Stinking of gin... May 27, 2008 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Desired meta-post about the guy who wants to drink gin in class.

Seriously, what's wrong with you people? If he is of age, and it's not against the rules of the University, and he doesn't intend to get obnoxious, who cares?

And to go all meta, what the heck causes a thread to go all judgmental like this? There are other threads about WAY more self-destructive behavior, and there actually develops a anti-judgmental tone on the answers.

Is it just the fault of the first few answers setting the tone?
posted by gjc to Etiquette/Policy at 6:25 AM (432 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Ships passing...

If you want to ask about how to keep gin and tonics cold for a few hours, that's one question. If you want to ask about concealing habitual alcohol consumption during classes, that's a pretty different question. Asking either one is probably fine (although the second one is likely, per your meta question, to generate a lot of heat).

Asking both in the same question is asking for a trainwreck. Throwing in funny-ha-ha "cry for help" tags about alcoholism doesn't help, and neither does getting combative in thread with your ex-girlfriend playing wingman for you. Presentation matters, and this presentation sucked pretty badly and lead to a derailed-from-the-gate thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:29 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was just reading this and came here to post on it. I'm with cortex, in that I think the phrasing of the question was just asking for a derail, but I'm surprised by what a mess it turned out to be and how quickly it went to shit. The whole ex-girlfriend-wingman and repetitive, bold call outs and responses by the OP make the whole thing even stickier. Yuck. I need a drink.
posted by farishta at 6:35 AM on May 27, 2008


Joke post, apparently. Clearly trolling, too. All the stuff about school being boring and wanting to drink in class was completely irrelevant.
posted by googly at 6:37 AM on May 27, 2008


I fell for the "alcoholism", "sadness", and "cryforhelp" tags myself. I know the word gullible isn't in the dictionary and all. So I got all self-help on him. I thought maybe it was a cry for help! And I could contribute!

That being said, as a former professor myself, I never cared what the students were doing who didn't want to be there, as long as they didn't disturb the students who did want to be there.
posted by frumious bandersnatch at 6:40 AM on May 27, 2008


I just felt like stirring up a shit-storm and getting it on the Grey.

Cha-ka!
posted by chillmost at 6:45 AM on May 27, 2008


Boy! have things changed since 1873.
posted by tellurian at 6:51 AM on May 27, 2008


If you aren't smart enough to drink in class without getting caught, you shouldn't be in college. You learn that shit in orientation.
posted by Loto at 6:57 AM on May 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


Thank god someone meta'd this (even though it's gone now) because now I have somewhere to say: the OP sounded like an immature jerk, and his ex girlfriend should shutup already and let him fight his own battles if she has such trust in his mental faculties. And the tone of the thread is the fault of the post for being all 'need drink to get through class...class is boring...blah blah'. Why the hell would you even bother turning up to class with alcohol? You're deluding yourself if you think it isn't going to negatively impact your concentration, and if you don't need to pay attention there's no point going, unless you're just fulfilling some attendance requirement, in which case he could have gone ahead and said 'I'm just going to get that 'x was here' tick'. And I don't care if he thinks he 'shouldn't have to' explain himself, he shouldn't have included the flamebait context if he didn't want people to read it and take it into account.
posted by jacalata at 6:58 AM on May 27, 2008


I must really be 30, because seeing the words "Thanks, dad." makes me want to reach through the computer screen, grab the commenter by the scruff of his neck and spank the douchebaggery right out of him. Seriously, "Thanks, dad."? What combination of prolonged adolescence, lameness and cliched "rebelliousness" would lead someone who no longer lives at home, has the right to vote and in many cultures would be considered more than old enough to have children of his own, to say "Thanks, dad." to someone who tells him that what he is doing is stupid? Oh God how I hate him!

Coming back to work after a long weekend is rough.
posted by ND¢ at 7:07 AM on May 27, 2008 [44 favorites]


Drink TMFA
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:09 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


The whole thing was tacky (not the well-intentioned responses, just the trolling and immaturity), but then so is drinking in class, so what do you expect?

I've had a number of students drinking in class; I say something if their behavior isn't ok or if they look like they are having real trouble. They are always surprised to be busted -- I think they genuinely think no one notices, but of course it is really visible. All the usual drinking signs are there (flushed cheeks, saying inappropriate things, etc), plus they usually stink of alcohol pretty badly by the end of class. And I have not once had a straight-A student drinking in class -- it is always a person who hasn't turned in their last paper and didn't get a very good grade on the one before that. I figure that the drinking is a part of a general decision to fuck up in public, but I'm not really sure what the thinking process is, to be honest.
posted by Forktine at 7:12 AM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


OP here...

If I had thought that anyone—ever—would have taken umbrage at a post by an adult in his mid-20s wanting to know how to keep a cocktail palatable, I wouldn't have bothered.

I apologize for not considering the questionable legality of the question, though once I removed any doubt over my age, my intentions should have ceased to be a concern to anyone. Frankly, the vast majority of my classmates are 22, 23, or older, so that didn't even cross my mind at the time of posting, but I do apologize. I was, in no way, trolling. Nor was it a "joke post." It was a genuine question, asked in a plain, direct fashion, with only the most straightforward motivations behind it.

I also apologize for abusing the tags, not paying proper deference to the tags, et cetera, as I didn't think anyone would be paying very close attention to them. And I certainly didn't think anyone would misconstrue them in such a way to think that my post was a thinly veiled confession, as it seems likely to me that a genuine alcoholic would already know the answer to this question (and likely be perfectly willing to drink warm gin). But I apologize for making light of a genuine affliction, and hope I didn't personally offend anyone. (Though my old man has had considerable problems with the sauce, so I feel I have some wiggle room as a "victim" of alcoholism... Healing through laughter, and all of that.)

As far as nonmerci playing "wingman," I had nothing to do with that. She initially commented because she's attentive Mefi denizen. I didn't alert her to the post or anything else, and as far as I can tell, she merely found everyone's moralistic, self-righteous attitude as offensive as I did.

If you look at my posting history, you'll see I have always respected the law of the land—If I wanted to stir up some trouble, I wouldn't do it now, after three years of being a member (and six years of lurking). I acknowledge that the post was poorly framed, and I apologize. I just hope it's understood that no malevolence was meant on my part.
posted by incomple at 7:14 AM on May 27, 2008


I apologize.....

It's okay son. It takes a big man to apologize. I'm proud of you.

Love,
Dad
posted by chillmost at 7:18 AM on May 27, 2008 [16 favorites]


Though my old man has had considerable problems with the sauce, so I feel I have some wiggle room as a "victim" of alcoholism

with that attitude and your family background, you could be well on your way to having no wiggle room
posted by pyramid termite at 7:21 AM on May 27, 2008


We used to make rum and cokes in full view of a blind old high school accounting teacher. I'd smuggle overproof Rum my father got from trips to Jamaica in contact lens solution bottles. Then, kids would hit the coke machine on the way to class and get a liberal squirt of "contact solution" in their can.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:24 AM on May 27, 2008


What combination of prolonged adolescence, lameness and cliched "rebelliousness" would lead someone who no longer lives at home, has the right to vote and in many cultures would be considered more than old enough to have children of his own, to say "Thanks, dad." to someone who tells him that what he is doing is stupid?

"Rebelliousness" has nothing to do with it (though I'll give you prolonged adolescence and lameness). I just thought it was one of many needlessly moralizing, tut-tut responses to what seemed to me—and to many other people, apparently, including the originator of this thread—to be a perfectly reasonable question.

I didn't ask whether or not it would be a good idea to drink in class. I goddamn well know it's not. So given that that advice wasn't solicited, and given the paternalistic tone of the response, how am I supposed to react? Instead of expressing my clear annoyance, I just attempted a cutesy "yeah, yeah, I know" response. Which you, in turn, took as me acting like the school yard rebel, saying "Nuts to you!" to the principal before I kick mud on his trousers. And that, sir, is ridiculous.
posted by incomple at 7:27 AM on May 27, 2008


Teetotaler here, and I thought it was pretty tame. I don't know why anybody got their digitalia in a bunch.
posted by cashman at 7:27 AM on May 27, 2008


So given that that advice wasn't solicited, and given the paternalistic tone of the response, how am I supposed to react?

Just ignore them. Replying back to answer that you don't like with an insult never helps anything. If you think the answer is totally unproductive you can always flag it as noise.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:32 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


It is always possible to not include the extra background to the question if you really did want a straight answer.

I could ask a question about the quickest way to end one's own life in a very 'what if' kind of fashion, or I could include a long story about my recent unlucky life, but if I go the second route then of course people are going to have a very hard time sticking to the subject of the question. And if I included a bunch of obviously joking tags, that make it clear the post is disingenuous in the first place and designed to make the community look bad, I'd expect the post to be deleted.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:33 AM on May 27, 2008


Just ignore them. Replying back to answer that you don't like with an insult never helps anything.

I know you're right, though I didn't think my response would be taken as an insult, so much as an acknowledgment (in way that, evidently, recalls Brando in The Wild One, or perhaps Arthur Fonzarelli). I was hoping that said acknowledgment would nip further responses of that ilk in the bud, without having to resort to the punishing "flag this post" link.
posted by incomple at 7:40 AM on May 27, 2008


It was a genuine question, asked in a plain, direct fashion, with only the most straightforward motivations behind it.

It sounds like it was a genuine question and I'll grant you the benefit of the doubt as far as your motivations, but it was asked in a badly contextualized, mess-baiting fashion. I don't know how to be clearer about this. It could probably done in a straightforward fashion as two separate questions asked two weeks apart, but as a monolith it just doesn't work, and as a monolith glued together with jokes and spoof tags doubly not.

I don't want to beat up on you here or anything, but this is not a case of a question "asked in a plain, direct fashion" in the normal AskMe sense of that phrase.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:42 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I always just put vodka in a bottle of sprite or 7up and i sat in the front row...and i got straight As that semester. I was actually interested in that question re: G+T lifespan...
posted by schyler523 at 7:44 AM on May 27, 2008


I like when people get erudite in contrition.
Yeah, that's all I got.

posted by dosterm at 7:47 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I know that you're absolutely right, cortex. There's no debating the fact that it was a shitty, ill-advised post. It set off a sorry chain of events that I only exacerbated, and I apologize again. I just wanted to clear the air, as to not sully my good name any further. I appreciate your tact in handling the situation.
posted by incomple at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2008


Healing through laughter, and all of that.

This is Metafilter, son. We don't have a sense of humour we're aware of.

(With apologies to Ed Solomon)
posted by Jofus at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2008


(I don't know how productive this metatalk thread is going to be if we're just going to rehash the original complete with the original poster answering everyone. If this thread goes south, I'll close it)
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:51 AM on May 27, 2008


Kids these days.

First, as an English major, you shouldn't be attending class in the first place.

Second, everyone knows that the easiest intoxicant to ingest in a room full of people and get away with it is cocaine.

Third, being concerned with keeping your tonic bubbly and cool is just precious -- you need the travel mug filled with straight vodka, or you aren't sufficiently devoted to the process.

Fourth, stay away from pills -- they'll kill you.

Have fun at school, kids!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:51 AM on May 27, 2008 [16 favorites]


We have a generally smart crowd here who tend to think about answers to the question and the larger sometimes unstated meta-questions. We also have an irritable crowd [myself included, not pointing fingers] who often can't help chiming in with meta question answers. We know this. If you want a better answer to your main question, it helps if you can isolate it from other metaquestions. It was crystal clear how to do this in this case and I'm a little sorry the OP didn't do that originally.

To me this is a variant of the "Need to do Y, X not an option" question, where X is far and away the most reasonable solution to the problem and a better answer probably involves the OP being able to do X, not finding a tortured convoluted way to do Y.

Though my old man has had considerable problems with the sauce, so I feel I have some wiggle room as a "victim" of alcoholism... Healing through laughter, and all of that.

As someone else from the same circumstances who found your question depressing personally and irritating from a "thanks for screwing up my Tuesday morning" perspective, I'd say we all cope differently. I accept your apology.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:54 AM on May 27, 2008


If this thread goes south, I'll close it

Thanks, dad.
posted by ND¢ at 7:55 AM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


If I had thought that anyone—ever—would have taken umbrage at a post by an adult in his mid-20s wanting to know how to keep a cocktail palatable, I wouldn't have bothered.

I also apologize for abusing the tags, not paying proper deference to the tags, et cetera, as I didn't think anyone would be paying very close attention to them. And I certainly didn't think anyone would misconstrue them in such a way to think that my post was a thinly veiled confession, as it seems likely to me that a genuine alcoholic would already know the answer to this question (and likely be perfectly willing to drink warm gin). But I apologize for making light of a genuine affliction, and hope I didn't personally offend anyone. (etc.)


Your "contrition" and "surprise" at people's responses are as reeking of dishonesty and insincerity as you will be of gin while sitting sotted in your class. Grow up.
posted by Koko at 7:56 AM on May 27, 2008


what the heck causes a thread to go all judgmental like this?

Before answering, let me state for the record that were I an admin, I would have done exactly what cortex did. So this is not a defense of the post.

I have very strong feelings about school. (I'm talking about the US school system, K through college.) I was a part of this system for several decades, as the child of two professors, as a student, and as a teacher.

I hate school.

I think there's almost nothing right about the US school system. I don't think it's just useless. I think it causes immense harm.

I won't go into my reasons here. But suffice it to say that whenever I've voiced my opinions, they've been met with anger and derision. Most people (that I've met) who have been through school have very different feelings about it than I do, and they find my feelings offensive. I'm not complaining. I'm not saying I'm right and they're wrong (not here, anyway). I'm just saying that if you publicly flout educational institutions, you WILL get flack.

In David Mamet's "Oleanna," a liberal professor tries to get hip with a student by mocking the system. To his surprise, she gets angry. She says something like, "You have no idea how hard some of us worked to get here!"

Many people come from families in which education is highly prized. Sometimes several previous generations toiled to get the current generation into college. Mocking school mocks their toil and sacrifice.

People who are in college expend four years of their lives at their schools. Naturally, they're not going to kiss you if you tell them they're wasting their time (and money) and possibly harming themselves.

Metafilter is by and large a community of educated people. I've discovered (and I'm not sure why it took me so long to discover this) that dissing school in such a community is similar to going into a church and shouting "Jesus Christ sucks!"

Once again, I'm not claiming right, wrong, superiority or inferiority. I'm just describing a social dynamic I've witnessed countless times.
posted by grumblebee at 8:08 AM on May 27, 2008 [14 favorites]


What does mathowie have against the south?
posted by Sailormom at 8:10 AM on May 27, 2008


For one class near graduation I went drunk, and oh boy did it help me get through that oral presentation. Fun. Also, one of my only regrets in college was not skipping class. I never skipped class and, really, I could have just missed a few days and been fine. I was safe then sorry.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:13 AM on May 27, 2008


Than. See? I'm a crappy English major anyway.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:15 AM on May 27, 2008


Ideally, it would be nice if people who responded to ask metafilter questions could resist making moral judgments in the process of making their replies, and if they couldn't resist, then they could maybe resist leaving any answer at all. The fact that Ask Metafilter is built upon the backs of volunteers makes any demands of this nature pretty much impossible. You get what you pay for.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:15 AM on May 27, 2008


The Harvard dining halls used to serve ale during the 19th century, and at that time it wasn't uncommon that 14-year-olds were enrolled in the college. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that alcohol in the University setting isn't the major problem here; it's fucked-up societal attitudes about responsibility, youth, education, and alcohol in general that stirred up this particular shitstorm.

Along with the desire to nose into everyone's business. That sucks too.

And your favorite band and your little dog, too.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:18 AM on May 27, 2008 [8 favorites]


Here's a good way to ask your askme, incomple, in case you're still unclear on the concept:

How can I keep a g&t cool and fizzy in a Sigg bottle? It needs to last a few hours.

This question invites actual answers, instead of derails.

If you're having trouble framing questions so that they'll get you helpful information, maybe the last thing you should do is drink in class.
posted by rtha at 8:22 AM on May 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


nannyfilter.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:23 AM on May 27, 2008


In my (considerable) experience, going to boring college classes intoxicated only makes them unbearable to the point of inducing suicide.
posted by The Straightener at 8:24 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


cashman,

It's cold this morning. That's why my digitalia are in a bunch.
posted by lukemeister at 8:25 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well if you moved south with the thread, you wouldn't have this problem.
posted by cashman at 8:28 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


grumblebee, that was awesome

And hey incomple (AskMe OP), that was a fine apology.

Life is often comprised of boring but necessary work; but if your classes are that boring, maybe you should change your major or something.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:30 AM on May 27, 2008


Concealing alcohol is for retail employees, not college students.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:33 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Driving the mods to drink?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:52 AM on May 27, 2008


Mods, drinking and driving.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:57 AM on May 27, 2008


Your new motto? Mod it blotto!
posted by cgc373 at 9:09 AM on May 27, 2008


Mods, drinking and driving.

One of my favorite bands in college was called Drinking and Driving. They played at some of the local bars every now and again in Tuscaloosa. My friends and I would go very early, so as not to get ID'ed. Unfortunately, I'd be so drunk by the time Drink and Driving played that someone would have to carry me home.

Ah, memories...
posted by Evangeline at 9:13 AM on May 27, 2008


Having gone to class for about three weeks earlier this year while taking opiates (non-recreationally), I really don't see the point. I mean, I know all drugs are not the same, but if you're going to screw with your head, why bother going to class on those days?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:14 AM on May 27, 2008


Incompl's prose reeks of fedoras.
posted by loiseau at 9:15 AM on May 27, 2008 [16 favorites]


If I had thought that anyone—ever—would have taken umbrage at a post by an adult in his mid-20s wanting to know how to keep a cocktail palatable, I wouldn't have bothered ... Though my old man has had considerable problems with the sauce, so I feel I have some wiggle room as a "victim" of alcoholism.

Wow, from 25 to 13 in 1.4 seconds.

Full disclosure: Daddy drank for the government!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:16 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Here's a good way to ask your askme, incomple, in case you're still unclear on the concept:

How can I keep a g&t cool and fizzy in a Sigg bottle? It needs to last a few hours.

This question invites actual answers, instead of derails.


Indeed. Minimalism is the watchword in AskMe.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:18 AM on May 27, 2008


Pshaw. Everyone knows AskMe is short for "LifeStoryFilter."
posted by Eideteker at 9:28 AM on May 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


Incompl's prose reeks of fedoras.

I can guarantee he's not that dude. For reals.

Look, incomple has already come in and apologized, he's more than likely realized now why this is all not worth pursuing. Can we just shut this down and move on? I'm finding these personal attacks rather depressing.
posted by piratebowling at 9:37 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Were I still in college I'd think the classes could be more interesting after huffing some gasoline. But as is obvious, I lack class.
posted by waraw at 9:38 AM on May 27, 2008


How can I hold my drink AND my cellphone whilst driving?
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on May 27, 2008


Heh, I could tell the question was going downhill because:

1- It's breaking someone's rules somewhere, which butthurts a large contingent on Ask Metafilter.

2 - Someone is potentially having fun or "getting away with" something which jealousy butthurts a large contingent of the world. To wit, comments like:

I attended college as an adult student, paid my own way through, and started school with a keen understanding of the cubicle hell that school was saving me from. I was in school because I wanted to learn. If I had been in one of your summer classes, working my ass off to do a 40-hour work week and also attend college while you were sitting in class getting your drink on, it would have pissed me off something awful. I probably wouldn't have turned you in, but I would have found it the behavior of an overpriveleged, immature kid who didn't know how good he/she had it.

...read basically as...

"My self-imposed limits keep me from drinking in class (or cubicle hell) for whatever reason, so when you get to do that I'm going to be pissed off whether or not your drinking in class has any actual effect on me."

See also: Prohibition, Illegal prostitution, etc...
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:42 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously, what's wrong with you people? If he is of age, and it's not against the rules of the University, and he doesn't intend to get obnoxious, who cares?

There's a time and place for everything. If you're bored in college, leave or drop the class, but don't bring smelly drinks to class when I'm trying to get my learning on.

(gets on high horse) 'cause you're pissing me off with your "I'm bored" attitude. People like you, from those who sleep in class, or wantto click clack away on their phone or computer, 'cause you're bored, please, just. go. home. If you can't be bothered to put any effort into learning this particular class, change majors, drop the class or just stop showing up, whatever, but get out of the way of those who do want to learn.

(stays on high horse)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:43 AM on May 27, 2008 [8 favorites]


butthurts

Man am I ever sick of that particular import.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:46 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


We should increase domestic production and perhaps begin exports then. There's certainly a trade imbalance with 4chan the China to our America.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:49 AM on May 27, 2008


It's the sort of thing that makes a man take a second look at the Isolationist view. Though I'm not sure we could build a fence high enough to deter something with that many tentacles.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:52 AM on May 27, 2008


It's the sort of thing that makes a man take a second look at the Isolationist view.

Frankly, I think we should round up the immigrants and put them in camps somewhere. Maybe here. Trolling is a project, right?
posted by dersins at 10:00 AM on May 27, 2008


ASK ME IS NO PLACE FOR JOKING AROUND

IT'S SERIOUS BUSINESS!
posted by delmoi at 10:06 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


we should round up the immigrants and put them in camps somewhere. Maybe here.

And so the ghettoization of the Projects continued.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:11 AM on May 27, 2008


I attended college as an adult normal undergrad student, paid my own way through, and started school with a keen understanding of the cubicle hell that school was saving me from. I was in school because I wanted to learn. If I had been in one of your summer classes, working my ass off to do a 40-hour work week and also attend college while you were sitting in class getting your drink on, it would have pissed me off something awful I most likely was drinking with you. I probably wouldn't have turned you in, but I would have found it the behavior of an overpriveleged, immature kid who didn't know how good he/she had it a typical college student who knew that they would have to get their shit together in a few years and wanted to enjoy themselves in the meantime.

Besides, Nietzschean philosophy made a hell of a lot more sense a few rum and cokes in.
posted by rooftop secrets at 10:16 AM on May 27, 2008


You know, never mind the alcoholism. I mean, I went to Colorado, where I knew people who smoked bowls or ate shrooms before class, but were nice enough to try not to be disruptive. It helps that Boulder is one giant contact high.

But it's this part that rankles me:

College is boring

Maybe it was because I came out of a crappy school system or something, but I didn't think college was boring at all. Some CLASSES were boring (Microeconomics immediately comes to mind), but college wasn't boring. I was meeting new people, hanging with goths and hippies and stoners and Republicans and people who were weird, and learning a lot about myself.

College was depressing. College was painful. College was fun. College was a trial. College was changing majors twice. College was talking til 3 in the morning with a girl you knew you'd never get. College was living on coffee, being too idealistic, getting your heart broken, arguing with professors, finding your passion, and reading books that you think are important but eventually get sold to Powell's for $2 apiece 15 years later.

College was NEVER boring.

Except when you're waiting in line for football tickets. That was pretty boring.

Admittedly, it was Boulder ("nestled between the mountains and reality") and it's never a boring place to live. But there is no way I'd never describe my 4.5 years at CU as "boring."

I'm sorry, unless you can prove to me you're some Doogie Howser whiz kid who could and should teach the class, you need to ask yourself whether you would be better off getting out of college and doing things you would find less boring. Because, honestly, there's some kid out there whose spot you probably took, and he/she would get a lot more out of it than you would.

They certainly wouldn't come rolling in here asking for advice on how to keep a G&T cold because "college is boring." They'd be too busy studying and savoring the college experience -- and looking forward to some G&Ts at the college bar AFTER their "boring" class is over.
posted by dw at 10:17 AM on May 27, 2008 [10 favorites]


Thank you BitterOldPunk for articulating so beautifully why the original question niggled so. It was indeed "precious".

("Precious" is a magnificently scathing old fart word! Must use it more!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:18 AM on May 27, 2008


Is this really something you need to pull your talking-doll string about?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:32 AM on May 27, 2008


There's a time and place for everything. If you're bored in college, leave or drop the class, but don't bring smelly drinks to class when I'm trying to get my learning on.

(gets on high horse) 'cause you're pissing me off with your "I'm bored" attitude. People like you, from those who sleep in class, or wantto click clack away on their phone or computer, 'cause you're bored, please, just. go. home. If you can't be bothered to put any effort into learning this particular class, change majors, drop the class or just stop showing up, whatever, but get out of the way of those who do want to learn.


Quoted to demonstrate affinity with this particular horse.
posted by desuetude at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2008


BitterOldPunk : Fourth, stay away from pills -- they'll kill you.

Here we can see the very rare venenum orca in it's natural environment. Notice how well it blends into the other items around the watering hole, and how because of it's excellent camouflage the other residents are completely at ease with it's presence.

This particular species his highly toxic, as can be seen by the markings on it's side. It takes experts many years to be able to accurately identify each type, but you can see "Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery" which is a clear warning not to trifle with this creature.

[/David Attenborough voice]
posted by quin at 10:41 AM on May 27, 2008


I feel like I'm watching the Titanic being built when I read these threads.

On a related note, they tell me that when my paternal grandma would set the table for dinner, she'd fill her own water glass with straight vodka, thinking she was being all stealthy, even when by the end of the meal she'd be all like "Heeyyyy guys, anybody wan some jello saaaalllla.." and then she'd black out on her plate. Anyway, I suggest vodka in a water bottle.
posted by granted at 10:41 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, unless you can prove to me you're some Doogie Howser whiz kid who could and should teach the class, you need to ask yourself whether you would be better off getting out of college and doing things you would find less boring.

