If the team at CSI had a department of forensic metaphysics or metaphors, they might be able to detect, though the sprinkling of some special metaphysical dust, a long yellow and continuous streak running along the ground behind me wherever I go. This is a complicated and excessively clever way of trying to say that most days, wherever I go and whatever I am doing, I feel as if I am dragging my ass. The causes for this condition I may or may not further detail, but for now I can say the conditioned has worsened as I have grown older.
Perhaps because of this general condition, these two back to back classes that I am teaching on Tuesday and Thursday this quarter loom on my psychic horizon like a twisted time warp from which I may or may not escape completely in tact. Maybe I could it at one time, but damn it’s four hours straight of continuous teaching.
I don’t know how the hell or what known criteria was employed that a writing class should be an hour and fifty minutes long. I remember indeed, at one time, a long ways back, the Tuesday, Thursday classes were an hour and 20 minutes. And then for some reason, we stopped teaching writing classes on Friday and for whatever reason that increased the class time to an hour and 40 minutes; and then out of nowhere at the command of the people who book the rooms we were ordered to go an hour and 50.
None of this as far as I am able to ascertain has any relation to or was the product of “educational” or “pedagogical” thinking. No. It’s all bureaucracy from top to bottom. For a university class to be a university class, students and teachers are required to have a certain amount of face time or we don’t get paid for the teaching.
Or to take another example, we require students to write approximately 20 pages per quarter in our classes. Why? Why not 2 well polished pages or 100 pages? Make them write like mad fools for a quarter. The answer to this really unimportant question is that one of the schools in the system is on semester and would not accept our classes for purposes of transfer unless we guaranteed our students write 20 pages a quarter.
How is that for sound pedagogical or education reason? Not that I know or have any idea how long a writing class should be for ideal educational purposes. I am inclined to think that most of the learning of a skill like writing occurs outside of the classroom. Giving some sort of lecture on the comma splice and then having students do exercises on the comma splice for an hour and 50 does nothing at all.
But maybe, at two in the morning, some students looks at what they have written and sees that they have constructed a paragraph that is a page long and that I the teacher have suggested that such paragraphs usually can be broken into smaller parts. And they look and, what do you know, it can be broken into smaller parts, except for this part which is two small and thus has either to be dropped completely or elaborated upon.
In any case, I have reached the conclusion that a writing class that’s an hour and fifty minutes long is very far from ideal.