Khalid Hussain (khalid_hussain) wrote,
Khalid Hussain

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Slow Progress

Well, yesterday I finished updating my CV. I also shopped for a replacement toner cartridge for the printer and picked up some copy paper and a new router. Very exciting.

My husband and I went to see our financial adviser to discuss allocations for his retirement fund and repayment of his student loans. Exciting.

In more public news, the former dean of my school has filed papers to indicate his intention to sue the state. Evidently there is a complication with his ability to collect retirement benefits if he is officially dismissed from the university. The former professor (and former department head) who was at the center of the accusations filed for retirement ahead of a decision deadline by the university and apparently got around that complication, since his annual pension (which is more than my salary) was publicized in the newspaper.

I have been thinking about some of the squawking that some of the students did in their evaluations. It seems that there is a willing commitment on their part to limited literacy skills, and that they lash out at anyone who challenges them on this. After years of trying to take the high road as the only road, I'm inclined to give them what they want, let them flounder, and carve out more time and energy for my own activities. I simply can't afford to work myself sick three times each academic year, only get a somewhat begrudging 4 out of 5 on my evals. Not an acceptable return on my investment of time and effort.

I have already ordered an examination copy of a textbook that was published recently. It is by the author of a treatise that has become a standard item since its publication in 1998. The treatise is 200+ pages long and the text is 700+ long. Dummy me, I thought that it would be more efficient to read the treatise. As I explained to the grad student who squawked about my comments on his papers, I want to see if the textbook provides any real advantages over the treatise, or if it is just a matter of more bulk. (That was an unusual situation, since this student approached me in person and also wrote me an email ahead of the time when the evaluations became viewable. I guess he felt that the had something to say, but then reconsidered that he might have been offensive in the way that he expressed it on the evaluation form. Essentially he wrote that I am highly intelligent, but therefore somewhat intimidating as a professor, and that this exacerbated his insecurities about his writing. So? He also implied that I was somewhat dictatorial in the way that I asserted some interpretations as being superior to others. That is correct, as I demand of myself both transparency in reasoning and accountability to the chosen theoretical paradigm as a way of inviting active participation and reasoned debate about possible alternatives. I don't, however, value unsupported assertions based on opaque [or evidently non-existent] reasoning as being on the same level as an actual, worked-through interpretation. The impression I get is that most students want to imitate what they think other people are doing but don't want to do the work necessary to develop interpretations that can withstand modification and refinement through critical scrutiny. Everything must be accepted and rewarded as is, or it becomes a complete personal catastrophe. I'm tired of that kind of immaturity.) For that class, which I will teach again next spring (unless I have a catastrophic health problem in the interim), I'm pretty sure that I will use the textbook. It has headings within each chapter that actually say "Let's Practice." Maybe that will be less threatening to the graduate students. The population in that class is mainly Master's students who evidently have never written well about music and are not interested in learning how at this stage, as many of them wait until their very last semester to take the class, and doctoral students who probably shouldn't be in a doctoral program in the first place. Since enrollment has been down lately, we must accommodate, accommodate, accommodate. I'm thinking that there will probably no longer be analytical papers of complete pieces, but rather just short answers and vocabulary quizzes, etc.

There is another text that I've been curious about, that I may want to use for the baroque unit of the course. This is something from which I will probably assign excerpts rather than require purchase of the complete text.

I feel as if we are returning to Dark Ages, when only the clerics truly knew how to read and write. The common people just kind of stumbled along somehow, until they rose up and demanded translations of the Bible so that they could go from being completely illiterate to being ignorant Fundamentalists. Oh, joy! "You think you're so clever and classless and free, but you're still fucking peasants so far as I can see."

The other issue that I groused about to myself yesterday--evidently it was a busy day for grousing--are the increasing complaints about my use of PowerPoint. I have repeatedly told students not to bother to write down the contents of the slides since they are already available online. Then they complain on the evaluation forms that I don't give them enough time to write down what is on the slides. OK? Of course, I use the slides in part to compensate for the fact that so few of the students read the text in advance of class and therefore fail to come in with questions of their own. And, when I assign reading that is to be completed prior to class, they accuse me of not teaching them anything, but of expecting them to know everything before they come to class. That, of course, is not true, but I guess there are subtle distinctions there that some of them will never get. So I continue to assign reading just to cover myself has having made resources available to them, and then scramble to make sure that each of the topics gets some attention in class. Of course, their high school courses have 60 contact hours per semester, whereas ours have 35. It never occurs to some of them that this means that they have to fill in some of the gaps if this is going to work at all. Some of them complain when I read what is on the slides. What am I supposed to do, then, read something that isn't on the slides? That could be interesting as an exercise in Dadaism, but I don't think they would get that. In fact, the slides present topics and then I--and they, should they deign to participate in an exchange during class--extrapolate on that. But I guess that there are some people who don't get that, either. So, after going off about this in the shower yesterday, it occurred to me that I could view the slides myself without projecting them on the screen. This way, I will get the assistance that I like to have in order to stay on topic, and yet they won't be troubled by struggling to write down things that I tell them they shouldn't be copying down in class anyway, and they won't be able to criticize me for saying things that are similar to what is on the slides, since they won't be seeing them at all.

Some of the students claimed that they wanted more active participation in class. This brings risks with it. In the past, I have had students write answers on the board, and have been accused of humiliating them in front of the class if they made mistakes. I have also structured discussion by calling upon individuals. When I have come to someone who was unprepared, and therefore unable to participate properly, accused me of turning their lives into a living hell.

Clearly, this institution is not a good fit for me, and I'm never going to get things right as far as people like this are concerned. I have to find ways of giving up internally without giving the appearance of having giving up in disgust.

Happy weekend.



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