I really don't have to prove anything, but I'll indulge you. I'm an English major (with a focus in creative writing) at a large public university. Admitting this will no doubt make me the target of another barrage of personal insults (given that my writing style "reeks of fedoras," whatever that means), but it's true.

I've attended three colleges, and perhaps they've just all had terrible English departments, but in my experience it's a major that requires very, very little from its students. It might even require even less of me, since I'm a few years older than any undergrad should be, and have had some success writing freelance in the past.

Whether or not I would be better off dropping out of college or not is my own business, frankly, and no one else's.

My perception of Metafilter has been radically altered today. I always thought of it as a fairly laid back, "live and let live" community. Instead I've discovered that the lot of you are an unusually priggish and judgmental bunch, eager to dispense ad hominem personal attacks on the basis of mere presumptions of my character, educational standing, or even—most offensively—financial background and social class.

The fact that this has been ongoing throughout the thread, without any intervention by the moderators, is absolutely galling.
posted by incomple at 10:48 AM on May 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


Actually, after my initial disdain with the question, as soon as I considered it perhaps was merely community college being judged as boring, imagined Jeffrey Lebowski as the OP and substituted white Russian for gin & tonic, I was able to find the thread mildly amusing.
posted by skyper at 10:51 AM on May 27, 2008


Were I still in college I'd think the classes could be more interesting after huffing some gasoline.

The high doesn't last nearly long enough, and then you get a headache.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:59 AM on May 27, 2008


incomple, you have a really cool user number. Can I have it?
posted by Mister_A at 10:59 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


ask metafilter: come for the moralizing, stay for the lectures from uptight prigs!
posted by Hat Maui at 10:59 AM on May 27, 2008


given that my writing style "reeks of fedoras," whatever that means...

A reference to a previous AskMe thread that has become a MeFi "inside joke": "I am, apparently, quite attractive - I regularly sport pinstripes and a fedora, and I'm informed that pictures of me prompt girly coos..."
posted by ericb at 11:02 AM on May 27, 2008


College was NEVER boring.

God. It bored me to tears. And I went to three colleges: Indiana University, New College and Ohio University.

In most of my classes, the profs gave reading assignments and then -- in the next class -- basically told us what we'd read with very little new insight. I guess they assumed we wouldn't really do the reading. Or they just found blow-by-blow descriptions an easy way of getting paid. I'm guessing things would have been different in the sciences. I was dumb enough to major in the humanities.

I'm an adequate writer. But I know I'm not a great writer. I guess because so many student writers can barely put two words together, I got paper after paper back with no markups. One A+ after another. If you think of grades as gold coins, you probably think I shouldn't be complaining. But how is one supposed to grow without criticism? I finally hired an off-campus writing teacher (a professional writer) to help me. Unlike the profs, she found fault with nearly every sentence I wrote. It has devastating. It was amazing. For the first time in years, someone was demanding excellence from me and helping me achieve it. After working with her, most of my professors seemed even more lame. None of them demanded excellence. They just demanded that I pass the test.

At New College, students are supposed to write an undergraduate thesis. There are no set rules, but we're generally talking about a 100 (or so) page book. To most students, it was a nightmare. They had breakdowns over it. They went crying into therapy. Even though they had four years to write it -- even though basically turning in 100 pages of crap would be good enough. I'm not blaming the students. I'm blaming their educators (mostly pre-college) for letting them get to that state. New College had an Ivy League-ish reputation. Why were students allowed to get to that stage and flip out about writing a longish paper?

In my experience, humanities educations are about sex, drinking, sophomoric discussions about "If God is all powerful, can He make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?", pleasing mommy and daddy (via transference to professors as proxies for parents), rebelling against mommy and daddy (via transference to professors as proxies for parents).

Students -- even young kids -- are capable of learning to play the violin, writing novels, reading entire cannons of literature, solving complex logic problems, building large-scale construction projects, delving deeply into history, etc., etc. Why did so little of this go on during my twenty plus years in school?

Why do so many grownups I know hate Shakespeare? Why do they hate math? Both are beautiful, beautiful subjects. Why didn't school help them appreciate this beauty? (Why do I suspect school made them hate it?) Why did so many grown up friends of mine basically quit reading the day after they graduated?

I always cared passionately about learning. I'm a learning geek. If I don't learn something new each day, that day feels like a wasted day. Learning gets me off. Why was school so arduous to someone like me? Why did a orgasmic learner hate being in a "place of learning"? Many of my friends didn't hate it the way I did. But those friends were less interested in learning. They were interested in getting good grades; they were interested in partying; they were interested in praise; they were interested in rebellion; they were interested in flirting. But learning wasn't at the top of their agendas. Why did they like college more than I did?
posted by grumblebee at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2008 [12 favorites]


Thanks, dad

Stop moralizing at me! You're not my parents!

the fact that this has been ongoing throughout the thread, without any intervention by the moderators, is absolutely galling.

Mom! Dad! They're being mean to me! Make them stop!
posted by dersins at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am not sure who the fuck I am supposed to yell at. A little help, cortex?
posted by Mister_A at 11:04 AM on May 27, 2008


I've attended three colleges, and perhaps they've just all had terrible English departments, but in my experience it's a major that requires very, very little from its students.

Kiddo,
Can you not see how joylessly snotty you sound?

Seriously, you're probably a delightful chap, I dare say you know the canon backwards, and the Eng. Lit. profs can't teach you a thing. But every time I think you're getting a hard time here...you go and justify it! [see quote above!]
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:06 AM on May 27, 2008


The two scenarios not at all analogous, dersins. I was obviously being facetious when I initially said "Thanks, dad." Or at least, I thought I was obviously being facetious, but in any event I clarified my intent near the top of the thread.

And besides, I'm absolutely fine with being insulted—I mean, look at me—But the lack of consistency on the part of the moderators bugs me.
posted by incomple at 11:12 AM on May 27, 2008


What do you want the moderators to do?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:15 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


(I don't know how productive this metatalk thread is going to be if we're just going to rehash the original complete with the original poster answering everyone. If this thread goes south, I'll close it)

Notice how the diners in this part of the thread sell sweet tea?
posted by Bookhouse at 11:15 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


HEY LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME!!!!!!!!1!
posted by Mister_A at 11:16 AM on May 27, 2008


I always thought of it as a fairly laid back, "live and let live" community. Instead I've discovered that the lot of you are an unusually priggish and judgmental bunch, eager to dispense ad hominem personal attacks on the basis of mere presumptions of my character, educational standing, or even—most offensively—financial background and social class.

Not the lot of us. I'm assuming the "live and let live" types are mostly staying out of this one. I hope there's more than a few of us.
I agree about the lack of consitency, though. Usually moralizing is a no-no in AskMe. I'm surprised that in this case it's being blamed on the question.
posted by rocket88 at 11:17 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


What do you want the moderators to do?

Run a streaming webcam of them dancing 24 hours a day? I mean, how many times do we need to ask for this?
posted by quin at 11:22 AM on May 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


the fact that this has been ongoing throughout the thread, without any intervention by the moderators, is absolutely galling.

Don't take it personally, most of us are sozzled at our desks and mean drunks, to boot. The admins most of all, and hey, if you were in their shoes, wouldn't y-
oh, wait.
Nevermind.

*Flings empty bota bag at Mister_A*

I drank all my schnapple mix!
I want more schnapple mix!
I love you guys!
Get away from me!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:23 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously, you're probably a delightful chap, I dare say you know the canon backwards, and the Eng. Lit. profs can't teach you a thing. But every time I think you're getting a hard time here...you go and justify it!

Is it really so difficult to believe that a 24-year-old, one who's worked as a writer in the past, might be bored shitless by undergraduate creative writing classes at a mediocre public university? It's not like I'm taking a battery of Latin or Geology courses, it's creative writing. I dare say that my writing professors likely cannot teach me a thing. If they can, I will be grateful, as I'm not a particularly strong writer. (This much is evident to everyone, I'm sure.) I can also say, with absolute certainty, that sipping from a watered down cocktail will not affect my ability to learn anything, should the opportunity present itself.

And as far as what I'd want the moderators to do, ThePinkSuperhero, I don't know. Maybe just an "Easy now, let's not get personal"? I don't really care. I was content to ignore the thread for three hours, but I returned to find it growing with a lot of needlessly personal, mean-spirited attacks. I feel like I made myself clear further up on the thread. I apologized to everyone—sincerely and genuinely, despite what some might have you believe—and feel like that portion of the thread should've ended hours ago.
posted by incomple at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2008


Seriously, I don't care what the OP does as long as it's not bothering anyone else, but having a dude sipping on G&Ts sitting nearby would be kind of distracting, even assuming we're talking about fairly low-level intoxication. Also, unless it's such a huge lecture they won't know you're there, or they've made it clear they're cool with drinking in class, it is pretty disrespectful to the prof, in an "I know I'm paying you to teach me, but I seriously think so little of you that I am going to actually drink during your class every single time." Have a drink before, sure, whatever.
posted by SoftRain at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2008


What do you want the moderators to do?

Nonresponsive noise often gets pruned from AskMe threads.

Frankly, I think that incomple's mistake was including the line "I'm looking for any suggestions to ensure success, or warnings about why this plan might be disastrous." That's just carte blanche for anyone to spout off their opinion, in Metafilter-speak at least.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:31 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dare say that my writing professors likely cannot teach me a thing.

I dare say if you go into class with that attitude, you're probably right.
posted by juv3nal at 11:32 AM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


The two scenarios not at all analogous, dersins. I was obviously being facetious when I initially said "Thanks, dad." Or at least, I thought I was obviously being facetious, but in any event I clarified my intent near the top of the thread.

From where I'm sitting, it sounded as if you were being a sarcastic snot who can dish out the priggishness but can't take it. I'm only judging you based on what you're written, though.
posted by desuetude at 11:33 AM on May 27, 2008


The fact that this has been ongoing throughout the thread, without any intervention by the moderators, is absolutely galling.

The moderators may have other things going on the fake-Monday after a three-day weekend, especially if they're trying to launch a major change to the site and have a dayjob besides.

That said, metatalk is a pretty rough-and-tumble place, with much less over-riding requirement that people be on-topic or respectful. I don't particularly think people should be jerks, but I also don't think you should expect kid-gloves in here, and I'm not going to go chasing down either side of the argument. My recommendation mostly would be to step away from the thread if you feel you've said everything you need to say on the topic, but if you choose to re-engage understand that so will folks who disagree with you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:33 AM on May 27, 2008


I don't see what was so "ridiculously provocative" about the way the question was framed. It's sort of a goofy post, and it does sort of activate my joke-post sensors, but it is an actual question that seems to have an actual answer. The poster shouldn't be punished (in effect if not in intent) for the transgressions of all the Reverend Lovejoys who chose to judge the poster rather than answer the question.
posted by brain_drain at 11:34 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead I've discovered that the lot of you are an unusually priggish and judgmental bunch,

We're only human. Mostly.


The fact that this has been ongoing throughout the thread, without any intervention by the moderators, is absolutely galling.


MetaTalk is a place where you can get your ass handed, sometimes by a moderator. The best thing to do is stop responding, as it'll probably only make yourself miserable and the mob will go away when something shiny catches their attention. Introducing new personal details probably won't help, it'll only feed the flames.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:36 AM on May 27, 2008


It might even require even less of me, since I'm a few years older than any undergrad should be, and have had some success writing freelance in the past.

Incomple, Pinstripe Hatbands: Will They Provoke Girlish Coos or Major Boos?, Fedora Weekly, June 15, 2007, at 497.
posted by ND¢ at 11:37 AM on May 27, 2008 [9 favorites]


I... think people should be jerks...
–cortex

It's on!
posted by Mister_A at 11:37 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Students -- even young kids -- are capable of learning to play the violin, writing novels, reading entire cannons of literature

Violins & novels certainly require time & dedication, but you can tick off most of the cannons of literature simply by reading War & Peace and The Charge of the Light Brigade.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:38 AM on May 27, 2008


Pshaw. Everyone knows AskMe is short for "LifeStoryFilter."

Word. Sometimes the relationship questions seem more like posting is a form of catharsis rather than a genuine quest for an answer to a question.

I don't want to know all that shit, just ask the question FFS!!1 Those of you writing multi-screen relationship questions, be on notice that by adding all the extraneous garbage you are missing out on the deep life wisdom I have to share.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:40 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Er, handed to you. Ahem.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:42 AM on May 27, 2008


Have a drink before, sure, whatever.
Forget G&Ts! Have a milkshake, if you're feeling victim to mean-spirited attacks.

*extends straw*
posted by skyper at 11:44 AM on May 27, 2008


I thought "no intervention" was referring to the comments in the Ask thread, i.e. the thread was deleted instead of the thread standing and the noise comments deleted. (Of course here there's an issue of the moderators having time to delete tons of noise comments as lots of people shat in the thread.)

(given that my writing style "reeks of fedoras," whatever that means)


It's the jealous thing again. Dude apparently got laid casually all the time, so of course people were pissed.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:44 AM on May 27, 2008


it is pretty disrespectful to the prof

I hear this all the time. And though I think one should strive to be respectful to everyone, the "respect the prof" sentiment always seems ass-backwards to me, especially when the prof doesn't respect his students enough to REALLY teach (as opposed to delivering stale lectures, giving out grades, doing standup comedy, and doling out lax criticism).

When I used to teach (I did it on and off for a couple of decades -- regularly for about eight years), I loved it when students goofed off in class. Maybe "loved" is the wrong word, but I couldn't have done my job without them. Similarly, I couldn't direct plays without bored audience members squirming in their seats. Maybe such viewers are rude. Whatever. Point is, when I see them squirming, I know I haven't done my job well. I take a good look at that scene and wonder how I can make it more entertaining.

Goof-offs did a similar service to me in the classroom. When students didn't pay attention to me, I took at as a sign that whatever I was doing wasn't working. (I don't literally think that's true in all cases. I know that teachers can make their best efforts and still lose some students -- due to flaws in the student, not the teacher -- but I found it really useful to assume -- true or not -- that the fault was always mine. Not so that I could whip myself. So that I could learn and improve.)

God. I can't imagine teaching in a polite environment in which all students were trained to sit up straight and pay attention, regardless of whether they were bored or not. That would be truly horrible. I would have no gauge to tell me how I was doing.

I also feel like, as a teacher, I'm offering a service. That's my job: to offer. A student's job is to avail himself of that service (or not) -- if he wishes to. And to not interfere with other students. I totally understand teachers who hate it when students use cellphones in class. I would never allow that. What I don't get are teachers who get bent out of shape if students read or doodle. Fine. Those students have decided not to pay attention. They are grownups. That's their right. Maybe if I do better, they will pay attention. Maybe not. Meanwhile, doodles don't disturb anyone.

As a teacher, my job is not to be respected. It's not to stroke my prideful or wounded ego. It's not to be authoritarian. It's not to enforce rules. It's to teach.
posted by grumblebee at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's not like I'm taking a battery of Latin or Geology courses, it's creative writing. I dare say that my writing professors likely cannot teach me a thing.

I majored in English, and I took a lot of creative writing classes. So, allow me to give you another unwanted lecture: how much you get out of those classes depends on how much you put in. The difference between Latin or Geology and creative writing is that, unlike the first two, creative writing is about perfecting a skill, not rote memorization. There isn't a body of information for you to memorize for an exam. Instead, it's all about figuring out the hard-to-describe, hard-to-learn practices of writing well. You can't expect some college professor to lecture you into good writing; you gotta work for it, you gotta pull it from the professor.

...And if you are taking creative writing classes that are all about memorization for exams, then, man that's not a situation that calls for booze, that's a situation that calls for transferring to a better program.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:48 AM on May 27, 2008


Could someone please elaborate on the fedora connection to me? I'm not even offended, I'm just curious, as frankly the fedora guy fascinates me.

I fully cop to having the pretentious and bloated writing style of a loudmouth braggart (as basically anything I've written in the past five years will bear this out), but does admitting that I'm too old/advanced for my current course of study—creative writing at a mediocre public university—really group me in with the fedora guy?

Really?
posted by incomple at 11:48 AM on May 27, 2008


I thought "no intervention" was referring to the comments in the Ask thread, i.e. the thread was deleted instead of the thread standing and the noise comments deleted. (Of course here there's an issue of the moderators having time to delete tons of noise comments as lots of people shat in the thread.)

If we look at a messy askme question and think that it's a mess for reasons that aren't inescapably tied to the presentation of the question itself, we usually do go on a great big slog to clean out the bad comments and leave a stern note asking people to cut that crap out.

This is a case where I think the presentation was flawed enough that the cleanup-and-keep wasn't justified or worth the effort. It's also very, very hard to intervene in real-time when the whole thing goes down in the middle of the night and the first we see of it is hours, dozens of comments, and dozens of flags later.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:49 AM on May 27, 2008


Er, handed to you. Ahem.

I liked my reading better:

MetaTalk is a place where you can get your ass handled, sometimes by a moderator.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:49 AM on May 27, 2008


I heartily agree with grumlebee's early comment about the innadequacy of our education system here in the US. And I agree that it may be harmful. So in my mind, discussions like this miss the mark because they mostly do not take into account the larger problem. In this case, part of the larger problem is not only that our schools are in trouble but that our Society is way off kilter, which of course means that our schools are trying to educate future citizens of a really fucked-up culture. But we can talk about how a student really ought to buckle down and take seriously the bidness of becoming a Consumer and a cubicle dweller and cannon fodder and just another sheep.
posted by Hobgoblin at 11:51 AM on May 27, 2008


Really?

Really.
posted by dersins at 11:52 AM on May 27, 2008


No. The fedora guy would drink mulled wine during creative writing class.
posted by ND¢ at 11:54 AM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


bidness?
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:54 AM on May 27, 2008


The fedora guy would drink mulled wine during creative writing class.

Oh no way! He'd drink a Tom Collins.
posted by Evangeline at 11:58 AM on May 27, 2008


Could someone please elaborate on the fedora connection to me?

The fedora guy went to great lengths to say how awesome he was, and was all "what's the deal with people who don't realize how awesome I am?". He was hipster doofusness blended with a large dose of self-aggrandizing and self-centredness.
posted by CKmtl at 11:58 AM on May 27, 2008


Oh no way! He'd drink a Tom Collins.

I was thinking, perhaps, a sidecar. Man, everyone picking on that fedora guy is so much more fun than everyone picking on me.
posted by incomple at 11:59 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]



I dare say that my writing professors likely cannot teach me a thing.

I dare say if you go into class with that attitude, you're probably right.


Actually, I take that back, I didn't know it was a creative writing class we were talking about. I've taken a lot of those (Eng. major, Cr. Wr. minor) and usually it's not the prof you learn from in those anyways, it's the other students. Besides, why the heck's the prof lecturing in a creative writing class? Or is there some other type of creative writing class besides a workshop (which was all I got and/or was required for my minor)?
posted by juv3nal at 11:59 AM on May 27, 2008


To elaborate: Both of you come across as self-aggrandizing wankers who are certain-- absolutely certain-- that you know better than anybody else, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

That's not to say you are a self-aggrandizing who is certain-- absolutely certain-- that you know better than anybody else, despite ample evidence to the contrary. I don't know you. You may be an awesome guy. I'm just telling you how you come across to me both in your question and in this thread.

posted by dersins at 12:00 PM on May 27, 2008


The fedora guy would drink mulled wine during creative writing class.

And he would never admit to being unable to distinguish Beefeater from Tanqueray.

Furthermore, if he were a gin fancier, fedora guy would profess a fondness for some rare Cuban gin from the 1950s (a bottle of which he would waggishly fill to fulsome goodness with quaffable quantities of the aforementioned supermarket tipples. His purpose - ? Why, to charm the lasses & confound the lads!)
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:01 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


The fedora guy would drink mulled wine during creative writing class.

Oh no way! He'd drink a Tom Collins.


Nonsense. He is so an absinthe drinker.
posted by dersins at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


hipster doofusness blended with a large dose of self-aggrandizing and self-centredness.

For that, you win the First Annual Ubu Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Tautology.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:03 PM on May 27, 2008


I miss fedora guy :-( Come baaaaaack fedora guy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:04 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ubu: bidness. As I understand it, bidness is Texan (G. Bush's home state) for business.
posted by Hobgoblin at 12:04 PM on May 27, 2008


Nonsense. He is so an absinthe drinker.

Hm, you might be onto something there.

After all, absinthe makes the tart grow fonder.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:05 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I miss fedora guy :-( Come baaaaaack fedora guy.

Why? Do you need more than one fedora guy?

I kid. I kid. Please don't hurt me.
posted by dersins at 12:08 PM on May 27, 2008


Fedora guy drinks over-sweetened homemade spiced brandy from an antique hipflask, people.

but does admitting that I'm too old/advanced for my current course of study—creative writing at a mediocre public university—really group me in with the fedora guy?

Yep. Sorry. See comment by dersins for a concise explanation.
posted by desuetude at 12:11 PM on May 27, 2008


Instead I've discovered that the lot of you are an unusually priggish and judgmental bunch, eager to dispense ad hominem personal attacks on the basis of mere presumptions of my character, educational standing, or even—most offensively—financial background and social class.

That's your presumption if you're going to judge an entire community of thousands of users based on the reaction of the few dozen who felt like weighing in there.
posted by grouse at 12:15 PM on May 27, 2008


Fair enough, dersins. I'm surely self-aggrandizing—as my meatspace friends piratebowling and nonmerci can attest—but I don't know how much that's been demonstrated here. I'm hardly impartial, though. As far as "knows better than everybody else..." Doubtful, but whatever the case may be, after today I'll have to reshape my self-image to fit "knows better than anybody else, except on MetaTalk, where you can't get away with ANYTHING."

Anyway, juv3nal, yes, my actual writing "classes" are all workshops. In my experience, these are usually spent laboring over the basic fundamentals of story telling, something with which I've been comfortable for a while. Any actual mechanical/story telling skills that would expand my abilities as a writer would be learned in peer writing groups, outside of a school setting.

I cannot be emphatic enough when I say that I'm a long way from being a "good writer," which is why the accusations of self-aggrandizement initially baffled me. I only said that I would be very surprised to learn anything new from an undergraduate workshop at this point, which I think would be an opinion shared by many undergrad creative writing majors in their senior year.

Wait, when did this start being about me again, and stop being about the fedora guy?
posted by incomple at 12:16 PM on May 27, 2008


Actually, I was surprised nobody suggested a Tom Collins in the original thread. No need to worry about the tonic water going flat.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:16 PM on May 27, 2008


Wait, when did this start being about me again, and stop being about the fedora guy?

Um, just then?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:17 PM on May 27, 2008


Actually, I was surprised nobody suggested a Tom Collins in the original thread. No need to worry about the tonic water going flat.

Why not just load up a soda siphon with flat tonic water & gin?

That way, you can take bubbly slugs straight from the nozzle, and when you run out of booze you can switch to huffing nitrous bulbs.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:19 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead I've discovered that the lot of you are an unusually priggish and judgmental bunch, eager to dispense ad hominem personal attacks on the basis of mere presumptions of my character, educational standing, or even—most offensively—financial background and social class.

You got the attention you were seeking. Just go away, already.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:21 PM on May 27, 2008


Words on my top ten most-loathed internet words list that have now appeared in this thread:

#2. "meatspace"

#8. "butthurt"
posted by dersins at 12:22 PM on May 27, 2008


What attention, Blazecock Pileon? Early this morning, I wanted to know how to keep a drink palatable over the course of a few hours. No more, no less. Instead, I wound up at the business end of hysterical moral outcry. I was even content to ignore this thread—and did, for nearly an hour—until the personal attacks began to mount (in my opinion, apropos of nothing).

Since then, I don't think I've been anything but civil, and have only made counterproductive attempts to defend myself. I profusely apologized, many times. I ignored the thread for several more hours, but the insults continued, without any provocation. How am I supposed to react?
posted by incomple at 12:30 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


But the lack of consistency on the part of the moderators bugs me.

With all due respect, we're consistent if you understand the structure here, which you may not.

Really, and only because you mentioned it, your workshops are as much for people to benefit from your advice as for you to benefit from the advice of others. Like this site, sort of.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:31 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Nonsense. He is so an absinthe drinker.

Preparing and drinking absinthe stealthily would be surprisingly easy with some foresight.

Wear a camelbak-style hydration backpack under your shirt with a long tube going down the sleeve. Jury rig a sugar spoon into something like the wristblade in Assassin's Creed under the other sleeve.

Stand a textbook up as a moderate screen. Adopt a thoughtful pose with your fingers tented, to position the tube and spoon over the glass. Finally, lean back to squeeze the bag against the chair just enough to make the water trickle out.
posted by CKmtl at 12:31 PM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


I ignored the thread for several more hours, but the insults continued, without any provocation.

Keep ignoring the thread forever. What you don't know won't hurt you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:32 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wound up at the business end of hysterical moral outcry

This would be one of those examples you sought.
posted by desuetude at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2008


How am I supposed to react?

How about you just take your leave?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2008


I GOT MEATHURT IN MY BUTTSPACE

Hmm. Nah, that's no better, is it?
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:35 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Early this morning, I wanted to know how to keep a drink palatable over the course of a few hours. No more, no less.

You didn't, though.

Honestly, why make such a transparently peculiar assertion?

