Friday, September 28, 2012

I am a colander.


Those bastards in the "real world" sometimes say, "Those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach."

They are wrong:  I don't teach;  I judge.

I produce nothing.  I judge everything.

I fucking judge all day.  Every day.  Christmas day.  July 4.  Easter.

I used to produce.  They damn well know I am able to produce again and hopefully will do so before I die.  But for the time being, I produce nothing.

I judge.

I'm not like a colander.  I am a fucking colander.

I am used just like any amateur cook uses a colander to separate hir spaghetti from hir boiled water.  Hir goal is to get rid of all the fucking water and keep the good stuff for hir tummy.

My goal is to remove the incompetent, the crazies, the lazy, the underproductive, the chronically ill, the wasteful, the untrustworthy, the mentally ill, and the uselessly high-conflict fucktards.  Yes, that's what I do.  Our society doesn't want the useless stuff in its tummy, so I strain it out.

OK, I produce a little.  I teach a little.  And I train a little bit more.  Yes.  I do those things.

But my main job is to be a colander.  Overwhelmingly so.

Every goddamned day, I judge people.  Sometimes I am graceful about it.  Sometimes I am not.

I've been banged around for years because plenty of students, faculty, employees, parents, and various other stakeholders in the community have fought me.  They have whined, complained, lied, attacked, cried, whimpered, threatened, blackmailed, and attempted to bribe and seduce.

And, yet, I remain a colander.  That's what I am.

I am a colander.

16 comments:

  1. And it's a noble and necessary, if frustrating, function, Bubba. I don't think any of us can or should be only colanders (and it's clear that you don't want that, either), but it's clear that somebody needs to be, at least some of the time, and we increasingly seem to be being nominated for the job (even as we -- at least least those of us who are untenured, and even many who are tenured, but still subject to various forms of persuasion/coercion -- find it increasingly difficult to carry out said job).

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  3. I like to wear my colander on my head. Make of that what you will.

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  4. You're not a colander; Bubba, you're my hero...

    *sniff*

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  5. At my bridal shower I was given three identical colanders.... maybe they were trying to say something about my future profession.

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  6. Generally I find that when someone says "those who can't do, teach" have never actually tried teaching....

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  7. No, Bubba, you -ain’t- a colander. A colander can’t tell the difference between Tennessee sippin’ whiskey and the effluent left over from psychoactive Kool-Aid enemas. You can.

    You are not a colander. You are a judge, with human judgment, discernment, and intelligence. Your role as a judge is one of the most important things you do, particularly since far too many people in education and in contemporary American society in general have abdicated this responsibility.

    It is good to remove the incompetent, the crazies, the lazy, the underproductive, the chronically ill, the wasteful, the untrustworthy, the mentally ill, and the uselessly high-conflict fucktards, and very especially the deliberately dishonest. The dwindling few real students, who still want a good education and will make use of it, deserve that you act.

    I know darn well that what I judge about a student can affect that student for the rest of the student’s life. It is therefore essential that my judgments be fair, thorough, thoughtful, and not made too soon. When I was an undergraduate, one tired, old proffie judged me too soon, and I hated that.

    Still, I have decided to give my current gradflake (the one I posted about on September 6) the heave-ho. It was bad enough that he just wouldn’t get motivated to step up to a first-class research opportunity, but last week, he forgot to close the observatory’s roof at the end of a night. Another astronomer called me about it at noon (and if there’s anything I hate, it’s being woken out of a sound sleep). It’s good it didn’t rain that day. I immediately changed the observatory’s computer’s password, so he’ll not make that mistake again. I still need him to TA my general-ed astronomy class, though, so I won’t lower the beam until the end of the semester.

    I likewise take judging my engineering students seriously. I hate it whenever they’re so innumerate or otherwise incompetent, they pose a danger to public safety. Likewise with premeds and pre-nursing students. Likewise with English or journalism majors who are functionally illiterate: all anyone needs is for them to write a crummy manual, or a news article, and someone could get killed.

    All that said, whenever I meet a justice of the peace in a social situation (not in a courtroom, of course), I always ask: How do you cope with a job in which -everybody- is lying? I’d like to know.

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    1. And yet we are discouraged from using judgement. Instead we must use "rubricks". Oy!

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    2. Oh, my syllabus, all 16 pages in its resplendent glory, can beat up their rubric any day of the week.

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    3. The trick is to make the rubric detailed -- so students who read it will have some idea of what to expect -- and judgement-dependent. I give 50 points for "discussion" in my lab report rubric. Essentially, if in my judgement you have "discussed" things properly, you get 50 points of 100. If not, you get slashed.

      The other items are almost all equally judgement-dependent.

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    4. Hmmm... How many marks do I lose for misspelling rubric?

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    5. Not as many as my students who can't tell the difference between "its" and "it's," or "there," "their," and "they're," or "to," "two," and "too." Jeez, I remember that last one from second grade, and the first from sixth grade.

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  8. I expect, and fear, that discernment will continue to be increasingly digitized, computerized, and dehumanized. We rely on our digital machines more and more, without remaining aware of their limitations.

    We lost something when we went from the 33/LP to the mp3, and when we went from the daguerreotype to the 10-megapixel digital camera, for example. Our digital machines don't have the same capacity for infinity that we humans have. And in our complex systems, that matters. The nuance matters. Damn the rubrics.

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    1. @Bubba: Nearly all of the beautiful astrophotos I've ever taken would have been quite impossible with film. I'll post one soon, as an example. Plus, film smelled bad. Remember also that digital technology vindicated Neil Armstrong: he did too say the "a," in "...step for [a] man..."

      You need to watch the Pink Floyd movie again. They have an excellent discussion about how, although they relied on their technology a lot, "it doesn't control itself."

      And NO psychoactive enemas, while you watch it!

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  9. Some deans in my school not only want you to use a rubric for everything, but to provide it to the student beforehand. Many of the students won't read the syllabus or the instructions what on earth makes the admins think students will read the rubric? HA!

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