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We All Live in a High Yella Submarine - I hate English people
March 23rd, 2007
01:51 pm

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I hate English people
So this came across my English grad student list this morning. I am not familiar with this blogger, but if it is, indeed, a real student letter than, to me, the student writes as though English is his second language. Other than that, he raises some potentially valid points, that I, as a professor would like to suss out rather than simply mock. In other words, I can not get on this "let's laugh at the [potentially brown] student bandwagon."

I hate English people.

The Email
I'm assuming that I'm not the only person who reads Scott Eric
Kaufman's blog, so some of you may have seen this. It is the funniest thing
that I've read all day long:

But it's not funny, Paige, it's not

Paige
University of Washington

The ensuing discussing which doesn't address the *real* problematics of this at all

Thanks, Paige.

As an avid reader of both The Valve and Acephalous, I'm often laughing
with Scott Eric Kaufman's writing, especially his Valve posts.

Still, after reading this student complaint, which is posted on a
public blog, I must question Kaufman's motive. Here, as with his description
of Still, after reading this student complaint, which is posted on a
public blog, I must question Kaufman's motive. Here, as with his description
of Philip K. Dick's work as “Xtre-heeemely Cheezy Sci-Fi Ga-haaarbage",
I wonder what he is defending.

Does he want us to laugh at this student, too? If so, for what purpose?

My point is this: I fear that this complaint might accurately reflect
common perceptions of English instructors as haughty, self-indulgent,
and, well...discomforting. After all, what if the complaint is
accurate? Is the potential accuracy a part of why Kaufman renders this complaint
his favorite? I'm not sure.

What if, as with all of the comments that follow Kaufman's post, we are
laughing AT students, mocking them, and, indeed, proliferating a
problematic perception of English as a discipline? That is a lot of
what-ifs, and I do not intend to antagonize. Often times, I get
frustrated, too, especially when students say things that make me
re-think my pedagogy.

Indeed, I'm being rather sober for a post on the Englist. Here's to
Spring Break! Nevertheless, I must say, the last thing that I would do
is post a student complaint (even if anonymous) in a public forum. Such
a move does not reflect well upon us, as instructors of English.

What do you think? Am I being too earnest here?

Hope all's well,
Jentery


Another "we're in Seattle" I can't *really disagree response

Jentery,

Spring break rocks on.

I don't want to be too earnest, either, and your point is well taken.
I, too, would not post student complaints in a public forum. Nor would
I want to speak for Kaufman's intentions. My sense is that the post
and comments are more in the tone of frustrated irony than mockery. I
could be wrong.

I, too, would not post student complaints in a public forum. Nor would
I want to speak for Kaufman's intentions. My sense is that the post
and comments are more in the tone of frustrated irony than mockery. I
could be wrong.

But, just to raise a counterpoint, isn't it also a common perception of
humanities-types that we second guess our pedagogy to the point of
making it ineffective, or, perhaps even worse, meaningless? My suspicion
is that more of my students respond to English courses with "The
instructor thinks this pedagogy is liberating us, but really it's a bunch of
baloney" then "my teacher is haughty and self-indulgent."

Or, to quote from memory some undegrads overheard at the IMA: "It's a
philosophy paper. It can be the worst paper you've ever written, but
you'll still get a 3.1."

I tend to think that we should give our students, as well as our
pedagogy, more credit than we do. They know when they're bullshitting, and
when we aren't, and, on the flip side, when they aren't and we are.

Which doesn't let any of us off the hook, and is never an excuse for
mockery.

In solidarity,

pj

Oh the letter is hipster-irony intellectual style, no wonder I didn't get it, I'm not hip

Jentery, You raise entirely valid points. For me, in this case, the
beauty of
the post is that it *does* call into question both the student and
Kaufman.
The student is absurd...but Kaufman, in framing the complaint, seems
more than
ever like a character straight out of a David Lodge novel...and I don't
mean
this in a complimentary sense. But Kaufman has always struck me in that
way.

For the record, I am not at all convinced that the complaint is real:
composing
it AS REAL seems precisely Kaufman's style. As to whether he should
have
posted it if it is real, on the one hand, I am concerned about
confidentiality;
but on the other hand, I tend to see these sorts of letters as falling
under
the same rubric as letters to the editors of newspapers: in sending
them, you
agree that they may be published/viewed by multiple eyes. Indeed, I
think that
especially when you are sending a complaint letter, the implication is
that you
want it viewed by as many readers as possible.

In the end, even all my ethical considerations don't lessen my
amusement at the
letter, which is one of the major reasons I was willing to point at it
on
EngList. Who am I to laugh privately when I could laugh publicly and
potentially start a good discussion? I don't intend to mock the student
himself, nor do I think the commenters meant to mock him personally --
but I can only speak for my own intentions.

If the student were to come across his complaint, I'm sure he would be
upset.
And in some ways, I would feel badly for him. And yet, one of the
things that I try to teach my students is that they are always going to be
held accountable for what they write -- whether in the context of what
grade their writing gets them, or in any other context you can imagine.
And I think this letter being posted is a good example of the form that
being held accountable can take. Is it overly compassionate towards
the student? No. But few things are.

I wouldn't post a student complaint in a public forum -- but if I were
teaching Foucault's Panopticon, I would be very tempted to teach the
letter, and the accompanying situation in class. I'm not sure where that
situates me ethically -- does it make me better or worse? -- but it's
what I would do.

Happy Spring Break, all--

Paige

Happy me back from Hawaii, y'all!

Tags:

(Holla!)

Comments
 
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 24th, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
(Link)
A friend forwarded me this, and I'd like to address some of the issues raised here in greater detail...and I will, shortly, on my blog (as others share some of the concerns aired here).

SEK
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 24th, 2007 03:14 am (UTC)
(Link)
And now I have (http://acephalous.typepad.com/acephalous/2007/03/i_am_making_peo.html). Feel free to forward it to whomever you'd like to continue the conversation with.

SEK
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