Monthly Archives: February 2011

On Special Students

It is seven and I have just gotten home. I ate Ak-Mak and hummus, which I had stored for this occasion since, due to renovations in the kitchen, I cannot cook. I made a salad and I am drinking a glass of wine. I have just realized I am missing one of the films in the art series the university is giving, a film I really wanted to see. I could still go, and perhaps I will, but I am tired and disoriented and although I remembered it in the morning, I had forgotten until this moment.

The reason for this is special students. In one class, dealing with discipline – confiscating cell phones, sending students out into the hall, insisting they speak to the department chair and the Dean of Students, was truly exhausting today. I and some other students are slightly afraid of one young man who does not seem particularly balanced.

In the next class, we sat in a circle so that the most dominant student cannot place herself in the middle and interrupt so visibly. She moved her chair so as to sit by me and kept tapping me on the shoulder when she felt attention was going to another speaker. She appears to feel she knows more about the material in the course than I or the majors do, and she has given speeches on why our approach to the field is wrong.

This student was the only one who could not write her paper. I have suggested to her repeatedly, verbally and also in writing, that she be evaluated for ADD and get treatment for anxiety. She shouts at me, saying that she should have alternative assignments since she does not miss class and she does “participate.”

All of these students have major educational and mental health problems. I have been repeatedly told we must be understanding and helpful to those who have not had the opportunities in life we have had. They are the customers, and we are to serve them well.

I do not think this is in any way right. I also do not think the problems these people have can be addressed with the idea of “helping the poor student” in mind. These students are well aware that we have been directed to “help” them and to be “understanding,” and they are taking advantage of this.

I note that some of these people are planning on failing — they are in school this semester because grants and loans are what they are living on now. And that, I suggest, is why they are so fervently believe that all recipients of public aid are “freeloaders” — because they themselves are.

They are the easy cases, however. The student who mystifies me is the one tapping me on the shoulder. She is, as she points out, serious. But she has many gaps in her preparation and they cannot be easily filled. I mean: her preparation is a gap and I am not sure how to bridge it, since this is a junior level course already.



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Five Days Without Nora / Nora’s Will



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Duncan on H.D.

The H.D. Book is at its core a polemic–elevating the female and the nonconformist and the heterodox against the institutions of men. One of these institutions was literature.


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Jorge Michel Grau


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Papa Grows Funk


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sabotage (n.)

1910, from Fr. sabotage, from saboter “to sabotage, bungle,” lit. “walk noisily,” from sabot “wooden shoe” (13c.), altered (by association with O. Fr. bot “boot”) from M. Fr. savate “old shoe,” from an unidentified source that also produced similar words in O. Prov., Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Basque. In French, the sense of “deliberately and maliciously destroying property” originally was in reference to labor disputes, but the oft-repeated story that the modern meaning derives from strikers’ supposed tactic of throwing old shoes into machinery is not supported by the etymology. Likely it was not meant as a literal image; the word was used in French in a variety of “bungling” senses, such as “to play a piece of music badly.” The verb is first attested 1918 in English, from the noun. Saboteur is 1921, a borrowing of the French agent noun. Related: Sabotaged; sabotaging.


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AX is for Accent

I have come across a possible solution to all my accent mark problems. AX. Free, open source, works anywhere; it is working for me in three programs so far.


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A Side Question

1. The wireless card on the Toshiba Satellite L645D does not seem to be very good.

2. I continue to miss WordPerfect 5.1 and 5.2 for DOS. These current word processors all have irritating automatic features that keep turning themselves on even after I turn them off. And I really liked that reveal codes function.

3. The computer I want is the LC2430Hn Linux Laptop, which would cost me $1200. I do not know that it would solve my problems.

4. If I had a Linux laptop with a European keyboard, and downloaded Open Office in a European version, would my accent mark problems disappear?

5. I do not find that Open Office and MS Word are fully compatible.

6. If I never used MS Word again, could I remain in this profession? Would people with MacIntoshes and MS Word be able to read my .rtfs and .pdfs, at least, or would I be in the wilderness?

7. What is the answer?



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Notes and Fragments (On Capitalism and Gender, Perhaps)

1. On the idea that what is professional and also healthy is to act in individualistic, self protective ways: to what economic and other models does this supposition correspond?

2. It appears to me to be neither healthy nor supportive of the profession.

3. I say that, of course, because I’m a union man and either socialist or anarcho-syndicalist, I do not understand myself well enough yet to know.

4. I note that in practice, not to act in individualistic, self protective ways, seems to encode one as “feminine.”

5. Academia is not the only context in which I have seen  a political attitude get (re)converted into a service or charity oriented one.



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From Historiann, with Emphasis Added

1. [One speaker was] Brett Bowles, a French professor at SUNY Albany. . . . Bowles urged everyone in the audience to be proactive and aware of what’s going on in their universities and to make alliances across disciplinary boundaries. He encouraged larger humanities departments like English and History to stand up for the smaller majors because . . . “this is where we’re all headed. . . . ”

2. Some of the discussion amongst the audience after the panelists had their say was rather limited, and focused more on ideas about pitching our teaching more broadly or trying to make arguments that our courses teach valuable and marketable skills. I don’t think the value of our teaching or the courses we offer in the humanities is at all in question, because we know that universities and departments are happy to hire adjuncts and casual labor to cover them when we resign or retire.

3. Clearly, universities need someone to teach these courses–it’s our roles as humanities researchers and generators of new knowledge that are under attack.  That’s what makes us different from K-12 teachers–those of us on the tenure-track are contractually and professionally required to conduct research and publish peer-reviewed articles, chapters, and books.  That’s what the wider public doesn’t understand or care about, and what universities don’t want to support.

4. They’re perfectly happy with our work as teachers–in fact, many members of the public don’t understand why we don’t do more teaching We need somehow to make the case that ongoing research in the humanities is worthy of public investment and private support both in its own right, and as something that continuously feeds and nourishes our teaching.

5. Where do we get ideas for new courses, new books, new kinds of assignments?  The answer, 9 times out of 10, is either directly related to or an indirect byproduct of our research, and if universities fail to support their faculty as active researchers, the curriculum and the quality of teaching will suffer directly. Moreover, universities and the general public have a broader responsibility to the culture of our nation to support humanities research across a variety of fields and disciplines:  think of the cost to our other cultural institutions like museums and the arts if university faculty were required just to teach, and never learned new languages, never went to archives to look at ancient or recently unclassified documents, or stopped providing expert advice on preserving old buildings and on city planning and development questions. . . .

6. Are we really prepared for scholarship to become the pursuit of dilettantes again, as it used to be, or do we think that access to a great education and productive faculty scholars is important to fulfilling the promise of our democracy? . . . Will America defend her great democratic institutions, or should we all just fold up the chairs and go home?


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