"For some reason, the large number of students who live in an area that is totally unincorporated because Republicans want to prevent students from voting (given that they tend not to vote Republican), and who are angry that the university they attend is more interested in controlling its own image in the media than in providing for their real educational needs, and has therefore installed surveillance cameras in an area that impoverished students disproportionately inhabit and thereby interpellated them as presumptive criminals, are so angry that they are occasionally rioting, and often engaging in low-level acts of civil disobedience. For this reason, we have waited until the time when they receive no financial support to live because ‘they are on vacation’ mandated by Federal financial aid standards, whether they want to ‘be on vacation’ or not, and have to temporarily move back in with their parents due to the federally mandated lack of support for their educational project, despite the fact that they are engaged in becoming educated, which is one of the most noble things that a young person can do with his or her youth, and are trying to do so in one of the ten most expensive areas in the United States, where there are essentially no temporary jobs during the summer and no other way for them to support themselves during the time that Federal financial aid standards mandate that there is no way for them to support themselves in the worthwhile project that they are engaged in, in order to constitute a task force that will study the problem that we will not admit that they constitute. Because the important thing is to solicit input from anyone other than objects of study.

"This task force will consist entirely of people who make six figures per year, but will be constituted in such a way that the timing will essentially prohibit any meaningful input from the people that it purports to study. The people constituting this panel will be ‘recognized experts’ on the field of its objects of study, but the panel will not give voice to any of the people who are going into five- and six-figure debt in order to achieve the privilege of being objects of the study of the committee. We would like to get to the bottom of the problem of why these voiceless objects of study constitute a problem from the perspective of our desire to positively represent them to the media as working busily toward becoming happy, empowered Althusserian ‘good subjects’ who engage only in Disney-approved leisure activities when they’re not studying, which they do not only in order to prepare themselves for the blasted postapocalytic economic wasteland that we’ve spent twenty-odd years convincing them is the only imaginable way for humankind to distribute its resources, but because they love their administrators and are grateful for the opportunity to go into five- and six-figure debt to support the six-figure salaries of the administrators who administrate them under the assumption that they are potentially threatening agents of change who need to be cajoled and bullied and threatened into jumping a series of hurdles in order to achieve a bullshit ‘job certification’ that has nothing to do with making them better-informed citizens or happier people, but is merely a necessary step for those who don’t want to make a professional career out of upselling people who did engage in ‘meaningful, relevant areas of study’ in college, and who had the good sense to be born into the upper class, into adding fries to the meal that is about to be served to them on a plastic tray with a brightly colored paper liner.

"In answering the question of why the objects of study are so dissatisfied with the opportunity we are providing them to go so far into into debt in order to jump a hurdle that is personally meaningless, but relevant to ‘job readiness’ and ‘preparation for "the real world,"’ we want to announce in advance that there are a number of things that we are unwilling to hear, and we are therefore declaring these topics of conversation not only off-limits, but socially objectionable, and even rude, ‘in bad taste,’ ‘beyond the pale’ of ‘allowable discourse.’ Any mention of these topics will result in the labeling of their speaker as a crank, ‘a radical,’ ‘a dreamer,’ ‘an idiot,’ and is a prima facie excuse for dismissing everything else that the speaker has to say.

"The first of these non-allowable topics is any implication that the people who are being studied should have any meaningful input in the study itself. If the objects of this study want to provide feedback on their education, then there is a single nonvoting ‘student regent’ whom we condescend to allow to sit with twenty-five IMPORTANT people — that is, born-upper-class, friends-of-important-politicians, ideologically-vetted-in-advance ‘business leaders’ and ‘education experts’ — on the Board of Regents, who make important decisions and who might occasionally deign to listen to the single representative of the undergraduates on the ten campuses of the UC system, since s/he (but probably he) has no vote and speaks only in an advisory capacity. That is, the important people might occasionally deign to listen to him if the they are feeling generous, and if they don’t have that much else to do that day.

