28 February 2006

national health care is bad why?

here's one complaint from a woman who suffered from breast cancer, overcame it, only to find out she has secondary bone cancer, a treatable but not curable condition. She has to pay for her prescriptions. story here.

I've blogged before about the glory of free contraception in the UK and the changes that makes possible on the political/human/day-to-day landscape. this article, despite the terrible reality of the woman's cancer, made me happy, once again, to be living in the UK, where we don't have the labyrinthine prescription system "fixed" by the current US administration, which I'm told now works well, despite the over 50 plans that seniors confusingly get to choose from in some states...

On one level it may seem that this woman with cancer is whining: if she pays just under £100/year, that covers all of her prescriptions, and that's not at all what most Americans in her situation would be facing (I believe "factor of a hundred" might be a phrase used to in the description of the difference). so yes, she should be grateful on one level. But that's just it: yes, it could be and is worse elsewhere, but that doesn't make it right that a terminally-ill person should have to pay for life-saving/prolonging drugs. I'm with her. it's wrong. moreover, the article's tone, and the politicians asked to comment, all seemed to agree that it was wrong, and they were working on a solution. this is what is great about the culture shock we experience as Americans in the UK: most of the time it's "wow. really? they're acknowledging that injustice? really? and trying to fix it, what?" I'll take 4 quid for a prescription any day. oh, and I won't have to for much longer; soon it will be free in Wales.

what isn't different in the UK? pandering to the ol' emotions with photos of the woman's children....

can't do the math thing

You Are 30% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.
In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

and so there you have it. thanks to Emery...

26 February 2006

my greatest achievement this weekend

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

conference dodge-ball

so the conference is over, and it all went well--the panel was a success, I got to see friends, I managed all the shopping I had to do, and even fit it into my bag for the trip home (we'll see if it makes the weight limit, but that's another matter). So the conference is of course about various successes--the panel I co-chaired went well, despite my stress about it completely falling apart; Debby and I took a pic holding our new book, which is very exciting, and I met with and met various people who were just great.

and so it was a small small part of my conference, but I did want to mention the peculiarity of having been on the job market every year since 1997: I know half the people at these conferences because they interviewed me and rejected me (or very occasionally I rejected them). this creates the "dodge-and-weave" form of conferencing, where you attempt to assess who is in the coming crowd before plunging in, artfully averting your eyes from anyone who might look familiar and, as in the case of my behaviour last night, hiding behind a large pillar until they pass by.

In effect, I have the upper hand/high ground in these situations. that is, I know from being on the other side that one feels incredibly bad about rejecting people, particularly people you spend a long time with over the course of an on-campus interview. so I know they feel worse than I do, and in fact I have the fabulous combo chip-on-the-shoulder/10-year-high school reunion phenomenon of: yep, look how fabulous I am now, and you rejected me. your loss, heh heh heh. but then I don't want to have to be nice to folks that, frankly, wasted my time, or treated me poorly on the interview, or just in general are related to a moment in my life when I was trying to fit myself into something they wanted, and in the end, they didn't want what I tried so hard to give them. and so I dodge. easier than addressing them directly. ah well. as Sam and I joke: one should ask which schools I haven't interviewed at at some point, rather than which ones I have....

25 February 2006

USA Today, how awesome art thou?

So one of the perks (?--it's a feature, not a bug) of being in a top hotel (the Marriott Copley Square) is that you get the paper on your doorstep (although there is no step--on your threshhold?) each morning. The morning that the UAE port issue broke, which with Emery I'm a little shocked that it's the Republicans who are upset and not the Dems, but whatever...that same issue USA Today had an insert that looked like the paper, but much like real estate ads in the middle of glossy magazines, or informercials posing as real TV shows, was not actually part of the paper. It was about the glory of the UAE, the UAE's relation to the US over the past three or so decades since it started its existence, and how fabulous the place is. I will admit that the airline out of UAE, Gulf Air, is one of the top if not the top airplane travel experiences I have had in my life, from the I dream of Genie headwear the flight attendants wore (prompting me to perhaps switch back to the not-so-PC stewardess, as sadly, there were no male flight attendants sporting the fezzes with gauzy veil. a missed opportunity for them, I think...) to the oh-so-fabulous duty free shop in the airport when we stopped over...so I'm all about UAE. sure. but it is a bit weird not just that we are farming this out, that we're farming it out to other countries, that these countries happen to be in the Gulf (which, on one level is fine if you recognize the diversity of political and social practices/relations to the US/relations to things right and good in the Arabian peninsula region, but still...), that we're letting other governments do something we should be able to do, and then the coincidence (what timing! perhaps they knew about this! interesting!) of the advertisement/newsy insert in the USA Today. Sigh. it's all commercial anyway, right? I heart high capitalism.

