Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Frustrated Professor

I have been quite sleep-deficient of late. I'm out the door at 5:30 AM to teach my morning class, and then I have an evening class that ends about 9 PM. Fortunately, none of the people with whom I share an office are teaching during this summer session, so I am usually able to take a little nap during the early afternoon.

Some of my students are really on the ball, but today, two of them rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe the sleep deficiency is catching up with me and making me edgy.

The first one asked if she could just turn in the written case briefing (this is an undergraduate Law course) without having to give an oral presentation, because she is uncomfortable giving an oral presentation to the class. Note that (A) students may give the oral presentations from their seats (almost all do) instead of standing up before the class; and (B) another student in the class, who has a speech impediment, has been quite avid in delivering her oral presentations. I didn't want to get into a pissing contest over it, so I told her it would be okay. Believe me, even if I were to give her a 100% on the assignment based upon the written submission alone (rather unlikely), she is in no danger of becoming class valedictorian.

The other one (who is usually quite attentive and studious) misunderstood an assignment. The assignment entailed finding official documents issued by a particular governmental office. The specification for the documents was that they be no more than 6 months old. The four documents this student presented were between 6 and 18 months old. After I returned the assignment -- she got gigged for the older-than-specified documents -- she came to me and told me that she misunderstood because of the language barrier (English is not her native language). I told her that my own grandparents, whose formal educations did not surpass the equivalent of the sixth grade, also had a language barrier, but that they overcame it. Fortunately, I suppressed the urge to tell her "Welcome to America -- Now Go Learn English!!!" She's essentially a very personable woman, but this time she really got on my nerves. Probably the lack of sleep is getting to me.

Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy teaching the courses I do. But summer session courses are very draining for student and professor alike.
I dread tomorrow. I fear that tonight will be one of little or no sleep. And because we are rapidly approaching the end of the first summer session, the students are very, very likely to have 11th hour questions for me. I hope that they do not interrupt my nap tomorrow afternoon.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Color Us Angry

During the past few weeks, various incidents of local, national and/or international proportions have implicated the topic of Black-Jewish relationships. I do not now purport to try to solve the strained relations between the two communities, and indeed, the observations set forth in this post will (at least in the short run) likely cause some degree of discomfort on either or both sides. Just for the record, however, let my disapproval of certain straight-up racist comments that have emanated from certain quarters be noted.

And now, to stir up the hornet's nets, I will suggest that within the Jewish community there is a significant amount of anger towards the Black community. It is an anger which neither side is comfortable acknowledging; indeed, many if not most in the Jewish community are oblivious to their own anger in this regard. Consider the following:

A. Jews stood with the Blacks in the Civil Rights Marches of the 1950's and 1960's. Some even gave their lives in the fight against racial segregation in America. The incident near Philadelphia, Mississippi on 21 June 1964 is a case in point. Three civil rights workers disappeared, and their bodies were later recovered from an earthen dam. The three were James Chaney (Black), Michael Schwerner (Jewish) and Andrew Goodman (Jewish). The incident cost the Jewish community more -- both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of its membership -- than the Black community. After we did so much to end the legalized discrimination against the Blacks, they have turned upon us and support our enemies.

B. In the 1950's and 1960's, Israel sent its best and brightest to aid the developing African nations, and took the best and brightest of these developing African nations in to its colleges and universities for training. Every one of these African nations sided with the Arabs to vote against Israel!

C. We see and hear Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and all of these others spouting off their anti-Jewish garbage. Which wouldn't be so bad, except that thousands of Blacks fawn over these bigots, day and night, savoring and cheering their every word.

D. We are subjected to Black speakers who deliver venomous anti-Jewish speeches on the various college campuses, and whose speaking engagements are planned, organized and sponsored by the various Black student organizations on campus.

E. And, of course, there are the bad experiences in locales such as East New York, Mattapan, Parkside, Lawndale, Dexter-Linwood, Mt. Airy, Forest Park and other once-vibrant Jewish neighborhoods where the Blacks moved in, displaced the Jews, and made life dangerous for those Jews who remained.

In short, the Black community has too often showed gross ingratitude towards the Jewish community.

So if some Jewish youth, with the assistance of a few beers, spout off some racist anti-Black comments, then by all means condemn those racist comments (just as the anti-Jewish comments by Blacks, intoxicated or otherwise, ought be roundly condemned). But understand that the Jewish community has some real and valid gripes against the Black community in America and elsewhere, on account of the ingratitude we have been receiving.

Postscript: Some white supremacist nutjob killed Stephen T. Johns, an African-American security guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Officer Johns was, by all accounts, a very worthy man. The American Jewish Committee has set up a fund to help Johns's family.

There is no denying the nagging notion of the possibility that Johns's son might one day follow Black community precedent and turn against the Jewish people. But if I don't do at least something for Officer Johns's young son, then I will be no better than the Blacks who have ungratefully turned against the Jews.

And so, notwithstanding my reservations over the whole thing (including reservations about the American Jewish Committee itself), I have joined what surely will be many in the Jewish community, and have cut a check to the AJC to be used to help Officer Johns's family.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Making Simplification More Complex

I really shouldn't be posting now, because I have lots and lots of work to be completed in less than 24 hours. Most (but not all) of it is related to the courses I now am teaching. This is the Summer Session, which squeezes what normally be about 4 or 5 months of classes into a period of less than 4 weeks. So now, I am grading the assignments that were submitted last week (and I also need to get working on the Midterm Exams so that they can go to the copy shop and get back in time to be administered next week).

Summer Session, then, is intense and stressful for the students. And for the Instructor (that's me!), the intense stress is multiplied by the number of students enrolled.

I need to take a break from it all, so I'll do this posting.

The assignments I am now grading are topic selections for the Term Paper -- a "pre-Term Paper" if you will -- that run about 2 or 3 pages. One of the students has submitted a "pre-Term Paper" which concludes with the following paragraph:

"The proposed Term Paper would address a call for action, so that new administrative agencies can be appropriated to the right health care programs. These health care programs would require more administrative agencies to help acquire the flow of rules and regulations that will ensure no illegal activities will take place. More so, the need of administrative agencies is there to provide a fundamental way for everyone to get the care they need in a capitalistic society."

Okay, I do not deny that am highly opinionated, nor am I reticent to express my unpopular opinions to my classes. But I do take pains to not impose my personal opinions upon my students.

How, then, can I grade this assignment without injecting my personal and political views? The problem with health care in America is that it is so complex, and that any health care provider must interact with not only the insurance companies, but with many governmental agencies. This complexity cannot help but add to the price of health care.
I'm not so sure I understand how the creation of new governmental agencies will simplify health care, let alone reduce its cost.

So what should I write as my critique to this student's assignment?

'Tis a puzzlement!

I think I shall stop here, go to bed, and after I wake up in the morning, take another look at this student's submission.
Good night!

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