Monday, April 30, 2012

Sample Summary

As with a few previous examples of summaries, this one has been excerpted and adapted from another blog I maintain.

Joan DeJean's "A Long Eighteenth Century? What Eighteenth Century?" which appears in the March 2012 issue of PMLA, bemoans the increasing presentism of foreign language departments in the United States.  DeJean does not claim any scientific rigor or statistical validity, simply noting that "Enough of a trend emerged" from those surveyed for the author "to feel that it was time to sound an alarm" (317). The alarm derives from the increasing dearth of new hires--and of faculty positions generally--in period specializations in pre-modern non-English languages, although Italian manages to hold onto its "holy trinity--Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio" (317), and Spanish, because of other factors, has enough enrollment to keep its variety to some extent (318). Even so, DeJean paints a depressing picture, one which forebodes ill for the study of language in the United States.

Presentism /prĕz'ĭnt*ĭzm/ (n.)- focus on the present and near past (within the last fifty to one hundred years), to the exclusion of earlier events

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sample Summary

The following is excerpted and slightly adapted from another blog I maintain.

In Gail Collins's 27 April 2012 New York Times piece "A Very Pricey Pineapple," the author reminds readers about the massive economic underpinnings of the various educational "reforms" that have been pushed through in the past decade or so. Collins points out that a few companies are making quite a bit of money from the emphasis on standardized testing in the executions of the tests themselves as well as in the production of textbooks to suit the tests and even schools and teaching programs in which to embed the whole thing.  By bringing out the pineapple imagery, she links edu-business to the absurd, offering an effective satire on the institution and calling therefore for a change to it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring 2012 Semester Commentary

This is the final week of the Spring 2012 term at Technical Career Institutes, after which I will be on leave until the fall.  I do look forward to having the time off, which I will be using to travel around the United States and across the Atlantic to Ireland and the United Kingdom, but I find that I will miss some of what I have had here this term.

That is not to say that I will miss all of it.  Some things about this term I am glad to see go by.  One of them is the catastrophically high failure rate in my freshman composition classes--and it is not the result of poor performance so much as no performance.  Every semester, the students who fail my classes do so predominantly from simply not turning in work; they are bright and capable, but do not submit assignments.  It is not even that they turn work in late; they simply do not turn work in.  And this semester has been particularly bad for that.

I always wonder what I could have done to prompt better submission rates.  I am not going to step down the rigor with which I conduct my classes; that would not be helpful in the least, as I have mentioned from time to time.  But it confuses me that, given my penchant for assigning work that students can use their media activities (movies, television shows, video games, comic books, and music, so far) to complete the work, I do not see more submitted.

I will miss some of my students from this term.  Although I did have to deal with some who were objectionable, and I had to endure seeing so many falter when they need not have done so, I had a fair number of intelligent, engaged, and interested people in my classes.  More students can well be like that, although I realize that doing so is not easy; much serves to make unpalatable the expression of curiosity and willingness to try out new ideas that undergird being a good student, and I know that many of my students see no point in becoming good students.  They are out to get passed through with their credentials so that they can go and do what they think they want to do; they do not realize that there are other things, things which might not initially appear to be worth doing but, upon investigation, are well worth undertaking.*

Some of my students have come to realize it this term.  And I am glad to have been among those who helped them do so.  It is that gladness that makes me just a bit sad as I shake my students' hands and send them on their merry ways, done with my class and my students no more--at least, until the fall.

*I do not mean by this to say that the kinds of things for which my students are trained by their coursework at Technical Career Institutes are not worthwhile.  I have worked with my hands before, and I well know the satisfaction that comes with actually building a thing.  I know also the satisfaction that comes with moving only a little and seeing another person's full momentum set aside as if it is nothing.  But there is a great glory in looking at a text and seeing in it multiple levels of meanings; it enriches my understanding of the world, and so I am able to participate the more fully in that world.