23 February 2006

culture shock in boston

what's so very interesting about culture shock is that it is, well, shocking. One cannot prepare for it. will it be the strange, gray money they use in this foreign land? will it be the moment that I pull out a 10p coin only to realize it's actually a quarter? it's much like the fabulous film Somewhere in Time a luscious Christopher Reeve-Jane Seymour flick about time travel that's just so 1980 and so so wonderful. it's one of the Brown family "classics" that we watched a bazillion times. each time there's a moment where Reeve's character, living in the past, sees a penny that's minted in the 70s (I know--horrifying enough as it is) and gets sucked back in time. it's pure culture shock. he's normalized the 1920s or whenever he is and then suddenly: the 70s! man, this sucks!

there's some of that when dealing with US money for me, this strange, too-thin, not nearly colorful enough money. But where it really is shocking is in, well, bathrooms. toilets flush differently, the taps come together into one, ingeniously mixing the cold and hot together, and, most surprisingly, the showers have these contraptions called, I believe, shower curtains, that one uses to block the water from going everywhere in the room. wow. that's a revelation.

21 February 2006

Upside Down World

You know something isn't right with the Universe when Emery is beyond outrage, Dan might be moving to LA, and Paul doesn't post anymore.

But if that weren't enough, I find myself agreeing with something written by Francis Fukuyama!!!!

Now that is truly frightening!

Lyrics – Answers

I had a request for answers to my uncited lyrics from a couple of days ago. It seems our pseudonymous commentor missed his window. So, here goes.

First off, you all should have known that they were all u2 lyrics; that much was a breeze.

1. 'Until The End of the World', Achtung Baby 1991
This one was too easy, as the words themselves contain the title. One of the very best songs live, particularly of those that I've seen performed many, many times.

2. 'Stay', Zooropa 1993
Bono said this may be the best u2 song ever. I don't think I'd agree with that, but it's certainly very high up there in terms of the lyrics.

3. 'Fast Cars', HtDAAB 2004
No one would call this the greatest song ever, but I think those are very nice lines. Also, despite the fact that it was a bonus track on the CD in the UK and other places (it didn't come on the standard US version of Atomic Bomb), it ranks closer to the middle in my ratings of songs on the album - and it was played in concert once or twice. This is what made it a tough one to identify.
It's also an interesting song for two other reasons. It's the song that contains the lyric that became the title of the album. And there's an earlier version of the song called 'Xanax and Wine' (same verses, but totally different chorus and bridge) that's a real gem.

19 February 2006

tea party, beans, and cream pies

and yes, I'm on the move again. way too soon. the big college art association conference, the MLA of the artists and art historians, smaller but no less horrifying.

my list of to-dos involves:
1. peets run to restock the supply (and of course to have a double small breve latte)
2. purchasing soapy goodness and deodorant sticks at Lush on Newberry street
3. spending down our Starbucks gift card from Christmas (many thanks Sam's aunt Carla!)
4. run to Apple store to purchase an iPod (because why not? isn't this what one does when in the US?)
5. lunch/dinner/drinks with friends, colleagues, potential employers, "my editor" (which is a very cool thing to say, no?)
6. find a place within walking distance of the conference that will sell me eggs and bacon for less than $10
7. chair that one panel--oh yeah.
8. interview with university (UIC)
9. attempt to not wear any black for the entire week (really: this is bucking the trend entirely. it's all about the black at these things)
10. wear my fabulous new Birkenstock knee-high boots (thanks Sam and Santa!)
11. survive the whole thing with enough energy to come back and teach. that same day.

