Wednesday, May 17, 2006


So I've finished grading everything, and have submitted my final grades -- nothing ahead for the next bit but drinking coffee and working on my socialist/bisexual/sf trilogy (which I think now is going to have seven books in it before its done). Since only one of my summer classes has made, I will at least have plenty of time this summer to work on it. Paying the powerbill will be another issue.

mr. delagar has finally downloaded my new Billy Bragg onto my iPod, so I'm listening to Billy while I work. The new Billy isn't exactly new, but I highly recommend it. It's the perfect thing to listen to while you're writing socialist SF, needless to say.

Here's an interview with Billy, btw:

I taught G.B. Shaw's Major Barbara this past semester, in my Comp II class. Speaking of socialism. Got some maddening papers on it from the young turks in the class, mostly from those who hadn't bothered to read it. (Because, you know, it's like 43 pages long -- how could they possibly read something that long?) Anyway, my favorite bits were where they told me they disagreed with Shaw because he was a Communist and Communism, as everyone knows, is Evil.

I would circle that bit, and explain to them they couldn't just make ad hominem attacks. If they disliked Shaw's ideas, fine, attack his ideas. What about Shaw's ideas were evil? What about Communism (if this is Communism, I would add) is evil? Explain. Develop. Support.

I handed the essay back. I made them revise.

This made them nuts. Apparently no teacher before ever made them revise their work.

Most of them did not revise the essay. Most just gave it back to me, unrevised. Those who did revise were nearly incapable of moving past the ad hominem attack.

It was evil because it was communism. Didn't I get that? Because communists had done it, and communists were evil, and it had been practiced in communists countries, and communists didn't believe in freedom, and so it was evil. Obviously.

I showed them the paragraph in Shaw's introduction, where he said what he wanted: minimum wage, social security, and something that sounds more or less like a dole, except that people would be required to work for it -- so, then, more like the CCC.

How about that? I asked. Is that evil? Go write about that.

Most didn't. Most quit on me.

The one student -- and it was just one -- who revised his essay said, and I kid you not, he ignored the dole issue. He said that a minimum wage was more evil communism, because a minumum wage requires everyone to earn the same amount of money (what?); and that social security was evil because it was the government giving people money for doing nothing, and that was more communism.

Unfortunately, that was his final draft -- the semester was over.

Nor am I convinced that any of these seven or eight students ever did read Shaw. They listened to what I said about him, in my conferences with them.

But even so. How depressing is this?


Bardiac said...

That's just depressing, isn't it.

Too bad, too, because Shaw's a darned fun read!

Maybe your student can go attack the evil communists who want big government with huge dept, government that invades the privacy of people, jails people without charging them, where the "leader" declares that laws don't apply to him...

oh. wait. That's not the communists, is it?

zelda1 said...

Don't they know that the idea didn't fail, it's the humans who try the idea that fail. It's the too much power for too simple humans, wait, wait, that's here too. So, it's fairplay for us and us. Ha!

Diane said...

I think this is the most depressing thing I've read all week--maybe all month. How on earth did these kids get into college? Why is college now for anyone who can show up with some of the money? (Actually, I felt that way years ago when I was in college). What is the point?

A repugnance toward learning is what is evil. Tell them that. Tell them I said it if you want to. Tell them I said that having pride in one's ignorance is what is evil.

Then make them write a page about the Fabian Society.

Billy Jones said...

Tragic... just tragic. I look back on my life and wish for all the things I never had while your "students" throw away everything I ever wanted, every chance, every hope, they throw it away.

Maybe, just maybe, some of them will turn out like me-- a looser with nothing-- and they'll look back and realize you tried to give it to them so many years ago.

Or perhaps they'll always remain the ignorant fools they are today?