand the proper use of there, their, and they’re; or why the passivity of an inverted sentence undermines an assertion.  I’ve had Wharton MBA’s work for me who had no mastery of those concepts.  When a community college student who still struggles with too and to can easily identify a post hoc or ad hominem fallacy, I think I’m doing a good job.  It is the give a man a fish or teach him how to fish parable.  I’ll get them to then and than, too, to, and two, your and you’re, and where the page number goes in an MLA citation.

When I embarked on this new career, I had goals.  Teaching community college comp was only a step along the way.  I would still like to teach creative writing in an MFA program, but I love what I’m currently doing, and I love what I’m teaching.  I think it is fair to generalize that none of my students have a silver spoon.  They are parents, spouses, or caregivers.  They have fulltime jobs and mortgages.  Even the young ones just out of high school have strategically planned that community college is a viable means to a university education or career, or their grades didn’t get them into a university.  They have obligations or challenges that make their educational pursuits more concrete, more “I’m taking English Comp this semester so buying groceries is going to be a challenge,” difficult than a typical college freshman.

These are worthy students.  Composition is a worthy subject for them, even if they don’t know it yet.  In my prior career there was a point when I was responsible for two billion dollars worth of assets.  I think my responsibility is more substantial now, and I love that.

 

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When did we start negotiating with terrorists?

We have had a long standing policy that we don’t negotiate with terrorists.  Hijack a plane and make demands?  Fuck you.  Kidnap Americans?  We’ll pretend to negotiate until we figure out how to kill you.  I’m okay with this policy.  I’m generally against our world wide saber rattling, but I’m good with saying, “Fuck you.  You crossed a line.”

So, I’ve watched the Vanilla Isis occupation of a remote wildlife refuge with interest and anger.  Who are these hillbillies to think they speak for us?  They don’t speak for me.  I don’t need or want Billy Joe Jim Bob and his cousin brothers seizing a government installation, an installation WE (the plural American) own, and claiming it for their own and their tinfoil hat wearing ideologies.  Collectively, they don’t have a hundred IQ points and would need twelve of them to come up with two balls.  They’re angry cowards pissed that their stupidity puts them at the bottom of the capitalist food chain, and their solution is to take our property and rage against perceived threats and manufactured injustices.  Ironically, the gist of their ideology is they want even more government welfare than they already receive.  Papa Bundy is the perfect example.  He doesn’t feel he should pay us at all for using our land.

These people are not patriots.  Contrary to their expressed self image, they are not special.  They are simply criminals with an ideology.  That makes them terrorists.  They happen to be American terrorists.  Authorities have spent weeks negotiating with them.  I don’t understand this.  Why?  Law enforcement officials expressed that they wanted to avoid violence.  I accept trying to minimize the risk of law enforcement officials being harmed.  I don’t care about the well being of the terrorists.  I was not the slightest bit sad when LaVoy was shot and killed.  That’s what we do to terrorists.

Why did it take weeks?  The hillbillies were going to town all the time.  Why ever let any return to the refuge?  While the deliveries of dildos in response to their pleas for snacks was entertaining, why were they receiving deliveries?  Would we allow FedEx to drop off a package for Isis?  Since we’re so courteous to these particular terrorists, I hope they’ll be paying for the cost of the utilities during their stay in our facility.  Why was the electricity to the refuge not cut off?  These allegedly hard core, camo wearing, gun toting tough guys could certainly survive some hardship.  Granted, they didn’t think to bring food for their siege, but LaVoy was well prepared….he brought a tarp!

I am not a law enforcement or anti-terrorism expert.  I assume authorities had legitimate reasons for coddling these particular terrorists, but it sure appears that they received special treatment because they’re ‘Murican terrorists.  What would our response have been if a group of Isis terrorists seized that refuge?

I doubt we’d have let the UPS guy in with a box of Slim Jims.

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