Friday, May 13, 2011

May 11, 2011 [End of Semester Post 2]: On Indoctrinations

[With about 150 papers and 60 exams to grade in the next week, I’m anticipating that many of my posts over that time will be quicker hits, reflections on the end of a semester. This is the second of those!]
As I’ve written about in this space before, my particular teaching philosophy provides a particularly strong contrast to the stereotypes of academics indoctrinating their students into a particular perspective or worldview. Because I would always and in every sense rather hear from my students than be voicing my own ideas, I end up saying precious little over the course of a semester; and if and when I do add my voice to the mix, it’s almost always to highlight different analytical frames or ideas through which the students can further develop their voices, rather than to provide my own analyses or interpretations of a text, issue, or anything else. But even leaving aside my own particular philosophy, I can say with absolute certainty that of the many, many colleagues at a wide variety of institutions with whom I’ve talked about teaching, every single one has defined his or her job much more through the lens of what students can do and strengthen, rather than what we can beam from our heads and perspectives into theirs. For us, the end of a semester successes are when it feels like they’re getting there—and there has nothing to do with any particular space (political, social, or otherwise) that we occupy.
I’m thinking about this today not only because it’s the last day of classes, nor only because I’m about to start grading a batch of papers and in so doing judging entirely their abilities to develop their own analyses and arguments, and not at all whether I’d argue the same or analyze in the same way. I’m also responding to an article I read today (linked below) about the Koch Brothers, the billionaire Tea Partiers and Governor Scott Walker supporters who have contributed a sizeable amount of money to a Florida State University with the explicit requirement that they have significant say over faculty hires in an Economics Program there. Just wanted to note the irony here—it’s conservatives who have consistently complained about us indoctrinating academics, and yet it’s two of the most prominent American conservatives who have instituted the most explicit system of overt indoctrination I’ve ever encountered. I know what grade I’d give these guys, anyway. More tomorrow,
PS. Two links to start with:
2)      OPEN: What do you think?

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