Group Identity (Part Five)

I don’t seem to have photos of me teaching, but here is a staged photo of me grading papers (while on the phone??) for an article about my writing.

This is the fifth installment of a series of essays on group identity on college campuses that comes from a speech I gave back in 2007. You can find the firstsecondthird, and fourth here. I will continue discussing what happens with a fixation on group identity, problems I saw playing out 15 years ago. And these problems have only increased since then.

This installment continues with the discussion of the detrimental impact group identity has on the relationship between faculty members and students. The speech is rewritten in the indented sections, and I interrupt periodically with my current comments about what I wrote so long ago. 

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Group Identity (Part Four)

Another not-very-good photo of me speaking at a conference!

This is the fourth installment of a series of essays on group identity on college campuses that comes from a speech I gave back in 2007. You can find the firstsecond, and third here. I will continue discussing what happens when the educational system develops a fixation on group identity, problems I saw playing out 15 years ago. And these problems have only increased since then.

The fourth installment begins with how group identity damages relationships between faculty members. The speech is rewritten in the indented sections, and I interrupt periodically with my current comments about what I wrote so long ago. 

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Group Identity (Part Two)

Movie poster for Absence of Malice, a movie I discuss later in this post.

In the first installment of this series discussing group identity on college campuses, I provided some background information on my history and background of the speech I gave in 2007 on the same topic. 

In Part Two, I provide information on the college where I was tenured at the time. I think that is important to the story because what was happening there seemed pretty extreme fifteen – twenty years ago. Today, such practices are mainstream in academia. But why was this particular 7,000-student college, tucked in the foothills of San Gabriel Mountains, at the forefront of identity politics?

I also introduce the first problem with a focus on group identity: the inability to develop relationships. 

Again, I will rewrite the speech, interrupting periodically with my current comments about what I wrote so long ago.

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The Damage Wrought by Group Identity on College Campuses

Today starts a multi-part series on some of my experiences as a college professor. I found an old presentation I gave in 2007 called “The Damage Wrought by Group Identity on College Campuses.” In this series, I will be breaking down that speech, providing some background information on my points, and updating my thoughts on the topics discussed.

This introduction is the first installment.

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Enemy of the People: Our Justice System

I love jury duty!

I know. Nobody loves jury duty. (Perhaps I should have been a lawyer…) So I suppose it is not surprising that I was captivated by the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. I actually took a break from my writing to watch gavel-to-gavel coverage, captivated not only by what happened in the courtroom but also by live commentary given by a wide variety of lawyers. 

The last time I watched a trail on TV was the OJ Simpson murder persecution, as KTLA in Los Angeles televised the entire trial. At the time, I was what people called a “freeway flyer,” a college instructor with adjunct positions at four different colleges across the city. So my hours were irregular, giving me the opportunity to watch much of the trial.

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Thoughts on the Importance of Studying Theme

I recently took a road trip over several days. On the first day’s drive, the interior of my car was filled with the sounds of a wide variety of music, from Cat Stevens to The Shins to Elton John. But on day two, I was really looking for some silence. And that silence gave my mind space to wander.

I’m reminded of a story relayed in the biography of Charles Lindbergh, the famed pilot of the Spirit of St, Louis who flew from New York to Paris. Early in his career, he was a US Air Mail pilot travelling back and forth between St. Louis and Kansas City. In those days, before radios and complete music libraries tucked away in your back pocket, Lindbergh flew in silence. To ward off the boredom, he gave himself difficult problems to solve. One of those problems was determining how to fly across the Atlantic. And on one of his flights, he solved it and went to work.

I certainly did not go about solving such problems on my drive! But I did find some clarity that explained my confusion around how people discuss literature. Maybe not as sexy as being the first to complete a transatlantic flight, but in my corner of the world as a college professor, I appreciated the revelation.

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Thoughts on Simplistic Thinking

Goby the Fish

I can think specifically of a few times when teachers worked to indoctrinate me.

The first time was in elementary school. Those were the days when anti-littering propaganda… well, littered school hallways and classrooms. And yes, I was one of those kids who, under the age of ten, was out in the streets lecturing people for littering, yelling out the car window from the backseat at passersby who dropped cigarette butts or napkins on the sidewalk, picking up pieces of trash and railing at the ilk of those ruining our world. I must have been adorable.

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Thoughts on What We Say to Young Adults about the Future

Screen Shot 2019-01-23 at 3.19.17 PMYou can accomplish great things in this life.

That’s it. Now you just have to believe it. Unfortunately, it seems that our media and our educational system is hell bent on convincing you otherwise. And so many of you are taking that to heart. I want to say “Stop that.”

I’d been a college professor (with a brief stint of teaching middle school thrown in for fun) for 25 years when I quit last year. I am not sure if I will ever go back. I’m not sure I want to. But I know academia. It’s my niche. I lived it, and I follow academic news stories in the media somewhat obsessively. One of the reasons I am so interested is that much of what is occurring on a national scale at colleges and universities today are things that already happened at a small community college in Los Angeles, where I was a tenured English professor. I taught there for a total of 16 years, back in the nineties and in the first decade of the 2000s. So what I am witnessing is not all that surprising.

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Thoughts on Reading vs. Listening to Books

screen shot 2019-01-13 at 2.36.46 pmThe question posed on Facebook went something like this (and I paraphrase): Is listening to an audiobook the same as reading a book? If one listened to an audiobook, can that be added to a “books I read this year” list?

My initial response went something like this: No, they are not the same, but I suppose you can put it on the list.

But as people chimed in, and as I was given more time to think about this, I realized that the answer is actually not that simple.

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For Teachers: In Consideration of Students Who Take You At Your Word

turkeyI got a text in all caps today from my daughter, who is in her senior year of college. It read: “MY WEDNESDAY CLASS WAS JUST CANCELLED.” That class is next week and is the day before Thanksgiving. I have been in enough classrooms to know that this professor was instant hero. And he knew it too.

Students love when classes are cancelled. In 25 years of teaching college, I rarely cancelled mine. In fact, when I was pregnant with that same daughter, I had students come to me and also write in my evaluations that they thought for sure I would be cancelling a lot of classes because of my pregnancy, and they were surprised (some disappointed, quite honestly) that I never called in sick.

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