Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Blogging Summer Teaching -- Policies and Preliminaries

The first intensive this summer is "Are We Not Men? Patriarchal Convention and Conviction in Classical Antiquity." The course devotes three weeks each to Greek and then to Latin texts in English translation.

Today's first lecture should be a short affair, the shortest of the course. I doubt I'll hold them in the room the whole few hours. Given the avalanche of reading they encounter for tomorrow and Thursday, they can thank me for liberating them early only to chain them to their texts till late night. We'll go over the syllabus together. I will try to convey to them the significance of missing a session in an intensive in which every class covers a week of time in the regular term, the time it takes to recover in bed from a slight cold or to be young in the summer on a beach somewhere that could be taken in stride can swallow up what would be nearly a month of course material, a catastrophe that cannot easily be made up if at all.

Even more difficult to convey to Berkeley students will be my grading policies, especially when I try to explain to that an "A" is a mark of excellence and that excellence denotes an excelling beyond rather than a meeting of expectations and that it is an earned thing and not some sort of birthright. The students will be thrilled to discover that all the texts in the class are available for free online, but then profoundly perplexed when I demand they go out and purchase notebooks with real pages in them in which I expect them to keep a journal while they read, scribbling down their favorite quotes and questions and scouting for thesis-statement candidates, metaphors doing undo heavy lifting, gaps, and contradictions. Explaining the demand for a day by day handwritten reading notebook that cannot be electronified is not easy -- what is this "writ-ing" while "read-ing" you speak of...? With each passing year the assignment of this notebook has seemed to me more and more indispensable, as I find screen scrolling and the cutting and pasting of text can be antithetical to a sustained criticial temper. (They need not, certainly, indeed they can facilitate criticality for some -- but the notebook remains a crucial intervention, and writing implements and bound pages are technologies, so don't give me any nonsense about pedagogical luddism when this is a matter of proliferating techniques and appropriate technologies in fact.)

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