"There are a number of other topics that the ‘panel of certified and designated experts’ is unwilling to hear about as we examine the question of why these objects — or, if we were honest, perhaps we should call them ‘abjects’ — of study are dissatisfied. These include questions of (1) the cost of education; (2) its affordability; (3) its value to the graduate who has attained it; (4) what the people going into debt in order to achieve that education actually want to get out of the experience for which they are going into debt; (5) whether their bluntly expressed status as presumptive troublemakers impacts their educational experience; (6) what the university community can better do to serve them; (7) how the educational system might be changed to better support their goals; (8) whether we should shift money away from administration toward education and financial aid; (9) how our educational decisions impact the people we claim to aim to educate; (10) the degree to which a militarized police presence in a student ghetto is desirable and the degree to which it supports our expressed goals; (11) any other topic that directly affects student educational experience; (12) any topic that actually requires structural change; (13) any topic that would require direct student input; (14) any topic that has a direct bearing on anything other than the administration’s positive representation in the media; (15) any topic with a bearing on anything important other than our desire to decrease our reputation as a ‘party school’ where there are civil disturbances.

"Given these constraints, will someone please explain to us why the students are so dissatisfied with their educational experience?

"An ideal response is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question of whether periodic dinners in which faculty who can be persuaded to ‘slum it’ in the student ghetto will entirely prevent other media-visible expressions of dissatisfaction. Even better would be a simple ‘yes.’"

A friend asked this question on Facebook. My response:

There are several real problems with Common Core.1) They’re still just standards, which is to say demands, not solutions. They don’t address the actual causes of education problems in the United States; they just provide a demand that the problems be solved. Real solutions would involve substantial reductions in class sizes, vastly increased funding for education, very large salary raises for teachers so as to attract and retain the best pedagogues, and redistribution of educational funding from richer to poorer districts. No, you can’t solve a problem just by throwing money at it, but not having enough money is, in this case (and other cases, for that matter), a real and substantial contributing factor to being unable to solve the problem.2) They set the bar at the same level for everyone across the country without regard to what the starting point for different groups is. Areas that have been deeply impoverished for generations, that have substantial proportions of students whose native language is not English, that have a population of students whose parents are disproportionately uneducated or illiterate, etc. etc. etc., are held to the same standards as upscale private schools in wealthy urban and suburban areas, but the disadvantaged schools are not given additional support of any kind in reaching the goals that they’re being held to.3) Like with every other set of educational standards that the US has tried, a determining factor is that assessment has to be done efficiently. (This is related to the educational funding problem.) This motivates teachers virtually everywhere to simply teach to the test, because the test determines whether the district will be punished with a reduction in funding. But since the test has to be assessed efficiently, it doesn’t really measure anything meaningful: it just measures the ability of the students to take a test that doesn’t really measure anything, but mandates a lot of class time be spent on learning test-taking strategies for a bullshit exam. This takes away from time that could be spend actually educating students, and gives the students a bullshit idea about what education is for.4) The standards only (claim to) measure competence in basic math and language proficiencies. This leaves huge, important swaths of the educational field totally ignored: we don’t have any expectation that students will understand anything real about any of the social sciences (the few nods toward history being an attempt at the creation of a myth of the Greatness of America, not a real social-science education), critical thinking, politics, foreign languages, cultural literacy, personal reflection and self-development, computer skills, etc. etc. etc. AND FOR FUCK’S SAKE, WHAT ABOUT SCIENCE?5) They set the bar very low for even those things they claim to measure. Students don’t need to engage deeply with complex texts or ideas; they just need to demonstrate, within the parameters of the exam, basic literacy skills. Similarly, students don’t really need to understand mathematics; they just need to be able to mechanically solve certain types of problems. (Notably, they don’t make any real effort to solve the problem that Americans as a group have a fucking abysmal understanding of statistics and what they mean, despite the fact that data that is statistical in appearance has a near-religious status in public debate.) Common Core is a step toward improving this, but it’s a small one. High school students are capable of doing much better in these areas then they’re currently being asked to do.6) The standards talk a lot about preparing students for “real life,” but every time they do, they immediately define “being prepared for real life” as “meeting the needs of college and business.” (And the understanding about “college” that’s left implicit in our public discussions about Common Core, and what college is for in general, is that college is merely another step that some people — increasingly the rich — take to be even better prepared to serve the needs of business. When someone who’s arguing in favor of Common Core complains that “students are not prepared for college,” what they’re really complaining is that, in order to meet the needs of business, some — or many — students are going to need to have remedial training for things they didn’t get in high school before they can start taking a “college-level” approach to learning to better meet the needs of business.) But “real life,” under any meaningful definition, includes much more than that. Notably, nothing in the Common Core standards genuinely prepares students to be informed and active in the political process, to live satisfying personal lives, or to make meaningful decisions about whether our political and social structures are working for us, or whether we should be trying something else instead, and thinking about what that something else might be. Having a rich and fulfilling personal life is ignored; what matters is whether students can calculate the maximum weight load on a bridge or write a business letter. This is called “realism.”7) Regardless of what politicians say in public, actual educators were not substantially involved in the design of the standards. They were designed by a think tank with few teachers involved, and those teachers who were involved were not experts in pedagogy, but rather experts in their individual fields. Expertise in an individual field is all well and good, and very important in a number of ways, but having a very few educators who don’t have a sense of the scope of the field of education in general and who are lost in a sea of consultants, B-list celebrity gurus, politicians, and people who achieved prestige through philanthropy means that (a) the educators themselves didn’t really contribute much to the design of the standards, and (b) what they did contribute was their idiosyncratic personal opinion, not the consensus of educators in general. When a draft was presented to the larger community of educators, their feedback was largely ignored; though the strong advocates of Common Core claim that they represent the consensus of educators and that educators were involved in their design, this is simply not true. The factoids about educators and Common Core that are tossed around, such as the NEA’s claim that 76% of member teachers “support” the Common Core standards, are disingenuous. Asking teachers “will you take this pre-designed thing over what you have now?” is not the same as asking teachers how education should be conducted.8) People in different areas, with different cultures and histories, need different educational experiences. To take just one obvious example, dealing with the question of race in American history needs to be done differently in Alabama than it does in New York.So, yeah, the Common Core standards are a step forward in some ways, but a small one, and they’re a band-aid rather than a real solution. I guess if a thug is going to attack you and take your wallet, it’s better for her to push you off of your bicycle and break your arm in three places than to beat you to death in an alley with a tire iron, but neither is really an attractive course of events. Or, to pick what’s maybe a better metaphor, if your goal is to contribute as little as possible to climate change, it’s better to drive a Prius than a Suburban, but really solving the problem will involve a lot of real changes — making nonpolluting energy sources more viable, locally sourcing food, making public transportation a genuinely viable option for everyone, abandoning the belief that profit is the only important consideration in public policy decisions — and not just making different consumer choices.Your old friend with twelve years of education experience with junior-high, high-school, and college students in a variety of capacities isn’t enough of an expert to get tagged in this question?

