Those who can't do

It is intriguing that someone who has taught logic and reasoning for so many years and is now in charge of other professors who teach the same would be so UTTERLY LACKING in it herself.

Today's staff meeting was the usual mixture uselessness that raises my blood pressure and ridiculousness that drives me ever closer to insanity. The meeting started with a passing out of how our students faired on a pre-proficiency examination. In a class of 17, 9 of my students failed. Such an event would depress anyone, but when the rest of the meeting is spent systematically depriving me of any measures I COULD take to help such students, well, all I can say is I am in the realm of needing a bucket of margaritas. After the distribution of the results, we then had to discuss which students were required to attend extra tutoring. Students who "really" failed would have to attend tutoring, but the head of the department decided, despite dissent from the teachers, that students who "just" failed were not in need of extra help. And I am expected to get them up to par in another three months without being about to require tutoring because " We don't want them to feel bad , we want them to feel good about their writing."

THEY ARE FAILING. Whether it is by an inch or a mile, they aren't going to make it to their sophomore year, never mind get an actual degree, if they don't pass this exam. They aren't supposed to feel good about their writing, if they are failing. Pain and failure are a key part of the learning process. They indicate to us that we did something wrong or that we are ignorance of some key factor. The Head of the Department, Bleeding Heart, wants to remove pain from the classroom. As if that is even possible. She is in stark contrast to teachers I had like Travis Preston and Marlene Pennison, who not only expected failure, but demanded it. Travis said "You have to embrace failure. If you can't fail, then you aren't in the right place. If you can't fail, you aren't learning." Marlene told us our very first day at NYU, "I want you to fail. I want you to fail here and now so that when it matters, when you are on your big broadway audition you WON'T fail then. Fail here, where it is safe."

Arthur Kleinman, author of the Illness Narrative, claims that the West has decide that pain is not a necessary part of life. Pain is indeed a necessary and natural part of life, and instead of trying to remove it, people should be taught that a certain amount of pain and discomfort is perfectly reasonable. Kleinman is referring to physical pain, but in this case the aversion to pain has spread to emotional as well ( hence the widespread prescription of anti depressant and anti anxiety medication). According to Allen Bloom, author of the Closing of the American Mind, "all the vulgarities of the world outside the university will flourish within it" (337). And the aversion of emotional pain, if we consider this a "vulgarity", has certainly flourished in the university setting. Mark Edmundson in his essay "On the Uses of Liberal Education: As Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students" relates the following story, "I remember a college student telling me how humiliating it was to corrected by a teacher. by me. So I asked the logical question: 'Should I let a major factual error go by so as to save discomfort?'The student-a good student...said that was a tough question.'" He points to the "generation of parents who sheltered these students, kept them away from the hard knocks of everyday life, making the cautious and over-fragile, who demanded that their teachers...flatter them endlessly so that the kids are shocked of their college profs don't reflexively suck up to them" as one of the main causes for the failure of modern students to consider pain part of the normal learning process. Ellen Langer , the author of The Power of Mindful Learning claims that students are "unhappy with an educational experience that ha sonly rewarded them." So if Edmundson and Langer are correct, students not only need to fail, but they need to learn that failure and pain are an integral part of the learning process.
Of course, the head of my department needs to learn it first.

But I digress.

Furthermore, when I pressed that I wanted all of my students who failed to be required because I was concerned about how their failure would reflect on me as a teacher, one of the other teachers, who is tenured said, "Think about what their failure says about them as a student." Well that's all well and good for you, as you are guaranteed a job next semester, as for the rest of us (only one teacher in the department is tenured) a majority of our evaluation is based on getting these students to pass. I know damn well that Miss Bleeding Heart, who supported the tenured prof in the meeting, would sit me down and ask me how I failed as a teacher if even three of my students don't make proficiency. Suddenly the burden would shift from them to me. And then I had to teach my totally apathetic two o'clock class.

In the words of the Reverend Horton Heat, It's martini time.
( Or maybe Time to Pray would be more appropriate.)

Comments: Post a Comment

    This page is powered by 
Blogger. Isn't yours?