Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Meme: I Can't Believe It's Not A Passion Quilt!

I don't know what the title of this post means. I tried googling 'passion quilt' and mostly I got iterations of this meme, so I am none the wiser. Anyway, Aren tagged me for this, and I'm finally getting round to it:

The rules are as follows: Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what you are most passionate for students to learn about. Give your picture a short title. Title your post “Meme: I can’t believe it’s not a passion quilt!”. Link back to this blog entry. Include links to 5 (or more) educators.

The thing about this image is that it points towards the intersection of traditional academic conventions with political and ethical responsibility, and gives me hope that I can actually teach the kinds of thinking I want to teach through, not only alongside (or even despite), traditional academic activity (literary reading, critical analysis, essay-writing).

The main thing about it, I think, is that it shows a way in which the kinds of skills that I teach give students the ability to question and critique authority. 'Britain is being swamped by immigrants'. CITATION NEEDED: what are the figures? But not only 'what are the figures' - if I thought that objective truth was the only location of resistance to power, I would be a scientist (or at least a social scientist!), so for me other questions need to be put, too: how are you defining 'immigrants'? Why are you using this term 'swamped'? CITATION NEEDED. The idea that all statements are discursive, are made in the context of a network of definitions and rules and statistics which legitimate them (or don't legitimate them), and that following up the 'citations' allows you to read and to resist this network of knowledge-and-power.

In terms of academic techniques, too: I teach a lot of first-year students, who are in the process of figuring out how to write an undergraduate-level essay, and one of the things that's hardest for them on a technical level is distinguishing their own voice, their own argument, from those of their sources. If you read someone else's work and agree with it, does it become your work? (No. Well, okay, sort of. But it's only manners to acknowledge, rather than appropriate, work that cost someone else many more hours/years to write than it took you to read.) If you read someone else's work and disagree with it, how can you articulate that disagreement convincingly (when they are, say, Judith Butler, and you are an eighteen-year-old who hasn't read any Freud yet)? And this is somewhere where the conventions of academic writing are actually immensely helpful: proper citation and 'evaluation' of sources (as the marking criteria put it) allow you to make your argument more convincingly, but more importantly, they require you to be aware of the ongoing, dialogic, provisional, situated nature of academic work: understanding that the same term has very different meanings and implications in different fields or traditions, and being able to explain how you want to use that term, means understanding that thinking is both collaborative and antagonistic, and learning both how to honour the people who have enabled you to (let's say) see something new in Jane Eyre and how to argue against the people whose readings are (let's say) are effacing important dimensions of Jane Eyre.

I'm aware this is somewhat utopian.

And I notice that the meme asks me to 'link to' five or more educators, not to 'tag' them, so I'm going to do just that, because some of these people don't know me!

Anxious Black Woman, a blog I recently discovered through the Amanda Marcotte/Seal Press controversy (no, I'm not going to link to it!) and am going to read more assiduously;

John Lyons, a theologian who works down the road from me and is one of the people I know with an enviable ability to combine theoretical thinkiness with lightness of touch;

Lauren Berlant, an awesome queer theorist whose blog often, embarrassingly, falls into my tl;dr bin, but one of my ongoing ambitions is to combine blogging with thinking more effectively, so...;

Lori Askeland; this blog is about her activities as a local councillor in Akron, Ohio, rather than her educative/academic stuff, but it (and she) is wonderful nonetheless;

WOCPhD; another blog I should read in more detail, which includes excellent reading lists!

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