A friend asked this question on Facebook. My response:

There are several real problems with Common Core.

1) They’re still just standards, which is to say demands, not solutions. They don’t address the actual causes of education problems in the United States; they just provide a demand that the problems be solved. Real solutions would involve substantial reductions in class sizes, vastly increased funding for education, very large salary raises for teachers so as to attract and retain the best pedagogues, and redistribution of educational funding from richer to poorer districts. No, you can’t solve a problem just by throwing money at it, but not having enough money is, in this case (and other cases, for that matter), a real and substantial contributing factor to being unable to solve the problem.

2) They set the bar at the same level for everyone across the country without regard to what the starting point for different groups is. Areas that have been deeply impoverished for generations, that have substantial proportions of students whose native language is not English, that have a population of students whose parents are disproportionately uneducated or illiterate, etc. etc. etc., are held to the same standards as upscale private schools in wealthy urban and suburban areas, but the disadvantaged schools are not given additional support of any kind in reaching the goals that they’re being held to.

3) Like with every other set of educational standards that the US has tried, a determining factor is that assessment has to be done efficiently. (This is related to the educational funding problem.) This motivates teachers virtually everywhere to simply teach to the test, because the test determines whether the district will be punished with a reduction in funding. But since the test has to be assessed efficiently, it doesn’t really measure anything meaningful: it just measures the ability of the students to take a test that doesn’t really measure anything, but mandates a lot of class time be spent on learning test-taking strategies for a bullshit exam. This takes away from time that could be spend actually educating students, and gives the students a bullshit idea about what education is for.