my list of fun things I'll be doing involves:
1. seeing friends Mark & Kristin now ensconced in the Cambridge lifestyle (yay!)
2. seeing friends and colleagues
3. drinking
4. double small breve lattes

they don't do half-and-half here. it just doesn't exist. aside from peets coffee itself, it's the one food thing I miss. oh and mexican food. but won't be getting any of that in the NE...

17 February 2006

Lyric Time

In my dreams, I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows they learned to swim

Surrounding me
Going down on me
Spilling over the brim

Waves of regret
Waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy

You said you'd wait 'til the end of the world

Red light
Grey morning
You stumble, out of a hole in the ground

Of a vampire
Or a victim
It depends on who's around

You should worry about the day
That the pain it goes away
You know I miss mine sometimes

You ask for citations?
Fair enough, but I'm going to let our regular anonymous poster fill in those details for us – I look forward to seeing what pseudonym he picks. Oh, and I made that last one a bit difficult, but still no googling!

You ask why the lyrics?
I have many reasons. But I don't need even one.

16 February 2006

more gelfings!!

Matt, over on his blog, has alerted me to the gleeful and joyous news that they are making a sequel to Dark Crystal which has, for some reason, made me extremely excited. Likely the sequel will ruin everything good and pure about the original, but one can hope that it will be as glorious not as the 1982 film, but as my memories of the 1982 film. not too much to ask, no? And, I await the Willow (starring a slightly older Val Kilmer, natch) and Labyrinth (sans Bowie, thanks though) sequels...woo hoo!

15 February 2006

Swansea Gray

Swansea Gray
Originally uploaded by doppio macchiato.
I've uploaded a few more pics to the flickr site, specifically of Ruth and Jeff's visit including pics of Three Cliffs Bay. But I liked this image of downtown Swansea, about two days after I returned from India. sometimes gray is interesting, no?

14 February 2006

Raising the Level of Debate

OK, I know it's a bit long, but all of you really must go read this thread on the war in Iraq, over at Emery's. I'd love to be able to contribute to the debate, to comment on it, or to post a response to it. But I really only have one contribution to make: read through the entire thread, and each time you get to a comment from Frances (especially her first comment) imagine outrageously loud applause from me in the background.

Ultimately it's not failed execution, an imperialist grab for oil, or anything else along those lines that truly undermines 'our efforts' in Iraq. It is our unbelievably colonialist approach to the actual people of Iraq, our disdain, our contempt, our disrespect (I know: 3 words that mean the same thing) of the very people we are supposed to be 'liberating', that makes the whole thing so appalling.

12 February 2006

On the Glory of Rugby

As I'm sure you're all aware, last weekend was a huge one in the world of sport. That's right, it was the opening of the 'Six Nations Championship', one of the biggest rugby tournaments in the world besides the World Cup. After beating Scotland today, Wales is 1 - 1. Having now watched a half dozen or more Rugby matches - with some coaching along the way from fans who really know the game - I feel compelled to compile a short list of reasons why rugby rules!
  • Watch a mere half of Rugby on television (or 5 minutes live), and you can no longer take American football seriously. The list of reasons is long: no specialised offense and defense, no pads, no stopping between plays, etc. Oh, and the sideline is not a place that you run to for safety, if the opposing team can throw the ballcarrier out of bounds, it's a turnover - so players never run out of bounds intentionally.
  • Listening to the umpire talk to the players and keep the game in control is watching artistry.
  • Two words: 'blood reversals!'
  • The sportsmanship is astonishing: at the end of the game, one team heads toward the locker room, forms two lines and then applauds the other team as they walk by. The team walking out then forms their own lines and does the same.
In the game today, the Scottish player of the match from last week was given a red card for kicking the head of a Welsh player. The umpire called both players over (the Welsh player had committed a penalty first by making a late tackle on the Scottish guy), to give them his decision. As he did so, the Scottish player immediately reached over and apologised to the Welsh player, and they then walked to the sidelines together. It was genuine. Wow.

