dondigitalia

OAC vs. SFSU

14 posts in this topic

School has been in session for over a month, and so far, the only thing about my First-Year Written Composition (English 114) class that has anything whatsoever to do with English is that it's the language we speak.

"Lecture" topics have included:

- My professor's battle with orthodontic headgear as an adolescent

- Why Cypress Hill, whose discography includes the song "Hits from the Bong," is a great musical group. (She actually came into class singing along with that song on her iPod.)

- Why her mother is crazy.

- The events that ensued as she was blowing bubbles atop one of the buildings on campus before our class. (It was quite a story, but still, had nothing to do with English.)

- What types of individuals are prone to brainwashing; also included in this topic was a discussion about different cults.

- Various political topics such has what a [insert any number of expletives here] the president is (no reasons for his status as an expletive have ever been given), military recruiting in high schools, juveniles being tried as adults for murder, and everyone's favorite, the New Orleans fiasco.

There was one occasion when she apparently intended to educate us on noun-phrase appositives (which I think is rather low-level instruction for a college writing course), but forgot. When she realized the next time we met, she asked, "I didn't talk to you guys about noun-phrase appositives, did I?" I couldn't resist. I spoke up with, "No. You told us about your braces instead." She flushed; the class chuckled. Good times.

At one point, I was really getting discouraged. I'm paying a lot of money to learn--and I don't mean about my professors personal hijinks. Just when I had almost resigned myself to an entire semester of not learning about anything writing-related, Keith Lockitch came to the rescue.

Every single time we "meet" for the Intro to Writing class at OAC, I learn more in an hour and a half of listening to Dr. Lockitch than I expect to learn in the entire semester at SFSU. Because of OAC, I'm finally able to expand on my knowledge, rather than having to protect it from assault by less-than-mediocrity.

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I am not in college but my children are in middle school, and also doing ridiculous things in class. One of the things that I dis-like is that my children and I have to sign a class requirement and expectations letter. We are basically forced to sign the letter because it is counted as a grade in the required classes. For everyone that I had to sign, I wrote in a request for the teacher to call me with their expectations to me and my child. One teacher has called so far, my son's 8th grade english teacher. Although she has called, I was not very impressed. Her final statement to me was "that she did not see teaching english as her main goal with the children". What she saw instead was getting them ready to get a job in the future. So they waste time discussing goals and future life endeavors instead of learning basic english skills.

I would love to have a Van Damme Academy here in Las Vegas, I would send my children to it without a doubt. Instead I am going to have to do a lot of supplementing with the likes of books such as "Writing and Thinking". I learned more from that book, the first chapter was amazing, than all of my english and composition courses before it.

As much as I can, I relate to your disdain for ridiculous classes and the money and time that you are spending on them. The good that you brought up is a wonderful thing, and best regards to your first OAC year.

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I would love to have a Van Damme Academy here in Las Vegas, I would send my children to it without a doubt. 

I don't know how close they are to you, but there are Challenger Schools (click here) in Lone Mountain and Silverado Nevada.

There are several Objectivists in key positions at Challenger Schools. Here's a statement of the Challenger Philosophy:

Challenger helps children become adults who are led by neither peer pressures nor common sentiment, but by the strength of their own thinking.

We begin by building a foundation:

Language Arts (reading, composition, and grammar), Math, and Logic are the three foundation disciplines. They are key to unlocking information in all subjects. The degree of mastery in these three disciplines determines a student’s potential for learning in all higher disciplines.

As we strengthen the foundation, higher and weightier structures become possible.

We teach subject content to give students facts and concepts, but as we teach content, we teach method—logic and thinking skills. Students learn to evaluate, question, and search for connections. Finding and understanding the connections between concepts is what enables students to retain and then apply and extend their knowledge. They learn to find connections by doing things in logical sequence—that is how they learn to recognize logical progression.

Learning that progress is determined by effort, a student realizes that his success is in his control and is his responsibility. As he learns and applies this idea, he begins to understand and enjoy the strength of his own mind. As he learns to respect his own capacity and gains confidence, he also learns to appreciate and respect the same in others.

