Monday, September 29, 2014

Trigger Warning: An Appalling Confession.

TRIGGER WARNING : This describes a pedagogical event
(experiment, experience) that defies institutional protocol
and practice. It will appropriately offend the Rigorist the
Rubric Driven and the SACS Enthusiast. I once spontaneously
told a class long ago that they didn’t HAVE to do anything.
It was an 8:00 class, a required first year composition
course topping off their previous 4 years of daily English
classes throughout high school, and they eventually quit
coming, except for one female who would arrive about ½
hour late and we’d have a pretty decent conversation.

My required comp students that session all graded themselves.
Mostly “A’s” as I recall. Might have been some B’s & a C.
I came to class every day and busied my self writing, flooded
with notions and ideas some how instigated by the lack of a
student body: --the kind of presence which is present by virtue
of its absence. Thoughts about education, teaching, motivation,
authority—mostly authority: authors authorizing authority
authoritatively—flooded my mind during those early hours: a
self-seminar. . . .if not selfie.

I realized what I somewhat knew but never fully: that I had
no authority of my own, whatever charisma or expertise I
might think I had (look at their industrialism, heads bowed,
scribbling in note books every word I uttered) was all ex
officio authority by virtue of the institution and its grade-gun
compliance-or-else reinforcement.

I proved it to myself. Students aren’t here to pursue knowledge
& intellectual freedom like we say. Take away the force (vios),
and they are naturally gone, taking care of business where it
counts and makes good sense: your course, for example,
where attendance is mandatory or else. Human nature hates
a vacuum.

“For those not in love, there is law—to rule, to regulate, to rectify.”

I reinvented the wheels of hire education to see for myself and
that’s a difference that makes a difference. Handicapped by my
laissez-faire indifference, the students still all managed to graduate
and do well, ones that didn’t drop out or transfer, despite my
domestic violation and crime against required composition and
it’s institutional immorality. A couple told me later: “that was the 
best course ever,  Sam” but I know the value of comments like that.

Let my experience stand for what ever inclination you might
have to dabble in Upside Down Flamingo Alice in Wonderland
educating. It’s possible, and resource full—potentially innovative
if not rigorous in the usual sense. But there’s got to be an
Environment for it. It’s an Environmental Issue. It changed my
teaching life for good and for ill. I wouldn’t be the teacher I am
today if it hadn’t of been for that experiential experience & I’m
grateful for it, but confess it was like illegal immigration going on;
outlaw border-crossing toward frontiers yet unknown.

Does that make me a bad person or stalwart pioneer?

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