Monday, December 15, 2014

Just gonna say:

I'm a college professor and if I'm ever spotted carrying a bag of hammers somewhere? It means I'm going to a Habitat for Humanity event and am bringing tools.

Being the change you want to see in the world should not include inciting violence.

Man, people just get me DOWN, you know?

Friday, December 12, 2014

"How dare you"

I got an e-mail from a student in my class that has an explicit attendance policy (as in, more than x number of unexcused absences* and you lose points). It was effectively, "How dare you give me a D because I have so many absences!"

Okay, I admit it: I kind of hate attendance policies. These students are allegedly grown-ups, they should be able to decide or not whether to come to class. And frankly, almost always, it comes out in the wash: the people with crap attendance wind up failing because they don't participate and they don't get important information. (And their motivation generally is poor; I don't know if poor attendance causes poor grades, or if the two are merely correlated, and people with poor attendance don't care about their education, and so, earn poor grades). And it's a big effort for me to keep track of as many as 80 students, their comings and goings, why they're not here, etc. I'd rather just dump the policy and say, "If you skip and you fail, it's on you. We told you you could not do well if your attendance was poor." but this is a gen-ed class and it's expected that we keep track.

(Also, there are rumblings that because 0.01% of the students on financial aid scam it, we may be required to take attendance - to require attendance - in ALL our classes ALL the time, and even perhaps report DAILY who is absent. Oh, why don't we just microchip the students, or put house-arrest bracelets on them? That would be a lot easier....)

(* And I am pretty generous about what I excuse: illness, even without a doctor's note - I tell people if they are reasonably sure they're contagious, DON'T come to class. Kid's illness. "got called into work at the last minute" if I get documentation. Funerals (I don't generally ask for documentation because it makes me feel like an ogre to, but most students bring a bulletin to show me). Jury duty. National Guard duty, though it's been a while since I had a student in the National Guard. Sports stuff, if I have a note from the coach.)

I don't know, though. I don't like the "how dare you" tone (the student did not say that, but it sounded that way from how the e-mail was worded). Their grade stands because there are RULES and the students know the rules, they read them and are told them on the first day of classes. In the workplace, there are rules, and people can get fired for excessive absenteeism.

But, gah, the entitlement mentality of some students; I've seen it in spades this semester - ranging from people hinting that they'd like me to e-mail them to remind them when their exams are (Surely, surely, there is an app where you can set up an auto-reminder? Or do like me, and write it down on a big calendar than hangs on your wall, and check the calendar?) to people telling me to e-mail them "everything they missed" on the day they were absent. (Meaning: Give me copies of your notes. Okay, kiddo, you ready to do a brain scan? 'Cos that's where my "notes" are these days.)

Oh, I had some wonderful students - I always do. But it's the snowflakey ones that eat up my time and that make me roll my eyes.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Tell me something good

These days, if you try to watch the news, you really have to have your Critical Thinking Hat on. There will be some story that is calculated to cause OUTRAGE and senses of HOW CAN THEY DO THAT and then when you dig a little deeper, it turns out you only have heard part of the story.

I just want to know what's happening in the world without people trying to manipulate me into feeling a particular way. Is that possible? Was that ever possible? I don't remember the news as being so sensationalistic when I was younger.

Also, it just seems like everyone is angry. Angry at some other group, angry at how things are, angry at capitalism*, angry at the Christmas (er, "holiday") season, angry angry angry.

(*My standard rejoinder: Would being in a serfdom, where you're essentially the slave of some baron, be better? Or a world where everything you eat, use, or own is something you have to make yourself, from raw materials you've obtained yourself? Myself, I kind of like capitalism.)

And it just makes me so tired. I know a large part of this is the news trying to whip stuff up but seeing my day-to-day interactions, it does seem that lots of people just have a lot of free-floating anger at stuff....

I mean, if you're angry about something you have control over, and you can change it by peaceful means that do not involve hurting other people**, by all means, go and do that.

(** I hate that I even have to make that caveat, but we live in an age of "Let's burn this b*tch down")

If you're angry about how the world in general operates....well, I don't know. Try to effect change locally? Change yourself? Try to have positive interactions with the people around you? Maybe examine your own assumptions? I'm amazed at the number of people I know who gripe about having an "old" iPhone or a "small" (36 inch) television. I don't even bother to note that when my mother was growing up, her family didn't have a tv AT ALL and they didn't have a phone (the old, wall-mounted, dial-up kind) until she was a second-year college student. And iPhones and big-screen tvs didn't exist when I was a kid, and when big-screen tvs came on the market, it was just the ultra-rich that could afford them. (And anyway, there's not much on tv these days that would be improved by being BIGGER, IMHO.)

The whole material greed thing - whether it's someone griping because their tv is a few inches too small, or whether it's someone promoting looting as a way to get their hands on the stuff other people have (and therefore, that the looter "deserves" to have) - it's chilling. It's putting things over people. Burning down someone's business because you're angry or you want something they have - I don't care if it's a tiny hardware store run by a mom and pop or a big "faceless" Best Buy franchise - how does that make the world any better? How does adding to the sum total of violence in the world act against violence? How does breaking someone's heart benefit you?

I know, some people will say I "don't understand" because I'm white and "privileged." And yes, I own that I have a certain level of privilege - of unearned, undeserved good things in my life: I grew up in a two-parent family where those parents were loving and gentle with each other and their kids. I grew up in a household that valued education and hard work. I grew up with a church family that taught me even if my peers made fun of me and thought I was a loser, there were people who loved me and valued me and I was pretty much okay. I grew up with a faith that told me to love God and to love other people, even when those other people make themselves unloveable, and that that love means you don't do harm to them. I grew up learning that if you got really angry at someone, to the point where you might say or do something you regret, the best thing to do is to walk away for a while until your feelings cool, and then go and talk to them and explain why what they did bothered you. And I learned that there were some people who just chose to be mean, but also that I didn't have to be like them.

I don't know. I know I tend to see connections between things that are not necessarily connected but I see video of middle-class shoppers pushing and shoving for "deals" on stuff they probably don't really need, and I see the looters in Ferguson (And I'm not making any assumptions about who they are; there are apparently  a lot of weird bad groups that showed up there because there was unrest - anarchists, and white supremacists, and other violent groups), and I see politicians yelling at each other on the tv. And I wonder if everyone's just gone crazy. And it makes me want to build a big blanket fort and take some books and a box of crackers and a thermos of tea in there and hide and just resign from the human race for a few days. I know that's not a useful strategy, that I have to go out among people. And I also know that people who strive to do what's right and what's good need to be out there and need to be heard.

But it just makes me so tired.

I know there's good stuff going on in the world but it seems so little and so scattered these days, and the bad stuff seems so strong.