Wednesday, 24 November 2010

How not to help your cause Turns out one of Goldstein's brood took exception to my previous post and attempted to refute it by making a series of patently idiotic claims. For example: But Scott could at least have had the sense to not admit profound ignorance on what Beck ever says. I’m not surprised, though, because I know that for Serious People like SEK, admitting that he pays attention to the likes of Glenn Beck would collapse any credibility he may have among those whose good graces he desires to be in. Your eyes don't deceive you: the argument is, in fact, that criticizing Glenn Beck would "collapse any credibility [I] may have among those whose good graces [I] desire to be in." Because we all know left-leaning academics who criticize far-right lunatics are shunned by their colleagues. Further depressing my credibility is my intellectual honesty, which here takes the form of my admission, up front, that I'm not a regular viewer of the show. Note, though, that the claim is that I admitted a "profound ignorance on what Beck ever says," which is strange because I did no such thing. I wrote: I try not to pay attention to Glenn Beck, but even when I have, I never really paid attention to him. That's "passing familiarity," not "profound ignorance," and the difference between the two should be obvious, and is, unless your refutation of my post continues thus: You see, all of the topics that Glenn addresses–the dots that Scott attempts to connect–are topics that Glenn has has talked about at length in the past, so when he mentions this or that, he’s harking back to discussions he’s already had, discussions that most of the people watching have already heard. Translation: "All the dots Scott connected have been connected in the past, and this refutes his argument somehow." How exactly? Like so: See, what Glenn has said in the past about the Chinese is that unlike us, they plan waaaaay far ahead. They have contingency plans and stuff. And they’re looking to achieve hegemony in Asia and maybe more. Glenn has NEVER said that the Chinese plan to invade the U.S. So his fear-mongering concerning the Chinese is related to their desire to "achieve hegemony in Asia and maybe more." That's some non-ominous "maybe more" there, and the fact that it didn't issue from his mouth only makes my point stronger: he's inculcated his Fear of a Yellow Planet in his audience so successfully that even when they attempt to claim that his fears are fact-based and rational the fruits of his irrational speculation appear. To wit: Glenn has expressed this fear for a long time. He posits that a lot of powerful radicals, financed by Soros cash, are counting on Obama to fulfill their political wish list, but that if he proves to be unable or unwilling to do so, they’ll take him out. Claiming that he's "posit[ed]" something sans evidence for "a long time" doesn't disprove my argument that he engages in...
Is there texting in this class? When I read articles like the one Margaret Soltan linked to about texting in class, I can't help but be thankful that I once took—and took to heart what I learned in—a course on feminist pedagogy. I'm not going to address whether I consider circling up my students a challenge to patriarchal devaluations of "space" and "emptiness" as indicative of the "lack" and "void" of femaleness, because there's too much psychoanalytic clutter in both the theories of how repression works and how it can be resisted; instead, I'll focus on the simple fact that a modified circle presents more opportunities to hold students accountable for their classroom behavior. I write "modified" because the visual nature of my material requires regular use of a projection system, meaning my students arrange themselves in a horseshoe and I move between the lectern at the left heel and an adjacent desk. Point being, there are very few moments when everyone, myself included, can't see what everyone else in the class is doing. Of course, I teach a small writing class in which such mutual surveillance of the sort is possible, whereas the classes in which texting has become a problem are more likely to be like those of Laurence Thomas, a popular philosophy professor whose courses have waiting lists, [who] walked out on his class of nearly 400 students last week when he caught a couple of students fiddling with their phones instead of paying attention to him. It's impossible to police 400 students, and I admire the fact that Dr. Thomas is not only paying attention, but that he cares enough to walk out of his class. I have a feeling the same can't be said of those who teach, for example, similarly large "lectures" consisting of canned PowerPoints from textbook companies. The students have no incentive not to text, because the material on the screen is identical to the material in their outrageously expensive textbooks. No synergy happens in that room—the material is not re-purposed by an expert in ways that illuminate confusing passages in the book—it is simply repeated in a bullet format that oversimplifies the material's complexity. But I'm here to talk about how to discourage students from texting in class, not complain about the cookie-cutter education so many students are receiving. I'm not sure it works in larger classes, but in my horseshoe of a classroom, all it takes to discourage texting is to ask them to do a little visualization: Imagine that you are in a room full of people, each and every one of whom can see you. Picture yourself slipping your hands beneath your desk and placing them between your legs. Now, as your hands start to dance and your arms and shoulders gently flex, I want you to look at your face, the way your eyes shift from your crotch and then up, to your left and your right, then back to your crotch. I want you to focus on that shifty look, that look...

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