Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Pedagogical Changes

This was a great semester to relearn teaching. I had my first negative ratemyprofessor review! Finally, and it was convenient that vanity, of all things, is what did me in for that person. It's always the quiet ones.

Still, I completely understand why I got this review. I have this habit early in the semester to teach like Mr. Wizard. Don Herbert told his student they were wrong, clearly and unambiguously. If you watch it now, you'll see how humorously jarring it is—especially if you're used to teaching these fragile youth today. But, of course, if you watch the entire episode, you see how it's all part of the act. It's a hit to the vanity we allow our children to indulge in, allow entire cultures to give themselves over to the monoculture of feeds, tweets, snaps, swipes, and bumps. There's your one world language, a brand in any land. You have to do battle against the vanity in yourself and in your students in those beginning days. You will undoubtedly lose several who do not want to deal with this prick. It's okay. It's the miserable ones who for their same pride remained in class long enough to snicker the very last day. They don't like the exploring style of pedagogical teaching, where dead ends are our own fault—but there's so many other games and rules and puzzles if we just get back into it. It's play, it's fun, it's dialectic dangerously.

One student told me that he thought he had more confidence by the end because he was one of the few who was not told he was wrong. It's as scathing as it praise. There was another student who felt that he alone was the one in the hot seat longest, hounded hardest, and given no peace. It fits the personality, but the thing of it is, I know I was much harder on another student, one who earned my respect for how much he pulled his shit together mentally under our confrontations. It was dangerous, it sometimes felt, because I didn't know for sure if I had gone too far and cut his pride, rather than wounding it like I mean, or if I just had to have faith in the process. But he got his shit together, and a few students at the end did tell him to his face how they found themselves overcoming their own issues with frustration by listening to him mumbling in the beginning. They found their frustration challenged by how he overcome his own frustration with himself for not having the right words and started to make persuasive points—if the guy can get with it and be nice and clear, the least they could do and no longer be jerks was get over it themselves and let his words wash over them. It worked, at least for a few of them.

So, I think I have to understand that they need a lot of obvious signs that I don't really believe anything until you hear total honesty and vulnerability for once in a classroom. Signs have to be short and memorable. Like, WDTM? or HDYKT? In this case, I'll need a verbal saying, since it needs to be audible: "There are no wrong answers. Only some are more right."

So, more and clearer winks to the metagame, since this is what philosophy is about.

1 comment:

  1. Also, I've decided to make the hot-seat a dice toss. This removes it from my own idiosyncratic choosing of people (I think I know my reasons why, but I also don't know myself as well as I think) and makes it appear random (like how Chigurh flips the coin but Carla Jean, in the movie, challenges he who must act as servant of fate—there is no fate if we must serve it).

    It does also institute the idea of the lot(tery). In a selection by lot, everyone is up. It might be you. So, be prepared for the lot.

    The radical idea I like about governance by lots goes like this. If the leader is going to be someone randomly selected, then we might get losers. We don't want losers, so therefore choosing by lot is stupid. Not so fast. If we accept the system works the way it's supposed to, then it's incumbent on all of us to ensure that the person whom fate chooses will be prepared in however way. It can be any one of us—and thus, we need to make sure all of us are decent, upright, well-intending and minimally-invasive people.

    How our leaders are chosen says a lot about what we think of our responsibilities towards others. If we choose leaders on merit, we think it's everyone's own responsibility to earn their merit. If we choose leaders by their birth, we see the responsibilities align through perceived genetic similarity—it devolves onto racial or ethnic prejudices. If we choose our leaders by their force, we take our responsibilities as hindering or outwitting or overcoming others' use of force.

    The initial reaction to governing by lot is manifest unfairness. Surprisingly, nobody seems to see that if that is the reason why we should reject governance by lot, then clearly we'd get rid of everything we're trying now. So, it's got to be something else actually motivating the unease of governance by lot. I don't think it's plainly the non-rational aspects of it. That has something to do with it. I do think it's the idea that it creates a different type of responsibility upon us. Rather than parasitize on old inherited notions of charity—with their built-in hierarchies of dependency and economic necessity ("The poor you will always have with you" is both an affirmation of permanent class struggle and a cynical admission that there's never enough time to worship God even when he's right there in front of you)—let's embrace the idea that we're responsible to create leaders out of everyone else.

    So, the more I can habituate my students to the underlying mechanisms of aleatory responsibility, the more I can habituate them to the other side of the Wager message: we have to learn the practices of submission in the midst of other people who also recognize that life is a coin toss separated from us by an infinite chaos.

    In other words, living in grace means also encouraging one another to become good people in order to help out any person when the situation for it happens.

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