11 February 2006

The Aristocrats (2005, Paul Provenza, dir.)

Many apologies for the short hiatus in posting. I have been in paralyzing panic mode for the past few days faced with everything that I must do between now and June. more on that later. last night Sam and I took the plunge and saw The Aristocrats on the advice of friends but with warnings about its--er--extreme vulgarity.

I am not a comedy fan, in the sense that I don't go out of my way to watch comedy. usually when I catch someone's act on HBO I'll watch, laugh, wonder if I should be following this more, and then do nothing. and this film is all about comedy in one sense. or to put it more precisely, it's about comedians and their own comedic narrative space. it's about the insider joke that comedians tell one another while waiting to go on, or after the show at 5 am. the film is comprised of interviews with a huge range of comedians (although overwhelmingly white, I will say) and their experiences with the joke called "The Aristocrats." so you hear this joke being talked about, epic performances of it (riffs on it) being remembered, and over the course of a little more than an hour you hear it told many many times. And it's really really raunchy and vulgar. that's the point. and apparently some people find the movie insulting because of this (what--incest is always funny, right? I don't get it.) but it is quite vulgar, so if you're not interested, don't rent it.

but it's not about the vulgarity. and not because you become desensitized to it. but because it's truly not about that. it's about oral traditions. narrative. the bardic repetition and one-up-person-ship that it entails. can you, o bard, beat the previous bard who told this familiar tale in this town last week? can you spin out that tale so that we drink three, four, five brews of meade during it? yea, oh bard, can you remind me of other retellings whilst still presenting your own telling of the tale? if comedy is about, on one level, being very true to oneself, baring one's soul on stage so that we see the truth of humanity and are enabled to laugh, then this film really gets at that core of comedy and of performance. each retelling is completely different, despite many shared elements and of course the narrative structure of the joke. and you laugh in different ways at different comedians. for some it's the punchline. for others it's the horror of it all. for others it's the way they pause to make sure you're following. for many it's the contrast between how you know these people as celebrities (perhaps the best ones are those who have played squeaky clean characters in film or TV, like Paul Reiser of Mad About You or, perhaps the best example of this, Carrie Fisher, yes, Princess Leia, doing the joke). and along the way it becomes about the art of narration. of doing jumping jacks with a particular theme. of riffing. I know there are more erudite and dare I say effete ways of experiencing this art (jazz, art, west end plays) but this one is accessible to most without a huge cultural learning curve. too bad it doesn't make a good teaching tool....

08 February 2006

CNN Headlines (again)

I know that I show a bit too much concern over the CNN website's shocking ability to write ridiculous headlines. But THIS is priceless:

Does absolutely no one read these things?

07 February 2006

weighing in on the power of images

as many of you know, I can only read the newspapers sparingly. particularly when it comes to coverage of the Islamic world, and particularly when it comes to coverage of palestine, I tend to get a bit worked up and my normally rational self heads for the door. so I'm a little late to the party here, but in this case, where people are dying over pictures drawn halfway around the world from them, I think it might be time to comment a little bit.

obviously, first, images are powerful. recent events make this clear. the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and collections of Islamic tradition) spells this out by saying that one shouldn't represent important figures in the Islamic tradition because it could lead to their worship, as in similar contexts the eastern orthodox church has been criticized for idol worship among certain opposing Christian factions. you can't image god, and, just to be safe, you can't image those around god. But "you" in this context is generally limited to those who practice the particular religion in question (Lutheranism, Islam).

now, this is not in the Koran, it's in the Hadith. So, it's not the Word of God. God himself indicates that only He can create living things, which has been interpreted to mean that artists shouldn't presume to try to create the image of living things, but that interpretation changes depending on the political climate, the historical situation, and the type of Islam you hold dear. Some examples.

