If it’s not one thing…

Classes started last week.

Both of my sections had 25 or more crashers. All the seats in one class were full and I had a student sitting on the floor by the door.

That had never happened before.

Also, I had a sheaf of emails already received from students asking to be put on the waiting list, with stories of a kind I had not previously heard. One student wrote that unless he could get my class, which he needs to be able to take classes in his major, that his parents were arguing he should not attend at all.

I found it pretty upsetting to have to kick out those 25 crashers in each section. But all the people enrolled in the classes, except one, showed up on that first day.

This is the sort of thing that is bound to happen when classes are cut; and they are being cut all over campus because of the UC Budget Crisis.

Thankfully the authorities had sent an email to all students saying that the problems with classes were not the fault of instructors like me. So nobody got angry with me, at least not directly to my face.

That was the first day of class. The second day of class, they all showed up apparently completely exhausted; this was most true of the 3:30-4:45 section.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

The day before classes started the laptop I bought to use as part of my teaching died. I borrowed one of the laptops from the Writing Program, but I don’t know how long I will be allowed to keep it.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Last night before going to bed, I checked the weather on the net. I do that every night. We live right on the fog line and the temp can fluctuate significantly. They said the temp was going down to 51 at night and then I mistakenly clicked another link and found:


I was happy that it was not a tsunami warning or watch, merely an advisory. Still, I went to sleep thinking I might wake to a flooded house. We live less than a mile from the Pacific.

But I am happy to report the downstairs was not flooded when I woke and remains unflooded.

I am exhausted.

Response to Yoda Yudof interview

Being who I am I was inclined to write off my response to the Yoda Yudof interview as the result of my unresolved Oedipal Complex.

But I do believe it touched a nerve also with others less unresolved.

One colleague reported that reading the interview made her feel as if she were falling into the abyss.

Another friend turned me on to some URLs out of Berkeley that also indicate considerable dissatisfaction with the interview. See especially the attempt of 19 people to provide YY with better responses to the questions.

And another colleague was moved to share a quotation:

To bring an area of life into accord with “rational choice” is to force life into the mold of a specific complex of metaphors for better or worse, all too often for the worse. An example is the trend to conceptualize education metaphorically as a business, or through privatization to make education a business run by considerations of “rational choice.” In this metaphor, students are consumers, their education is a product , and teachers are labor resources. Knowledge then becomes a commodity, a thing with market value that can be passed from teacher to student. Test scores measure the quality of the product. Better schools are the ones with higher overall test scores. Productivity is the measure of test scores per dollar spent. Rational-choice theory imposes a cost-benefit analysis in which productivity is to be maximized. Consumers should be getting the “best education” for their dollar.

This metaphor stresses efficiency and product quality above all else. In doing so, it hides the realities of education. Education is not a thing; it’s an activity. Knowledge is not literally transmitted from teacher to student, and education is not merely the acquisition of particular bits of knowledge. Through education, students who work at it become something different. It is what they become that is important. This metaphor ignores the student’s role, as well as the role of the role of the student’s upbringing and the culture at large. It ignores the nurturing role of educators, which often can be very labor-intensive. And it ignores the overall social necessity for an ongoing, maintained class of education professionals who are appropriately reimbursed for the immense amount they contribute to society.”

–George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh (1999), p. 532

TP Controversy

Some time back when I was in college, the phrase–“the personal is the political”–started making its round; and by god, the political seems to be getting more and more personal every day.

Now even what one might call “anus management” has fallen under the sign of the political.

Apparently a feud is brewing over the production and sale of three and four ply toilet paper, designed to produce a heavenly wiping experience as the only appropriate climax to a good dump.

The creation of this soft as a baby’s bottom stuff requires, according to the LA Times, the cutting of mature trees. Sure TP and facial tissue (I suppose this is Kleenex) account for only 5% of the mature tree killing, but environmentalists say it’s too much.

“At what price softness?” asks an official allied with the recycling industry.

That’s what we would have if the environmentalists have their way. Toilet paper made from recycled paper. That’s the kind of thing you can find in public toilets or at the Gray Hound Bus Depot. And from personal experience, I can testify this paper can be plenty rough, having on one occasion–I swear!–picked up a splinter from it.

I guess this problem will only be resolved only we can answer the pressing question: “Just how delicate is the average American anus?”

Yudof Interview: Stand up or Send up?

The impression Mark Yadof, President of the UC system, makes in his interview with the NY Times is so down right bad, I thought it had to be a send up. A joke, from its inception through its rather poor execution. That at least was the only excuse I could find for it.

If that is not the case, then Yodof is a graduate of the Dick Cheney school of the flip quip, as in, you know, “stuff happens.”

