Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"The Office" (workstation series) 75 (Wheel of the Year edition)

The year closes down: moving toward the academic Solstice, which predates the solar one, being the last day of classes--Finals week is definitely "winter." Campus gets eerily quiet in these last few days of the semester, as 60% of the kids quit going to classes so they can unsuccessfully try to cram 13 weeks of neglected work into 5 days of all-nighters and massive cribbing "study" groups.

On the other hand, the eerie quiet is matched with some remarkably intimate concentration--because the kids who are still bothering to come to class, and the professors who are still engaging with them (professors are just as prone to "early check-out" as are undergraduates), are all still in the classroom because they care about what goes on there. So all of a sudden the quality, range, and engagement of interaction go 'way up. It's one of the reasons that I actually enjoy teaching in these last few days, because it comes closest to feeling like a voluntary and constructive intellectual exchange (y'know: "learning").

One of the rather unremarked but "we're-going-to-be-paying-the-cost-for-generations" impacts of the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind" standardized testing (a typical Rovian/Orwellian bit of Newspeak, where you take the literal opposite of what you intend, put it into a fancy powerpoint, or a video news release with generic-emotion music, and claim that up is down, black is white) is that it has completed the "education as commodity" model that was begun all the way back in the '80s. The vast majority of students now believe that their education is not earned--not a set of skills one works to acquire--but rather purchased--a set of commodities to which, once payment is made, one is entitled, no matter how negligible one's own effort. E.g., "my Dad paid for this education, now gimme my A!"

So the kids who have been brainwashed to think that this commodity model buys them an actual "education" (and to see how well that's working, look at the model of certain East Asian trading nations, where students come out of college so unequipped that the companies which hire them have to teach them how to read, write, and speak critically) don't even bother to show up.

The ones who are left are the ones who will write the stories, design the software, teach the children, build the houses, and argue the policies which will shape whatever is left of this nation after the Bush administration's scorched-earth wholesale destruction of infrastructure, and of its population after environmental degradation, greed, and gluttony have decimated our health, initiative, and spirit.

That's why I'm still here in the last 2 days of the semester: because the kids who are still coming to class constitute our last best hope.


  • Two chapters
  • Preface
  • Cover letter for proposal
11 days to proposal deadline.

Below the jump: photos of the campus library. I call it "The Edsel" because it looks a little like the front radiator of a '58 Custom. But, it's actually logical design: when the architects first started laying out the buildings for this campus in the '30s (and really, ever since--there's a remarkable consistency of design conception, even up to the current construction), they modeled the designs on the Spanish Renaissance. Which actually makes sense: the plains and hills of Andalusia are damned near as hot and dry as it gets here in the summer. The tubular ceramic grille shades the building's windows effectively, provided efficient insulation from the direct hit of the sun.

And, as in Andalusia, in certain early-morning light (and skies) it's quite beautiful.
Now playing: Martin Carthy - King Henry

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