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Archive for the ‘tactless observations’ Category

Chronicle Higher Ed poster v2

Original source: Chronicle of Higher Education

If you can pinpoint which issue from this summer the original art appeared, so I can acknowledge the artist properly, that would be wonderful!

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BirchBark-404Error

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Yow!

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YOW!

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IMG_6851Some years ago, I got home at 4 in the morning and wondered (for at least two pages of tight handwritten text) what the other kids were doing.  Were they going to the shore?  Were any of them really in love enough to go do the things those songs were about? (Granted, it was charmingly naive of me to think that love was required to get teenagers to do that…)  But I didn’t spend nearly so much time on that kind of wondering, because most of my brain was occupied trying to splice the experience that I had: fancy dress, fancy food, elaborate setting, dancing — at first in the assigned place with my date, and then later at a much less legal setting with a friend who eventually became a splendid drag queen — with the rapturous descriptions of what THE PROM was supposed to be like.

I did not have the magical phrase “WTF?” at my disposal.  And I wasn’t angry, or desperately disappointed… I was just …bemused.

That night, I felt as if I had ticked a checkmark into a box on a form that was required for The Standard U.S. High School Experience. Pictures had been taken, and clothes had been bought/rented, makeup applied (by others, because this was still theatre)… I watched people eat very rare prime rib from each other’s plates, I endured a very long slow dance with someone who I hope has long since found a nice straight girl, etc…

In subsequent years, there have been other dances, and other occassions for fancy dress.  But even my own wedding didn’t really combine these ingredients in a way that felt like I’d had all the pieces in hand.  I could dance with the wrong person, with a somewhat not right person, I could get a decent tux, I could identify which music I liked, I could look fierce and fine, I could be with the RIGHT person, but not get all those ‘right’ details together at the same time.

And yet.

The hope of surpassing what was possible in the past, particularly in the face of things that threaten to make things worse, is always there.

So when the opportunity does, finally, come around, you get your tux and fancy dress in order, buy the bid, get the hotel room, have a sumptuous double-dating dinner, get well-wishes from the bartender….

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You see other queer couples walking through town, and everyone is smiling and waving at each other.  We see you, you see us; we’re here!  The music is loud, the lighting is dramatic, there is glitter EVERYWHERE… People are happy.  People are fabulous. Couples disco, and tango, and line dance, and kiss. Not everyone is there as a couple, but it’s a different kind of grouping or singleness than what we remember from trying to go to dances as a group, or stag, or in any unconventional configuration that would let us thread the needle of access without too much compromise.

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No compromises tonight.  No kings or queens are chosen; we each earned our crowns long before we walked through those ballroom doors.

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VintageNeckTies

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In a recent interview, I forgot to say what should have been at the tip of my tongue, namely that yes, of course I am familiar with motivating people who are not sufficiently engaged in the tasks at hand in the office: I was an English professor!  Rare is the student among hundreds who really latches onto assignments in freshman comp, eager to push their abilities to research, articulate, and argue according to the conventions laid down by Aristotle centuries ago.

Lady Rhetorica

I didn’t say that.  I didn’t say “I taught required courses for many years before I got to teach classes filled with students who chose to be there, deliberately choosing my sections, my topics, degree track, etc.  I said a few other things, and maybe those will lead to other interesting things; we’ll see where it all leads.  Hopefully forward, but at the moment there are so many, many things looping back again I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m told “no, not now, but later”…

Another example of scenarios looping around [other than Watergate and liberation theology] include the evergreen lament that students “cannot write”, which really is “students do not practice what x person remembers as prose style” and “teachers don’t seem to be making students do what x person recognizes as hard enough work”.  See the latest infuriating article here. That writer is shocked to find ‘little high-quality research’ on teaching writing, but doesn’t look hard enough to see that what she values is exactly what research over the last 35 years very specifically fails to support. In fact, based in part on the compilation of studies by George Hillocks in Research on Written Composition, we used to use grammar-driven writing lessons as our control groups because it was really well demonstrated that those had no lasting effect on writing quantity or quality.  Sentence combining does have evidence to demonstrate its success, but if you aren’t citing the Christensens, you’re missing the connection to both tradition and experiments.

<sigh>  But every so often, the “if only we drilled them on grammar” will come around again, and we’ll need people like George, Mina Shaughnessy, and other dogged, data-driven people to turn that tide back again.

 

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Image-of-E8-Root-System

I can’t begin to tell you what the E8 system is.  These people probably have a better chance at it.  This might be another starting point, but there are arguments about it.

 

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