Wednesday, April 20, 2005

So I'm at work, and Laura, my 35-year-old lesbian manager, are talking to Josh and Sam, two of my coworkers. I am standing behind Laura giving her moose antlers with my hands, and Josh makes some reference to Laura being a canadian moose. Laura notices me, and I walk away, and they're left in the kitchen talking about what movie the funny Canadian moose are from. They are, of course, referring to Brother Bear, but before they get there, they call it "Big Brother", and then "Big Brother Bear", to which I muse:

"Big Brother Bear, oh yeah. That's the movie where a colony of animated Bears is constantly being monitered by an unseen force."

Laura, not quite comprehending my joke, says "Yes, Linda, we know what it's about. It's that Disney movie. I think it's just called Brother Bear, though."

"No, I was...it was a joke. I was combining the movie Brother Bear with the whole Big Brother thing."

Laura gives me a blank stare in return.

"You do know what Big Brother is, right?"

She gives me an I'm-not-a-complete-moron look and, when I push further, begrudgingly answers "It's that reality show", as if I'm accusing her of failing a really simple test.

"Uh, yeah, but what does that come from. The title 'Big Brother', what does that refer to?"

A blank stare.

"What book does it refer to?"

A blank stare.

I turn to Sam and Josh. "Okay, you guys know what book the phrase 'Big Brother' comes from, don't you?"

Two blank stares.

"What book written in 1948? Nineteen forty-eight?" Wink.

Now they're all glancing at each other, deciding that I'm the crazy one.

"Jesus, people, 1984." As you may expect by now, this does not illicit the appropriate "Oh, yeah. That one." It, in fact, illicits nothing. "Come on you guys, it was one of the 20th century's most important works of literature. Written by George Orwell."

Nothing.

"George Orwell?" I say, pleadingly.

Nothing.

"The guy who wrote Animal Farm!" I say, frustrated.

"You mean Animal House." Laura says, knowingly.

"Ooooh," say the other two, simultaneously. "That was a great movie!"


Motherfucker.


---


Speaking of the failures of education in the English department, my frustation for my College Writing class grows still. Last class, for instance, went like this: First, he collects our homework, the final draft of our first essay and the rough draft of our second. Then, he hands out a "pronouns packet", which is photocopied pages of the convaluted, unclear, archaic textbook he's in the process of writing. We spend the first hour and a fucking half of class doing this while he grades papers, and most of this time he's not even in the room-- this, I assume, is so he doesn't have to grade papers in his free time, which I assume he spends writing even more bullshit for that textbook. Now, I said before we're "doing" this pronouns packet, and what I mean is "failing miserably at it." Even I barely have the slightest idea what's going on when prompted to choose from the objective and subjective pronouns in particple phrases-- it's not that it's hard, exactly; in fact, if he had explained it even in the slightest, I'm sure I, as well as a good half of the class or so, would get it in an instant. Myself, I have enough faith in my ability (my ability to give-a-shit about my test grade, that is) to spend the class drawing angry pictures of the instructor on the packet. It's the others I'm worried about. I see a few of them during break, and they assure me they have no idea what the hell is going on with it. The test is either next class or the class after that, and the only way we will have gone over it by then is to correct the paper in class, wherein he will devote approximately 3 minutes each to some of the many points of confusion, all of which will have settled into my poor classmate's heads so deeply as to be past the point of no return by then.

But this, this only represents the first half of the class, which is the lesser disappointment for someone who's paid over 500 dollars to be there.

The second part of our class, he passes our rough drafts to out to other members of the class, and we are to spend the rest of the class quietly peer editing. This is a nice enough theory, but the problem is such-- there's only been a limited amount of time spent on how to write an essay, certainly not enough to explain it to a room full of people who haven't written anything more than a grocery list in 5-30 years. In fact, the day we were supposed to pass in the rough draft of our first essay, a full fourth of the students came in with some sort of outline or pre-write (these being the one and only things he's gone over in detail, as he seems to think the average students biggest downfall is not being able to come up with ideas to fail horribly in writing an essay about), and it occured to me, but not to him, that he had never explained to these sad people what a rough draft was. He then admonished them for not doing the assignment which they had, in all fairness, done to the best of their ability, and told them to bring it in next class, and they were left asking the other students in class what they were supposed to do. Anyways, he passes our rough drafts back to each other, and effectively, a roomful of people who didn't know what they were doing when they were writing theirs have to critique and edit each other's, and if you're lucky, your paper has been passed to someone who has an idea what they're doing. Michelle, who sits next to me, was critiquing the paper of someone so lost that they had not a five but a seven paragraph essay, four of which were comprised of one sentence each. I had to explain to my peer edit (not in person, but there, in the margins) what a conclusion paragraph was, and there was some talk of a student who had, once again, passed in a outline, although I might have misheard that. Last time we went through this hellish procedure, he at least went through the motions of checking what we had written on each other's papers to see if it was totally off-base or not: that is to say, he collected them, and didn't pass them back until the next class, though my guess is that in that time they were away, they were totally untouched. This time, however, he merely collected the essays and the comments sheets, passed them all back to the original author, and assigned that next class, we should bring in our final copy, which is what we will be graded on.

Oh, the hubris of it. This man is infuriating. On the first day of class, he asked what people had heard about him, and my classmates all chimed in that he was said to be "tough". Having heard nothing of the sort, I assumed that this was just the frustrated undertones of simpletons who had been forced to learn, but I was wrong. These are the moans and cries of a group of students-- middle age, lower income, who are really trying hard, at this point in their lives, to better themselves, to have a decent life or to prove to their children it's never too late to learn-- students who are too confused and too simple to realize that the folly is that they are not being taught. Handing out a packet and leaving is not an education-- not a five-hundred dollar per class one, anyway. These people didn't sign up for a fucking correspondence course, so do your damn job. Christ.

In all fairness, I recognize that eight weeks is a very short period of time to try to cram in all the fundamentals of writing and grammar into the heads of a bunch of frightened and overwhelmed students, but let's not waste any more time running errands and correcting papers, huh? C'mon Professor Elsewhere, why don't you sit in next time?


On with it.

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