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Thank you, Betsy. The Silverado location is just over a mile from my house in the community of Silverado Ranch. I will be making an appointment to meet them today.

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School has been in session for over a month, and so far, the only thing about my First-Year Written Composition (English 114) class that has anything whatsoever to do with English is that it's the language we speak.

Having received a degree in writing (more or less), and having studied my fill of English lit, I am not even mildly surprised by what you describe.

First the bad news: English Lit has fallen prey to the lowest common denominator in the humanities, namely feminist, Marxist, multiculturalist, and queer criticism, or a movement more broadly named cultural theory. It would be difficult to convey to someone who has not been through such a program how utterly bereft of meaning four years of English study could be. I have heard that only a handful of colleges continue to offer something like a real study of literature. So do not expect much more from your professor. She may have nothing to teach you.

Now the good news: I have found that you can gain some value from such a class if you work at it. Your instructor may assign some kind of reading such as an essay or snippets from larger texts. Read the whole text or if it's short, read another similar work that you like better, perhaps by Ayn Rand or O'Henry. Perhaps compare the assigned selection with the one you like. Explain why yours is better. If she assigns a journal or a summary for each reading, write that summary as if you were writing it to your twin.

If you must do a group project (a favorite of these teachers), expect no one else to follow through. Be willing to take on the most important work yourself, and do it as if you were working alone (if necessary). That way you'll have something to turn in.

My last advice (for brevity) is also the diciest: I recommend expressing in your assignments, where appropriate, exactly what you believe and feel most strongly about, even if you know that she doesn't want to hear it, but say it in a reasonably positive and non-combative manner. In my experience, these types of professors are so egalitarian that they will be happy just to have a student who cares enough to express himself. Keeping the work linked in with your values will help you to stay interested (not to mention sane). You'll have to judge your own professor's mental stability before you do this.

I'll offer another snippet of good news on this topic in the next few days.

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I recommend expressing in your assignments, where appropriate, exactly what you believe and feel most strongly about, even if you know that she doesn't want to hear it, but say it in a reasonably positive and non-combative manner. In my experience, these types of professors are so egalitarian that they will be happy just to have a student who cares enough to express himself. Keeping the work linked in with your values will help you to stay interested (not to mention sane). You'll have to judge your own professor's mental stability before you do this.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Why wait until I write the paper? :) I'm probably the most active participant in the discussions we have in class, and never miss an opportunity to communicate my position. During one of our discussions on juvenile justice, I pulled out the immortal quote, "Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent;" even the leftist, mercy-driven professor was struck by the power of that one sentence. In the next couple of days, a number of students approached me about the quote, wanting to know more. That, in itself, is a very great value to be gained from the class.

While I am upset with the lack of instruction in the class, I must say I rather enjoy it. It's an easy A, and at least I'm entertained.

When I was talking to my roommate about the class (he's a writing major), he gave me a little more insight to this. Apparently, there was a period of about 5 years where California public schools (or at least some districts) did some experimental teaching where grammar and writing are concerned. In his elementary school years, he was required to write strings of letters on the paper. He didn't see the purposes of this and started looking around the room for whole words to write down, and was actually given detention for forming whole words! His mother began home-schooling him shortly after. It is his opinion that, because so many people starting college in California today have never received any real training in grammar, that their skills are so deteriorated that any real instruction would be pointless. In reading some of my classmates writing during peer review, I'm inclined to agree.

I really feel bad for these kids; they've been failed by their educators in the past, are being failed by their educators now, and few of them are going to make it out unscathed.

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During one of our discussions on juvenile justice, I pulled out the immortal quote, "Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent;" even the leftist, mercy-driven professor was struck by the power of that one sentence. In the next couple of days, a number of students approached me about the quote, wanting to know more. That, in itself, is a very great value to be gained from the class.

It is really nice to know that you can and do speak up, and even more nice to know that it garners attention from some of the students. It is always possible for a single idea to change a young person's life. Kudos to you.

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While I am upset with the lack of instruction in the class, I must say I rather enjoy it. It's an easy A, and at least I'm entertained.