Having decided to eschew any appearance of “depth” or “thoughtfulness,” Yodof appears a wise ass bent on the humiliation of his interviewer.

But the world is run by talking heads, and Yadof apparently wants to join that fatuous crowd.

In any case, he appears an embarrassment to himself and the system he represents.

Maybe he was hired for his PR skills.

Education as Commodity

The La Times reports:

UC regents reluctantly backing proposal for more student fee increases

By Larry Gordon

September 17, 2009

Reporting from San Francisco

Proposals to sharply raise student fees at University of California campuses this winter and again next fall, and to further restrict freshman enrollment, appeared to gain reluctant support Wednesday from the system’s governing board. Yet, the plan also triggered angry opposition from students and employees that led to 14 arrests.

Meeting in San Francisco, some UC regents said they wondered whether it would be fair or even legal to raise fees in the middle of the academic year.

But given grim forecasts about the state budget, the board seemed prepared to impose a midyear increase of $558 in January, on top of the extra $662 in fees already approved for undergraduates this fall. The proposal calls for an additional increase of $1,956 to be charged next fall.

If the plan is approved in a vote scheduled for November, basic undergraduate fees for California residents next year would rise to about $10,300, not including room, board and other campus expenses. That figure would be 44% higher than in fall 2008.

In all, most UC undergraduates living in on-campus housing would pay more than $26,000 a year under the proposal, although officials said needy students would receive enough additional financial aid to cover the increases.

Regent Eddie Island, who has opposed previous fee increases, said he would support these because the 10-campus system already has cut staff pay, laid off employees and reduced class offerings.

“I’m sad to come to this position,” he said.

David Partida, a UC Santa Cruz student majoring in community and legal studies, said higher fees would force some students to drop out and send prospective freshmen to community colleges rather than directly to UC schools.

“You are closing the door to so many students. And that’s not right,” Partida told regents in a public comment session.

However, UC President Mark G. Yudof said that without the fee increases, course offerings at the university would be reduced further, which would hurt students more in the long run by stretching out the time needed to complete degrees.

Yudof also said he did not want to extend current employee furloughs into the 2010-11 school year.

“Students ought to be angry about the fee increase proposal. . . . I’m angry about it too,” Yudof said. “I like the old system: The closer it was to being free, the happier I’d be. But that’s not the world I live in.”

Near the beginning of the meeting at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus, about 100 demonstrators briefly disrupted the proceedings with chants. The protesters, mainly union activists, said they were upset about recent layoffs and the fee hike proposal.

Fourteen people were arrested and escorted out by UC police. They were cited for trespassing and unlawful assembly and released without bail, police said.

Such opposition to the UC administration is expected to be on display again on Sept. 24, when some faculty, staff and student groups are urging a systemwide walkout on the first day of classes for the fall quarter at many UC campuses.

In November, the regents also are expected to decide whether to cut freshman enrollment by an additional 2,300 students, similar to a reduction this year that brought the class size to 35,300.

In response to regents’ concerns about timing, UC attorneys said that enough advance notice would be given to make the midyear hike legal. However, some regents also expressed worries about another Yudof proposal that calls for undergraduate upperclassmen who major in business or engineering to pay an extra $900 a year in addition to the other increases. The cost of educating those students is especially high, Yudof said.

Regent Charlene Zettel called the idea misguided given what she described as a shortage of engineers.

Under the fee proposal, professional school students in areas such as medicine, law and dentistry also would see steeper increases over the next three years. For example, by 2012-13, a UC Berkeley law student would pay $51,818 per year, or 40% more than this year, and a UCLA medical student would pay $34,616, or 33% more. Those figures do not include the costs of living and books.


This is just staggering.

These developments back up Peter Gates when he writes:

This uniquely American ideal — the promise of equal educational opportunity — is close to vanishing unless we change course. Education is becoming like health care and so many other aspects of American life where money rules the system. We are creating a system in which ability to pay is the main thing that separates those who go to college from those who don’t go to college. 

Another Impossible Profession

Here I am gearing up for another year of teaching writing at UCSB. I think this will be year 30.

In 1980, I finished my dissertation, “Romantic Thought: Education and Alienation.”

That could be the title of my autobiography as a teacher. Looking back I see how much the reading I did for the dissertation has informed my thinking about teaching and education.

I continue to think about it and recently came across the following by Carl Rogers from an essay, “Freedom to Learn.”

a) My experience is that I cannot teach another person how to teach. To attempt it is for me, in the long run, futile.

b) It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential and has little or no significant influence on behavior.

c) I realize increasingly that I am only interested in learnings which significantly influence behavior.

d) I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influence behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning.

e) Such self-discovered learning, truth that has been personally appropriated and assimilated in experience, cannot be directly communicated to another.

f) As a consequence of the above, I realize that I have lost interest in being a teacher

That about sums it up, for me too, though I don’t think I have completely lost interest in being a teacher or at least in trying to figure out what one might be.

