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Archive for August 20th, 2012

A Warning to Handlers of the Curious

Posted by Dirck on 20 August, 2012

I’ve been on a bit of an M.R. James kick lately, and this combined with the slow descent of the sun from it’s summery heights reminds me that a seasonal event is creeping up upon us.  No, not Hallowe’en, however much I revel in that festival, but the start of the school year.  This has meaning to me for the first time in a long while, as my son is looking down the barrel of Pre-Kindergarten (a thing invented since I was in the system).  This reminds me of a little contemplation that came upon me while doing some dishes, which I mean to pass on to the academic world at large.

A brief pause, though, while I point out that this is not aimed at any specific academics that I know look in here.  It’s a general note.

The thing about joining the ranks of instructors in post-secondary education that is a bit of trap is that the person who does do manages it through having a deep and abiding passion for the subject.  This can be a good thing, as the passionate can inspire others.  However, there is a dark side, in that the consumed student of any given topic can grow amazingly tedious on that topic.  They forget, you see, that others are not quite along side them, and might not be sufficiently up to speed to appreciate the finer points of what’s under discussion.

From my own past, I recall with certain nausea the four weeks spent in English 100 on the word-by-word deconstruction of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“.  In my imagination, it swells to a vast epic, A Riming Ode to an Ancient Grecian Beowulf of Omar Khayyam, yet is hardly covers two pages, a mere 131 lines.  I bear a grudge towards peaches to this day.  My wife has a similar issue with Citizen Kane, as her Film 100 professor devoted the back half of a semester to it.  A fine poem, a decent film… but unless there’s an internal drive to delve, such picking at the minutiae is akin to sitting in a dentist’s chair in an industrial setting, while an elderly German fellow demands to know if it’s safe.

The regular reader here may at this point snort and ponder just how deep my hypocrisy runs.  I freely admit that I’m probably not the best person to address a small class on the topic of “writing instruments in the 20th century”… except I’m aware of this dangerous aspect of over-enthusiasm.  It’s easily reigned in if a tiny bit of cognitive cycling is applied during preparation of the class.  Also, those looking in here regularly are both entirely voluntary and not paying a huge sum each semester for the privilege of being bored while hoping for the odd moment of entertainment.  See how I grip reality with both hands?

So, there’s my public service announcement.  If the kids start to glaze over in class, it may not just be an effect of the modern age’s tendency to over-stimulation.  It may be that they’re not, strangely, so interested in the number of holes found in 18th century Prussian military horse-shoes, or the oils applied to the telescopes used by Clyde Tombaugh.  Save it for the 200 level courses.  It may be, in fact, better to teach what one is indifferent to; I’ll teach some Political Economy courses, and see about getting a political economist in to discuss non-sac-based pen fillers.

Today’s overexplained example: Sheaffer Admiral Balance (the very same Green Admiral mentioned last week)
Today’s ink, not being splashed about for a week and a half on Jules et Jim: Diamine Evergreen

Having dealt with the business at hand, a coda because I know several people here care about such things; Sam the foundling cat had his quietus on Friday, apparently almost as I was writing my little bit of trivia here.  My wife decided that time had come and got along to the vet without me; I feel like a bit of a brute for not having been there to support her, but she says he went easily.

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