Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where We Begin to Sort the "Paul Flowers" Mail.

  • There's no way that shit is real. You compound crazzies have pulled another fast one. I even love the name "Paul Flowers," the perfect sensitive snowflake student who might really think that shit.

  • I think I'm a little in love with Paul Flowers. I've been depressed these last few weeks. Liquor helps, but not as much as it used to. I'm trying to get some work done, but I'm just not sure I care anymore. Will the 17 people who read my article like it? Who gives a fuck?And prepping for next year's classes is even worse. Every draft of a syallabus I write I can hear the ghosts of complaints yet to come: "There was too much reading." "Why is there so much writing?" "I don't see why I have to memorize a bunch of dates." But then along comes Paul. Who I love a little. Paul who doesn't understand the syllabus, but wants to teach his biomedical engineering professor about biomedical engineering. Paul who resents that his classes try to teach students "information that they have never seen" (it's so much easier and "student-centered" to teach them information they already know) but think he can offer the instructor insight on that same material. I can't quite put into words why I love Paul so much. But that post lifted my spirits more than all the spirits I've downed. I think because it reminds me that most students aren't Paul (many are bad, but most aren't Paul) and that it's an important and worthy job to stand against infantalization and anti-intellectualism. By god, I actually feel fired up to finish that article. And damn it, I'm assigning as much reading as is necessary for an interesting and coherent course. Thank you, Paul. Call me.

  • Thanks for the instruction on how to teach. I am sure that as an undergraduate with two whole decades of life experience under your belt, you bring much to the table that will enlighten those of us with that much time in our professions. Incidentally, you would be more persuasive if you would master your native tongue to the degree that you understand we refer to people as "who/whom," rather than "that." Has it occurred to you that perhaps students should be somewhat intimidated by their professors? Where did students get this idea that we are all colleagues in this great pursuit of knowledge (note: the vast majority of you seem to be in pursuit not of knowledge, but a degree)? You, my dear, are not my colleague, peer, buddy, pal, or guide. You are paying to study under me because I know a whole lot more than you. This notion that I am going to refer to myself as "instructor/learner" to quiet your unease are a vanity in which I will not participate. I agree that there is no need to be obscure when we are addressing you. As Churchill said, "Short words are best, and old short words are best of all." From my experience, however, I would posit that much of the problem is students lacking a decent vocabulary, as well as any gumption to actually look up a word they do not know and commit it to memory. Combined with a consumer mentality and the absurd notion that we're supposed to have some sort of relationship in which you feel comfy chatting me up, it's no wonder you are miserable. Pull up your pants, man, and recognize that you will learn a whole lot more if you stop thinking you know everything.

  • "Instructor/learner"? Gag me. Why not "celebrant of the learning environment" or "discussion facilitator"? "Intellectual liaison"? "Academic moderator"? "Guide to edu-venture"? Despite the mind-numbing embrace of 60s-style, feel-good, "everyone's a winner" nonsense, that chimp is your professor. She knows more than you do about the subject at hand, and she is--get this--paid to impart her expertise to you. The good people of your state don't pay their taxes so that Ms. "I'm one of you" can be a lifelong learner. She earns her salary by teaching, instructing, educating. Those are the key verbs that define her position in the classroom. She's not the cookie warden or the boo-boo kisser. She's your professor, and no amount of sleight-of-hand renaming will change the fact that she (1) holds a degree that you don't; (2) possesses knowledge and an understanding of the field that you do not yet have; (3) has the expertise needed to evaluate your mastery of the subject and the authority to pass or fail you according to that assessment. If she truly believes she's an instructor/learner and will genuinely learn something new about her field of research and study from a group of undergraduate novices, she's either naive or unqualified to be the professor of record for that class. On the other hand, this "instructor/learner" business may just be a gimmick, a hokey ploy to win her students' love and support. We'll see how loving you all are after the first Cs and Ds get handed out. Let that be a lesson: never trust anyone who lies about who they are. So much to learn, young critic.

  • You nearly had me. This has to be made up, right? In the small chance that there really is a Paul Flowers (AND a paper called the Daily Egyptian!?!?!?!), I'd like to find that professor who calls herself an "instructor/learner" and beat the shit out of her.