Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The end is near

This old jalopy called my semester comes shuddering to a stop. I am fumbling my way out of it. Today, I have two exams to write. Tomorrow, I have final poster presentations in medical anthropology. Friday, I give the exam in linguistic anthropology.

This is all set against the possibility of furloughs starting next week. What does a furlough mean for an academic? I think it just means a pay reduction - for work already completed, I might add.

So, I feel a mite like a cranky anthropologist. Which brings me to my recent discovery of a blog called The Cranky Linguist, which is written by an anthropology professor.

I especially appreciated his musings on students missing the point you were making all semester.

StraightMan and I remind each other constantly that we should stop being so surprised. On occasion, I have offered in-class reviews ahead of exams, posting PowerPoint slides of questions (and answers), with the exact wording that later appears on the exam - and students still answered incorrectly.

I cannot speak for professors in other disciplines, but I think unfortunately, in anthropology, students take our classes expecting to have confirmed what they think they already know - for example, about human evolution and Neanderthals and race and culture and so-called Ebonics. It might be that students assume that they do not know much about chemistry or biology, but even the ones who come to my classes simply because they are fulfilling a General Education requirement figure that they know about culture and that they can be different and that it is important to respect them even so. Duh.

Which is ironic because in all of my classes, I feel like I take as much trouble to demonstrate what culture cannot explain. In other words, when you come to my class, you should expect me to try to contradict everything you think know, not confirm it. The default mode in my classes might be that whatever the common-sense line is, say something else.

To be continued.

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