Meanwhile, T. Adorno speaks of the teacher as the executioner and school as the scene of executions.

Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul will always be, for me, my sophomore year (1965-66) in college album. After that, well, the Doors I guess for junior year, and Hendrix for senior year, 1968. rubbersoul.jpg

I held onto the vinyl for years, and lost it. Then I had a cassette version, and later the CD.

Music is tied to memory. Listening to Rubber Soul was always a bit hard; it was infused with the conflicts, confusions, vague longings, anxieties, and desires of that particular year. When I listen I can still feel some of the emotions in my chest.

That was the year I started smoking.

I listened to it so many times, just as one track was ending, the other would start up in my head, and, then, sure enough, the next song would start.

Maybe that’s why I don’t considered the digital version or remastered digital version of Rubber Soul, the real Rubber Soul.

The Real Rubber Soul was the American release. The American release started with:

I have seen a face, I can’t forget the time or place when we just met she’s just the girl for me and I want all the world to see we’ve met.

The British release starts with “Drive My Car” of all things, and doesn’t even include anywhere on it “Face.”

So these digital versions are frustrating…In my mind, I hear the next song starting but the next song turns out not to be the song I expected.

Here are the tracks on the American version

:I’ve Just Seen a Face”
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
You Won’t See Me
Think for Yourself” (Harrison)
The Word
It’s Only Love
I’m Looking Through You
In My Life
Run for Your Life

You could say these are just silly love songs of the kind Lennon later excoriated, but they’re not. They’re much darker and ambiguous than, say, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” and more complex, even occasionally hostile (Think for Yourself). The songs are even in their texture on the American release. As far as I am concerned “Drive My Car” doesn’t fit that texture. Then there are the harmonies and Lennon’s inspired inhale on Girl.

The only song I just can’t stand is Michelle.

I would put it right up there. One or two in the Beatle collection. And in any case, it will always be the Number 1 Album of my sophomore year in college.

Now if they would only re-release it in the American version. 

4.0 ?

I have trying to figure out for some time how it was possible for students entering UCSB to average a 4.0 GPA or better.

Today I talked with a guy whose daughter is just finishing high school.

Turns out that in courses called Advanced Placement the grade scale does not run: A = 4; B = 3; C = 2 and so on. That’s the old 4 point scale, the one I grew up with.

No, they use a 5 point scale because the AP classes are supposedly so much tougher than regular courses of the same kind that it was considered “unfair” that an AP “A” should be equal to an “A” for the non-AP course.

Thus in an AP course, an A = 5; B = 4; C = 3 and so on.

OK…now I get it, why so many students enter with a 4.O; they all take AP courses and plenty of them.

I can’t say how this pisses me off.

Seems to me the educational system is doing the same thing as the insurance companies; they are cherry picking the best and leaving the rest to rot.

This strikes me as institutionalized elitism and inequality.

The guy said his daughter took a “regular” chemistry class and got an A; it was the easiest class she ever took, he said.

Just what kind of education are the non-AP students getting?

I am sure there’s more to this than meets my casual glance. I am probably over-reacting.

Still the more I learn…the less I want to know. 

The Fab 4

Too many flashbacks lately; not exactly Wordworth’s spots of time, more like pits of time where I find myself sliding back to one of those I-remember-where-I-was-on that-day-moments.

For example, there’s been a good bit of news lately–what with the release of their version of Guitar Hero and their remastered tapes–of the Beatles, a band that broke up over 40 years ago.

And all of a sudden I remembered that day back in 1964, when I was a senior in Mr. Moore’s English class.

But I wrote about this in another entry on this blog, giving me the occasion to quote myself as follows:

Mr. Moore’s class also furnished me one of the few high school moments that I remember with any warmth. One Monday morning he turned to us and said, “And just who the heck are these Beatles.” This was in many ways an unprecedented moment. I don’t recollect a teacher ever having asked his students a real question, who asked it moreover in a spirit of curiosity and out of a desire to learn something about the lives of his students. We sat more or less dumbfounded. I could see he was going to let the question drop, but since it was my job in that class to answer all questions nobody else would or could, I raised my hand and said, “The best rock and roll band ever.”

I remember having paused for dramatic effect between “the best rock and roll band” and “ever.”

Over the years I have have more than once questioned that “ever,” but listening more to them again lately, I am inclined to think that I was more right than wrong back in 1964. 

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