Today marks the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final movie in Peter Jackson’s Tolkien saga (at least until he decides to make nine movies out of The Silmarillion). Its release during final exam time is fitting since Tolkien famously started writing The Hobbit while grading. As reported by Alison Flood in The Guardian:
Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, and would mark School Certificate exams in the summers to add to his salary. In a letter to WH Auden, he wrote: “All I remember about the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children. On the blank leaf I scrawled: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ I did not and do not know why.”
In a recently rediscovered letter, Tolkien also noted that:
“All teaching is exhausting, and depressing and one is seldom comforted by knowing when one has had some effect. I wish I could now tell some of mine (of long ago) how I remember them and things they said, though I was (only, as it appeared) looking out of the window or giggling at my neighbour”.
Tolkien dealt with the “everlasting weariness” of grading by creating an entire world that is adored by millions. The rest of us can try to overcome memories of our students looking out the window and giggling with their neighbors by going to the movies.
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Posted in Arts and Letters, Moving Pictures, Teaching Tricks | Tagged Alison Flood, Battle of the Five Armies, J.R.R. Tolkien, Memoirs of a SLACer, Students, Teaching, The Guardian, The Hobbit |
In addition to being the time of the semester when students suddenly realize that they have been slacking off for 15 weeks and hope that they can make up for it with an extra credit assignment, it also appears to be the time of the semester when their computers are most likely to self destruct. In the past two days, one student’s laptop screen stopped working while another student’s computer refused to boot. And the epidemic is not limited to students in my courses. Across campus students are experiencing rampant computer failure. This is most frequently combined with a complete lack of ever having backed anything up.
Despite the tone of my comments, I have real sympathy for students in these situations. The only possible solution that I can think of is for students to frequently use their computers for coursework throughout the semester so that the computers are not caught off guard by the sudden need to function 24/7 in the last few weeks.
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Posted in Student Life, Teaching Tricks, The Electronic Age | Tagged College Life, Computer Failure, End-of-Semester Problems, Memoirs of a SLACer, Student Problems |
Despite the fact that I can access journal articles online and read them on my iPad, technology hasn’t had a dramatic influence on what I do. The same is true in the classroom:
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Posted in Teaching Tricks, The Electronic Age, The Ivory Tower | Tagged Memoirs of a SLACer, This Will Revolutionize Education, Veritaserum |
In an interview with New York Magazine (via Slate), Chris Rock offers some thoughts on racial progress after Ferguson, changing the typical framing of this issue and focusing indirectly on the issue of power. He says:
When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before. … So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.
Also making the rounds on Facebook is an article about the experiences of Kiese Laymon, a black faculty member at Vassar College. Like Rock, Laymon highlights the differential power afforded to whites vs. blacks, even when the whites are campus security guards and the blacks are professors, concluding:
We are so much better than the sick part of our nation that murders an unarmed black boy like a rabid dog, before prosecuting him for being a nigger. We are so much better than powerful academic institutions, special prosecutors, and the innocent practitioners of white racial supremacy in this nation who really believe that a handful of niggers with some special IDs, and a scar(r)ed black President on the wrong side of history, are proof of their—and really, our own—terrifying deliverance from American evil.
This, combined with other recent events, demonstrates that we still have a long way to go to change the structural elements that will allow whites to be “nicer.”
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Posted in Race, The Ivory Tower | Tagged Chris Rock, Ferguson, Gawker, Kiese Laymon, Memoirs of a SLACer, New York Magazine, Race Relations, Racial Progress, Slate, Vassar College |
When I initially read The Hunger Games novels by Suzanne Collins, I appreciated the third book for its depiction of the messiness of revolution. It is not surprising that this messiness allows people from a variety of political orientations to connect with the story, as Sarah Seltzer and sociologist Mari Armstrong-Hough discuss at Flavorwire:
Beyond just advocating personal resistance to forces of political control, she says the books put forth the idea that “violence breeds docility.” “I don’t mean that threatening people with violence makes them docile, because it doesn’t. I mean that teaching people to be violent and consume violence makes them docile,” she explains. “The Games institutionalize a political docility not so much because they threaten violence to the districts’ children, but because they create a society in which people think they must choose survival over solidarity. I think a lot of people, regardless of their political affiliation, feel like there has been a lot of being forced to choose survival over solidarity going around in the US.”
Via: The Society Pages
See Also: Katniss Everdeen on the Academic Job Market and The Hunger Games and Movie Relationships
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Posted in Arts and Letters, Moving Pictures, Political Power, Violence | Tagged Flavorwire, Katniss Everdeen, Mari Armstrong-Hough, Memoirs of a SLACer, Sarah Seltzer, Sociology, Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games |