It was where and why you wanted to keep the cocktail palatable that caused the discussion!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:36 PM on May 27, 2008


incomple, these undergrads who are so beneath you in terms of their development as writers are YOUR READERS. In fact, since you're likely paying tuition, you're paying them to read your writing. What they respond to, in your writing and in the writing of others, matters. What catches their attention, what "works" for them, what they think is beautiful and what they think is false -- it matters. I mean, it matters unless you never want to publish or unless you're happy to rot in vanity press obscurity because hoi polloi just don't get you. This class is a waste of time for you because of your attitude, not because it has nothing to offer you. I'm reminded of a friend of mine who shared a draft of his novel with me. When I suggested that he might find a writing workshop useful, he told me that Tolstoy didn't take writing classes, and therefore why should he? Seriously, don't be that guy. Stop noticing how much better and father ahead and older you are than everyone. You trash your classmates so much, and explicitly say that they're not your peers. I too fail to understand why you're going to this class at all given that attitude. Finally, you may not respect these students as writers, but I agree with those who have suggested that you should respect them as human beings. Don't drink in class. It will be completely obvious, and it is completely inappropriate. It's a big fuck you to the other students. Jessamyn wisely pointed out that as a participant in the workshop, you are expected to actively take part in the conversation. Sober.

And if you're wondering why people (including me) are telling you that you come off as self-aggrandizing, it's because, despite your claim that you are aware of your limitations as a writer, you consistently shit all over the other writers in your workshop and expound on how you have nothing to learn there. So the whole "I am not perfect" thing is kind of hollow given that it's surrounded by the story of how you're too good for this, that, and the other.
posted by prefpara at 12:38 PM on May 27, 2008 [8 favorites]


Keep ignoring the thread forever.

Agreed. On the internet in general, if you want to avoid a big messy flamewar, the absolute worst thing you can do is reply directly to everyone that you disagree with. Even if you mean well and try to be completely civil about it, you will almost always end up escalating it and you'll get even more flak.

The best policy is normally to state your stance once, and resist the urge to refute every point that others make, even if you disagree. You've already explained your side in detail here, so if I were you I'd just walk away at this point.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:42 PM on May 27, 2008


Is it really so difficult to believe that a 24-year-old, one who's worked as a writer in the past, might be bored shitless by undergraduate creative writing classes at a mediocre public university?

Dude, I was a "published writer" before I went back to school, and took journalism classes from folks who I didn't learn much from. But that was largely my fault, and I rather regret it now. There's always something to learn, especially in summer classes, because you can have free reign to challenge profs and mix it up. Or are honors versions of your classes not available? Because they pretty much saved me.

Oh, and while I'd gone to class drunk (or high out of my mind), I pretty much stopped after freshman year once I saw a couple of other students doing it. They were total assholes, especially the guy in my philosophy class who just wanted to go on and on about why he knew more than Nietzsche. Well, that and my dad telling me about the kid he had to kick out of his class for opening beer cans. It's distracting to everyone else, and not even, you know, that interesting.
posted by klangklangston at 12:45 PM on May 27, 2008


"Early this morning, I wanted to know how to keep a drink palatable over the course of a few hours."

Well, yeah, that was the question, along with a shit-pile of "Lookit me, everybody!"
posted by klangklangston at 12:48 PM on May 27, 2008


incomple, these undergrads who are so beneath you in terms of their development as writers are YOUR READERS. In fact, since you're likely paying tuition, you're paying them to read your writing. What they respond to, in your writing and in the writing of others, matters. What catches their attention, what "works" for them, what they think is beautiful and what they think is false -- it matters.

I like this in theory. In practice -- in my experience -- it doesn't work. As I mentioned upthread, back when I was in college, I went on a crusade to find help with my writing. One of my many strategies was to take creative writing classes.

I did get a lot of generalized comments about people liking this and disliking that. But my peers simply weren't trained in delving much deeper. What I needed was detailed help on the sentence-by-sentence (sometimes word by word) level. I don't think that's an outlandish desire to have in a writing class. But never got that help -- not from students; not from teachers (including when I met profs for office hours).

I didn't expect the class to spend hours and hours going through everything I wrote word for word. But ten minutes spent on one paragraph would have been nice. When I teach writing, that's what I do. In addition to the big picture (e.g. story structure), I focus on word choice, sentence structure, rhetoric, metaphorical devices, etc.

In writing classes when I was a student, we'd all read a peer's story, the teacher would ask for comments, and few people would say things like, "I liked your use of humor" or "I think the ending could have been tighter" and then we'd move onto the next story.
posted by grumblebee at 12:51 PM on May 27, 2008


grumblebee, I hear you, and I have had similar issues in writing seminars. I found that I was able to get much more useful comments by asking one or two very specific questions right after the professor asked for comments. I would just jump in and say something like, "in particular, I am worried about whether or not X is believable" or "I am really curious to hear whether or not people thought that they way I worded Y worked."

Also, there were enough instances of people being willing to help on a word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence level, that I felt pretty confident that if they were not really engaging with me on that level after I asked them to, it was because what I had written just didn't merit it. If I can't make my readers care about my writing, I have a bigger than sentence-by-sentence problem.

This wasn't Harvard. This was a small community college. It may be silly and optimistic of me, but I do think that something is always salvageable from any workshop. However, I do think a word-by-word look at a long piece of writing is not a realistic goal considering the usual number of participants and time constraints.
posted by prefpara at 12:56 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


And yet, grumblebee, I doubt that your response to disappointment over how writing workshops are conducted was to get soused in class.
posted by desuetude at 12:58 PM on May 27, 2008


And yet, grumblebee, I doubt that your response to disappointment over how writing workshops are conducted was to get soused in class.

Yes, but only because I'm not into alcohol in general (which probably means I have no business being a writer, but that's another story). I certainly "got soused" in other ways: I doodled, I imagined classmates' heads exploding, I started another story (in class), etc.

It may be silly and optimistic of me, but I do think that something is always salvageable from any workshop.

That almost brings me to tears -- that your expectations for education are so low, you consider that to be an optimistic statement. "salvageable" isn't good enough. If I knew my students were trying to salvage something good from my classes, I would be mortified.

I do think a word-by-word look at a long piece of writing is not a realistic goal considering the usual number of participants and time constraints.

(a) I said above that I didn't expect that.

(b) the fact that students (who pay a huge amount to attend college) have to put up with overcrowded classes and time constraints is a big part of the problem.
posted by grumblebee at 1:11 PM on May 27, 2008


Workshops are so entertaining! The politics! The defensiveness! The long, drawn out short stories about how much someone really, really loves his dog!
posted by sondrialiac at 1:11 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I doodled, I imagined classmates' heads exploding, I started another story (in class), etc.

Right...you amused yourself in a non-disruptive way.
posted by desuetude at 1:15 PM on May 27, 2008


grumblebee: BTW, I agree that things are grim. Not everywhere, but nearly everywhere.
posted by prefpara at 1:16 PM on May 27, 2008


I'm not convinced that incomple's drinking would be disruptive. I'm unclear why everyone's assuming it will be. Obviously, some people drink too much and DO get disruptive. But not everyone who drinks gets like this. Naturally, we only notice the disruptive drinkers.

For the record, I am totally against anyone disrupting things for other students. If someone convinced me that this was the only possible outcome (or even the most likely outcome), I would agree with the majority here.

I rarely drink, but I know I could slowly sip a cocktail and no one would be the wiser. I'd be able to get my job done, etc.
posted by grumblebee at 1:19 PM on May 27, 2008


I imagined classmates' heads exploding...

Grumblebee, you know very well that I'M the one who came up with the exploding head game.
posted by Evangeline at 1:23 PM on May 27, 2008


Well, I was never able to make heads explode by myself. I needed a partner in crime.
posted by grumblebee at 1:24 PM on May 27, 2008


And I have not once had a straight-A student drinking in class -- it is always a person who hasn't turned in their last paper and didn't get a very good grade on the one before that. I figure that the drinking is a part of a general decision to fuck up in public, but I'm not really sure what the thinking process is, to be honest.

This is an important fact: You have not once caught a straight-A student intoxicated in class.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:26 PM on May 27, 2008


...the exploding head game.

Ka-pow!
posted by ericb at 1:27 PM on May 27, 2008


I'm shocked that my deliberately controversial phrasing resulted in the reaction I desired.

Please forgive me.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:30 PM on May 27, 2008


I'm planning on filling a SIGG water bottle with a watered down gin and tonic (I was thinking 3 parts tonic, 1 part gin) mixture to get me through

Decontextualized for emphasis.

You have a family history of alcoholism, and you don't see anything wrong with your need to drink to get through the day?

All those judgmental assholes in that thread are trying to help you.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:32 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


All right, incomple. You seem fine by me. Fuck these cunts.
posted by Abiezer at 1:32 PM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


You have not once caught a straight-A student intoxicated in class.

Oh, Lord. The stuff I got away with while still getting As.

I remember once leading a class discussion on a book I hadn't read. The teacher actually praised me, afterwards. I'm not proud of doing that, but Jesus! Why was I able to get away with it?
posted by grumblebee at 1:33 PM on May 27, 2008


Words on my top ten most-loathed internet words list that have now appeared in this thread:
#2. "meatspace"
#8. "butthurt"


Dude, I know; people are such shitcocks here on the interwebs. They think they're so 1337, like they're all haxors who can F the Pentagon UBAR. We totally need a spokesblogger to do some media hacking on this; anyone up for Web 2.0ing fnord something together? The blogosphere needs us!

...amirite?
posted by aihal at 1:34 PM on May 27, 2008


This whole thread is flagged for abuse of bolding. I feel like I'm ~uungh!~ reading a terrible ~yeeeargh!~ comic book that some shit-heel concocted in creative writing class.
posted by Mister_A at 1:34 PM on May 27, 2008


Sys Rq: also, the idea that he has to drink to improve his personality raised a flag for me. But I'm not sure that the post really came across as "plz enable my alcoholism thx" so much as "I am so above this piddling shit, plz help me get by superior drink on thx."
posted by prefpara at 1:38 PM on May 27, 2008


Why was I able to get away with it?

Because you weren't tanked on gin at the time?
posted by desuetude at 1:38 PM on May 27, 2008


touche
posted by grumblebee at 1:40 PM on May 27, 2008


If you really want to be non-disruptive*, a combination of whiskey, valium, and sleep deprivation is the way to go.


*By non-disruptive I mean "Irredeemably, borderline criminally disruptive."
posted by Mister_A at 1:42 PM on May 27, 2008


"I am so above this piddling shit, plz help me get by superior drink on thx."

Really, all it said in the post was that class was boring.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:43 PM on May 27, 2008


No, I'm betting Gaeta is the final Cyclon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:45 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


As boring as my college classes were, they were Disneyland compared to High School. I remember being in social studies, forcing myself not to look at the clock. I'd wait until a really long time had passed and finally give myself permission to look. To my horror, I'd see that only three minutes had passed since I last looked.

And we had those evil clocks that only ticked forward once a minute. I swear, those are on the walls of hell.
posted by grumblebee at 1:47 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not convinced that incomple's drinking would be disruptive. I'm unclear why everyone's assuming it will be. Obviously, some people drink too much and DO get disruptive. But not everyone who drinks gets like this.

Part of the problem with evaluation in this kind of situation is that the person doing the drinking is the primary source of judgement on whether their drinking leads to disruption. Which leads to (a) under-reporting of disruptions out of self-interest and (b) by definition a reduced capacity to measure their own behavior, on account of the drinkin'.

So as far as that goes, sure, it's hard to say. On the other hand, very few of the people I've known who've thought they were cool, under-the-radar drunks were, in practice, anywhere near under the radar or cool about it. What they were was drunk and convinced it wasn't obvious. It's a meh proposition, exceptionally functional drunks notwithstanding. Generally, people don't not notice that shit, they just tolerate it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:48 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wasn't the final Cyclon at Coney Island?
posted by grumblebee at 1:52 PM on May 27, 2008


Hi. I'm just here to have my butt handled by a moderator.

Just don't butthurt my meatspace, buttmeat, or I'll show you the hurtspace.

Also, some of you people are filthy cops. You should drink more.

Offended by the previous sentence? Then, yeah, I'm probably talking about you. Stop it. No, just zip that flustered, gibbering lip shut. It's none of your fucking business. He's not driving a car or flying a plane or operating heavy machinery. If you're doing the math and come to any solution that is not "It's none of my fucking business" then you're doing the math wrong and you are a precious little nosy dumbass.

Also, the correct answer to drinking in class is: Vodka in a small water bottle. Carry iced water or coffee in a big travel mug for a chaser. People will think you're drinking water to chase your coffee.

posted by loquacious at 1:52 PM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


...and given gin's special odoriferous qualities, whew, are the surreptitious gin-drinkers not as sly as they think they are. Seriously, do gin-lovers have some asparagus-esque inability to catch a whiff of the gin miasma?

I totally agree with you on the evil, evil highschool clocks, grumblebee. [shudder]
posted by desuetude at 1:59 PM on May 27, 2008


It's none of your fucking business.

I feel like everything that is posted on MeFi/AskMe/MeTa is the business of, well, everyone on MetaFilter. If you don't want people to freely discuss your life, don't post it on a public website. If someone had googled this dude, found his blog, posted an entry from his blog discussing his desire to drink in class, and then there was a giant piling on, that would have been a gray area. But he volunteered the whole story, and that's what people are responding to -- the whole story. Not just the one little piece of it that could be framed as an engineering problem.

I dunno, normally my heart goes out when people get jumped all over, but it must have already gone out today and just isn't back yet.
posted by prefpara at 1:59 PM on May 27, 2008


Yeah, cortex. I agree. To me, a reasonable answer would be: here's how to do it, but please note that people who think they're non-disruptively drunk are often fooling themselves.

Though I still think you were right to shut down the thread. To me, it's odd that we're focussing totally on incomple. The threat was problematic because (a) when certain hot-topics come up, responders tend to break the (anti-derail) rules; and (b) because incomple brought up one of those topics.

(b) is incomple's fault; (a) isn't, unless you feel like those derails are a force of nature. Actually, as a mod, you have to think that way (right?). Certain reactions WILL happen, so it's best to close the thread. Agreed.

But when you look at people's reactions as inevitable, you rob them of being creatures of will. They become Pavlovian dogs. Yes, incomple shouldn't have baited (which he's admitted).

Yes, others shouldn't have taken the bait.

The impression I get is that many people here think that once bait is offered, it's up for grabs. If those are your ethics, that's that. They're not my ethics. Your bad behavior does not excuse mine. There's a clear rule on AskMe: answer the question or don't answer at all.
posted by grumblebee at 1:59 PM on May 27, 2008


You have not once caught a straight-A student intoxicated in class.

No, quite the contrary -- I've had many, many A students drunk in class. What I haven't done is caught any of the A students drinking in class. Coming to class after an all-night drinking binge, or after having a liquid lunch, seems pretty unremarkable to me. If it's really bad, or becomes a daily routine, I'll say something or send an email to the dean of students saying that the student might need some professional help. And I have no problem suggesting that someone go back to his dorm room to continue sleeping it off, if that is needed.

But in my experience, actually drinking in class -- bringing the alcohol, and imbibing it in front of everyone, however covertly -- is raising things to another level. It's an expression of hostility towards the professor and the other students, as well as kind of self-destructive. Yes, in the good old days Harvard had beer at every meal, and so do many (if not all) universities in places like Australia, Europe, etc -- but I'm willing to go way out on a limb and suggest that bringing your drinks to class is not a completely routine part of their educational expectations. And in the social context of a modern US university, there is a fairly strong expectation that the drinking will not be happening during class -- to do so may or may not be "against the rules" but is certainly contrary to expectations and social norms.
posted by Forktine at 2:01 PM on May 27, 2008


Oh, Lord. The stuff I got away with while still getting As.

I remember once leading a class discussion on a book I hadn't read.


I agree with a lot of the comments you made about school being boring, or inadequate, or that teachers often don't put in the necessary effort to be successful. But I still think that the right thing to do as a student is to try, even if there isn't any incentive to do so.

Imagine you're running in a marathon around a track, and there are a lot of other people running the marathon with you, but about half of them are stumbling around drunk, or asleep, or sitting around playing solitaire. And what if at the end of the marathon, all of those people got the same exact certificate as you, saying that they completed the marathon? That's kind of how it feels going through college if you actually put a lot of effort into it.

I don't blame anyone for not trying in college, it's extremely easy to not try at all and still walk out with a degree. But it's hard to go to classes with people who are obviously just treating them as breaks between binge drinking episodes. It seems like such a waste.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:01 PM on May 27, 2008


All right, incomple. You seem fine by me.

Yeah, you're taking your licks pretty well. I say we move on to the group hug and then go out for drinks. Gin and tonics, everyone?
posted by languagehat at 2:04 PM on May 27, 2008


On the other hand, very few of the people I've known who've thought they were cool, under-the-radar drunks were, in practice, anywhere near under the radar or cool about it. What they were was drunk and convinced it wasn't obvious. It's a meh proposition, exceptionally functional drunks notwithstanding. Generally, people don't not notice that shit, they just tolerate it.

No, you only notice the slobs. You've probably met people that were totally sauced, but you wouldn't be able to tell. Not everyone slurs their speech or otherwise displays modified behavior. Since I'm not verbally or emotionally demonstrative, I usually have to tell people if I'm drunk or buzzed.

Let's frame this another way. Alcoholism is a disease, right? So is AIDS/HIV, right? Can you tell who has AIDS/HIV by looking at them or observing them?

Can you visually tell who is the alcoholic? Really? Are you that sure? Would you bet your life on it?


It's none of our business. You're not in class with the guy. It's not our place to moralize and assume that this is disruptive. Even if he was an angry, obvious drunk, it's none of our business - unless you're the teacher or a student of that class.
posted by loquacious at 2:05 PM on May 27, 2008


burnmp23s, I understand what you're saying, and I'm sorry to be endlessly and forever the contrarian, but if you're concerned about the other runners in the marathon, to me that's just another sign that school is failing. (I don't mean if you're concerned about them as a caring human ought to be -- I mean if you're concerned about competing with them, being treated fairly in comparison with them, etc.)

If you're taking an Algebra class, that class is PASSABLY successful if you wind up learning some Algebra. It's really successful if you wind up ENJOYING Algebra and raring to do more of it. This is where school fails most miserably in my experience. It fails at giving students passion.

If you're thinking about grades, certificates, pats on the back or what the other students are doing, you're not in a good-enough class. If the class was really, really exciting, you'd barely notice what the other students were doing. You'd be too excited by the subject.
posted by grumblebee at 2:11 PM on May 27, 2008


By the way, I can't prove anything, but I wager that the question would have had a similar response if it was...

I'm so bored in my class. Help me doodle in way that no one will notice.

or

I'm so bored in my class. Help me rig up my iPod so that I can listen to it without anyone noticing.

It probably wouldn't have gotten as strong a reaction, because alcohol itself is a hot-button topic. But I bet there still would have been many people who would have answered the question with an ounce of suggestion and a pound of moralizing.

I bet there would have been less flack if the question was...

I'm so bored at work. Help me read Metafilter without getting caught.

There still probably would be some flack, but I bet a lot less.

School has a special status for many people.
posted by grumblebee at 2:18 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


If the class was really, really exciting, you'd barely notice what the other students were doing. You'd be too excited by the subject.

Ahh! There goes my passionate agreement. It is thrilling, energizing, and magical when you're surrounded by fellow students who are intellectually curious, motivated, and take the subject at hand seriously. It's like swimming against the current all your life and suddenly finding yourself in a river whose current is going in the direction you've chosen. There is nothing wrong with being affected by the attitutes and behaviors of the peers that surround you - it's an inevitable and natural part of being human. Having to reject the consensus attitudes and behaviors that surround you is stressful and difficult. I don't know many supermen who need no outside encouragement or reinforcement and are happy to do their own thing in isolation.
posted by prefpara at 2:19 PM on May 27, 2008


Gin and tonics, everyone?

Gins and tonic.

...*runs from impending binomial-collocation smackdown*
posted by aihal at 2:23 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying there's anything wrong with needing encouragement and getting off on the passion of others. But haven't you ever been rapt by a subject? That's what SHOULD happen in school.

If a class is so good that the teacher helps you find such rapture, you won't be the only one in class that finds it.
posted by grumblebee at 2:24 PM on May 27, 2008


If a class is so good that the teacher helps you find such rapture, you won't be the only one in class that finds it.

My turn to say: not in my experience.
posted by prefpara at 2:28 PM on May 27, 2008


jinnantonnix!
posted by Mister_A at 2:33 PM on May 27, 2008


No, you only notice the slobs. You've probably met people that were totally sauced, but you wouldn't be able to tell. Not everyone slurs their speech or otherwise displays modified behavior. Since I'm not verbally or emotionally demonstrative, I usually have to tell people if I'm drunk or buzzed.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I've known under-the-radar drunks. Some folks can pull it off. Matters of degree and context both come in to play as well. Of the folks who've been very good at it, though, almost none have been particularly public about how darn good they are at it. They generally just don't talk about it.

Let's frame this another way. Alcoholism is a disease, right? So is AIDS/HIV, right? Can you tell who has AIDS/HIV by looking at them or observing them?

Can you visually tell who is the alcoholic? Really? Are you that sure? Would you bet your life on it?


I'd never claim to be able to spot an alcholic based on some inherent aura of alcoholism, any more than I could spot someone with AIDS based on their inherent AIDSiness, no.

On the other hand, I'll probably never run into someone whose breath smells like HIV virus, so the comparison is for from perfect for those examples where your functioning alcoholic has actually been drinking as well.

It's none of our business. You're not in class with the guy. It's not our place to moralize and assume that this is disruptive. Even if he was an angry, obvious drunk, it's none of our business - unless you're the teacher or a student of that class.

In as much as this has turned into a general conversation and isn't merely a pile-on on incomple—and I agree very much at this point with the sentiment that he doesn't really need any more guff here—it's totally my business to discuss the ideas here in abstract. And, that said, I'm with languagehat on this:

I say we move on to the group hug and then go out for drinks. Gin and tonics, everyone?
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:34 PM on May 27, 2008


Make mine a double.
posted by grouse at 2:35 PM on May 27, 2008


When I was in college, we did have beer in the student lounge. 24/7. You could have it on your Cheerios at 7 in the morning and many people did. That said, and I bow to no one (except possibly jonmc) in my pursuit of the fine art of drinking too much as a career move, it never even occurred to me, or to anyone I hung out with, even, to actually drink in class. In some classes, we could smoke (this was the good old days, if you haven't figured that out already) and we did, but nobody I knew drank during class. Maybe because we were art majors and English majors and philosophy majors, meaning that we weren't doing it for the money but for something resembling love. I don't know if the math people drank, although I suspect not. The business people probably did and the social scientists.

We drank before and after and in between, with our professors at bars, during events at school and with meals, but not during class, because drinking during class really does imply a weird lack of respect. Also, it means that no one is going to take you seriously when you're going on about something really really important like the nature of the non existence of God, why the US is set up to keep the poor getting poorer and how Jackson Pollack, really, man, really turned the fucking world upside down and, dude, just, you know, like Donald Judd? Those boxes? Shit. Amazing. You can't say stuff like that unless you're sober and serious - and you have to say stuff like that in college, it's pretty much the whole point of college - because otherwise you become a parody of yourself. Which seems to me to be kind of what we've got going on here.

Which is not to say that the AskMe Judgment Squad isn't always out in full force, because they are, along with the AskMe OHMIGODYOUNEEDTOGOTOTHEDOCTORRIGHTNOW that hangnail could get infected Squad. Almost any question about alcohol or drugs will bring up the Judgment Squad (interestingly enough, sexuality questions are mostly judgment free) as will a lot of parenting issues. It's just a fact. They can't help themselves and, seriously, if you've been reading AskMe all along you know they're going to come out in spades for a question like this one. It's too bad, sometimes, since loquacious is essentially right in that this is nobody's business, but there they are and they cannot really be stopped. They mean well. They always mean well.

However. Back to the point, incomple, you could have added something about declawing your circumcised obese cat during class for the full effect, but really, after reading askme for years, how could anyone honestly think that a question about how to drink in class wasn't going to draw a lot of fire?
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:37 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


loquacious, even if they don't drink in class that day-after smell is nasty. It's like all the smokers who are convinced no one can tell because they washed their hands and ate a mint. It's fine with me if people drink and smoke (or eat a lot of soy products), but if they think no one can tell they're fooling themselves.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:39 PM on May 27, 2008


I don't think that too many people disagree on what school SHOULD be; it's how you handle it when school is not what it should be that is the real issue. I think there are infinite answers to this question, but I tend to believe that people who are passive about crappy classes are doing themselves no favors. I think it's naive to think that every class is going to wash over one with an invigorating wave of enlightenment, without doing any work one's self.

And to all the closet gin, tequila, and whisky drinkers out they who think that no one knows: you reek. Seriously- that stuff comes out your pores with a very distinctive scent. Try vodka if you really want no one to know you're boozing.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:40 PM on May 27, 2008


That said, I never care if anyone drinks or uses in class. Yes, I have contempt for them, (or pity, depending on how they act), but it's never occurred to me to rat them out or feel personally affected.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:42 PM on May 27, 2008


(interestingly enough, sexuality questions are mostly judgment free)

For an interesting inconsistency: if fedora guy's affectation was crossdressing rather than a hat, his thread probably would have gone a lot better.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:43 PM on May 27, 2008


Can you tell who has AIDS/HIV by looking at them or observing them?

