I am toast. Since Monday, when I haven’t been teaching or preparing to teach, or going to the bathroom or eating, I have been “responding” to student papers. Maybe Erikson wasn’t such a failure. Many students seem to be getting a little something out of it. Every damn one of them is in the middle of an identity crisis. Of course what else are they going to say, when for a blog entry, as prep for the paper, I had them write on the topic “My Identity Crisis.” Now, to be fair to myself, I did say, if you don’t have an identity crisis, then say that; with the caveat that if they didn’t have one they should try to define what it is that they didn’t have.
I mean just saying, “I am happy as a clam and have no Identity Crisis” wouldn’t quite cut the mustard. They would have to give some details about being happy as a clam and show some understanding of Erikson by saying what he meant by the Identity crisis that they were not having. Since this would require actually reading Erikson or having listened to me in class, I pretty much boxed them in, I suppose, since even the people who said they do have identity crisis didn’t seem really to understand what he meant by it.
But the basic dynamic of the ID crisis seems to have supplied some students at least with an analytic tool for filtering through their experience and also with a means for organizing the paper. Something like: development stage—leading to need for adjustments in present relative to new environment perhaps entailing reassessment of past (prior education and/or personal ideals): or the crisis as a moment increased of potential and with that increased vulnerability (possibility of wrong choice, misuse of potentials, failure, inability to know the future, etc).
Also quite a number—though far from all—followed my advice and tried to stick as much as possible to one example—the primary one being the step into college. Writing at the sentence level improved for some students, and while those who didn’t improve at this level didn’t go backwards.
One student wrote about wanting in high school to be a cracker-jack top gun surgeon who would never snap under pressure. Erikson says adolescence is a time when young people establish ideals or turn to idols as models for future behavior. This kid though watched too much TV and seems to have based his ego-ideals (as Freud might call them) on ER. So this kid comes to college and like washes out in pursuit of his ideal in the first quarter. Not only is he not going to be a cracker-jack top gun surgeon he realizes, but also he “snaps” and starts to slide.
Half of them seem scared to death because they have not selected a major and the other half seems scared to death because they have. No wonder—many seem to believe that the selection of a major will determine their fates for THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
I gave a short lecture trying to disabuse them of this notion. Though this may have only added to their fear since the gist of my little lecture was “nobody knows what is going to happen.”