Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Critical Mom Critiques

Or she tries. I write something approaching a pep talk on the papers I grade, while spotlighting errors. Today, a student settled combatively in my visitor's chair--lower lip extended--and insisted, "Yes, I did!" when I pointed out that she had not, in fact, stated that Teyve's thinking was in line with "the American dream." She might instead have remarked, I said, that when he asks God for more money and cows, he is hoping to get these things, and that this hope bears some relationship to what nineteenth-century Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms experienced when they ended up on American shores, pursuing American dreams.
Hmmmf, my student said. 
I advised her to read. Did she read a newspaper? How about Die Zeit? 
No, she read WAZ, (Westdeutsch Allgemeine Zeitung or West German General Newspaper), the local rag (the American equivalent would be the New York Daily News sprinkled with a little National Enquirer.) I told her to keep the WAZ to line her cat box but not to read it. She probably told the dean on me.
I am holding in my hands a term paper in which Ayesha, AKA "She Who Must Be Obeyed," the drop-dead (literally: basilisk-eyed) beauty of Rider Haggard's novel is described as adorable. The student who wrote it mentions Haggard's inner struggle to form a firm view on womanhood.
I wish I were making this stuff up. This person is going to be a teacher some day.  So is the graduate student who--during the exam I was giving this morning--suddenly lifted her book up off the table.
"Hey!" I said.
"Oh, I just forgot the title," said she.
"You can't look at the book!" I yelled.
The barn door was open, the horses galloping away, but she did not look at the book again.
Meanwhile, another student has produced a last-minute essay on education in a famous American novel. Here's a sample:

In contrast to [name redacted] and [name redacted's] idea of education, [name redacted] teaches his children to be observant of their environment by telling his children about the world outside which are mentioned in songs he sings and encourages them to explore their surroundings. We will see this later. Both teaching methods, if you want to call them that, create an interaction between acquiring and learning. 


My dream is to teach a year-long course in which students learn to enjoy writing. In my course, students will write from the heart. They will know what it is to have an opinion, and they will have opinions by the dozens. They will never write "all in all." They will read essays and I will teach in such a way that they look forward to reading them. By the end of the term, they will toss their cell phones over their shoulders and head to the library to get dusty among the tomes. Aw, heck, they can go to Barnes & Noble, too. 


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