In a relatively small and preselected sample, yes, apparently a disturbingly large number of people here can.
posted by CKmtl at 2:45 PM on May 27, 2008


Gin and tonics, everyone?

Black and Tan, please.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:47 PM on May 27, 2008


Totally depends on the class. History and literature classes always seemed better to me a little high or maybe after a beer at lunch. But math and science which I ended up majoring in...no way.
posted by telstar at 2:59 PM on May 27, 2008


I used to take my pet rat inside my clothing to various classes in law school.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:03 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


It is a curious fact, and one to which no one knows quite how much importance to attach, that something like 85% of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N'N-T'N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand or more variations on the same phonetic theme. The drinks themselves are not the same, and vary between the Sivolvian 'chinanto/mnigs' which is ordinary water served at slightly above room temperature, and the Gagrakackan 'tzjin-anthony-ks' which kill cows at a hundred paces; and in fact the one common factor between all of them, beyond the fact that the names sound the same, is that they were all invented and named before the worlds concerned made contact with any other worlds.

What can be made of this fact? It exists in total isolation. As far as any theory of structural linguistics is concerned it is right off the graph, and yet it persists. Old structural linguists get very angry when young structural linguists go on about it. Young structural linguists get deeply excited about it and stay up late at night convinced that they are very close to something of profound inportance, and end up becoming old structural linguists before their time, getting very angry with the young ones. Structural linguistics is a bitterly divided and unhappy discipline, and a large number of its practitioners spend too many nights drowning their problems in Ouisghian Zodahs.


--Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
posted by JanetLand at 3:04 PM on May 27, 2008


I learned the term "butthurt" on the show Laguna Beach -- which, according to another ongoing AskMe thread, means I'm not very intelligent.
posted by loiseau at 3:34 PM on May 27, 2008


I learned the term "butthurt" in this very thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:39 PM on May 27, 2008


Apparently it has been knocking around on mefi, albeit very sparsely, since 2005.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:45 PM on May 27, 2008


How dare metafilter attempt to snuff the dreams of a young Miguel Cardosa.
posted by drezdn at 3:52 PM on May 27, 2008


I think we'd all prefer to think of Migs as having sprung, some heady and kismetic night, fully formed from the hazy mouth of a Portugese nightclub.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:56 PM on May 27, 2008


Besides, I'll bet in his lit classes, everyone was drinking martinis.
posted by languagehat at 4:00 PM on May 27, 2008


speaking of which, i never recieved my postcard from him for helping him fix his spotlight issue.
posted by mrzarquon at 4:01 PM on May 27, 2008


I LEARNED BUTTHURT FROM YOU DAD
posted by klangklangston at 4:02 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


hurf durf, butthurt reader
posted by everichon at 4:02 PM on May 27, 2008


Also: I can't see drinking in class, as it would have only exacerbated my already-problematic habit of falling droolingly asleep during lectures.
posted by everichon at 4:05 PM on May 27, 2008


Merv Griffin. MERV GRIFFIN. MEEEEEEERV GRRRRRRIFFIIINNN!
posted by loquacious at 4:13 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


If we're discussing butthurt, I'll give the ED definition so we can have at least this starting point:

It is usually characterized by noisy whining and complaining after being pwnt or otherwise outdone in any minute and insignificant way.


I find it useful as nomenclature for someone taking offense at something not because it is overly offensive per se, but because they're looking to be offended, can't deal with the issue at hand, etc.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:14 PM on May 27, 2008


I find it less useful since it's pretty damned opaque to most people and when read by same in context seems as like as anything to suggest "so I'm saying something you dislike...and also, anal sex is...bad? Or just getting hit in the buttocks? I guess? Or something?"
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:26 PM on May 27, 2008


I always thought of it as that deep pain that you get from bad bicycle seats, where you feel all mopey and can't sit down no matter how much you want to. Like, that coccyx-bruised ache. Really, the mopeyness was the operative sense, as I learned it primarily on ILX, used when people got disproportionately grumpy after being told that Belle and Sebastian sucked.
posted by klangklangston at 4:35 PM on May 27, 2008


You know, you can learn a lot from listening to music. If the AskMe OP had only bothered to check out my Harper Valley PTA FPP on the blue the other day, he'd have heard Jeannie C. Riley lay it out clearly for him:

"...and if you smell Shirley Thompson's breath you'll find she's had a little nip of gin..."

I might also add that some of the folks who posted some of the more judgmental answers might also consider another line from the same song:

"...and then you have the nerve to tell me,
you think that as a mother student I'm not fit,
well this is just a Little Peyton Place
and you're all Harper Valley MetaFilter hypocrites!"


Listen to music, people!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:40 PM on May 27, 2008


Oh, and sorry to derail the butt hurtin'. Y'all carry on!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:41 PM on May 27, 2008


the poster came in
stinking of gin
inspired a post
on the Mecha....
posted by jonmc at 4:46 PM on May 27, 2008


MeTa, dammit!

I ruin more good one-lines that way
posted by jonmc at 4:47 PM on May 27, 2008


...when people got disproportionately grumpy after being told that Belle and Sebastian sucked.

Well, hey, you know, that sad old bastard music doesn't just suck. It sucks ass.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:50 PM on May 27, 2008


If we're discussing butthurt, I'll give the ED definition

See, here's the thing-- if you find yourself quoting Encyclopedia Dramatica to support a point or an argument you are trying to make, then You Have Lost.
posted by dersins at 4:51 PM on May 27, 2008


MeTa, dammit!

Ha! And here I was about to head over to Mecha to check it out!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:51 PM on May 27, 2008


I'll give the ED definition

if you find yourself quoting Encyclopedia Dramatica

Oh THAT ED.....
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:53 PM on May 27, 2008


I came here too late but I had a decent solution to the problem AND I am also a student, an old one (40) and even long distance I hate most of my fellow students because they are so damn boring and predicable and egotistical. I wish just one would get plastered (they're legally allowed to do so, because they're 18 and in the comfort of their own home) and spam the entire board with drunken ramblings. Boy, that sure would improve some of my classes.
posted by b33j at 4:54 PM on May 27, 2008


the poster came in
stinking of gin
inspired a post
on the MeTa....


mathowie checked out
and deleted no doubt
n' now butt hurt
is what it's come down ta...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:56 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


In my opinion, tonic water has no place in a civilized OMG NO PUT DOWN THE BASEBALL BAT I WAS ONLY KIDDING.

But seriously, you're free to drink in my class, just don't annoy anybody and don't come looking for class notes if you black out. Philosophy and alcohol have gone together since at least the time that Socrates drank all his students under the table talking about love.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:57 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead I've discovered that the lot of you are an unusually priggish and judgmental bunch, eager to dispense ad hominem personal attacks on the basis of mere presumptions of my character, educational standing, or even—most offensively—financial background and social class.

So did you post to Ask Metafilter before ever reading it then? Next time you post there, I'd suggest you ask about cheating on your girlfriend while stoned and see where *that* gets you.

Also: As a fedora-sporting English major, shouldn't you really be drinking Absinthe rather than messing around with flat Gin and Tonic?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:57 PM on May 27, 2008


See, here's the thing-- if you find yourself quoting Encyclopedia Dramatica to support a point or an argument you are trying to make, then You Have Lost.

Nonsense. Trying to make a serious argument with ED would be a failure, but for learning about what lulzy things mean on the internet you've got ED and Urban Dictionary.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:16 PM on May 27, 2008


For what it's worth:

I've at least two creative writing workshops held at bars (usually the last workshop of the semester), and I spent most of my junior year of college getting slightly stewed on $2.00 pints at the pub across the street from campus with the vast majority of my creative writing workshop before class. Workshop continued unabated. Everyone had a good time. Drunk or sober, We were just as obnoxious and self-important and over-critical and pretentious as one would expect a bunch of Donald Barthelme-addicted, Joyce quoting, twenty-one year old wanna-be novelists to be. It was a mediocre state university with a better MFA program, but we were undergrads. Our professors (a few minor name writers among them) were significantly less interested in us than they were the grad students. And many of them (the profs) were themselves drunk or stoned most of the time. Sobriety was uncommon in the department. Teetotalers were viewed as highly suspect.

I never brought a gin and tonic to class, but my favorite professor's ubiquitous orange plastic coffee cup always smelled strongly of whiskey and he was known to keep a bottle of Jameson on his bookshelf between the Collected Stories of William Faulkner and "At Swim, Two Birds." We found this hilarious. I suppose he did too.

Funny thing is: these were the best workshops I ever attended. The alcohol had nothing to do with it. The quality of the writing was strong. The critiques were solid and smart. Most of us became friends. We still keep up with each other, a decade and some change later, and we're all still writing. Some of us have even been pretty damn successful with it.

Workshops aren't like other classes. You get advice as opposed to instruction. You can get three pages of notes from classmates only to have a professor quietly tell you ignore everything they say. If you're lucky enough to be in a class with those whose aesthetic and influences roughly match up with yours, you'll probably have more fun and win more praise. Of course might learn more from a class full of writers that hate you and everything you represent. The important thing is that you're writing as well as you can and giving your fellow writers a fair reading. If you can do that after a couple of gin and tonics (or after a truckload of Scotch or whatever), more power to you.
posted by thivaia at 5:27 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Joke posts to AskMe should result in a permaban, IMO. It's an abuse of the resource.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:45 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish just one [of of my fellow students] would get plastered (they're legally allowed to do so, because they're 18 and in the comfort of their own home) and spam the entire board with drunken ramblings. Boy, that sure would improve some of my classes.

So, your ideal model is for your classes to resemble MetaTalk?!??
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:53 PM on May 27, 2008


Hey, wait a minute, Ubu, I may be rambling, but I am NOT durnk.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:56 PM on May 27, 2008


I only durnk too little dirnks...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:57 PM on May 27, 2008


Later on can this be the drunk thread?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:57 PM on May 27, 2008


Later on?
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:07 PM on May 27, 2008


I'm not ready yet.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:09 PM on May 27, 2008


:-D
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:12 PM on May 27, 2008


I like Oban.
posted by needled at 6:41 PM on May 27, 2008


Let's just all stop for a moment and enjoy this gem:

With all due respect, we're consistent if you understand the structure here, which you may not. - jessamyn

To abuse a phrase, the mind boggles...
posted by gjc at 7:03 PM on May 27, 2008


So, your ideal model is for your classes to resemble MetaTalk?!??

It'd be an improvement. Currently they resemble a desolate wasteland, with the occasional ramblings of naive egomaniacal ungrammatical morons. No wonder the lecturers avoid them (deliberate ambiguity).
posted by b33j at 7:30 PM on May 27, 2008


Oh, the YouTube model. Point taken.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:27 PM on May 27, 2008


I'm not saying there's anything wrong with needing encouragement and getting off on the passion of others. But haven't you ever been rapt by a subject? That's what SHOULD happen in school.

If a class is so good that the teacher helps you find such rapture, you won't be the only one in class that finds it.


That's grad school. I really think the excitement is largely self-selecting, because most of the time it's the texts themselves that are going to fire people up or not. Different professors try different approaches to try to "reach" students and show them why, e.g., shakespeare is so great, but the thing is, some people just start reading it, and find it really fucking great. Grad school is mostly those people.

As a teacher, I think I am being interesting about topics I find personally fascinating, and at the end of the semester, I'm told by at least half my students that I'm boring. I'm working on that, but it's tough - I actually think the material is fun, and a lot of them want me to somehow spice it up and make it relevant. To me that often cheapens what it is. Other professors feel that's how you connect...

I'm not teaching at the moment, and I may try other avenues next time around, and I do appreciate your basic points about education, but there is definitely a factor of interest to start with. Grad school is very different from undergrad, and while some of that can be that teachers are different, most of it is because everyone involved honestly wants to be there, for the sake of the subject itself, not to get a job or whatever.
posted by mdn at 9:08 PM on May 27, 2008


After slogging through all the above and the linked AskMe I am left with one certainty: Grumblebee should be in charge of teaching.
posted by vapidave at 12:27 AM on May 28, 2008


Merv Griffin. MERV GRIFFIN. MEEEEEEERV GRRRRRRIFFIIINNN!
posted by loquacious at 7:13 PM on May 27 [+] [!]


I love you.
posted by pupdog at 12:52 AM on May 28, 2008


I was in no way playing wingman. He and I don't even talk that much anymore, but he's in my contacts, so I was alerted to the existence of the AskMe. I found the thread's tone pretty repugnant and surprisingly hypocritical, so I made my position known. "Wingman"? Wow, Cortex.
posted by nonmerci at 1:38 AM on May 28, 2008


When I turned 21, a guy in my Dostoevsky class brought me in a [n extremely strong] whisky and coke. He had one himself. The prof knew what was up, and gave us a hard time, asking if we had one for him too. Drunk + Raskolnikov = good.
posted by sciurus at 6:05 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


nonmerci, I don't mean to imply this was like a choreographed event or anything, but you spend at least portions of four of your five comments in the thread explicitly defending incomple or some aspect of his post against criticism received and/or attacking the folks criticizing him. You may have not intended it that way, but it's very much how it came across regardless of your intent.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:45 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was in no way playing wingman.

Wingwoman? Pointmanwoman? Rear guard?

actually your defense of him says volumes about both of you, all of it good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:57 AM on May 28, 2008


mdn, the problem is that we're so accustomed to thinking inside a box. I don't blame you for your box, because you're forced inside it by your job. You're say you're working hard to become a better teacher, and that's all you can do.

The failure only partly lies with teachers:

-- why can't you find ways to interest more undergrads? Sure, partly due to your own limitations. But I suspect it has more to do with class size. Grad school is (marginally) better, not only due to self selection, but also due to small classes. If you only had, say, six students in your class, I bet you could find ways to interest most of them. You could tailor individual approaches to each one. (I had teachers in grad school who didn't do this. They ran tiny classes as if they were huge-lecture-hall classes. They regurgitated the same stand-up act from last year and the year before. Shame on them!)

You can't do that in huge classes. Which is one of the many reasons why huge classes are a mistake. Yes, I know there are all kinds of economic hinderances (all of which could be solved by a culture that valued education higher than ours does). I don't care about the hinderances. Huge classes simply don't work. They don't work. They don't work. They don't work. Saying, "Well, they're the best we can do" is like saying, "We don't have any medicine. Sorry. Prayers for your health are the best we can do." Frankly, if all we can offer is the huge lecture hall, I'd rather chuck undergrad ed altogether. Go tell kids to get a job, to live life for a while. They'll just as likely find a passion while doing that than while falling asleep in Phil 101. Once they find their passion, they can come back to grad school.

-- why aren't undergraduate courses self-selecting? Why must there be required classes? Yes, I know: if you don't force people to take basic math, then blah blah blah. Yet in my experience, most of those forced people don't wind up learning much math. We force them. They hate being forced. Resentment gets in the way of learning. They don't learn. We throw our hands up into the air and say, "Oh well. We tried." There are exceptions to this. Every once in a while, someone winds up loving something they're forced to do. (There is such a thing as the Stockholm Syndrome.) These are -- as I say -- exceptions.

Bottom line: babies pop out of the womb as learners. They love learning. They would go on loving it forever, but our culture manages to kill that love (in most people). There are many forces that kill it. School is one of the major ones. School thwarts the very thing it claims to promote.

Here's something I believe with every fiber of my being: you can take an average 19/20-year old, put him in a nurturing, challenging environment, and he'll learn -- and he'll learn with passion. He'll learn with the passion of a grad student.

But there are some caveats. He can't have just come from twelve years of deadening grade and high school. And the new environment must be one with the resources to tailor itself to his unique needs and learning style.

In our culture, almost all of us come from twelve years of horrible schooling; almost all of us waste our undergrad years in huge lecture halls. What chance do we have? And since it's all we know, what chance to we have -- when we become educators ourselves -- of being able to think outside this box?
posted by grumblebee at 6:57 AM on May 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


My butt hurts.
posted by Mister_A at 7:57 AM on May 28, 2008


Huge classes simply don't work. They don't work. They don't work. They don't work.

There are things teachers can do to make these better. Even large lectures can have student-active components, like turn-to-your-neighbor. Large lectures are still an issue, but they could be done a lot better than 50-90 minutes of a talking head. The average person's attention span is about 20 min, so it's best to break the content up that often. Even E.O. Wilson will do that when he gives lectures to a general audience-- he pauses on a distinct slide and tells a joke about 15 minutes in. The problem really is that most teachers teach as they're taught, and mostly they're taught like memorizing sponges instead of active brains.
posted by Tehanu at 8:00 AM on May 28, 2008


Grumlebee: Thanks for expanding a bit on your thoughts on why our education system isn't working. I've never taught, and know jack-all about educational theory, but I do know that it's a broken system. Individuals have come along with different and sometimes radically better ideas, like A.S. Neill with Summerhill in the U.K. and Dennis Litky here in the U.S.A. Litky (spelling looks wrong) took over one of the most backward public high schools in NH back in the 80's and turned it into one of the best w/in just a few years. He had to fight some of the parents, the school board, the local Neanderthals, and at least one firing, but he persevered and finally won over nearly all the doubters. After his great success here, he left to consult on education and I hope is having some success. The high school that he turned around, though, just went back to being a mediore or terrible school again very quickly. The idea that you can really get kids excited about learning - or maybe it's the fear of what they will learn- is threatening to most of us, apparently.
posted by Hobgoblin at 8:20 AM on May 28, 2008


I spent most of my junior year of college getting slightly stewed on $2.00 pints at the pub across the street from campus with the vast majority of my creative writing workshop before class. Workshop continued unabated.

This reminds me of my own learning-while-smashed experience: I went to Dublin to study Old Irish at the Institute for Advanced Studies (Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath), and the first day of classes the instructor took us across the street for a lunchtime Guinness. Not being accustomed to drinking during school hours, I tried to order a half pint, but was quickly made to understand that halfs were for the ladies, and I rapidly learned to study with a pint or two under my belt. And this was Old Irish, mind you, more comparable to advanced physics than a writing workshop.

Also, I thoroughly agree with grumblebee about education. As a society, we claim to value kids, families, education, health, and the aged, but judging by the results we value only profits and the rich white men who make them.
posted by languagehat at 8:37 AM on May 28, 2008


I had a couple of undergrad teachers who taught large classes well, (they had clearly drawn the short straw) but the reason they were so good is that they were performers. Since then I've felt it's unreasonable for a school to EVER require students to sit through Anything 101 taught by someone who isn't a performer. There is no excuse.

Of course, when you get into something more esoteric, you need an expert even if his teaching skills are nil. Those classes are usually small so it's less of an issue; you can corner your prof like a rat in a trap and grill him until his lectures make sense.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:50 AM on May 28, 2008


I had a couple of undergrad teachers who taught large classes well, (they had clearly drawn the short straw) but the reason they were so good is that they were performers...

I had a physics 101 teacher like this. He was a "good teacher" in the sense that class was never boring. To this day, I smile when I think of his antics and stories. But I don't remember any physics.

The problem with the "stand up" approach is that it's more about the teacher than the subject.
posted by grumblebee at 9:02 AM on May 28, 2008


As a society, we claim to value kids, families, education, health, and the aged, but judging by the results we value only profits and the rich white men who make them.

Here's a radical idea: The payscale of educators should be inversely proportional to the level being taught. Kindergarten teacher is a much more difficult and important profession than dude who checks in every now and then to see how your research is coming along.

Or maybe universities could pay to build a new elementary school every now and then, rather than some shiny new multi-million-dollar, custom-designed, wholly unnecessary annex.

Oh, and don't drink in class.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:03 AM on May 28, 2008


Bottom line: babies pop out of the womb as learners. They love learning. They would go on loving it forever, but our culture manages to kill that love (in most people). There are many forces that kill it. School is one of the major ones. School thwarts the very thing it claims to promote.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau summed all this up very nicely in "The Logical Song."
posted by octobersurprise at 9:14 AM on May 28, 2008


Kindergarten teacher is a much more difficult and important profession than dude who checks in every now and then to see how your research is coming along.

Ridiculous. The "dude who checks in every now and then" on my research is one of only a few dozen people on the planet who would be competent to do so.
posted by grouse at 9:21 AM on May 28, 2008


That's called scarcity, grouse; it is a quality separate from difficulty and importance.

There's an obvious supply/demand thing going on, yes, but I've yet to meet a professor worth the amount (s)he's paid.

The really fucked up thing about the economics of the university versus other institutions is the relationship between the Students' and Faculty's respective unions: There's usually a delusional attitude of, "We're all in this together" -- or worse, "We are older and wiser and more deserving, and you should be eternally grateful for our services" -- and almost never the more realistic, "We bury ourselves in debt to pay your exorbitant salaries."
posted by Sys Rq at 9:58 AM on May 28, 2008


I think it's more difficult too. The vast majority of people would not be capable of doing it even with training. Certainly it would be far fewer than the number of kindergarten teachers. That's more than just scarcity.

As for importance, I'd rather not bash other people's professions as being unimportant. To be honest, I think the world needs both science professors and kindergarten teachers, and would be a worse place if we lacked either.
posted by grouse at 10:14 AM on May 28, 2008


There's an obvious supply/demand thing going on, yes, but I've yet to meet a professor worth the amount (s)he's paid.

Actually those jobs are competitive to get, especially in the humanities. And that's after you've put sleepless years and a lot of money into getting the degree that qualifies you to at least have your CV looked at by the hiring committee. A lot of people who want university jobs don't get them because the number of people graduating with a PhD and applying to those jobs is much larger than the number of positions open in the job market. And it's been that way for a long time. A lot of people with PhDs end up going into other lines of work when what they really wanted was a faculty job.

And then once you get that job, the workload is pretty insane. It's why I stopped when what I originally wanted was a PhD and that kind of job. I want to go home at the end of the day, not go home and grade papers every night. Every faculty member I know does an amazing amount of work. The grade school teachers I know do, too. We need to appreciate them both, not pit the one against the other.
posted by Tehanu at 10:28 AM on May 28, 2008


I would also caution against generalizing from Grumblebee's personal learning style to a broader population. I learned fine in lecture-hall classes that I was interested in. I found some small classes maddening in their level of contact (and one incredibly obnoxious because out of six people, I was the only one who would speak). I hate group work.

Further, Shakespeare is often irrelevant and tedious, and part of the reason why he's so roundly rejected is the puffery of canon, not the failings of teachers.

Finally, there are plenty of schools without any required classes. Some of them are even accredited. But being against required classes is like being against war or pollution or eating puppies, in that it's easy to make sweeping pronouncements and find a lot of people who agree without actually having to put all that much thought into it.
posted by klangklangston at 10:49 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shakespeare is often irrelevant and tedious, and part of the reason why he's so roundly rejected is the puffery of canon, not the failings of teachers.

I would caution against generalizing from your personal lack of appreciation to a broader rejection of importance.
posted by languagehat at 11:04 AM on May 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I second klangklangston except for the, I hope, joking criticism of THE BARD OF AVON OMG.

I've enjoyed large lecture classes here and there, and I wouldn't say that that happened exclusively when the professor channelled Mitch Hedberg.

Anyway, college is wasted on the young. I think students would get a lot more out of it if they worked (for realz, not for pocket change while eating mom's casseroles) for two or more years before enrolling.
posted by prefpara at 11:04 AM on May 28, 2008


Bottom line: babies pop out of the womb as learners. They love learning.

ok, but not everyone is going to love shakespeare - that's all i meant. Yes, if we expanded education to seriously include all forms of learning, and didn't require classes... but on the other hand, sometimes it's the required class that turns out to excite a student who didn't know how much they'd like something. I feel like one part of the problem is the social agreement that it's just dorky to want to learn.

I dunno, I still think you have to account for the fact that sometimes, some people would rather just relax, play, sleep, eat, have sex or be entertained than stimulate their minds. Mental stimulation can include elements of these things, and people enjoy mental stimulation as part of a larger picture, but 6 hours a day every day of anything can be sort of dry, and in the end, not everyone is going to find thinking about stuff all that rewarding.

as for "outside the box" I went to alternative schools up through 7th grade, and then to an alternative college where no class was over 15 people; my high school was pretty standard by my expectations, but a lot of people who went there thought of it as unique, so I've tried various kinds of systems. I might just encourage skill learning alongside theoretical learning as a reasonable thing to choose, and let people figure out which path personally interests them.

Also perhaps more expected room for adult learning would make sense, because I think a lot of people don't really understand that they enjoy thinking until they're older - there's too much energy and impatience in young people, so that college turns out to usually be about experiences and expressing yourself instead of a serious educational undertaking. It's true that in the past people seemed to be able to take on serious learning at earlier ages, but it's fair to say there was less going on, less social and cultural stuff to deal with, less political stuff to be familiar with, etc, plus it was a small sample of the population that even learned to read, let alone were fully educated, so the comparison is unfair.

I dunno, basically, I take your point, but I think it's more complicated than you're suggesting. Required education and a post-industrial growth economy means that "learning" is a multi-faceted concept that includes a lot of boring stuff. Changing education altogether would mean changing our economy and way of life, which I'm all for, but honestly, lots of people like making money to relax and chill out, rather than pursuing wisdom for the sake of itself. Once again, that's what academia is for :) (I know, it's hard to believe considering the terrible experience you've had with academia, and I was very much anti-academy myself at first, but you choose your own conferences and people, and all in all, people are there because they love learning. some get worn down and burnt out, or just too close minded or dogmatic in their thinking, but I think that's just what happens when people get together... it's kind of as good as it gets, as you are pushed to deal with more than you would be on your own)
posted by mdn at 11:09 AM on May 28, 2008


When I was in college, it seemed like the giant lecture hall classes were designed to weed out the kids who didn't really care about college before they got to the higher level classes where there were much smaller groups and more interaction could take place.
posted by drezdn at 11:15 AM on May 28, 2008


I would also caution against generalizing from Grumblebee's personal learning style to a broader population.