Shi'ites hold the family of the Prophet, and the Prophet himself, to be a central element of Islam. So we have tombs and relic spaces set up for worship which center on body parts of Hasan and Hussein, the martyred grandsons of the Prophet. Sunnis find this to be akin to worshipping these folks, and so they're not too keen on it.

Sufism was great for art, as the mystical branch of Islam produced a bunch of narratives that articulated the devotee's longing for God through, well, love stories. So as a result we have a wonderful, longstanding, and religious tradition of figural painting in which figures cavort in trees and stare longingly at one another across meadows.

finally, we have images of Muhammad himself in Islamic art. to be fair, he's usually veiled (for another post: the veil isn't just for chicks anymore!), but nonetheless. we have him winging his way up to heaven, we have him being born, we have him in any number of other images. like the Sufi images, and like other figural imagery, these tend to occur during periods in which the orthodox interpretation of the Koran and Hadith is not as strong. The thing is, these periods are more numerous than the orthodox ones.

which brings me to the cartoons. (this post is getting to be OaO standard length...)

on one level, the protests are about the mere representation of Muhammad. But I don't think there's a case there. the artists aren't bound by the Hadith as they are not Muslim, and even if they were, history shows us that it wouldn't mean they were bound by the hadith anyway.

comedy, in some cases, is about insulting people, playing on their stereotypes, and in the best comedy, working through those stereotypes to make a positive statement/change/impact on the political scene that we live in. Revealing those stereotypes to be ridiculous, or reminding people of themselves in those stereotypes. Black comedians poke fun at the whiteys, Jews at Gentiles, women at men, etc. etc. It all depends on relations of power however. It's much easier for a white comedian to cross the line into pure offensive racism, because the asymmetries of power in the US produce a situation in which you're no longer revealing the stereotypes to be ridiculous, you suddenly fall into the stereotype of the name-calling racist and lose all political efficacy for change. This is where the cartoons (most of them) lie. Muhammad with a bomb in his turban? wielding a scimitar? greeting suicide bombers in heaven with the message: no virgins left? not good comedy, certainly (okay except for maybe that last one, but come on people. taste?), and thus not worth the potential and real insult they produce. it's not that the artists don't have the right to free speech. it's that the access to publish these works should depend on some sort of merit, an ability to read well and understand the efficacy of these things, and whether or not the message meant comes through. Or perhaps that message did come through, loud and clear.

One of the cartoons is of the cartoonist trying to hide the fact that he's drawing Muhammad, scared of the repercussions. this is interesting as it simultaneously acknowledges the potential reaction--one shouldn't draw Muhammad--but also the closeting of racism that drawing an insulting cartoon towards Islam would force out of that closet. the pressure to be politically correct. these cartoonists and their editors printed racist things in a country with a growing Muslim minority, using local iconography to indicate the "us" and "them" distinction (even for Muslim Danes born in Denmark). this is throwing fuel on the fire. both locally and now, internationally. and yes, the delay in the reaction indicates that those in the Islamic world who have fueled the protests have their own agenda as well. perhaps it should be protected by free speech laws, maybe I'll even say sure, it absolutely should be. but it's still racist. and anti-Islamic. and irresponsible. and the editors should be called to task for that, at least.

06 February 2006

it's official now...

in some sense, things are only real if they are on amazon.com. and thus it is with great fanfare that I announce the reality of the Asian Art anthology from Blackwell!

It's very exciting, no? Here's the cover pic:

with many thanks to all who survived my loud complaining regarding the publication process. it truly is 99.9% sweat.

03 February 2006

on impotent arguments

we have been dialoguing simultaneously (at the same time) about plagiarism and about science/knowledge/observation on various blogs in this corner of the 'sphere, and then I see this article. Link.

now I should preface this by saying that most of what I know about DNA I learned/gleaned from Richard Powers' fabulous Goldbug Variations. what I know is this: it's very very complex. so when the media excerpts a preliminary report regarding this prehistoric mummified corpse we found, claiming that DNA can 1. tell us the guy was infertile and then 2. of course, from that we can say that it's possible/likely even that he died because of a spat over his infertility...well, it just strikes me as, um, bad critical thinking. hello! did they even call an anthropologist? hello! do they realize that there's this little thing called, um, "history" and that "time" has elapsed since this guy lived? do they even recognize that it wasn't so long ago that we practiced a "blame the mom" policy vis-a-vis problematic conceptions, and that it wasn't so long before that that we had all sorts of wacky explanations for how babies are made?