4) The standards only (claim to) measure competence in basic math and language proficiencies. This leaves huge, important swaths of the educational field totally ignored: we don’t have any expectation that students will understand anything real about any of the social sciences (the few nods toward history being an attempt at the creation of a myth of the Greatness of America, not a real social-science education), critical thinking, politics, foreign languages, cultural literacy, personal reflection and self-development, computer skills, etc. etc. etc. AND FOR FUCK’S SAKE, WHAT ABOUT SCIENCE?

5) They set the bar very low for even those things they claim to measure. Students don’t need to engage deeply with complex texts or ideas; they just need to demonstrate, within the parameters of the exam, basic literacy skills. Similarly, students don’t really need to understand mathematics; they just need to be able to mechanically solve certain types of problems. (Notably, they don’t make any real effort to solve the problem that Americans as a group have a fucking abysmal understanding of statistics and what they mean, despite the fact that data that is statistical in appearance has a near-religious status in public debate.) Common Core is a step toward improving this, but it’s a small one. High school students are capable of doing much better in these areas then they’re currently being asked to do.

6) The standards talk a lot about preparing students for “real life,” but every time they do, they immediately define “being prepared for real life” as “meeting the needs of college and business.” (And the understanding about “college” that’s left implicit in our public discussions about Common Core, and what college is for in general, is that college is merely another step that some people — increasingly the rich — take to be even better prepared to serve the needs of business. When someone who’s arguing in favor of Common Core complains that “students are not prepared for college,” what they’re really complaining is that, in order to meet the needs of business, some — or many — students are going to need to have remedial training for things they didn’t get in high school before they can start taking a “college-level” approach to learning to better meet the needs of business.) But “real life,” under any meaningful definition, includes much more than that. Notably, nothing in the Common Core standards genuinely prepares students to be informed and active in the political process, to live satisfying personal lives, or to make meaningful decisions about whether our political and social structures are working for us, or whether we should be trying something else instead, and thinking about what that something else might be. Having a rich and fulfilling personal life is ignored; what matters is whether students can calculate the maximum weight load on a bridge or write a business letter. This is called “realism.”

7) Regardless of what politicians say in public, actual educators were not substantially involved in the design of the standards. They were designed by a think tank with few teachers involved, and those teachers who were involved were not experts in pedagogy, but rather experts in their individual fields. Expertise in an individual field is all well and good, and very important in a number of ways, but having a very few educators who don’t have a sense of the scope of the field of education in general and who are lost in a sea of consultants, B-list celebrity gurus, politicians, and people who achieved prestige through philanthropy means that (a) the educators themselves didn’t really contribute much to the design of the standards, and (b) what they did contribute was their idiosyncratic personal opinion, not the consensus of educators in general. When a draft was presented to the larger community of educators, their feedback was largely ignored; though the strong advocates of Common Core claim that they represent the consensus of educators and that educators were involved in their design, this is simply not true. The factoids about educators and Common Core that are tossed around, such as the NEA’s claim that 76% of member teachers “support” the Common Core standards, are disingenuous. Asking teachers “will you take this pre-designed thing over what you have now?” is not the same as asking teachers how education should be conducted.

8) People in different areas, with different cultures and histories, need different educational experiences. To take just one obvious example, dealing with the question of race in American history needs to be done differently in Alabama than it does in New York.

So, yeah, the Common Core standards are a step forward in some ways, but a small one, and they’re a band-aid rather than a real solution. I guess if a thug is going to attack you and take your wallet, it’s better for her to push you off of your bicycle and break your arm in three places than to beat you to death in an alley with a tire iron, but neither is really an attractive course of events. Or, to pick what’s maybe a better metaphor, if your goal is to contribute as little as possible to climate change, it’s better to drive a Prius than a Suburban, but really solving the problem will involve a lot of real changes — making nonpolluting energy sources more viable, locally sourcing food, making public transportation a genuinely viable option for everyone, abandoning the belief that profit is the only important consideration in public policy decisions — and not just making different consumer choices.