Me too.

If you think I'm advocating a particular learning/teaching style then I've failed to make my point.

I'm glad you learned via lectures. Then that's YOUR learning style.

Good teachers don't have a teaching style. Good teachers strive to understand how each student learns and then teach that way. Systems that don't allow teachers to do this are deeply-flawed systems.

Shakespeare is often irrelevant and tedious

This statement stuns me. Not because I like Shakespeare. I do, but that's just my preference. What stuns me is that you think subjects can be inherently boring. Not just boring to someone in particular, but intrinsically boring. If that's true, why do some people find Shakespeare fascinating? Are they all just faking it in order to seem sophisticated?

I'm bored to tears by football (and it's totally "irrelevant" to my life), but I would never claim that it's somehow cosmically boring.

Subjects are inert. They are just collections of data and techniques. Any subject can be potentially interesting or boring to a particular person.

I've enjoyed large lecture classes here and there

Good. And did you learn form them? I'm not saying you didn't. I hope you did. I'm just put off by how many discussions that are supposedly about teaching and learning turn into discussions about whether or not the teacher was entertaining. Granted, I would have been thrilled to have had more entertaining teachers. Most of mine would have tired Rip Van Winkle. But when you're just hoping not to be bored, your standards have slipped pretty low.
posted by grumblebee at 11:18 AM on May 28, 2008


"I would caution against generalizing from your personal lack of appreciation to a broader rejection of importance."

Hamlet goes to England but wait comes back=plot hole hackery.

Shakespeare is the Led Zeppelin of Elizabethan/Jacobean stagecraft, with his lesser work remembered and praised undeservedly and better works by contemporaries squeezed out because of him.
posted by klangklangston at 11:21 AM on May 28, 2008


I've enjoyed large lecture classes here and there

Good. And did you learn form them?


To clarify, enjoyment of a class, to me, is synonymous with learning. I can't easily picture a class that I enjoy but which teaches me nothing. What am I enjoying, the colossal waste of my time and money? So what I meant to say was this:

I've learned a lot in large lecture classes, and I've had bad experiences with them also. I've had good seminars in which I learned a lot, and bad ones. In my personal experience, there has been no correlation between the size of my class and its quality.
posted by prefpara at 11:23 AM on May 28, 2008


Time to upgrade those Mr. T string-pull dolls - "DON'T DRINK IN SCHOOL, SUCKA!"
posted by Artw at 11:28 AM on May 28, 2008


Oh by the way, re: the title of this post, does anyone else know that recording where the Beatles are doing Rocky Raccoon and Paul sings “sminking of gin” instead of stinking and someone (I think still Paul) says “yeah, he was really sminking” and it’s awesome?

Anyway that song has been stuck in my head ever since the original post. Sminking!
posted by prefpara at 11:32 AM on May 28, 2008


klangklangston, I take it you're more into plot than language.

But do you honestly think some subjects are (universally) boring? If so, how to you explain people who claim to find them interesting?

There's little I find more interesting that Shakespeare (though I don't expect anyone else to agree). I guess you can disbelieve me if you want, but I don't give a shit about Shakespeare's standing in the cannon. I'm not interested in looking sophisticated. And I've read many of S's contemporaries, so I do have some basis for comparison. If Shakespeare is boring, why isn't he boring to me?
posted by grumblebee at 11:32 AM on May 28, 2008


"This statement stuns me. Not because I like Shakespeare. I do, but that's just my preference. What stuns me is that you think subjects can be inherently boring. Not just boring to someone in particular, but intrinsically boring. If that's true, why do some people find Shakespeare fascinating? Are they all just faking it in order to seem sophisticated?"

After such a defense of the subjective, you're stunned that some people just find Shakespeare boring?

Especially high school or undergrad students, who don't want to wade through pages of notes to get a "colliers" pun?

His language is (tautologically) archaic, many of the romantic contrivances are alien to anyone dating today, his histories are interesting if you already have an interest in the reign of Henry IV, and far too much of Shakespearian analysis begins with the precept that because he was a great writer, each ambiguity or inconsistency is intentional and evidence of what a great writer he was.

I am not declaiming all of the man's works, simply pointing out that he's the prime example of someone taught because it's tradition to teach, and that a broad section of his work is comparatively unengaging to a modern reader. And it's not just me—I'm not going to say that there aren't a fair number of folks who legitimately love Shakespeare, but there are just as many or more who are at best indifferent and arguments that it's all due to the teaching style are bullshit. Further, it's silly to deny that the cultural position of Shakespeare has a powerful effect on his elevation over, say, Christopher Marlowe or John Milton.
posted by klangklangston at 11:34 AM on May 28, 2008


Compared with Chaucer reading Shakespeare is like, erm, Shakespeare.
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on May 28, 2008


If Shakespeare is boring, why isn't he boring to me?

Because not everyone is you. Different people find different things interesting, even if you control for intelligence. That's the reason it's hard to be a teacher- there is no subject or teaching style that is going to be engaging to all students. That is the "problem" with education- there is a huge amount of subjectivity built into the system. I don't see how that can be avoided, though.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:39 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


And it's not just me—I'm not going to say that there aren't a fair number of folks who legitimately love Shakespeare, but there are just as many or more who are at best indifferent and arguments that it's all due to the teaching style are bullshit.

I'll agree with that. I don't like Shakespeare, and it's not because I haven't been taught by the best or because I haven't seen some truly amazing productions. It just doesn't appeal to me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:40 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think grumblebee was not arguing that Shakespeare is inherently interesting. I think he was arguing that Shakespeare is not inherently uninteresting. I think you guys are saying the same thing: it depends on the person.
posted by prefpara at 11:42 AM on May 28, 2008


Indeed.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:44 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've got no horse in this race, but I will say that it's a pretty goddamn good story that can beget a film like this.
posted by Mister_A at 11:46 AM on May 28, 2008


Does drinking during a performance of a Shakespeare play enhance the experience?
posted by sciurus at 11:46 AM on May 28, 2008


What KlangKlangston said was "Shakespeare is often irrelevant and tedious". That sounds less like an opinion and more like a statement of incontrovertible truth. I imagine that's what Grumblebee was responding to. Perhaps the "to me" at the end of KK's sentence was implicit.
posted by Evangeline at 11:47 AM on May 28, 2008


"But do you honestly think some subjects are (universally) boring? If so, how to you explain people who claim to find them interesting?"

I claimed that Shakespeare is often irrelevant and tedious, especially to a modern reader. Or a modern theater audience.

And if you claim you've never been bored with any Shakespeare ever, I'll bluntly call you a liar.

"klangklangston, I take it you're more into plot than language."

I like language just fine. And there are some great passages in Shakespeare, and some defining moments of English idiom.

But the Bible has those too, and the Bible is the only Western work more over-rated than Shakespeare's corpus.

"I guess you can disbelieve me if you want, but I don't give a shit about Shakespeare's standing in the cannon."

I brought up Shakespeare specifically as something that would fall under your argument that it's the educational system that's failing, because these things are inherently interesting. The blunt fact is that to many people, Shakespeare isn't interesting for reasons that are fairly unrelated to the teaching style, and that he continues to be taught because he has been judged historically important.
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 AM on May 28, 2008


OK, actually, I will go ahead and abandon my pretense of being reasonable and open-minded.

If many people are finding Shakespeare uninteresting, then that is a sign that our culture has failed them in an important way. It has nothing to do with how good or bad Shakespeare’s writing is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that if you don’t like Shakespeare you’re a bad person, but when I think about the fact that you don’t like Shakespeare, my hands shake a little.
posted by prefpara at 12:02 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


What KlangKlangston said was "Shakespeare is often irrelevant and tedious". That sounds less like an opinion and more like a statement of incontrovertible truth.

It's also pretty danged obvious. I'd be flabbergasted if any 400-year-old work written in archaic language and outmoded style -- in media (poetry, play) that have been all but excised from present-day culture -- turned out to be always, universally relevant and engaging.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:03 PM on May 28, 2008


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that if you don’t like Shakespeare you’re a bad person, but when I think about the fact that you don’t like Shakespeare, my hands shake a little.

Why? Why does it matter?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:05 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why? Why does it matter?

There’s no way I can explain myself without sounding like a total doof. I won’t try. BTW, this topic is my kryptonite. I am totally incapable of discussing it calmly.

OK, you know how in The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand gets all starry-eyed over the concept of a church built to Man? Well, in a manner of speaking, I worship at that church. All the meaning of life stuff, for me, is about human moral and creative triumph. I have the same feelings of reverence, gratitude, and love toward great artists as I do toward people of great goodness. For me, moral worth and artistic worth arouse near-equal levels of awe and veneration. To me, great artists and their works are sacred.

Anyway, you asked a personal question, so that was my very personal answer. I am not advocating anything or passing judgment. I am just trying to explain why I have a strong emotional reaction when someone expresses a dislike of a great work of art. It’s the same reaction that I have when someone expresses disdain for, for example, a noble act of self-sacrifice or something.

I feel stupid now. Darn you, culture, for training me to be uncomfortable with earnestness!
posted by prefpara at 12:18 PM on May 28, 2008


but when I think about the fact that you don’t like Shakespeare, my hands shake a little.

People don't like reading things in a foreign language if they can't understand the language.

Schools would do better to assign some comic books to elementary and high school students. I know, I know, it's not Shakespeare, but it's stuff they'd probably enjoy and it'll instill a love a reading AND reading skills.

"Wherefore art thou Romeo"? Nobody today speaks that way and nobody cares to read that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:20 PM on May 28, 2008


If many people are finding Shakespeare uninteresting, then that is a sign that our culture has failed them in an important way.

Would you say the same about every decent writer from the seventeenth century, though? Because Bill was very, very good, but he wasn't God—and if everybody finding every work by every talented 17th century writer interesting is a requirement of not having massive cultural failure, boy howdy are we in trouble.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:21 PM on May 28, 2008


it'll instill a love a reading AND reading skills

Not both, surely...?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:22 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some say Shakespeare was a pederast who did as much harm to the English language as good.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:23 PM on May 28, 2008


I am not advocating anything or passing judgment. I am just trying to explain why I have a strong emotional reaction when someone expresses a dislike of a great work of art. It’s the same reaction that I have when someone expresses disdain for, for example, a noble act of self-sacrifice or something.

I can dig that. Don't feel weird about being earnest. I do think there's a disconnect, though, between that reasonable personal reaction (one that I can deeply sympathize with, too) and your initial statement re: the failure of culture regarding Shakespearian appreciation. And it seems like you were acknowledging that, as well, so, hey, rock and roll.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:24 PM on May 28, 2008


Would you say the same about every decent writer from the seventeenth century, though? Because Bill was very, very good, but he wasn't God—and if everybody finding every work by every talented 17th century writer interesting is a requirement of not having massive cultural failure, boy howdy are we in trouble.

Dude, also, I WOULD say that about every writer of similar brilliance, and I don't just mean from the 17th century.

Anyway, I am not saying omgmassiveculturalfailure so much as I am saying that in this way, our culture has failed. In other ways, it super succeeds. There's always a mix. And besides, enough people do appreciate the great poets that I don't think the cultural failure is a fatal one.
posted by prefpara at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2008


you're stunned that some people just find Shakespeare boring?

No. I would be stunned if everyone found Shakespeare interesting (or boring).

I'm really confused as to where we're disconnecting, klangklangston. Am I being unclear or are you not reading me carefully.

I don't think Shakespeare is intrinsically interesting. (So of course I'm not shocked that some people find him boring.)

I don't think Shakespeare is intrinsically boring.

I don't even think I'm making a case for subjectivity (though I guess I am, in a way). I'm just stating the truth -- or at least what I can't see being an untruth -- that some people find Shakespeare boring and some find it interesting.

I'm responding to your claim (and maybe I misunderstood it) that Shakespeare is boring. Maybe you meant boring to some people or boring to many people. You did use the word "often," but I'm not sure what you meant by that qualifier.

I DO agree that some people -- maybe even many people -- will find Shakespeare boring no matter what teaching method you use.

I hope I didn't imply (and I certainly don't believe) that there's a magic technique that can make anyone interested in any subject.

Here's what I believe:

Let's say we take a random group of kids and try to teach them subject X. We're interested in whether they come out, at the end of the teaching, with a love of X. I'm going to make up some numbers here:

60% of them will never like X, no matter how they're taught.
10% of them will love X, no matter how it's taught.
30% of them will love X ONLY if it's taught well.

I'm not claiming those numbers are accurate. I'm just claiming that a certain number of each category exists.

So if we have good schools/teachers, we'll end up with 40% of kids loving X.

If we have bad schools, we'll only end up with 10% loving X.

My final claim is that we mostly have bad schools. So we usually end up with the 10%. In my mind, that's a fail (when we COULD wind up with the 40%).

But regardless of what sort of schools we have, we'll still have the 60% who never will like X. I agree with that, and I never thought otherwise. I'm sorry if I was unclear about that. I don't think good/bad schooling is the only thing that affects passions.

TPS, you can't know why you don't like Shakespeare. Who knows? Maybe you were born not to like him. Maybe that's just part of your genetic makeup. Maybe if you'd been raised and schooled differently, you would. (Which doesn't mean you'd be a better/worse person.)

One thing, though. College is largely irrelevant. I'm betting there are a small number of people who learned to love Shakespeare in college. But for most people, if they made it to college without loving him (and especially if they hated him by the time they got there), there's little that will make them change. IF it's possible for school to turn a Shakespeare hater into a Shakespeare lover, I'm guessing that will usually have to happen in Elementary School or High School. I'm not impressed by people who had great Shakespeare teachers in college (or who say great productions in college -- or post college) but don't like Shakespeare. College is generally too late. (There are exceptions, of course.)

And if you claim you've never been bored with any Shakespeare ever, I'll bluntly call you a liar.

You can save your accusation. I've never said that and I never would. I can't think of anything that NEVER bores me. ("Comedy of Errors" has never NOT bored me.) Even chocolate cake sometimes bores me.
posted by grumblebee at 12:28 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Wherefore art thou Romeo"? Nobody today speaks that way and nobody cares to read that.

C'mon, that's as silly of a blanket assumption as there being something deeply wrong with everyone who doesn't personally adore Shakespeare.
posted by desuetude at 12:30 PM on May 28, 2008


Why? Why does it matter?

I don't imagine it does matter in any material way, but this discussion reminds me a little of how upset my dad would get when I wouldn't eat certain foods as a kid. You don't like tomatoes? But they're so good! How can you not like tomatoes?

It's not that there's anything WRONG with not liking tomatoes, it's just that for a tomato junkie like my dad, the idea that I was missing out on all that red juicy splendor was upsetting and a little sad. He just wanted to share the joy.

I did learn to love tomatoes eventually, by the way, after my dad quit forcing them on me.
posted by Evangeline at 12:32 PM on May 28, 2008


Schools would do better to assign some comic books to elementary and high school students. I know, I know, it's not Shakespeare, but it's stuff they'd probably enjoy and it'll instill a love a reading AND reading skills.

I owe much of my love of reading (and Shakespeare) to my dad, who was an English Lit prof with a PHD. He was old-school, meaning that he was trained way before pop culture was a standard part of the curriculum. He had shelves of Chaucer, Dunn and Shakespeare in his office.

Yet he read me sci-fi novels when I was a kid. And when I read comic books, he not only didn't turn up his nose, he took and interest and even bought me more comic books. He never expressed an opinion (even through implication) that Shakespeare was better than Superman. He never pushed me to read The Classics.

But they were always lying around the house.

Slowly, I came to classics on my own terms. I got bored with comics and started randomly picking stuff up. And when I happened to have a question about some archaic word, my dad was there to patiently answer.
posted by grumblebee at 12:35 PM on May 28, 2008


On the other hand, I HATE tomatoes. I find them boring and irrelevant.
posted by grumblebee at 12:37 PM on May 28, 2008


Anyway, I am not saying omgmassiveculturalfailure so much as I am saying that in this way, our culture has failed.

But that's a damnably non-specific accusation. It has failed? Failed at what? At specifically engendering unanimous appreciation of this particular playwright from 400 years ago? At specifically engendering unanimous appreciation of all talented authors from 400 years ago? At generally engendering unanimous appreciation of all talented authors over the history of the English language in its various forms?

There is so damned much history to even just literature that it's implausible for the average person to become acquainted with (setting aside questions of preference) any significant sub-corpus of the stuff, unless our culture was that of immortals who do nothing but study literature. So if not having an appreciation for the stuff is a sign of cultural failure, it's a failure dictated by the practical circumstances of reality.

Either we canonize Shakespeare and say it's only him that matters and the others can go toss and so now we have a manageable sacred canon that you can be expected to appreciate on pain of FAIL—which seems like a silly proposition to me since, again, he was a very good writer but for all that only one among a rich crop of contemporaries—or we admit that Shakespeare has had the significant privledge of getting historical attention in a way that has become self-perpetuating. That he's not holy, but just one of an uncountable cloud of talented people working in myriad modes and genres over thousands of years. And that your average person has the time and energy to learn to appreciate in real detail only a tiny, tiny slice of that cultural history, and if the slice the cut off doesn't happen to be Bill (or if they taste Bill's work and don't enjoy it), that's not cultural failure, that's heterogeneity.

Or...something. That was probably pretty wanky. I need lunch.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:46 PM on May 28, 2008


On the other hand, I HATE tomatoes. I find them boring and irrelevant.

Yes, but then you never developed your adult palate.
posted by Evangeline at 12:46 PM on May 28, 2008


MetaFilter: Shakespeare's Standing in the Cannon.
posted by Mister_A at 12:49 PM on May 28, 2008


It may sound strange, but a lot of what I learned in college as a Computer Science major was due to teachers making things hard for me rather than making things easy for me.

The majority of the most important things that I learned in college, I learned by myself. Some of it I learned while staying up all night coding a difficult program for an assignment, some of it I learned while trying to figure out how to prove some weird theoretical combinatorics statement, some of it I learned from making mistakes on a project that made it more difficult than it should have been.

I could have breezed through all of those obstacles if someone had helped me through them, but that's part of the point. The single most important thing I learned in my education was how to solve difficult problems without much help. Now I do that as my job, and it's a good thing I don't need anyone's help now because for the most part I'm on my own.

I don't think it would be possible for any teacher help a student learn those kinds of lessons if the student wasn't willing to put forth a very large amount of effort. Most people wouldn't be able to do it, I wouldn't expect them to, because not everyone loves solving difficult problems as much as I do. There were times when I felt that I wasn't smart enough, or that I didn't want to write another proof in my life, or that my brain was going to explode, but making it through those times made me a better person.

I used a marathon as an analogy to my undergrad experience before, and at least academically that's what it felt like. Like a marathon, the point isn't getting from point A to point B, it's about pushing yourself to the limit on your way there.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:50 PM on May 28, 2008


"It's also pretty danged obvious. I'd be flabbergasted if any 400-year-old work written in archaic language and outmoded style -- in media (poetry, play) that have been all but excised from present-day culture -- turned out to be always, universally relevant and engaging."

Yes, exactly.

"I'm really confused as to where we're disconnecting, klangklangston. Am I being unclear or are you not reading me carefully."

Strike that and reverse it. You were the one stunned by my statement and then the one who tried to extrapolate it into a universal creed.

"I'm responding to your claim (and maybe I misunderstood it) that Shakespeare is boring. Maybe you meant boring to some people or boring to many people. You did use the word "often," but I'm not sure what you meant by that qualifier."

I meant "often" in the sense that there are times when Shakespeare is not boring, but there are a multitude of times when his archaic language impedes communication (like the multitude of names that are assumed knowledge for the various minor nobles in his histories, or like much of the banter about clocks in the Tempest), and there are many times when the machinations of his characters are bizarre and implausible. That relatively no one puts on unabridged performances of his work supports the argument that there are fairly broad swaths that can be cut without a second thought, even as they may have been entertaining to audiences at the time.

"But regardless of what sort of schools we have, we'll still have the 60% who never will like X. I agree with that, and I never thought otherwise. I'm sorry if I was unclear about that."

Then it seems unfair to ride mdn about her being "in the box" regarding students and teaching technique.

Further, I was piggybacking on her statement that not everyone is going to like Shakespeare, and pointing out that his veneration is to the detriment of a fair number of people who might like his work more if they were given a fairer appraisal of it, rather than the Shakespeare Is The Greatest English Writer Ever assumption that most Shakespeare classes and professors start off with.
posted by klangklangston at 12:53 PM on May 28, 2008


It has failed? Failed at what? At specifically engendering unanimous appreciation of this particular playwright from 400 years ago?

I think culture has failed, but to me it's pretty odd to get that specific about it. I don't think culture has failed due to people's lack of appreciation of one writer (or even a list of writers/artists/subjects).

To me, culture has failed because so many people grow up passionless. I don't see a big difference between Shakespeare geeks and cooking geeks. To me, the specific subject is less relevant than the passion. We fail kids by not giving them a lifelong passion for falling in love SOME subject.

My guess is that there's a TINY number of people who are genetically passionless. But the rest are passionless because they've been damaged. They've been damaged by their parents, their peers, and their schools.

Ultimately, though, I think "culture has failed" just means "culture has failed to mass-produce the sorts of people that I like." At heart, it's a selfish statement. I'm comfortable with that. I happen to like passionate geeks. I love people who lose themselves in minutia. I hate people who say, "Looks like someone has too much time on his hands." The fact that so many people seem to be in that camp makes me feel that culture has failed.
posted by grumblebee at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2008


Well, clearly, I made a vague claim and that led to misunderstanding. Let me clarify.

I agree with your very practical objections to what you imagine I am proposing (a boot… educating a human face to love Shakespeare… forever?).

The limited cultural failure I am talking about is this: some people will be born with the ability to appreciate great art. Some (very few) people will be born totally unable to appreciate great art. Most people could go either way. I think that our culture fails to push the rest of us (most people) in the right direction (possession of the ability to appreciate great art). Do I think everyone should be forced to read/listen to/look at some specific list of artistic works? I will pretend that my answer is no so that you think I’m a reasonable person. Do I think everyone should be made capable of appreciating those works of art when or if they encounter them? That would be nice.
posted by prefpara at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2008


If someone is generally unmoved by Shakespeare's art, that's their choice.

But stating: "Hamlet goes to England but wait comes back=plot hole hackery" is like saying you don't like tomatoes because they are square.

It's not a brilliant argument.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:56 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, though, I think "culture has failed" just means "culture has failed to mass-produce the sorts of people that I like." At heart, it's a selfish statement.

Arrrrgh. I make one hyperbolic statement and nobody likes it? No fun. I retract my statement that, in this regard, culture has failed. Please read me as having said: “our culture has this one specific flaw which irks me.”
posted by prefpara at 12:58 PM on May 28, 2008


OK, I have lost even the ability to italicize? I need to go back to pretending to work and fail to italicize within the document I'm getting paid to create.
posted by prefpara at 12:59 PM on May 28, 2008


But stating: "Hamlet goes to England but wait comes back=plot hole hackery" is like saying you don't like tomatoes because they are square.

I agree. And where might I find these square tomatoes you speak of?
posted by Evangeline at 1:00 PM on May 28, 2008


You know, burnmp3s, I think most of what you're saying there is true — but I think it's also compatible with the importance of good teaching.

Yes, a teacher doesn't actually reach into your brain and cram in some information. You think the thoughts, you have the ideas, and you do the learning. And yeah, learning's like physical conditioning in that you do more of it when you're working at the edge of your ability.

But a good teacher, like a good coach, can help you locate that edge, can persuade you that you're capable of reaching it, and can motivate you to work your way out towards it. That's important, and it has little to do with the sort of spoon-feeding that you're (rightly, IMHO) opposed to.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:01 PM on May 28, 2008


Probably in Japan, Evangeline.
posted by cgc373 at 1:02 PM on May 28, 2008


But the rest are passionless because they've been damaged. They've been damaged by their parents, their peers, and their schools.

Because to admit their passion is to open themselves to ridicule. OMG, you like Hummel figurines? Sci-fi? Bike racing? Jane Austen? That's why the interwebs are so great.
posted by fixedgear at 1:03 PM on May 28, 2008


Further, I was piggybacking on her statement that not everyone is going to like Shakespeare, and pointing out that his veneration is to the detriment of a fair number of people who might like his work more if they were given a fairer appraisal of it, rather than the Shakespeare Is The Greatest English Writer Ever assumption that most Shakespeare classes and professors start off with.

Agreed. That would be TERRIBLE TERRIBLE TERRIBLE teaching. If I had my way, I would fire a prof who said that (even though I share the opinion re: shakespeare).

"I'm really confused as to where we're disconnecting, klangklangston. Am I being unclear or are you not reading me carefully."

Strike that and reverse it. You were the one stunned by my statement and then the one who tried to extrapolate it into a universal creed.


PLEASE see the bold phrase, above. Did I not admit that the fault might be mine?

But I STILL don't understand what you mean by "OFTEN":

I meant "often" in the sense that there are times when Shakespeare is not boring, but there are a multitude of times when his archaic language impedes communication...

