22 August 2007

Logical Positivism

Wow, it has been a long time since I updated here:  have been crazy-busy lately with various things (writing, editing, reviewing medical briefs slightly larger than Montana) and desperately pretending that it isn't really August.  I am in the slow process of setting up at New Institution which, it turns out, is much more complicated than it used to be: contractual stuff, net access, voice mail, the whole drill.  (I shudder to think how exasperating it'll be checking voice mail on even a semi-regular basis; email alone has become a chore.)  I'm also trying to figure out the eventual purchase of a laptop, which is an odd thing since I've been using the same desktop since Clinton left office.  As I'm planning to continue my freelance work, I'm going to need one with all the work I'll have to do.  Turns out I'll also have to use a laptop in my teaching, which I've never had to do before.  It feels like I'm being dragged into contemporaneity, and in my experience that usually means more work rather than less.  C'est la vie. 

I've also learned that one of the things I'm going to have to teach is the tired chestnut of the five-paragraph essay.  Surely you all know the structure.  It's also one I used to rail against in class, as many of you also know (probably too well).  That structure, in the hands of some genuinely awful teachers, has probably been responsible for some of the most turgid and thoughtless essay-writing I've had to endure because so many people think in rubrics rather than argumentative or analytical logic.  No religious man I, suddenly I'm praying I can impart the fundamentals without accidentally becoming part of the problem-- specifically, contributing to the breeding or enabling of Baaaaaad Writing.  The structure works as a teaching device because it's simple and memorable; but as an organizing principle, it's often woefully misleading and functionally impractical.  When I taught first-year courses at Place Of Which I Do Not Speak, one of the first things I used to do was demolish that model.  Now I have to promote it.   I'm sure several of you are laughing your butts off as a result.

So, yeah, there's a lot cooking these days with only more to come.  I can't promise, alas, a return to form in re blogging any time soon.  It's that time of year when I normally become most elusive (and, if caught, surly).  It came to my attention, however, that this year-- for the first time-- I will officially be twice as old as most of my students.  Twice.  As they say, if I were a horse, they'd have shot me by now.  How's that for logical positivism?


Pious Labours said...

Sounds great J; I'd love to hear more about your new post (is your job where I think it is?)

Couldn't agree more on the 5 paragraph essay. I learned fairly early that that was responsible for an awful lot of bad essays, mine included.

Re: your age, you can take consolation in this: you still look remarkably young (when well groomed, that is :)

I'm not a huge fan of August myself, but happy... (you know). Mine's only about 2 weeks after yours.

sylvia said...

Wait, are the students getting younger? Because last time I checked you're only six months older than I am, and ...

Happy you-know-what, by the way :)

zelda said...

Happy B-day!!!

j said...

aww, only twice as old as the students, you still have many years left, no need to refernce animal farm (eww, the thought of glue suddenly seems repulsive.- actually, that just reminded me about childhood witness accounts of rat killing whuhc involved glue, rats and boiling water, don't ask, not even after you puke.)

gather you're at a new institution of edu-torture, good luck and happy birthday if it is your birthday!