Thoughts on My Favorite Scar

My scar, traversing across my swollen womb

No one would willingly ask for a scar. Such defacement is considered as ugly as the word. Hard and cold, it can only be uttered with a sneer. But the scar across my belly carries none of this ugliness. I have no hard feelings about it. I am even willing to wear a two-piece bathing suit in summer, ensuring public exposure. When I shower each morning, my soapy hands do not stop to pause on the six-inch raised line. As I stand before the mirror, desperately searching for an outfit appropriate for whatever my particular mood that day, my eyes never land on it. It goes unnoticed. In fact, the only time I am reminded of it is when someone catches a glimpse of it and recoils, wondering what happened! Then I begin the story revealing the circumstances surrounding my “disfigurement.”

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Something a Bit Different!

The cover reveal of my upcoming novel!

Today is a big day in a journey I have been on for a few years. The cover of the novel I have been working on, Cassandra’s Daughter, is finished!

When I was only a year old, my mother had electric shock therapy. It was the 1960s. She blurted this news out to me when I was assigned to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in high school English class. The information was delivered matter-of-factly, with no detail or further explanation. And it was never brought up again. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable asking any questions.

But as my mother came near the end of her life, I thought about what that experience must have been like for her. This was also a time that I was doing a lot of writing, mostly essays, op-eds, and narrative nonfiction articles for newspapers and magazines. Between articles, I challenged myself with writing exercises. I wrote about my experience getting a filling while at the dentist, doing my best to capture the sterile environment and the horror that all my senses were going through. I detailed a ride I took on a city bus, describing the indiosyncrasies surrounding me. And I thought it might be a good exercise to try to climb into my mother’s skin and “feel” what it was like for her in a hospital room in 1963. Twenty-five pages later, I was horrified at what I imagined she had gone through.

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Thoughts on Losing Control

Photo by Jakob Rosen on Unsplash

I have never been so out of control, yet at the same time in complete control. I didn’t even know that was possible.

“Uh oh. That doesn’t feel right.”

How can I be so in tune with my car? I have owned it for seven years and am about as comfortable as you can get when I am driving it. But it is hard for me to believe just how sensitive my feel is when it comes to what is happening with my little two-door Honda Civic. And for a split second, something doesn’t feel right. My back tires suddenly don’t feel connected to the pavement of the freeway. How can I know that?

But a moment later, it is clear that I am absolutely right. I am hydroplaning. 

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Thoughts on Consensus

Photo by Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash

I was watching a Youtube video posted by Peter Boghossian. For those who don’t know him, he grabbed my attention and gained my admiration back in 2017 and 2018 when he and two colleagues, James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, exposed the fraud at the heart of academic journals, particularly in critical studies departments. The three submitted multiple “academic” articles to multiple “academic” journals (that were actually published) on ridiculous topics such as rape culture among dogs in dog parks and the need for straight men to use sex toys on themselves anally to overcome their homophobia and transphobia.

More recently, he has toured college campuses to conduct an exercise he calls Reverse Q&A. The idea is that rather than lecture and have students ask him questions, he asks students to state their opinion on a topic, which ranges from strongly agree to strongly disagree. They stand on a line that indicates their level of agreement, and he asks them questions. Then in real time and based on what they are hearing, they may move to a different place along the scale as their opinions shift.

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Lions, Tigers, and Book Burning! Oh My!

If a book is removed from a school curriculum or library because of its content (or even because of its problematic author), those who agree with the decision laud it as righteous, progressive, or necessary to protect those who may be made uncomfortable by the book.

So if a book such as Of Mice and Men or Pride and Prejudice is removed from the curriculum for racist language or outdated stereotypes, this is praised as a victory for social justice and for eliminating offensive content and authors.

However, those who disagree with a book removal loudly blame fanatics (who ironically also push for removal to protect certain people from discomfort) and will publish clickbait articles denouncing “banned” books.

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Group Identity (Conclusion)

Photo by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

And here we are – the conclusion of a speech I gave in 2007. I have spent the past ten installments expanding on my thoughts and experiences from fifteen years ago. I enjoyed the process because I could directly see how so many of the problems we are seeing in education today were obvious much longer ago. And seeing where we are today, I would have to say that my concerns were warranted!

This will be the last installment, and I look forward to hearing others’ thoughts on this topic and on what they are seeing in their children’s and grandchildren’s schools. Thank you for joining me on this journey!

If you would like to go back to the beginning, you can find the FIRST essay in the series here.

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Group Identity (Part Ten)

Photo by note thanun on Unsplash

I cannot believe I am on the tenth installment in this series of essays on the focus of group identity on college campuses. I knew I had some things to say, but I didn’t expect it to be this long. But I continue here with probably the most devastating effect of focusing on group identity: the impact on a student’s self-image. For those who worry about what is happening on campuses today, and who are concerned about the direction of our society, the roots were planted long ago. And much longer ago than my personal experience. 

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Group Identity (Part Nine)

Removed from many curriculum – as “unreliable”

This ninth installment of my series on education and the focus of group identity is particularly important to me. Only because I feel so strongly about this topic. I am completely opposed to the idea that students can only relate to literature written by authors of the same ethnic background and gender as they are and to literature written about people just like them. And although I used to lecture my students about this topic fifteen to twenty years ago, I am completely shocked at how this idea has become so mainstream today.

So let’s get into it…

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Group Identity (Part Eight)

A book with important lessons for students

I didn’t realize that this commentary would turn into so may individual installments. I am already up to the eighth! But I have definitely been enjoying going through this speech, which I gave at a conference in 2007. It has reminded me of many of the experiences I have gone through in my decades of teaching. 

This installment will continue with a discussion of the curriculum and more specifically what happens in classroom instruction when an institution focuses on group identity. If you want to go back and start from the beginning, you can access the first installment here.

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Group Identity (Part Seven)

One of my favorite books to use in class

This series on education is based on a speech I gave at a conference in 2007. I recently came across it and reading through it, I was surprised at how relevant it is to what is happening in education today. The first six Installments focused primarily on relationships between people on campus (instructors, students, administration) when a college or university is more focused on group identity than on individuals.

This seventh installment focuses on the impact of identity politics on the curriculum.

If you want to go back to the beginning, you can find the FIRST essay here.

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