Monday, December 13, 2010

Random updates

First, when I woke up I had a scratchy, tickly throat. Arrrgh! And no cough drops or spray in the house. ... which is weird. I could have sworn that I had two shoeboxes worth of medicine when I moved, and just the other day tore apart my closets looking for the second, wondering where the aspirin was. Did I not move it? Did I throw away a whole box of OTC medicine??? Is it somewhere else in my place and I just put it away in the wrong spot? Grumble. I have fifty-seven million boxes of Sudafed and Benadryl because of the habit of getting sick and not being able to find the old box. (Maybe I should make meth and supplement my income that way? And then I would have the money to replace my cough drops and aspirin. Too bad I only use green, nontoxic household cleaners!)

In other news, I was sitting around thinking of the huge wealth of interesting films I wanted to show (and I haven't even really scratched the surface of documentaries), and was stuck deciding between everything. But then I thought, watching films is a very passive form of education, and do I want it to be a more active, hands-on form of learning? (And I may want passivity, depending on how the classes go, I know. But I think it would be better to use short, like half-hour documentaries, followed by discussion or activities, than every entire class session filled by a film. Remind me of this when I am pulling out my hair in classes next semester.)

So anyway, I am working on a film analysis project to be the final assignment of the class. (plus a final? a take-home or in-class final? Weigh in if you choose. I'm still thinking about the "how to force students to read regularly" conundrum.) And of course that means I am neck deep in issues of representation.

Not just representations, but the "voting" side of representation. As in, how do I choose a slate of texts that is properly representative? Especially considering that my classroom will likely not be diverse and will be quite resistant to learning about the experiences of people not like them (as my officemate has complained all semester), how much do I want to push them out of their comfort zones? And pretty much everything will be out of their comfort zones, so do I pick stuff that will be slightly more accessible, or really really unfamiliar?

So on the one hand, if you do the "it's a small world" one-representative-from-everywhere- approach, you get a fair amount of inclusion, but at the expense of any sort of depth or context. On the other hand, that "representative" method runs up against the "don't show our dirty laundry" complaint that people within these groups often have. If you're only going to have one text "representing" an entire group, there's an enormous pressure to avoid stereotype yet at the same time not show anything true that is bad --- the kinda boring, uplifting, Hallmark-card style of stories. And yet, the best literature and film is that which resists the easy stories and pushes boundaries. Furthermore, I want my films for the film assignment to connect to some of the Serious Issues introduced in the class! But then it becomes dangerous in that students may write a paper arguing that Group X is violent or Group Y is lazy or everyone who believes Z is a misogynist asshole. Hmm. The textbook brings up many issues but critiquing representations that are themselves critiques of the groups they represent is not really covered.

Sigh. I guess I'm asking a lot. I just don't want this to become a situation where a student can use the project to smugly rant about Those People and have it be in any way supported by the text. Which means I think I'll need to require drafts or proposals or outlines. Sigh sigh. Which messes up with my system of having a series of writing/exploration projects across the semester. I think. More tinkering for me.

And I haven't even talked about (or considered) some of the other forms of diversity ---- for example, I am woefully unversed in disability studies (interesting film recommendations, anyone?). But when you add more types of diversity into a list you have even less space to spend on each example and how they fit together.

At the least, I've decided on following the Bechdel test as well as self-representation, so I'm checking my preliminary list. And then maybe I'll need to sleep on it.

Oh, and I still haven't gotten my actual book copy yet! Tried looking it up online to finish the reading list and the table of contents I could find were not correct. Bleah.

Oh, and I'm going to need to hit up some people for documentary copies ...any of my friends at the Junior Farm want to take a visit to the library for me? *sheepish grin*


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

So... this might not have anything to do with what you're doing. However, the film Finding Nemo is all about people who are disabled in one way or another.

1. Nemo has a shriveled fin.
2. Marlin, his dad, has an anxiety disorder
3. Dorie has short term memory loss
4. The Sharks have their own version of Alcoholics Anonymous (they don't eat fish - or try not to).
5. The turtle, Crush, though wise, has Peter Pan syndrome
6. The fish in the tank include a germ-phobe, a schizophrenic, a blow fish who can't control when he blows up (Tourettes syndrome?), a fish who obsesses about the bubbles, and so on

There are more characters with other disabilities, but those were the ones I could think of off the top of my head. I have often thought about writing a paper about this movie and disabilities. I think there's a gold mine there. Feel free to dig in.

Dr. Koshary said...

I don't think you can really avoid the phenomenon of smugness in student papers. A classroom, even in a great class, is no substitute for real-world experience, and the nature of a college course can't help but convince students who are used to thinking they know everything that now they really do know everything. They're not accustomed to looking outside boundaries, and your class is itself bounded in numerous ways. Just pick some good materials, prepare yourself for their inherent pedagogical weaknesses, and remind students that there's more to other people than what they can learn by sitting on their asses in a lecture class. Just don't let it derail your syllabus plans.