Your old friend with twelve years of education experience with junior-high, high-school, and college students in a variety of capacities isn’t enough of an expert to get tagged in this question?

I’ll work it out, she said. I can work if I ain’t never had nothin.

Nor never will.

Times is hard.

Hard people makes hard times. I’ve seen the meanness of humans till I don’t know why God ain’t put out the sun and gone away.

     —Cormac McCarthy, Outer Dark (p. 192 in ISBN 978-0-679-72873-3)

A preparatory visual for what will happen if Sacramento’s dream of education-as-pure-job-licensure is ever actualized.

“If it is the sovereign who, insofar as he decides on the state of exception, has the power to decide which life may be killed without the commission of homicide, in the age of biopolitics this power becomes emancipated from the state of exception and transformed into the power to decide the point at which life ceases to be politically relevant. When life becomes the supreme political value, not only is the problem of life’s nonvalue thereby posed, as Schmitt suggests, but further, it is as if the ultimate ground of sovereign power were at stake in this decision. In modern biopolitics, sovereign is he who decides on the value or the nonvalue of life as such.”
— Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (tr. Daniel Heller-Roazen; p. 142 in ISBN 0-8047-3218-3)
“Speaking of the presentation of melancholy events by orators, Hume notes that the pleasure derived is not a response to the event as such, but to its rhetorical framing. When we turn to tragedy, plotting performs this function. The interest that we take in the deaths of Hamlet, Gertrude, Claudius, et al. is not sadistic, but is an interest that the plot has engendered in how certain forces, once put in motion, will work themselves out. Pleasure derives from having our interest in the outcome of such questions satisfied.”
— Noël Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror; or, Paradoxes of the Heart (p. 179 in ISBN 0-415-90216-9)
“Undoubtedly, a culture’s concepts makes thinking about some possibilities less likely than thinking about other possibilities. however, this need not entail any denial of reality. Our culture’s categories may make it unlikely (unlikely rather than impossible) that we think about jellyfish as big as houses coming from Mars to conquer the world. However, that’s no offense against reality; there are no such jellyfish. Nor am I being ethnocentric, anthropocentric, or naughty in any other way when I say so.”
— Noël Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror; or, Paradoxes of the Heart (p. 177 in ISBN 0-415-90216-9)

600th Tumblr post.

Just sayin’.

ahuntersheart:

Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) - Dir. Wim Wenders

The Death King

I hired a carpenter
to build my coffin
and last night I lay in it
braced by a pillow,
sniffing the wood,
letting the old king breathe on me,
thinking of my poor murdered body,
murdered by time,
waiting to turn stiff as a field marshal,
letting the silence dishonor me,
remembering that I’ll never cough again.

Death will be the end of fear
and the fear of dying,
fear like a dog stuffed in my mouth,
fear like dung stuffed up my nose,
fear where water turns into steel,
fear as my breast flies into the Disposall,
fear as flies tremble in my ear,
fear as the sun ignites in my lap,
fear as night can’t be shut off,
and the dawn, my habitual dawn,is locked up forever.

Fear and a coffin to lie in
like a dead potato.
Even then I will dance in my fire clothes,
a crematory flight,
blinding my hair and my fingers,
wounding God with his blue face,
his tyranny, his absolute kingdom,
with my aphrodisiac.

— Anne Sexton, “The Death King” (September 1972; p. 587 in ISBN 0-395-32935-3)

“These are well-marked paths, and, without neglecting them, I have preferred to make a different journey. It matters to me, in closing, that it should be agreed that the route was a sound one.”
— Nicole Loraux, Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman, ch. 3 (tr. Anthony Forster; p. 64 in ISBN 0-674-90226-2)
“However, once one immerses oneself in the medical thought of the Greeks, or joins up, bag and baggage, with psychoanalysis, one can find no way of rejoining the tragic universe.”
— Nicole Loraux, Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman, ch. 3 (tr. Anthony Forster; p. 61 in ISBN 0-674-90226-2)

Q

closetpoesie asked:

Best wishes for oral exams this week! Do it!

A

Thanks!

I’ve got 90 minutes to talk. Let my committee ask questions if they can. (=