Friday, November 03, 2006

relief - for me at least

I finished the mid-term papers, finally, and returned the last class worth of them today. Wow, do I feel better.

Increasingly over the last couple years I've been disenchanted with the whole business of grading papers. I don't think it's due solely to the numbers and time (100 papers takes a loooong time to grade). It's also not boredom, although despite writing new assignments for each class each semester, the papers tend not to be terribly novel (this is largely because I mainly teach general education classes to people who don't at all necessarily want to take them).

Nah. It's because it's painful. And I am starting to think it's painful because, at the level of these classes, there's something deeply artificial about the whole process. I doubt that many of my students take up the spirit of the assignments when I pitch them as entering serious and live debates. Students also don't have the interest or experience to be self-starters in the field. This isn't thought through, but I wonder if it's something to do with the feeling of insularity I get from the papers, as though philosophical discussion belongs only in philosophy class, and is otherwise not very important, not part of the world. I resist this all the damn time, by showing the worldliness and everydayness of the concerns we discuss, but it is hard to translate that into paper assignments.

I had a couple nifty responses from Contemporary Moral Issues. An option for the essay was to take an online ecological footprint quiz, then discuss their results and the moral issues raised by their results in the context of our class discussions and course materials on environmental ethics. But in that case, it might have been a self-selecting thing: those with a particular interest in thinking about their environmental impact opted to do so, and because they were already interested, they wrote more self-directed papers. Some students probably chose the essay they could do with least trouble, and I don't see a way around that at the moment. I just know I want to get around that.

Anyway, at least I'm not Richard Pombo. Pombo is the US House rep from the district including Tracy and bits of San Joaquin and Alameda counties. He's a right-wing Republican, detested by environmentalists, and his seat was regarded as perfectly safe a few months ago. But he's having to spend a bunch of money this year, and he's even needing the help of Laura Bush, who came in to pinch-hit in one of the very few Congressional districts in the country where the Bush Administration is still popularly supported.

Oh! And we're having tilapia and black bean & jicama salad for dinner. Cazart!


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