I will ask one more time, and then I'll give up: do you think this is intrinsic? Do you think that there are parts of Shakespeare that are necessarily boring to ALL readers? I don't get whether, by "often," you mean "to many (but not all) readers" or "to all readers some of the time" or some mixture.

There's some Shakespeare I dislike, but most of it I love. (In your opinion, am I lying or fooling myself?) The fact that SOME bits of his plays don't thrill me is true but uninteresting. There's no writer I've ever read whose every sentence thrills me. But Shakespeare is certainly my favorite.


Then it seems unfair to ride mdn about her being "in the box" regarding students and teaching technique.

Ride?

My point was that she's teaching AS WELL AS SHE CAN (and I commended her for that) in an impossible environment. I thought I was clear -- though I probably wasn't -- that it's the school's fault. Not hers. That's the box. The school. The educational system. (I do think that many teachers suck, but I don't think -- based on the little she told me in her post -- that mdn is one of them. I hope she doesn't feel like I was riding her.)
posted by grumblebee at 1:07 PM on May 28, 2008


"But stating: "Hamlet goes to England but wait comes back=plot hole hackery" is like saying you don't like tomatoes because they are square."

Right. Hamlet, characterized by indecision even after he comes back from England, was the first to jump aboard the pirate ship? Shakespeare wrote himself into a corner.

"The limited cultural failure I am talking about is this: some people will be born with the ability to appreciate great art. Some (very few) people will be born totally unable to appreciate great art. Most people could go either way. I think that our culture fails to push the rest of us (most people) in the right direction (possession of the ability to appreciate great art)."

The problem with all of that is that it assumes Great Art.

"To me, culture has failed because so many people grow up passionless. I don't see a big difference between Shakespeare geeks and cooking geeks."

I really know very few passionless people. It's just that they channel their passions into things like sports or off-roading or video games or detailing their cars, etc.
posted by klangklangston at 1:07 PM on May 28, 2008


(a boot… educating a human face to love Shakespeare… forever?)

Ha!

Do I think everyone should be forced to read/listen to/look at some specific list of artistic works? I will pretend that my answer is no so that you think I’m a reasonable person.

Aw, I don't think you're unreasonable for thinking that—or at least, insofar as your "should" can be read as being strongly exhortatory, I don't think you're unreasonable in a bad way. Again, I think I'm right there with you in sort of how I'd like people to react to art and art history in general.

It's probably specifically, as I see you've even noted/despaired above, the idea of something as clearcut and lamentable as The Failure of Culture that's objectionable, more than the idea that how interests and passions (I hear you, grumblebee) are distributed throughout the great swamp of cultural inclinations in the modern world.

But a thousand years ago in Europe, the equivilant of your modern TV-watching middle-class Joe Average was living in shit and dying of the pox and couldn't read. I have a hard time getting gloomy about the state of culture when world literacy and self-awareness appears to have been climbing at a pretty terrific pace on average for the last however many hundred years, and the idea that we're on our way into any sort of signicant cultural downturn seems like an eccentricity more than a reasonable appraisal of the state of things. If, for all that, William Shakespeare loses some marketshare, eh.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:08 PM on May 28, 2008


I really know very few passionless people. It's just that they channel their passions into things like sports or off-roading or video games or detailing their cars, etc.

No. Those aren't the people I'm talking about. Those people are great. I'm talking about people who -- while they may not be literally passionless -- turn their passion totally inward. Maybe they're passionate about their careers and their kids. (Which I'm not belittling. One should be passionate about one's kids). But they're not into A Subject. A Discipline.

I've met so many people like that. They're the people who get a bit freaked out if someone else gets overly excited about sports or off-roading or Shakespeare.

They're also the people who, while they may have passions, settled into theirs at an early age and never stray. They never explore other subjects. They don't like experiencing new things.

Again, for some people that may be innate. I don't think it's innate in most people. I think it's learned.
posted by grumblebee at 1:12 PM on May 28, 2008


cortex: AGREE, and as for marketshare, more people are reading and watching and loving Shakespeare today than at any other point in history. I am not the thundercloud of doom and gloom that I sometimes dress up as (I just need to get this honey).

But I do think we could do better, so in that sense, our culture is slightly imperfect.

Also this conversation is hearted.
posted by prefpara at 1:14 PM on May 28, 2008


If someone is generally unmoved by Shakespeare's art, that's their choice.

If being moved is a conscious choice, it's not really being moved. Being moved is something that comes over you, like an orgasm.
posted by grumblebee at 1:14 PM on May 28, 2008


Right. Hamlet, characterized by indecision even after he comes back from England, was the first to jump aboard the pirate ship?

He also had a conversation with a skull and spoke to everyone in layered riddles. You didn't factor in a major case of crazy and/or Elizabethan depression. Of course he jumps on the pirate ship! Hello, they're pirates!
posted by Tehanu at 1:21 PM on May 28, 2008


"PLEASE see the bold phrase, above. Did I not admit that the fault might be mine?"

Yes, and I felt that you were being clear and I understood you, however you were addressing points orthogonal to the ones I was trying to make.

"I will ask one more time, and then I'll give up: do you think this is intrinsic? Do you think that there are parts of Shakespeare that are necessarily boring to ALL readers? I don't get whether, by "often," you mean "to many (but not all) readers" or "to all readers some of the time" or some mixture."

Most of the people most of the time, some of the people all of the time, all (or close enough to be all) some of the time.
posted by klangklangston at 1:26 PM on May 28, 2008


Either we canonize Shakespeare and say it's only him that matters ... or we admit that Shakespeare has had the significant privledge of getting historical attention in a way that has become self-perpetuating.

I think the truth lies between these poles.

First of all, I would never say "it's ONLY him that matters." Fuck: Marlowe is a pretty amazing writer. So is Raymond Carver, for that matter.

On the other hand, I don't think Shakespeare is only great because he happened to get historical attention.

I'm not going to argue that Shakespeare has intrinsic "great" properties. I don't believe that for a second. I don't believe that any work does. As klangklangston has pointed out, I believe greatness is subjective.

But here's what I think: if you take 100 people and educate them about wines, they will tend to zero in on the same wines as good. That doesn't mean those wines ARE good in some set-in-stone way. If I, as a wine philistine, say, "Oh yeah, well I think that wine sucks," I'm not wrong. But if I went through the same training as those other 100 people, I would PROBABLY wind up liking the same wine.

So...

We have 100 people study The Cannon. Of those 100, 80% winds up liking Shakespeare best. Sure, they're all reading from The Cannon. Sure, they're all part of the same culture. I'm not claiming any sort of universalism here.

I'm just saying that people who read the cannon tend to fall in love with Shakespeare. This isn't always the case. Klangklangston and TPS sound like well-read people. It's a trend, nothing more. But it is a REAL trend.

Furthermore, I don't think you have to give people an massively cultish sort of training to make them fall in love with Shakespeare. I think you have to train them to understand the words, you have to train them NOT to have certain biases (e.g. Shakespeare is for snobs), you have to teach them a tiny bit about history and stagecraft. And then you can just give them the plays and let them read.

They will LIKELY (but not necessarily) fall in love. (If they don't, they're not bad or stupid or uncultured or damaged... they're just not the norm.)

So in a limited sense, I'd say Shakespeare has intrinsically great qualities. He has qualities that -- given a reader who comes from a certain sort of background -- will likely cause that reader to swoon.

Further, I think he's more likely to cause that swooning than any other writer. It's that sense -- and in that sense only -- that Shakespeare is ahead of the pack.
posted by grumblebee at 1:28 PM on May 28, 2008


Most of the people most of the time, some of the people all of the time, all (or close enough to be all) some of the time.

Thanks. 100% in agreement.
posted by grumblebee at 1:30 PM on May 28, 2008


If being moved is a conscious choice, it's not really being moved. Being moved is something that comes over you, like an orgasm.

I'd argue that the set of people living today who could be moved by reading Shakespeare without either choosing to really study the period of the literature (and the literature of the period) or having someone else make that choice for them as a matter of indoctrination is, in fact, something very near to the empty set.

That is, there's a great deal of cultural context required to make something as removed from contemporary English prose and culture and historical England (or Denmark or Venice or etc) as rendered in 17th century iambic pentameter. If someone reads Shakespeare without developing any of that context and is nonetheless moved is welcome to be so, and I'm happy for them, but they're likely being moved by something their misunderstanding.

In that sense, a great deal of Great Art is in fact very much something that requires a choice to be moved by. Not universally, I suppose, but there's a big difference of viscerality and accessibility between, say, (some) music and (some) graphic art vs. 400-year-old stage poetry.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:32 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


If being moved is a conscious choice, it's not really being moved. Being moved is something that comes over you, like an orgasm.

But there are (one would hope) conscious decisions to be made that cause it to come over you, whether it be an orgasm or, um, a movement, as it were. Otherwise stuff'd be coming all over everyone all the dang time, without any warning. It'd be...sticky.

On a more pedantic note, grumblebee, I think I've discovered your problem (if I may refer to it as such): On a subconscious level, you apparently think of the canon as something to be shot at people.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:34 PM on May 28, 2008


Hey, what are you guys still doing here... OH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU BARBARIANS AND SAVAGES DOING TO THAT POOR PLATE OF BEANS!?
posted by loquacious at 1:35 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I feel stupid now.

Don't feel stupid; you're making all kinds of sense, and klangy, much as I like and respect him, is playing a game that's so clichéd by now it's more boring than his caricature of Shakespeare: "Dude, the only reason anybody pretends to like old Will is that he's forced down their throats! Cultural hegemony, maaan!" I've been hearing this for thirty years, and it's still bullshit. You find Shakespeare boring? That's your problem. Don't turn it around and say "Shakespeare is boring." That kind of solipsism should have been beaten out of you in College 101. Shakespeare, Pushkin, Joyce, Mozart, these guys really are better than the competition. You don't believe it? Your loss. Enjoy your minor Jacobeans and lesser-known Moravian composers and tell yourself the rest of the world is just fooling itself. But I think the day when you got automatic tenure for that kind of épatage is long past.

"But I don't get anything out of Pushkin! It's all in this weird language I can't even read!" Well, then, he must be totally overrated, amirite?
posted by languagehat at 1:37 PM on May 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


tl;dr
posted by Artw at 1:38 PM on May 28, 2008


I'd argue that the set of people living today who could be moved by reading Shakespeare without either choosing to really study the period of the literature (and the literature of the period) or having someone else make that choice for them as a matter of indoctrination is, in fact, something very near to the empty set.

I agree, but choosing to study is not the same as choosing to be moved, even if one winds up moved at the end of the study period.

But maybe I'm picking at nits.

I would say that, given an open mind, it doesn't take all that much study to bring someone from disliking Shakespeare to loving him. I'm not speaking of all people, of course.

The kicker is the "open mind" part. If someone associates Shakespeare with snobs, or if someone (who doesn't get Shakespeare) thinks not getting Shakespeare = being stupid, then it's really hard to change his feelings. Alas, most people are culturally trained to have that baggage. This is why I said to TPS that college is usually too late. By college, for many people, Shakespeare has already become "that boring stuff my English teacher forced me to read." (I HATE forced Shakespeare!)

But if someone goes in just thinking, "Well, I tried reading some Shakespeare, and I found it confusing and not particularly fun," then it won't take long -- if they're game -- to make them fall in love.

I've seen it happen. I work with actors. Many of them love acting but don't understand Shakespeare. I've seen them "get it" in a month. Once you get over fear and baggage (no small task, admittedly), there's really not that much prep you need to do. Elizabethan English is different, but it's not THAT different.
posted by grumblebee at 1:41 PM on May 28, 2008


On a subconscious level, you apparently think of the canon as something to be shot at people.

Now I feel stupid. I don't get what you mean. Can you say it without the metaphor?

Do you mean I think people should be forced to read the cannon? Of that works in the cannon are better than non-canonical works? Nothing could be further from the truth. I made a statement about people who CHOOSE to read the cannon. I don't think that choice is a good or better choice.
posted by grumblebee at 1:44 PM on May 28, 2008


"We have 100 people study The Cannon. Of those 100, 80% winds up liking Shakespeare best. Sure, they're all reading from The Cannon. Sure, they're all part of the same culture. I'm not claiming any sort of universalism here."

If you're educated with the goal of understanding why the Canon is the Canon (and not, and I only mention this because it prompts a giggling mental image, the Cannon), then you're still starting with the assumption that the Canon is great. So, of those 100 people, trained by people perpetuating the Canon to appreciate the Canon, 80 of them like the Canon? Especially since we're already taking a self-selecting group of 100 people that are interested enough in the Canon to study it, I'm not surprised that they'd gravitate towards the biggest and the "best."

But it's like hearing people exhort Plato's Republic—I think everyone should have to read it (in the context of a class with a lot of discussion), but that canonical reception is almost always uncritical. Take the list of Men's Books that was linked off the blue recently. Almost every "Great Book" there was listed because it was already received as "great."

Shakespeare's even more prone to distortion simply because he has, what, like 35 major works of drama that survived, along with his sonnets and errata? There are few modern writers who have that large of an output, let alone folks who have been faded by the laundry of history. That alone leads to people searching for greatness in his minor effluvia, and that there are huge swaths of academics looking to mine Shakespeare's depths (for whatever reason) hasn't helped fair appraisals either.

If given the right "education," I'm sure that I could convince 80 out of 100 that NWA's Straight Outta Compton is the greatest work of modern humanity.
posted by klangklangston at 1:45 PM on May 28, 2008


CANON FFS, Shakespeare didn't require gunpowder.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:46 PM on May 28, 2008


"But I don't get anything out of Pushkin! It's all in this weird language I can't even read!" Well, then, he must be totally overrated, amirite?
posted by languagehat 1 minute ago [+]

Ha! Earlier, I was dying to post this (dedicated to the ghost of Shakespeare, if it's reading this thread, also: hi!!!!):

Поэт! не дорожи любовию народной.
Восторженных похвал пройдет минутный шум;
Услышишь суд глупца и смех толпы холодной,
Но ты останься тверд, спокоен и угрюм.

Ты царь: живи один. Дорогою свободной
Иди, куда влечет тебя свободный ум,
Усовершенствуя плоды любимых дум,
Не требуя наград за подвиг благородный.

Они в самом тебе. Ты сам свой высший суд;
Всех строже оценить умеешь ты свой труд.
Ты им доволен ли, взыскательный художник?

Доволен? Так пускай толпа его бранит
И плюет на алтарь, где твой огонь горит,
И в детской резвости колеблет твой треножник.
posted by prefpara at 1:48 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shakespeare, Pushkin, Joyce, Mozart, these guys really are better than the competition.

To me, you and klangklangston seem to be saying pretty much the same thing. (Or so I thought, before kk explained a little more about what he meant by "often.")

I don't understand your claim. In what sense are those guys "better"? What sort of objective meter are you applying?
posted by grumblebee at 1:49 PM on May 28, 2008


My final claim is that we mostly have bad schools. So we usually end up with the 10%. In my mind, that's a fail (when we COULD wind up with the 40%).

Or we could teach something else that more people would love, or we could stop trying to make love/hate a distinct and absolute fact...
Some people will "love" it in college because of the awesome funny professor or the cute girl who's into it, and some will hate it because they have a problem with authority due to the way their dad treated them or they think the professor's too old fashioned, or they're annoyed by the cute girl who's into it but way out of their league.

Which is not to say we couldn't have better schools, but again, I think it's more complicated than that. What's the point of having better schools if the graduates are going on to work in cubicles, sorta thing...

As for your advice on my teaching, I said above that "at least half my students tell me I'm boring" (I meant in class evaluation forms, to be clear) and you said that's because I can't think outside the box. But now you say that maybe 60% of students are going to think it's boring no matter what. So maybe I'm doing as well as is possible, by your (I realize completely imaginary) statistics? I'm teaching 4-year (but not competitive) students majoring in unrelated fields (like business or computer science) an intro to philosophy class.
posted by mdn at 1:52 PM on May 28, 2008


If you're educated with the goal of understanding why the Canon is the Canon (and not, and I only mention this because it prompts a giggling mental image, the Cannon), then you're still starting with the assumption that the Canon is great. So, of those 100 people, trained by people perpetuating the Canon to appreciate the Canon, 80 of them like the Canon?

That's not what I said. Out of 100 people who like the canon (sorry about the bad spelling), 100 of them like the canon.

I said that out of 100 of the people who like it, 80 will like Shakespeare best.

I don't think the canon is better than other groups of books. I'm just saying that Shakespeare's writings have qualities that make average canon readers prefer him to other writers in the canon.

I'm making no claims re: superiority of the canon itself.

But I do think that, within that limited sphere (and ONLY within that sphere), Shakespeare has objective qualities. In other words, to get that 80% to love Shakespeare, you don't have to train them to love the canon AND give them all sorts of nudges towards Shakespeare. You only have to start with them loving the canon. After that (I agree) unnatural step, the 80% love of Shakespeare will come on its own.

Personally, I'm bored by canons (and cannons). I'm not into themes; I'm not into historical context; I read for three things: plot, character and language. I think Shakespeare is pretty damn good at plot (though he definitely has his lapses). But I think he excels at character and language.

I haven't read everything, but I read pretty widely (in and out of the canon), and I've yet to read a writer who so often makes me fall in love with his characters as Shakespeare. That's all that's needed -- for ME -- in order for a writer to be "the best writer." But if that's not enough, there's his language.

I have this experience when I'm reading where certain phrases, certain images, make me have to stop. I feel overcome. I feel tingly. Something is described so aptly, so sensually, that it's as if that thing is in the room with me. It's an orgasmic feeling. I feel that with many writers. I feel it most often with Shakespeare.

That why he's the best writer to ME. I really don't give a shit about the canon.
posted by grumblebee at 2:00 PM on May 28, 2008


Shakespeare, Pushkin, Joyce, Mozart, these guys really are better than the competition.

I don't think I even disagree with this, in the soft sense that insofar as we can take a look at stuff metacritically and agree about why we have various critical metrics for one author's work being better at this or that vector than another's work, okay, there is cream of the crop to be roughly identified.

But here's where it gets tricky. How much better is Shakespeare than the next-best guy? Or the tenth-next-best guy? Is he 10% better? 50% better? 1000% better? If Shakespeare is, in the end, a bit better than the next excellent guy, do you allot 55% of yoru time to Shakespeare and 45% to the next guy? (Or perhaps 10% to Bill, 9% to Nextguy, 8% to Tertiaryguy, etc)?

Either it's binary or it's not. I'd argue it's very much not in any sane system, and if it's not then the defense of Shakespeare as being anything other than revered starts to seem a little weird in its own binary nature. While I'm sure you could find someone out there who would say as much, no one in this thread has said "Shakespeare is utter, valueless shite", anyway.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:01 PM on May 28, 2008


But now you say that maybe 60% of students are going to think it's boring no matter what.

I think I was talking specifically about Shakespeare.
posted by grumblebee at 2:04 PM on May 28, 2008


Will you go to lunch? Go to lunch! Will you go to lunch?
posted by Burhanistan at 2:06 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Who can eat at a time like this?
posted by prefpara at 2:11 PM on May 28, 2008


If someone is generally unmoved by Shakespeare's art, that's their choice.

If being moved is a conscious choice, it's not really being moved. Being moved is something that comes over you, like an orgasm.

I wrote "moved" deliberately because I meant "moved" dammit, grumblebee:)

klangklangston wrote:
"So, of those 100 people, trained by people perpetuating the Canon to appreciate the Canon, 80 of them like the Canon?"

You don't seem to allow for critical discernment?
No one is saying, I think, that all of Shakespeare is bullet proof?

It's not like you're drummed out of class for taking well argued pot shots, hell - even holding up his language for ridicule (Frank Kermode does that very effectively), getting testy about plot devices and so forth?
It's just you need to back up your ideas with decent thought.

The field is wide open for dissenters, always has been.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:14 PM on May 28, 2008


What's the point of having better schools if the graduates are going on to work in cubicles

While I think it's tragic that people have to work in cubicles, it sounds like you're linking education to vocation (correct me if I'm wrong). I would argue that's part of the "box."

I think education should be about learning. Learning as an end to itself. Children don't learn in order to get a good job. I think it's tragic that grownups learn almost exclusively in order to further their careers. (Or to find career. Or to escape careers.) To me, that's even more tragic than the cubicle thing.

I don't mean to knock vocational training. I'm actually a big fan of it. But I don't think it should be the ONLY type of training, and it pretty much is. Even when I was in theatre school, most of the talk was about how to be a "working director." I was pushed and prodded to work on contemporary plays, because "people don't get hired very often to direct the classics." I don't blame my profs for saying this. They were looking out for my best interests, career-wise. (They didn't try to get me to see what's wonderful about contemporary plays -- they just put it on a "do you want to work, kid?" footing.)

I work in a cubicle.

I direct plays for no pay. I'm happier with that lifestyle than most of my peers. Largely, this seems to be because I don't link passion with career. Sure, I would love to direct full time, but I'd rather just direct. And I'm doing it.

mdn, our of curiosity, when you're working to become a better teacher, how do you do it? Do you try different techniques? Do you read educational theorists? Do you see if you can figure out ways to bend the harmful rules of your institution?
posted by grumblebee at 2:17 PM on May 28, 2008




Shakespeare prequels!
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:20 PM on May 28, 2008


Shakespeare video games!
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:21 PM on May 28, 2008




It is always possible to not include the extra background to the question if you really did want a straight answer.

I feel a little sadder about AskMe every time I see a mod offer up this kind of suggestion after a thread gets deleted because some of the crank brigade can't restrain themselves . I realize that the reality is that you three four have other things to do and a thread that motivates jerks to more noise than signal is a pain, but it seriously offends my sensibilities that people offended by incomplet's attitude towards school can't be demanded to simply flag it and move on rather than piss in the thread. If a question is beneath you as a reader then by all means, don't sully yourself by participating for good or ill, Mr Blatcher.
posted by phearlez at 2:24 PM on May 28, 2008


Aw, Ubu, when I saw your video games link I was all set to go off on a "Kings Quest" style Flash game adventure.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:24 PM on May 28, 2008


Heh. "King Lear's Quest. Fall 2008."
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:31 PM on May 28, 2008


Burhanistan - sorry, it's more of an ex-king's quest, only without the quest elements.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:31 PM on May 28, 2008


Right. Hamlet, characterized by indecision even after he comes back from England, was the first to jump aboard the pirate ship? Shakespeare wrote himself into a corner.

Klangklangston,
I get you were being robustly provocative above but your analysis here seems to suppose that Shakespeare was incredibly thick and "forgot" how his title character had been behaving, and simply shoved in some action that wasn't terribly plausible.

Someone else, though, could argue in turn that Hamlet wasn't simply a cartoon character, that he was more complex. That he was "characterized by indecision" in some very specific matters, but clearly not in others - and here's a well supported argument why the off-stage trip to England was also a turning point. (Or something like that!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:39 PM on May 28, 2008




Have we reached the South Pole yet?
posted by needled at 2:43 PM on May 28, 2008


I don't understand your claim. In what sense are those guys "better"? What sort of objective meter are you applying?

I don't understand your idea of "objectivity," and I think the attempt to decide whether and how Shakespeare or anyone else is "objectively" better is a dead end and a red herring.
posted by languagehat at 2:46 PM on May 28, 2008


I thought it was iambic pentameter.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:49 PM on May 28, 2008


Dead Herrings and Red Ends: The Bettering of Shakespeare, by Gore Vidal. Fall 2008.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:52 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hamlet wasn't simply a cartoon character; he was more complex.



Kerpoww, splat..on target!

(cute, UbuRoivas, very cute...)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:54 PM on May 28, 2008


(thanks, Jody. that one's my favourite & it was a lovely setup!)
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:57 PM on May 28, 2008


While I think it's tragic that people have to work in cubicles, it sounds like you're linking education to vocation (correct me if I'm wrong). I would argue that's part of the "box."

no, I think I'm saying the opposite. i'm just saying what's the point of learning to love subjects for their own sake if then you have to forget it all and learn how to climb the corporate ladder. I'm just saying, the whole notion of education for its own sake doesn't fit into the current paradigm of our society, because we have a system that's all based around money & entertainment, and success is measured in these, not achieving the most wisdom or knowledge. So a serious form of study would be an odd little tangent away from the rest of our society - it's the ivory tower or it's your local little poetry group but it isn't college (most of the time - there are exceptions) because college happens in the real world full of people who were brought up with and mostly support this society.

Basically, to considerably revamp education would mean revamping our entire society. And I'm not sure there's a way to do that which would really work... the ways we've tried so far have had pretty awful results.

As for my personal attempts to make students more interested, I might try more group projects next time around. I did a lot of talking the last few times, though I always tried to include students and call on everyone. THe down side of this is that if students are having trouble articulating things, it can be rough to get anywhere at all, so some lecture time is important just to get the concepts in the air. A continual learning process is remembering what I didn't know as a 19 year old - sometimes I think I'm being very straightforward and students will say they understand, but it will slowly become clear they just don't want to admit they didn't follow something. I was often bored by profs who went too slow but I have found that the reverse is just as much a problem...

I think I was talking specifically about Shakespeare.

well, I think it's easily as applicable to Kant :).
Philosophy is a tough subject in this regard because I think it's at least moderately true that everyone "wonders" as the Greeks say, but the frustrating thing about an entry level philosophy class is that no one's come up with much of an answer; it's all sort of rumination, and probably is hard to get much out of when you just read an excerpt and go on to the next.