You certainly have a healthy dose of courage. :)

My approach worked better for me because English and Writing were my areas of study, and I wanted to get the most from the class. If you just want to get an easy A and you like the verbal combat, then I can see why you would rather do it your way.

It's too bad, though, that you and your fellow students don't have a professor who can pique your interest in the subject and keep it. I have had teachers like that, ones with whom I disagreed on almost every topic but I still considered them to be very good teachers. Maybe you will find some of those at SFU.

Apparently, there was a period of about 5 years where California public schools...did some experimental teaching...

It is his opinion that, because so many people starting college in California today have never received any real training in grammar, that their skills are so deteriorated that any real instruction would be pointles.

If only bad grammar could explain your professor's approach to your class (which would be bad enough). Unfortunately, I think that the battle for the soul of Literature as a serious field of scholarship has happened on the battleground of philosophy. I don't mean the philosophy that put Dewey in the grade schools. I mean a more direct assault on Literature as such.

The good news is: I think more and more voices on the inside are starting to rise up against it.

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If you just want to get an easy A and you like the verbal combat, then I can see why you would rather do it your way.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well, I'd much rather have some instruction than get an easy A, but it's a required course, so I might as well make the best of it.

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Well, I'd much rather have some instruction than get an easy A.

You must be an Objectivist. :)

Actually, I see that you may have missed my meaning. Everyone has to take courses that they are less interested in, even a few that they are totally not interested in. I think it's reasonable to rank them and do no more than absolutely necessary on the least important ones. If someone really cares a lot about the subject of a class, then my previous advice might be helpful to him; if not, then I would recommend an approach more like yours.

In college, I found grades easier to come by than time.

Enjoy your class, and may the god of quick retorts be always on your lips, or something like that. :)

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Enjoy your class, and may the god of quick retorts be always on your lips...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's where he lives. :)

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Dondigitalia, I am reminded of what a friend told me about an english class he took in the early '70s. They spent the entire quarter discussing whether Paul McCartney was dead and examining the clues in various Beatles albums. Imagine a bunch of stoned hippies listening to "I Am the Walrus" in a college classroom. :)

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Speaking of the value of english courses, I, too, ran into the phenomenon of English courses turned into soapboxes for leftist academics to rant on the political topic of the day. The exception turned out to be a poetry class, where we studied mostly classic works and learned technical theory. Ironically, the best course I took was several years after I graduated. It was a Shakespeare course at Orange Coast College, a surprisingly good community college. No political rants at all, just nose-to-the-grindstone study of The Bard's plays. It's my favorite humanities class ever (well, within official colleges; one can't put them in the same class as the courses one can get at a summer conference!).

Also, for those who are interested in studying literature, I suggest looking into books in the screenwriting section of the bookstore. Perhaps it is the visions of dollar signs that make the difference, but I've found lots of good plot structure insight in books geared toward screenwriting. One favorite is "Story" by Robert McKee.

After all this time, I'm still annoyed that I never could get a clear answer in those English classes to a simple question: what makes a good story?

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...

It is his opinion that, because so many people starting college in California today have never received any real training in grammar, that their skills are so deteriorated that any real instruction would be pointless. In reading some of my classmates writing during peer review, I'm inclined to agree.

I really feel bad for these kids; they've been failed by their educators in the past, are being failed by their educators now, and few of them are going to make it out unscathed.

I've also seen what you're describing here. I'm a junior in high school and I work as a peer tutor (we have a work "service" requirement to graduate). The other day, a student wanted help on a paper and I had a very hard time helping her because she had so few skills in writing that I felt like I was speaking another language. But it's not just writing. A lot of people my age, IMO, don't know how to think for themselves. How are you supposed to write about what you think if you don't know what you think? It's frustruating, because I would ask the student: "What do you want to say in this paper?" She would answer: "I don't know." :) I can't help her say it better if she doesn't know what to say. Plus, at my school, where teachers thankfully expect everyone to be proficient at writing a decent paper, these students are going to be left in the dust very quickly.

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