I'll stop saying "hello!" now. but I will say that it's a sad thing when scientists and the media that report on them fail in every way to have any interdisciplinary sense whatsoever. it's not just about the history question on the MCATs, people. it's about thinking logically and deducing conclusions from that. and why is infertility even a question here? aren't there more interesting questions? like: what did this guy eat? why was he in the alps? how did he get there from his supposed genetic roots in central asia? sure, sex is interesting, and impotence is always funny. but really. we reveal more about ourselves than about the ancient societies we claim to be studying, no?

Plagiarism Redux

Thanks to everyone for the comments on my plagiarism post; none of them were shocking, but it's always nice to get a broader perspective. My own response was captured rather completely by Rebecca and tenaciousmcd. Sometimes a sentence can slip through accidentally, but if one takes an entire paragraph verbatim from a source that does not appear anywhere in the paper, then that's the line for me. So 1, clearly.

As for penalties, I think I'll be very harsh on my very good friends out there that suggest anything less than C. I respect your opinions and arguments, but I'll say to all of you what I just told my colleague here: you're working in an old paradigm. In the paradigm that characterized most of our college experiences, plagiarism was this unbelievable act of obvious cheating that involved finding a scholarly source in the library and copying from it. It was, I think, something that happened fairly rarely, and it was certainly something that required a great deal of work to accomplish. Overall, it was abnormal. In the new paradigm, cutting and pasting from websites is normal for a very high percentage of students. It's just what they do: they google for their topic, surf to a bunch of websites, cut and paste, and then rearrange and add a few sentences of their own. (Of the cases I've just found in the last two weeks, the average number of different cites from which the student had stolen was 5.) It is not an accident.

The NY Times ran a survey a few years back and found more than 75% of US College graduates admitted to some form of cheating when they were in College. They are cheating and they know it's cheating. It's just that cheating has become normal. There was also a study done by a rat choice political scientist (I know) that showed (I think convincingly) that if the penalty is anything less than C it is rational to cheat. For all the dozens of cases I catch, there are dozens and dozens more that slide through.

I've had students cry in my office and swear it was an accident, but I'm now completely convinced that it never is. To Mark: students don't copy from one another (it's too much work) and if they do, I probably won't catch it so it's sort of a moot point. To Dan: you have a wonderful heart to see this issue the way you do (mine, as all can tell has become hardened beyond belief through the wrenching interactions with the long, long list of students that cheated), but the 'meant to go back' is always a cover. When a student puts together 50% of their paper verbatim from someone else's words, there would be nothing to go back to. When you take an entire paragraph from another source, put it in your paper and don't put quotation marks around it, you've already decided to cheat (even if you haven't admitted it to yourself, and the 'meant to go back' is the rationalization you give yourself).

And Rebecca makes a good point here, one that I hope contributes to my case for a new paradigm: they are NOT stealing from good sources, they are stealing from crap summary pages on the internet that sound, often, a lot like something they'd write anyway. My hunch is that in the old paradigm students would steal to get an A, steal because they thought there work was B work but they wanted it to be perfect so othey steal from a journal article. Now, we have B and C students stealing in order to get B's and C's; it's not about getting better grades so much as it is just plain easier to cut and paste than it is to write.

And finally, students have no fear at all of the repurcussions. Their logic looks like this...chances are I won't get caught, if I do I'll probably get to rewrite, worst case scenario is a bad grade in the course, but then I can just retake the course and substitute the new grade. Tmcd is right: in practice, it's almost impossible to go beyond C, because university institutions are set up to make it almost impossible to do much to the student. Combine this with the fact that a large number of professors let dozens of plagiarism papers slide off their desk each semester, and I see it as essential that faculty start imposing the harshest penalties possible.