As discussed here &ff, I much prefer classes which just focus on a couple of texts and do them for real than survey courses where you have to cover an "intro" to all of western philosophy in a semester... But having been asked to teach a survey, I have students who want a taste of a whole series of things. Like I said in that thread, to me that taste will not really be properly representative, just thrown in there with everything else. If you're paying attention you can tell if something is for you, but like a stream of music samples, good stuff will get lost in the mix, and the overall product will not be powerful & may be confusing. Part of the problem has been mentioned above - there's just too much good stuff to learn about. No one will ever get to everything, but as that thread I linked showed, some people would rather "taste" the given menu than just discover what they personally love.
posted by mdn at 3:30 PM on May 28, 2008


"I get you were being robustly provocative above but your analysis here seems to suppose that Shakespeare was incredibly thick and "forgot" how his title character had been behaving, and simply shoved in some action that wasn't terribly plausible."

And this is what I meant when I accused Shakespeare defenders of circular logic—it's begging the question to assume that Shakespeare's weaker moments represent some sort of intentional ambiguity or complexity when it may just be weak moments from Shakespeare. And that there's scholarship that presupposes an intentional theory doesn't mean that that's the truth—it means that there are academic No Prizes too.

"Shakespeare, Pushkin, Joyce, Mozart, these guys really are better than the competition."

I had a more bilious response earlier that I deleted, but I have two objections here: First, if you're going to get pissy about me calling Shakespeare boring, then you've gotta add that little jonmc, "… better than the competition, in, like, my opinion, man."

Further, one of the things that annoys me is the argument there that it argues from names, not from works. Hamlet, my petulant grousing aside, is a masterwork. But Timon of Athens is better than anything Marlowe wrote? Every Mozart dawdle was better than anything from Salieri? I'm sorry, I can't embrace such a Great Men theory, and it seems a waste to try to buffalo people into believing that the towering Shakespeare's every jot and tittle is worth not just browsing, but studying.

The other problem that I have with that argument is that the competition isn't just the contemporaries, but rather every other great oeuvre. Was Mozart better than Bach? How about better than John Cage? Or John Coltrane?

Which brings us back to the idea of canon—that you get more out of Shakespeare than Ghostface Killah is fine and good, but were I you, I'd simply argue that this is because you don't truly understand Ghostface.
posted by klangklangston at 4:30 PM on May 28, 2008


First, if you're going to get pissy about me calling Shakespeare boring, then you've gotta add that little jonmc, "… better than the competition, in, like, my opinion, man."

Nope. In the opinion of four centuries and many cultures. That's exactly the reason why the "it's just your opinion, man" argument falls down. You like Ghostface Killah, I like Public Enemy? We can argue till the cows come home, but it's just dueling opinions. But the guys I named have proved their worth, and it's just bullshit to claim it's all imposed by The Man. Germans and Russians and Georgians and all kinds of people who didn't have it forced on them by Miss Thistlebottom in your seventh-grade class have fallen in love with Shakespeare. To claim all that's going on is cultural hegemony is sanctimonious nonsense.

Further, one of the things that annoys me is the argument there that it argues from names, not from works. Hamlet, my petulant grousing aside, is a masterwork.

Well, thank you.

But Timon of Athens is better than anything Marlowe wrote? Every Mozart dawdle was better than anything from Salieri? I'm sorry, I can't embrace such a Great Men theory

Neither can I, and it's pure Straw Man. Does calling Barry Bonds a better hitter than Mario Mendoza mean that every time the two go to the plate Barry will get a hit and Mario won't? Does calling a baseball team great mean they win every single game? No and no.
posted by languagehat at 5:18 PM on May 28, 2008


"In the opinion of four centuries and many cultures. That's exactly the reason why the "it's just your opinion, man" argument falls down."

Ah, OK, so it's an argument from authority fallacy? I see that and raise an argument from popularity—far fewer people read/go see (if you know a single word that takes the place of a horrible verb formation of "audience" that would imply theater attendance, I'd love to know it) Shakespeare than, say, Stephen King or Andrew Lloyd Weber.

So, yes, a coterie of elites like Shakespeare. Nearly all popular acclaim has past, despite Shakespeare being popular in his day and revived periodically. And a fair amount of those revivals throughout the 18th and 19th centuries were predicated on the same pedagogy that gives us prescriptive grammar and the notion of the canon.

"Neither can I, and it's pure Straw Man. Does calling Barry Bonds a better hitter than Mario Mendoza mean that every time the two go to the plate Barry will get a hit and Mario won't? Does calling a baseball team great mean they win every single game? No and no."

But there are statistics to back up Bonds' claim. Without those statistics, you get the addlepated nonsense that David Eckstein is a great hitter because he has grit and tenacity and pink eyes. Or claims that Jeter is worth more to the Yankees than A-Rod. And as far as I know, there are no objective statistics regarding the quality of writing.
posted by klangklangston at 5:47 PM on May 28, 2008


"Hamlet, my petulant grousing aside, is a masterwork."

klangklangston,

Then why not arm yourself with a less petulant example of Shakespeare nodding on the job?

Take a tone deaf jot and tittle from Timon (or Titus, say) and go for the jugular with that instead?

(And mangle a bunch of metaphors - as I do - at the same time!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:49 PM on May 28, 2008


So, yes, a coterie of elites like Shakespeare.

Do you really not know anyone besides "elites" who like Shakespeare? You need to expand your circle of acquaintances. I've seen kids from very deprived backgrounds, who basically had no literary background whatever, light up when they "got" Shakespeare, and trust me, that doesn't mean "had the wires inserted into their skulls so they got a shock when they didn't say the right thing."

But there's no use arguing this, because we've both got our minds made up and are not about to change them. So fine: for you, Shakespeare is just another overhyped dead white male. Go your way in peace.
posted by languagehat at 5:56 PM on May 28, 2008


...that doesn't mean "had the wires inserted into their skulls so they got a shock when they didn't say the right thing."

Ah, golden memories of my carefree days as a youth in the Alabama public school system!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:03 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Except they didn't have no fancy wires or anything, just a whack on the ass from the principal's "board of education"...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:04 PM on May 28, 2008


In fact, I don't remember seeing anything that used electricity until I left Alabama...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:05 PM on May 28, 2008




Do you really not know anyone besides "elites" who like Shakespeare? You need to expand your circle of acquaintances. I've seen kids from very deprived backgrounds...

Shakespeare Behind Bars -- trailer [.mov].
posted by ericb at 6:48 PM on May 28, 2008


I was given a manga version of Romeo & Juliet the other week.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:54 PM on May 28, 2008


(Romeo & Juliet belong to rival Tokyo Yakuza families!)
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:55 PM on May 28, 2008


but this whole argument about education, elites and canons is about to be rendered redundant, now that monkeys can control robots with brain power!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:59 PM on May 28, 2008


that's why Journey to the West is far superior to anything from Shakespeare - the most important character is a monkey!
posted by needled at 7:35 PM on May 28, 2008


yes, and the nature of monkey was...*irrepressible*
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:03 PM on May 28, 2008


Get a room. Seriously.
posted by gjc at 8:11 PM on May 28, 2008


I'm trying to follow the debate between klangklangston and languagehat: from what I can tell, it's an argument over whether Shakespeare is great or not. I'm not sure I understand why anyone would bother with such an argument. To me, it seems like actually discussing moments/lines in the plays would be more fun -- or, if you're on the "not so great" side, doing something else entirely would be more fun.

languagehat doesn't believe in objective greatness. ("I think the attempt to decide whether and how Shakespeare or anyone else is "objectively" better is a dead end and a red herring"). Instead, if I understand it correctly, he thinks something is great if enough scholars for enough years proclaim it great.

On the flip side, klangklangston argues that greatness stems from what's most relevant to today's man on the street.

(Sorry if I misunderstood either position.)

It seems to me like you're arguing about greatness, not about Shakespeare. Your two definitions of greatness aren't compatible. But I'm not sure there's room for argument. If you disagree about what constitutes greatness, you disagree about it. It's not like one of you is right and the other is wrong. A definition is a personal thing. How can you possibly convince someone else to use your definition?

Are you arguing about whether or not Shakespeare should be taught in schools? If so, there's an easy workaround: make Shakespeare an elective (I think ALL classes should be electives). Then those who want to study Shakespeare can do so and those who don't won't have to.

Should he be in the canon? Should there BE a canon? Who cares? (A lot of people, apparently. Why?) BORING! Discussing actual works is more interesting. You have to choose SOME work before you can discuss it. Don't like the canon? Fine. Choose a book at random. Personally, I'd rather discuss the phone book than whether or not there should be a canon and who should be in it.

I realize that The Canon Debate involves all sorts of important topics: history, racism, sexism, etc. But it seems rather pathological to fight racism (or whatever) via the canon. BEFORE you do that, why not first make sure men and women get equal wages. Once you've sorted out the real-world, nuts-and-bolts questions, then go back and mop up all the less-important subjects, like whether or not kids are forced to read too many books by dead white males.

I don't give a shit what 400 years worth of scholars thinks about Shakespeare.

I don't give a shit about what the average Joe thinks about Shakespeare.

I'm way to selfish. I just care about what I think of Shakespeare. Deciding whether or not he's "great" won't change the feelings I get when I read his plays.
posted by grumblebee at 8:19 PM on May 28, 2008


"Do you really not know anyone besides "elites" who like Shakespeare? You need to expand your circle of acquaintances. I've seen kids from very deprived backgrounds, who basically had no literary background whatever, light up when they "got" Shakespeare, and trust me, that doesn't mean "had the wires inserted into their skulls so they got a shock when they didn't say the right thing.""

Do you seriously refuse to acknowledge the power of elites in setting the canon? And that when you argue from the authority of "four centuries and many cultures," you are arguing primarily from the elites of those cultures. Even in America, Shakespeare is the province of the elites—think about how few people go to college. Only 35% of people even attend, let alone graduate. While you're right that you don't have to go to college to appreciate Shakespeare, I'm going to feel pretty confident in arguing that for large swaths of Shakespeare, you really do have to have a fair amount of education to surmount the language barrier. And not everyone who goes to college enjoys Shakespeare—hell, not even everyone who gets a liberal arts degree enjoys Shakespeare. That there are hypothetical kids from deprived backgrounds who enjoy Shakespeare is no more an argument for Shakespeare being populist than that there are underprivileged kids who end up appreciating cognac.

Even backing up further—the folks responsible for Shakespeare's reputation have ALWAYS been the elites. The preservation and transmission of his plays has always been a project of the elite; this was not folk art.

BUT this is all a derail from the fact that this is an appeal to authority that is ultimately ungrounded. Wow, some people love Shakespeare? Some people love sherbet. That doesn't mean that it's the best dessert.

There are a few reasons to chose to teach Shakespeare in lieu of other authors, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons not to (including that not everybody likes Shakespeare), and your declaiming him, Joyce and Pushkin as mandatory doesn't change that or make the reasons less legitimate (or even justify his greatness).
posted by klangklangston at 9:07 PM on May 28, 2008


"languagehat doesn't believe in objective greatness. ("I think the attempt to decide whether and how Shakespeare or anyone else is "objectively" better is a dead end and a red herring"). Instead, if I understand it correctly, he thinks something is great if enough scholars for enough years proclaim it great.

On the flip side, klangklangston argues that greatness stems from what's most relevant to today's man on the street.
"

Well, no, but it's a funny enough reworking of my position for me to accept it (and while I think you nailed Languagehat, I imagine he's having the same headshaking chuckle).

"I'm way to selfish. I just care about what I think of Shakespeare. Deciding whether or not he's "great" won't change the feelings I get when I read his plays."

I'm trying to do two things—one, make the point that there are legitimate reasons to dislike Shakespeare and that other people should get to be selfish about what they like and dislike, and argue against Shakespeare being held up as the Greatest English Writer, which I feel that LHat is doing. I'd also argue against the idea of a Greatest English Writer, which I feel is an implicit claim that LHat is making.

(And I'm not using Titus or Troilus for two reasons—I don't remember them very well, and I never liked them enough to notice much about them outside of the good bits. I had to read Hamlet a handful of times, and enjoyed some of it more that other parts, so I was trying to make the point that even within these established masterworks, there are boring or implausible bits. Oh, and I remember the histories pretty much sucking, except for Richard III, but I couldn't tell you much else off the top of my head.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 PM on May 28, 2008


well, i thought it was funny..
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 9:57 PM on May 28, 2008


Shakespeare had some pretty good bits.

I'll bet he drank in class, too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:08 AM on May 29, 2008


I'm trying to do two things—one, make the point that there are legitimate reasons to dislike Shakespeare and that other people should get to be selfish about what they like and dislike, and argue against Shakespeare being held up as the Greatest English Writer, which I feel that LHat is doing.

Klangklangston,

I can't see, though, that you've achieved your goals here?

It's a straw man that Shakespeare is untouchable by virtue of his status.
No artist is untouchable.
It's untrue that his works are the preserve of elites.
Cinema embraces them over and again.
You haven't persuasively shown examples of Shakespeare's crappy writing or plots - except for one bracing opinion about a single scene in Hamlet which you then admitted was a "petulant" example.
The immediate accessibility of any work to all audiences isn't proof of its quality - or lack of same. At least, this is not something I've seen you argue here generally as a rule of thumb.

And asserting a dislike of anything on, basically, the grounds that some other snotty people say it's really good is barely above bar room banter.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:02 AM on May 29, 2008


Well, I don't know much about greatness, but I know this: 10 Things I Hate About You is a hundred times greater than Kiss Me, Kate!
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:26 AM on May 29, 2008


10 Things I Hate About You is a hundred times greater than Kiss Me, Kate!


Kiss me Kate! was excruciating.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:37 AM on May 29, 2008


there are legitimate reasons to dislike Shakespeare

To me, that's about the oddest statement someone could make. Not because I disagree with it. Because I don't see how it differs from "there are legitimate reasons to dislike coffee with sugar."

Dislike -- if it's real dislike, not a stance -- is a feeling. One doesn't need a legitimate reason, and, in fact, a reason (legit or not) won't likely change the dislike. One dislikes something because one dislikes it. Because it gives one an unpleasant sensation. I don't understand how a sensation can be right or wrong. That's like saying feeling cold is wrong or feeling tired is right.

You can spend hours and hours explaining to me why coffee with sugar is good, and I might even agree with your reasons. But I'll still dislike coffee with sugar.

Sorry if I misunderstood your stance, but it seems to me (maybe because I'm still misunderstanding things), that on some level, you and lH are arguing whether or not Shakespeare is great (or greater-then X or whether or not one has the right to claim Shakespeare is great/not great). I simply don't get the point of the argument. Let's say the impossible happens, and lH decides he agrees with you. What then? He'll still love reading Shakespeare.

What does it even mean for someone to say, "Shakespeare is great" or "Shakespeare is not great" other than "Go, go team!" or "Your team sucks!"?

I can't wrap my head around the great/not-great thing. It's too vague. One can talk about whether one likes/loves/hates Shakespeare; one can talk about technical aspects of his writing. But if you're arguing against people who say, "Shakespeare is the greatest writer because everything in his works is perfect," then I don't see the point. WHAT are they even saying? What does "everything is perfect" mean? He didn't write perfection. He wrote words on paper.

After we decide that Shakespeare is better than Marlowe (or not), Shakespeare and Marlowe will still exist. They'll still affect readers the way they affect readers.

Maybe my problem is that I want to frame this as a discussion about Shakespeare. Maybe it's really a discussion about elitism. Maybe Shakespeare is just a game piece in that discussion. If so, I wish the pro/anti elitism theme would just take over and reveal itself fully.
posted by grumblebee at 5:48 AM on May 29, 2008


Do you seriously refuse to acknowledge the power of elites in setting the canon? And that when you argue from the authority of "four centuries and many cultures," you are arguing primarily from the elites of those cultures. Even in America, Shakespeare is the province of the elites—think about how few people go to college. Only 35% of people even attend, let alone graduate.

Of course there's elitism within the canon. This doesn't mean that those from other backgrounds do not enjoy Shakespeare, though. (Or Steinbeck or Aristophanes or Faulkner or Melville or any of the rest of the dead white guys.) As for the authority of "four centuries and many cultures" being some coterie of elites, this just isn't true. Also, most people in the US are first exposed to Shakespeare in high school, not college.

While you're right that you don't have to go to college to appreciate Shakespeare, I'm going to feel pretty confident in arguing that for large swaths of Shakespeare, you really do have to have a fair amount of education to surmount the language barrier


You may be confident, but this doesn't make you correct.
posted by desuetude at 6:12 AM on May 29, 2008


While you're right that you don't have to go to college to appreciate Shakespeare, I'm going to feel pretty confident in arguing that for large swaths of Shakespeare, you really do have to have a fair amount of education to surmount the language barrier

Man, I don’t know how much education constitutes “a fair amount,” but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say I hadn’t gotten it when I opened up my Folger’s Library edition of Romeo and Juliet in seventh grade and fell in love. The pages on the right had the text of the play. The pages on the left explained the more difficult words and provided plot summaries for each scene as well as useful historical context. In other words, I would allow that knowing how to read is a prerequisite to surmounting the language barrier, but only in the context of reading (rather than attending) the plays. Other than that, there’s really nothing (beyond personality) stopping anyone from getting into it.
posted by prefpara at 6:49 AM on May 29, 2008


for large swaths of Shakespeare, you really do have to have a fair amount of education to surmount the language barrier

Yeah, I disagree with this, too. Though it depends on your goal. My goal, were I to teach Shakespeare (and my goal for myself as a reader), is to understand what's going on (on a simple "who is doing what to whom?" level), to know what the words mean (on the level we know what our everyday words mean -- not on the level of etymology or philosophy) and to be able to feel sensual effects (get scared, laugh, etc.)

To me, those are the main thrills of Shakespeare. And I'd wager a Henry-Higgins-like bet that I could pull any Eliza out of the slums and get her to this level in a couple of weeks (with a given play).

If you mean it takes a fair amount of education to get people to understand and appreciate theme, historical context, and various other lofty subjects, then I guess I agree with you -- as much as I care (which is very little). It really doesn't take much to get people to understand that Lear has divided his kingdom up between his three daughters or that Puck has cast a magic spell on some lovers.
posted by grumblebee at 6:54 AM on May 29, 2008


I'm not sure I understand why anyone would bother with such an argument.

Yeah, that's why I decided to drop it. It was getting pretty silly, especially since I don't actually think klang and I were arguing about anything important—we both think Shakespeare is a damn good writer, we both agree that his current status is significantly affected by the decision by some sort of vague Corps of Elites to proclaim him the Greatest English Writer, neither of us thinks he should be mandatory reading—we were basically arguing about attitudes, his being irritation at the centuries-old mindless veneration of Shakespeare and mine being irritation at the decades-old mindless depreciation of Shakespeare. (A similar thing has been going on with Pushkin and his reputation in Russia, incidentally.) He's pretending that I "refuse to acknowledge the power of elites in setting the canon" and insist that Shakespeare is the Greatest English Writer (which I never said and would find a meaningless assertion), and I'm pretending that he's one of the barbarian hordes insisting that Shakespeare's only claim to fame is hegemonic imposition and that when you strip that away the emperor has no clothes, he's just another dead white male. Like I said, silly.

To address your amusing caricature of my position:

languagehat doesn't believe in objective greatness. ("I think the attempt to decide whether and how Shakespeare or anyone else is "objectively" better is a dead end and a red herring"). Instead, if I understand it correctly, he thinks something is great if enough scholars for enough years proclaim it great.

No, I think Shakespeare is great because anyone who can read English well enough and has enough grasp of the English literary tradition to understand his greatness will understand his greatness. (Scholars are useful for explaining obscure references but irrelevant to definitions of greatness.) I think the whole "objectivity" thing is (as I said) a red herring; the insistence on "objective" standards and the attempt to provide them for everything under the sun is one of the main things that's gone wrong with Western culture over the last few centuries. The poster child for this is Descartes happily vivisecting cats and explaining to onlookers that their apparent cries of pain are merely mechanical reactions, since it could not be objectively proven that cats feel pain. Every anti-human movement of the by and large hideously anti-human twentieth century claimed the "objective" high ground for itself and proclaimed appeals to traditions of tolerance, understanding, and fellow-feeling to be retrograde and outmoded (add "bourgeois" depending on the particular movement). That's why I get so hot and bothered in the endless MeFi religion-bashing threads: not because I myself am religious, but because the insistence that "if you can't prove it, it doesn't exist" is the root of much evil. As Oliver Cromwell said, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken." That goes even for people who don't believe in Christ and his bowels.

*gets off soapbox, extends hand of friendship to one and all*
posted by languagehat at 7:00 AM on May 29, 2008


some people would rather "taste" the given menu than just discover what they personally love.

I wonder how much of that is about true learning and how much is about looking smart at cocktail parties.

the whole notion of education for its own sake doesn't fit into the current paradigm of our society, because we have a system that's all based around money & entertainment, and success is measured in these, not achieving the most wisdom or knowledge. So a serious form of study would be an odd little tangent away from the rest of our society...

Basically, to considerably revamp education would mean revamping our entire society. And I'm not sure there's a way to do that which would really work...


mdn, I'm sad to say I agree with you (at least most of the time, when I'm not being childishly hopeful).

For the second time in this thread (probably because I'm reading a book of his essays), I'll quote David Mamet:

"Of what use is this ... diploma, then? As evidence of he bone fides of the applicant. For someone capable of putting up with X ears of the nonsense of school would be odds-on willing to submit to the sit-down-and-shut-up rigors of the bureaucratic environment.

"Perhaps, then, this ... course functions, whether through design or happy accident, not to train but to certify house slaves."

There are three attitudes one might take (though I'm not sure the choice is under conscious control):

1. that the current system is fine as it is -- or that it has some minor flaws, but the system is basically functional.

2. that the system is broken but (maybe with a lot or hard work) can be fixed.

3. that the system is broken and can't be fixed.

Most of the time, I believe item three. Which puts me in a difficult position. What do you do when you think something is broken can can't be fixed? One option -- perhaps the only sane option -- is to say, "Well, then that's just the way it is" and to move on. One can't stop earthquakes or the cooling of the sun. (I do take this option quite a bit. It doesn't seem like it, here, because I'm being so vocal. But when I was younger, I went on and on about education all the time. I must have been really tiresome. Now, I rarely discuss it.)

But it's hard to take that stance if you care. It's hard to live feeling like something is unfixable but life isn't bearable unless it's fixed. I don't mean to sound so operatic, but it IS that important to me. My loss, I guess.

I feel the same way about some other problems I care deeply about, such as racism. Most days, I don't think it's solvable. It sucks to live in a world like that.

Re education, I think there are two rays of hope. First of all, I don't think many of the problems stem from villainy. I don't think there's a conspiracy. I don't think that men in dark glasses are trying to thwart people from learning. I think some bad crap crept into the educational system (due, you and I agree, to some major cultural forces) and that this crap largely survives through inertia.

For instance, The Canon that klangklangston is so angry about DID come about via some prejudicial forces. But it largely survives due to laziness and acceptance. I don't think that many teachers rub their hands together, let out an evil cackle, and say, "I'm going to teach my students to revere dead white males!" Teachers are hired to fill time in a classroom. Like most people in most jobs, most teachers are lazy. They want to cut corners. They don't want to have to make choices. It's easier to just teach books from a sanctioned list.

Which is not to say inertia is a good thing. All sorts of evils occur because people just go with the flow. But sometimes inertia is easier to fight than evil intent. Sometimes someone who really cares can lie down in the bowling alley and stop the ball from hitting the pins.

But I don't have MUCH hope in that direction.

What does give me hope is that there isn't really a single Educational Systems. There are definitely trends, but there isn't one unified system -- at least not in the US. There are tons of different schools with different personalities. It's possible to create pockets of learning. There ARE good schools out there, but they're few and far between. The fact that they exist gives me hope. God, I wish we could improve education for everyone. I wish I could believe we could do that. But I'm too much the pessimist.

But I do think we can improve it for some. Maybe just for a tiny minority. That's better than nothing.
posted by grumblebee at 7:26 AM on May 29, 2008


While you're right that you don't have to go to college to appreciate Shakespeare, I'm going to feel pretty confident in arguing that for large swaths of Shakespeare, you really do have to have a fair amount of education to surmount the language barrier.

Klangklangston,
I agree, actually.

I've had some disasters as a Shakespeare booster to my own kids. Took my teenagers to the recent RSC smash hit Lear in Brooklyn - they loathed every minute, they were insane with boredom, couldn't follow the plot & thought it was a pile of effete shit.

The reason I didn't disown my kids as hopeless morons was recalling my own mentally violent reaction as a teenager to a lousy teacher - who did that awful precious "educated" cackling when we did a school trip to see some Shakespeare comedy.

I remember thinking she was odiously faking her merriment to make us feel stupid!

In fact, I'm one of those who only got Shakespeare later.

So I accept he may only eventually capture my kids. And - yes - they'll have to work at it.

(But I will disown them if they haven't got him by the time they hit, say, 35!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:30 AM on May 29, 2008


I think the whole "objectivity" thing is (as I said) a red herring; the insistence on "objective" standards and the attempt to provide them for everything under the sun is one of the main things that's gone wrong with Western culture over the last few centuries.

We agree about this.