And it can't just be done on a case-by-case basis, because it really is too much work. I've spent about 60 hours marking essays and exams over the past two weeks. I've spent another 10 hours loooking for, and when found, documenting, plagiarism cases. Total essays and exams marked = around 170; total plagiarism cases that I worked on = 5. To give each essay a thorough search for plagiarism would quadruple the amount of time to mark them.

The counter-argument to my call for harsh penalties will be: you're going to fail someone who was just ignorant. I think the chances of that are surprisingly small. Students are so much smarter than we usually give them credit for. And those chances can be reduced further by clearly delineating to students the proper use of sources. If we tell them repeatedly what plagiarism is and why it's wrong, then I don't think there's any need to give them 'the benefit of the doubt'. (Again, students who cite sources but don't put things in their own words are not being failed here; we are talking about cutting and pasting from a source, not using quotation marks, and not citing the source or putting it in the biblio.)

Or, perhaps I'm just a big meanie.

02 February 2006

day 4 observations

I believe my soul has finally caught up to me this morning, and yet it is still difficult to engage with the world, which in my case has meant various media (TV, news, the web) as well as students, for the first time since April of 2004. I will have more observations of students I'm sure as the term goes on, but my thoughts thus far are tied up with my strange place in the UK higher ed "system." the bottom line is this: although it is my module (trans. course) and I am alone in teaching it, I feel oddly out of control of its form. in the US I could have a discussion day, make my own assessments of the students through various means, create small assignments along the way to give them feedback, have library days where we talked about research methods...these things are gone. I have no assessment tools (which are also teaching tools) other than a 2500 word essay at the end of term (for which I was required to generate questions before the module started) and an exam, during which they will answer two questions out of six provided.

In addition, one lectures twice/week for 50 minutes (which is basically no time at all. I'm getting warmed up at about 47 minutes, needless to say) and then the students do presentations for 15 minutes at "seminars" which meet four times during the term. These are for discussion, instruction in a smaller group setting, and for the students to present their thoughts orally. again, I thought about doing something different there, but didn't want to buck the trends entirely.

given this situation, and then on top of it all given that the module is in politics and let's face it, I'm an historian, means that I feel like I have no idea how to teach within these parameters. I am told that I should not be worried about this, that teaching is not valued here and that I should spend as little time as possible on this as I am not getting paid much. this is wise advice (from the higher ups, no less). and yet I still need to "own" the module a bit more. I imagine this will come as I get into it. we'll see.

More on the trotskyite/marxist student in the class next time I reflect on this subject...

01 February 2006

Feedback Please: Plagiarism

Not that readers of this blog are a representative sample of any known population, nor, for that matter, are there enough readers of this blog to form a large enough sample anyway, but nevertheless I'm very interested in knowing what you all think.

The topic is plagiarism. The givens are as follows: a student writes an essay and presents material verbatim (with no quotation marks) from an unattributed, unreferenced, source. The question is where is the line crossed from doing something inappropriate that should lower the student's grade, to doing something fundamentally wrong that should warrant extreme penalties for plagiarism. And your options are:

1. Minimum of one paragraph stolen, from a minimum of one source.
2. Minimum of 25% of the paper stolen, from a minimum of one source.
3. Minimum of 25% of the paper stolen, from a minimum of 3 sources.
4. 50% of paper from 1 source.
5. 50% of paper from 3 sources.
6. 75% of paper from 1 source
7. 75% of paper from 3 sources.
8. Other (please explain)

Once we've met the threshold for serious plagiarism then what should (ideally, forget the practicalities for now) the penalties be?

A. Rewrite paper with lowered grade.
B. Failure on paper.
C. Failure in course.
D. Failure in course, plagiarism on permenant academic record.
E. Failure in course (or worse) plus suspension.
F. Expulsion.

Please respond in the comments, if you will, with the appropriate number and letter. I'll give my own answer, and reflections on yours, in a follow-up post.