What I don't understand is what you put in the place of objectivity. I use subjectivity, and I'm totally comfortable with that. But it sounds like you're not okay with subjectivity, because you're uncomfortable with statements like "Shakespeare is great" means "I happen to love Shakespeare." Or am I misunderstanding again?

anyone who can read English well enough and has enough grasp of the English literary tradition to understand his greatness will understand his greatness.

That REALLY sounds like objectivity to me. It sounds like you're saying that if you take humans X and Y and expose them to the same training, they will NECESSARILY come to love Shakespeare.

Or that if Y doesn't wind up loving Shakespeare, he's somehow wrong.
posted by grumblebee at 7:33 AM on May 29, 2008


But it sounds like you're not okay with subjectivity, because you're uncomfortable with statements like "Shakespeare is great" means "I happen to love Shakespeare." Or am I misunderstanding again?

No, you're right, I think that's absurd reductionism. I don't think those are the two alternatives. But I do not feel an intellectual need to worry at these things and dissect them endlessly, because philosophers have been doing that for millennia with no discernible result. I know Shakespeare and Mozart are great in the same way I know I exist, and I have little interest in debating either proposition. (I do love discussing specific passages, or comparing Shakespeare with other writers; such discussions can lead to increased understanding and appreciation. "Shakespeare's great!" "No, that's just an illusion created by elite hegemony!"—nothing comes of that but mutual irritation.)
posted by languagehat at 7:56 AM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even backing up further—the folks responsible for Shakespeare's reputation have ALWAYS been the elites. The preservation and transmission of his plays has always been a project of the elite; this was not folk art.

BUT this is all a derail from the fact that this is an appeal to authority that is ultimately ungrounded.


where the arts are concerned -

1 the creators who are elites are generally elites for a reason that has little to do with their genes or their socioeconomic status

2 authority is something that genuinely exists, especially over the course of centuries

3 people who rail against the elites and authority are, with a few exceptions, awash in their own mediocrity and lack of talent

4 anyone who claims that shakespeare was writing for the elites of his time is utterly wrong

5 screeds based upon half-digested dumbed down marxist rhetoric are SO 20th century

6 real elites read chaucer (no "translations" allowed)

7 ben jonson killed a guy in a duel - how many motherfuckers has ghostface killah killed?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:11 AM on May 29, 2008


hamlet more like shamlet
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:19 AM on May 29, 2008


authority is something that genuinely exists

What does that mean?

I know that people exist. I know that some people CLAIM To be authorities. I know that some people revere other people as authorities.

A: I am the authority on who gets to eat this cheese, and I say you don't get any!
B: [eats cheese]

Who is right?

A: I am the authority on who gets to eat this cheese, and I say you don't get any!
C: Yes, A makes all rules about cheese.
D: I bow down to A's cheese rules.
E: A's family has been making cheese rules for as long as there have been cheese rules.
F: A has a PHD in cheese rules.
B: [eats cheese]

Who is right?

Is A UNQUESTIONABLY an authority because he says he is and because others endorse him as such?

Why?
posted by grumblebee at 8:31 AM on May 29, 2008


Dislike -- if it's real dislike, not a stance -- is a feeling. One doesn't need a legitimate reason, and, in fact, a reason (legit or not) won't likely change the dislike. One dislikes something because one dislikes it. Because it gives one an unpleasant sensation. I don't understand how a sensation can be right or wrong. That's like saying feeling cold is wrong or feeling tired is right.

So then perhaps some people dislike reading and writing and arithmetic? If "learning" is to include, as I said above, a much broader curriculum, so that people can pursue glass blowing or baseball - as real goals - if they don't like shakespeare, then you have room for your opinions. But if you're going to claim that people "pop out of the womb ready to learn" and at the same time that sometimes they simply dislike things, then it seems plausible that they will simply dislike sitting at a desk talking about books.

As for whether Shakespeare is "good" or not, it may seem uninteresting to you, but an English teacher has to decide whether to teach it to the students, and if the students are bored while you love the material, what to do? I run into the same problem with philosophy. I think it's great, but most of the time, only a small portion of the students agree with me. Honestly at this point I'm trying to concentrate on getting my degree finished so I can hypothetically get a job at a better college and see if perhaps the students will be more invested... a terrible attitude for a teacher, I realize. That's why I didn't teach this semester, as I don't want to be condescending; I want to learn from the students as much as they learn from me, because they're still seeing things for the first time so have access to new perspectives, and I want to hear them. But if they're not interested in looking at the material, it can be rough getting things off the ground. On the first day, they often don't mind talking about their own questions and ideas, but once we crack the books, there is much less enthusiasm.

so, maybe you try to make your class more fun, be the engaging, humorous, movie-referencing prof that students love. Maybe you are serious and just attract the serious students and build up your sort of "cult" following (only works if you are teaching more advanced courses, though). Maybe you find the right place to teach and just connect, or maybe you retreat into your own research. I don't think you can please everyone, though. You find your niche, or your disappoint some students. I had teachers who disappointed me, but honestly, so long as the reading was good, I got something out of the class...
posted by mdn at 8:33 AM on May 29, 2008


Ahhh why must every good conversation devolve into the thin soup of relativism? Yeah, I'm soldily on the "such discussions are almost always useless" team. I just haven't smoked enough pot today to get into what words really mean, man.
posted by prefpara at 8:37 AM on May 29, 2008


Why?

BECAUSE!!

but if you don't believe anyone is an authority on anything, why ask questions at all? - why go to the doctor? - why consult a lawyer? - why go to school?

---

hamlet more like shamlet

that reminds me of shakespeare's lost play about a short order cook

omlette

some lines, updated appropriately, were cribbed by the monty python crew for the spam sketch
posted by pyramid termite at 8:40 AM on May 29, 2008


Don't forget his one-act homage to limey ginblossoms, Gimlet.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:45 AM on May 29, 2008


who did that awful precious "educated" cackling when we did a school trip to see some Shakespeare comedy.

Thin Lizzy and I actually call this "a Shakespeare laugh," using the phrase for any time someone feigns an emotional response in order to show they are in the know.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:49 AM on May 29, 2008


As for whether Shakespeare is "good" or not, it may seem uninteresting to you, but an English teacher has to decide whether to teach it to the students, and if the students are bored while you love the material, what to do?

Here's how I see a HEALTHY system working: teachers choose to teach subjects (and schools choose to offer them) for one of two reasons (or the two reasons combined):

1. Because teacher X has a passion for the subject.

2. Because teacher X believes that the subject is NECESSARY for students to master in order to complete some real-world task.

Why is Mr. Smith teaching Shakespeare? Because he loves it.

Why is Ms. Jones teaching Comic Books? Because she loves them.

Why is Mr. Williams teaching Calculus? Because he's trying to help people become physicists, and he believes you can't become one without knowing Calculus.

Mr. Smith will TRY to transmit his love of Shakespeare to his students. Assuming he's very inventive about the (many) ways he does this, he'll succeed with SOME students. In my mind, success includes, "Now that I understand why Mr. Smith loves Shakespeare, I realize that I can't share his love." Such self-knowledge is useful.

In my system, no classes are requirements. And no one is told that they should study some subject because "you just SHOULD" or "because smart people do." They'll be told that they should study X because they're interested in finding out more about it or because they'll need it for some future task they interested in performing.

What about the student who wants to study an obscure Victorian poet? No school can offer classes in every subject (and if they don't have profs who happen to be into that poet, they SHOULDN'T offer a course about him), but schools CAN help students learn to teach themselves.

Yes, in my system we'd unfortunately graduate some people who choose to never learn any math -- or who never read any "great" books. But we do that in the current system, too. Why? Because, as you say, "sometimes they simply dislike things."

What about people who don't know what they like? Not everyone is self motivated! Well, most small children ARE self motivated. Something kills that in them. I know exactly what killed it for me. It was school. It was being told by many, many teachers that my passions for reading, drawing, music, etc. were worthless (or even bad) unless they conformed to a curriculum.

But even if we assume that some kids will naturally reach 18 and feel directionless, it doesn't follow that they should be FORCED to take a bunch of survey courses. A school can OFFER survey courses. They don't need to be forced.

I don't think you can please everyone, though.


Certainly not in an environment where teachers and students are forced into all sorts of activities that don't inspire them.

If a student gets bored with a class, he should (unless he wants to fight through his boredom) leave the class.

In discussions about this, people often say to me, "I was a slacker as a kid. If people didn't force me to study X, Y or Z, I never would have learned anything." To which I answer "You were probably a slacker because you grew up in a system that discourages curiosity and in which forcing is a given." You were almost definitely not a slacker as a baby. Babies will spend hours trying to figure out why the square block doesn't fit into the round hole. SOMETHING happened to you. Something that seems natural, because it's what you grew up with. But it's not inevitable. It's just a trait of our culture.

Read "Summerhill" for an account of students in a school with no requirements. Students aren't even required to go to class. Most Americans, when they here about this, say "If I wasn't required to go to class, I'd just goof off most of the time." In reality, that rarely happens. Kids who go to Summerhill as their first school tend to choose to go to class, because it's all they know. Kids who transfer there tend to go, "I don't have to go to class? YAY!" Then they DO goof off for a couple of months, after which they get bored and start choosing to go to class.

I'm sure there are some students who never quit goofing off. Such students exist in our current system, too.
posted by grumblebee at 9:14 AM on May 29, 2008


Why?

BECAUSE!!

but if you don't believe anyone is an authority on anything, why ask questions at all? - why go to the doctor? - why consult a lawyer? - why go to school?


Because is not a meaningful answer. And while I think you've asked me some challenging questions, they are also not answers to my questions.

I do believe that certain people have great experience and knowledge about TECHNIQUES and FACTS. I understand how someone could be an authority when it comes to playing the piano, French history or plumbing.

I don't understand it when it comes to refined aesthetics. I can see how George may have read many more Shakespeare plays than Alice. I can see how he may have read more books about Shakespeare. I don't see how that makes him more right about whether a Shakespeare play is good or not.

As a director, I work on each play I direct for months. Most people in the audience come see it one time, having never read it before. If I say the play is good and and audience member says its bad, what we have are two honest reactions. Reactions aren't right or wrong. Reactions are things you have.
posted by grumblebee at 9:24 AM on May 29, 2008


Also, exciting news: next month's issue of People Magazine will offer us, at long last, a glimpse of George Michael's unreleased late 80's theater-pop magnum opus, Wham!let.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:10 AM on May 29, 2008


You forgot Andrew Ridgeley! You're dead to me cortex.
posted by needled at 10:23 AM on May 29, 2008


Alas. I knew him, needled.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:57 AM on May 29, 2008


I do believe that certain people have great experience and knowledge about TECHNIQUES and FACTS.

but it's not just a matter of certain people when it comes to refined aesthetics - it's a matter of a culture and its history and whether something has a permanent place in it

if there's no shakespeare then there is a gaping hole in the culture of the english-speaking peoples - that FACT, (not to mention his mastery of the TECHNIQUE of iambic pentameter), creates its own authority - even literary people who hate shakespeare have him as an influence to react against

it's not a matter of what reaction someone may have to him - it's a matter of knowing that for any person who gets heavily involved in english literature they are going to have a reaction to him - even if they ignore everything he's written, they're going to pick up something second hand from him through others

the more one knows about this and related matters, the more authoritative one is going to be
posted by pyramid termite at 11:27 AM on May 29, 2008


*streaks thread*
posted by sciurus at 11:31 AM on May 29, 2008


Also, there was that lovely post-Beatles b-side by John, mocking Paul's commercialism in a metered spy-surf spoof: Live and Hamlet Die.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:42 AM on May 29, 2008


the more one knows about this and related matters, the more authoritative one is going to be

Agreed, pyramid termite.

And I'm not sure where grumblebee is going with the "a response, is a response, is a response" stuff. Sounds like a living hell to me.

(A response can certainly be dishonest. Defensively judging something to be "crap" for example, rather than admit you don't understand it).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:47 AM on May 29, 2008


Also, there was that lovely post-Beatles b-side by John, mocking Paul's commercialism in a metered spy-surf spoof: Live and Hamlet Die.

The real John-on-Paul attack song works surprisingly well with minor alterations

So poisoned rapiers took you by surprise
You better see right through that mother's eyes
Those freaks was right when they said you was dead
The one mistake you made was in your head
Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?

You live with ghosts who tell you you was king
Jump when your momma sleep with anything
The only thing you done was mope and pray
And since you're gone you're just another play
Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?
posted by prefpara at 11:47 AM on May 29, 2008


Ahh! I missed a great opportunity to chg the chorus to:

Ah, how do you sleep?
Perchance, do you dream at night?
posted by prefpara at 11:49 AM on May 29, 2008


it's not a matter of what reaction someone may have to him

I guess you can live your life like that -- if it floats your boat. My life is pretty wrapped around theatre. "Beckett" is an "important playwright" in the sense of being highly influential, much read and much discussed.

I don't like his plays.

So I don't read them.

I have no desire to react against him. I have no desire to talk about him or why I don't care for his plays. (Nor do I have a strong desire NOT to talk about his plays.) I read the plays, saw some of them, didn't like them and moved on. Are they important plays? To those who care about theatre history and META-play ideas (e.g. how one writer influences another), or course. To those who like his plays, of course. But not to me.

I just don't read his plays. I read other plays instead. I'm bemused by these rituals of ranking and reacting for or against writers and works. The fact that I like Shakespeare is about the least interesting thing I could say about my relationship to his works.

I certainly agree that some people know much more about how Shakespeare was influential than others. I certainly agree that some people know much more about META concerns (e.g. historical context) surrounding Shakespeare than others. That's great. If you're into that stuff, then you should consult those experts.

I'm more into how Gertrude is going to react when Hamlet kills Polonius.
posted by grumblebee at 11:55 AM on May 29, 2008


What I learned from this thread.

1) From languagehat: Saying Shakespeare is pretty darn great can be a controversial statement in MeFi Land. (You radical, you)
2) From grumblebee: He really, and I mean really, does not like the American educational system. He hates it. (I mean it)
3) cortex is a very busy man. (He is)
4) Never, and I mean never, post a personal question on Askme. (You're just asking for it)
5) I finally understand the fedora in-joke. (In spite of myself, I like the fedora guy)
6) You can get your ass handled by the moderators in MeTa. (I'm not sure how I feel about that)

As for the rest, I filtered it out of my mind so I would be ready for the next stoning, ah, I mean MeTa thread, where some poor sap is beaten to a bloody pulp, ah, I mean roundly censured for his both his question and supposed personal faults. Maybe a question like, "Is it rude for me to chew gum in Speech Therapy class?"

What a gangbang.
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 11:59 AM on May 29, 2008


Yes, but how do I feel about the American educational system?
posted by grumblebee at 12:18 PM on May 29, 2008


grumbebee, I don't really know how I ended up on the opposite side of this argument from you, as in general I agree with what you're saying, except that, basically, I think that reforming schools to the extent that students can honestly choose any path and learn anything they like, and not need to "get the basics" at all, would require an entire restructuring of the way our society works.

Here's how I see a HEALTHY system working: teachers choose to teach subjects...

1. Because teacher X has a passion for the subject.


College profs are almost always excited about their subjects, at least at the beginning. They spend 5-8 years getting an advanced degree in it. They are the best of those students who loved it enough to go into grad school for it. The problem sometimes comes when they have to teach it over and over and the students continually don't seem to be getting all that interested... so professors will sometimes lose steam. A lot of them still do love their subject, though. I would say most, even if it's not obvious to you. They may express their interest differently, but to get into college level teaching of a subject is a pretty good indication that you're really committed to a subject. Some people have monotonous speaking voices, or calm personas, or are tired in the morning, so maybe you think they're bored by their subject, but just because they're not a jumping around like a wannabe Jim Carey, doesn't mean they don't deeply love the material.

Certainly not in an environment where teachers and students are forced into all sorts of activities that don't inspire them.

If a student gets bored with a class, he should (unless he wants to fight through his boredom) leave the class.


My education was largely quite alternative and I missed some portion of "classics" along the way, but never felt it was particularly problematic, partly because I read a lot on my own, partly because it always seemed there was too much out there to know everything well anyway. I would be fine with this system, but it's a real mental shift of what "educated" means (remember these threads), and we would have to deal with an even more splintered culture than we already have. And while some portion of students may choose books over video games, it's a little unfair to say that anyone who doesn't have the self-motivation to do it all on their own doesn't deserve to learn at all.

I don't know, as I said above, I wish we had a wider normalization of adult learning, and I agree that learning for its own sake, rather than to get a job/etc, should be the main goal. It would be great if students could do school at their own pace and choose to complete a variety of curricula etc. But I think this would mean a whole rethinking of the get-ahead, make-money, ambition, success, you-can-do-it, view of what life ought to be. I think a learning for the sake of learning attitude toward education is confusing in a world of competitive growth capitalism, except as an optional alternative mode [what college used to be and grad school has become]
posted by mdn at 12:32 PM on May 29, 2008


mdn, to me the problem is this:

Right now, we force people to learn certain things because we believe everyone should know the basics. I believe this doesn't work. Putting aside any argument about whether or not people need to know the basics, I believe that our current system -- which is about forcing -- doesn't help them learn the basics.

I'm not saying no one learns the basics in our system. I'm saying far fewer people learn them than could (using some other system). Our system is wildly inefficient (even given its simplistic goals) and it fails more often than it succeeds.

MOST of the educated people that I know -- the ones that were forced to take algebra -- have trouble with simple arithmetic.

MOST of the educated people that I know can read but do so as little as possible.

MOST remember little of the American (or whatever) history that they were forced to learn.

MOST are grossly unfit, even though they were forced to take gym.

Etc.

This is why I'm perplexed when I hear people say, "If you don't force people to do take Algebra, they'll never learn Algebra." If you DO force people to take Algebra, most of them won't learn it, either. They'll get through the class, do whatever they need to do to pass, and then forget everything.

And I'm sickened by the attitude of, "Hey, all we can do is make them go to class. If we do that and they still don't learn Algebra, at least we tried." To me, that's a colossal failure of imagination.

Yes, my idea is a total overhaul of the system. No, I don't think it's likely to happen. But I'm left feeling like we're living in Nazi Germany, and someone is saying, "We should reform the concentration camps. They're wicked, wicked places. I think we should give the Jews an extra ration of bread once every month."

(Before anyone gets upset, I DON'T think schools are like concentration camps. Nor do I think teachers -- even the worst of them -- are like Nazis. My point is that most educational "reform" involves bandaid approaches -- we should use this math textbook instead of that math textbook -- when the entire system is broken. It can't be fixed. It can either remain broken or be overhauled. That's my sincere belief. And I feel like you're telling me, "Hey, we live in Nazi Germany. What do you expect? More bread is better than nothing." There's actually some wisdom in that, but it's very hard to swallow.)
posted by grumblebee at 12:55 PM on May 29, 2008


Wow, grumblebee really doesn't like the American educational system.
posted by grouse at 1:00 PM on May 29, 2008


grumblebee, I just want to poke my head out and suggest that perhaps the system is not working, not because we are forcing people to learn things and that never works, but because we are really bad at forcing people to learn things, and forcing people to learn things sometimes works.

In other words, you propose what I think is a false choice: either we stick with the cram-it-down-their-throats status quo, or we groove to the mellow vibe of totally self-directed learning. I think there are other alternatives involving a smarter, more humane cramming and resulting in (uh) the delicious fois gras of an educated population.
posted by prefpara at 1:00 PM on May 29, 2008


prefpara, I'd buy that if you could show me an efficient way to force people to LIKE something. I don't care if people like the basics because I just want them to. But -- for instance -- our culture needs lifelong readers (e.g. people who stay informed). We need people who keep up-to-date with the sciences, etc.

How do you force that?

Yes, you can effectively force people to get As on tests. Yes, you can even force people to retain certain bits of information.

You could force people to become lifelong readers (or whatever) by setting up a police state in which people are monitored on telescreens, and if they don't read, they get into trouble. But that would necessitate as big an overhaul of society as the one I'm proposing.
posted by grumblebee at 1:13 PM on May 29, 2008


ok, I don't know that we disagree - my point is that the goal of the american educational system is not to teach students to love reading or understand algebra. It is to teach them to become motivated, ambitious members of our society. They learn to follow instructions, compete with classmates, earn grades. Along the way, they learn to handle basic levels of reading, writing & arithmetic and gain familiarity with our shared cultural story. But this just allows them to become more competent at what they do, so they can compete to become students in "the best" schools so they can go on to get jobs in "the best" firms, and be the most successful americans out there. It isn't about the material itself; it's about the capacity to work well within a system and get promoted. So retaining what's learned is secondary, and up to the student if they want to (and if they do, they're probably the sort to go into something like education...)

Basically, we couldn't change the educational system without also shifting our notion of job/ life style / economy etc as well. The two are intimately connected, and there are reasons our educational system works the way it does. It's not failing so much as pointing toward a different goal.
posted by mdn at 1:20 PM on May 29, 2008


grumblebee, I would not measure the efficacy of a system of education in that way. First of all, I think it's much more important to produce students who CAN read and perform basic algebraic operations such as division. We don't, at present, have a system that can do this reliably. If I were king of the world, I would start there before I moved on to creating life-long learning enthusiasts.

I don't believe people can be forced to like anything. I don't think it makes sense to think about things in those terms. I dunno, I guess I would mainly try to avoid focing people to DISlike things, which is not only possible but probably universally common. I would try to maximize opportunities to learn, and I would probably (I make no promises) not set up a police state that relied on constant video surveillance (hello, London). In other words, my aim would be to create a system that encourages, incetivizes, and makes accessible the kind of learning that we both would love to see more of. This is the sound of my train of thought leaving the station. I am trying to explain that the alternative I described above used cramming as a verb because I wanted to make a funny joke about fois gras, and not because I actually think cramming is good for people. However, cutting class would still be NOT KOSHER DUDE (I did it constantly, my kingdom would not be a democracy it would be a hypocracy!).
posted by prefpara at 1:22 PM on May 29, 2008


my point is that the goal of the american educational system is not to teach students to love reading or understand algebra. It is to teach them to become motivated, ambitious members of our society. They learn to follow instructions, compete with classmates, earn grades. ... It isn't about the material itself; it's about the capacity to work well within a system and get promoted.

100% in agreement.

I think a big problem is that forcing has the psychological effect of letting the forcer off the hook. I want my kid to learn Algebra, so I force him to study it. If he then doesn't learn it, that's not my fault. I did my part.

I can't prove this, but I'd bet if you showed parents these two systems...

SYSTEM A: kids are forced to try to learn Algebra. 25% actually wind up learning it.

SYSTEM B: kids are can choose whether or not to take Algebra. 26% wind up learning it.

... most parents would choose A. They'd feel B leaves too much up to chance.

I pulled 25% and 26% out of my ass. My point is, even given a greater chance that kids will learn if left on their own, if there's ANY chance they won't learn, most parents will opt for forcing. If they take the chance route and their kid doesn't learn, they'll blame themselves. "We didn't do anything! We just left it up to chance!" But if they force, then they can console themselves with the fact that they did their part.

I'm not advocating leaving it up to chance, by the way. I'm just suggesting that forcing has benefits that aren't for the person being forced.
posted by grumblebee at 1:28 PM on May 29, 2008


I don't believe people can be forced to like anything.

No. But one can set up environments where that's often the result. Such experiments have been tried. (See Summberhill.) They're not conclusive, because they haven't been tried on a grand enough scale. But they're suggestive.
posted by grumblebee at 1:35 PM on May 29, 2008


I'm not saying no one learns the basics in our system.

Here is the way I see the American education system working:
K-5th Grade: Teaching the basics every adult should know in order to function in society.
6th-12th Grade: Teaching everything necessary for pursuing any undergraduate degree in college.
Undergrad Degree: Teaching "higher knowledge" in a specific area.

A lot of kids in high school complain that they aren't learning anything that they will use in later life, and in fact a lot of times they do end up forgetting or not using most of it, especially if they don't go on to college. And the current system definitely doesn't achieve the goal of trying to prepare every single student for college either. Does it make sense to force them to try to learn it anyway? I don't know.

As far as the actual basics (5th grade or lower), I do think the system does a pretty good job. I don't watch the show "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader", but from what I've heard they very often pick questions that average 5th graders aren't expected to know for the show because the vast majority of adults can easily answer them.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:55 PM on May 29, 2008


As far as the actual basics (5th grade or lower), I do think the system does a pretty good job.

Beg to differ.
posted by prefpara at 1:58 PM on May 29, 2008


As far as the actual basics (5th grade or lower), I do think the system does a pretty good job.

Beg to differ.

What specific parts of the K-5 curriculum do you think the system does a particularly bad job at teaching?

For example, in 3rd grade, most schools introduce the concept of decimal numbers to students. How many adults who have passed the 3rd grade do you know who look at the sign at the gas station that says $4.15/gal and don't understand what it means?
posted by burnmp3s at 3:07 PM on May 29, 2008


How many of them know what 4.15 X 100 does to that decimal? Not as many as you'd think, I suspect.
posted by Tehanu at 3:34 PM on May 29, 2008


It puts the poor decimal out of a job, is what it does. Which is why we need a dang border fence.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:49 PM on May 29, 2008


I beg to differ too.

I hated school by the second grade, even though I was good at it. There is no reason for a 6 year old to hate school unless the school's doing something wrong.

To this day I have to override resentment and obstinance anytime I'm in a classroom. It's Pavlovian or something.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:15 PM on May 29, 2008


cortex - positive discrimination could solve your gripe: 415.00
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:33 PM on May 29, 2008


Employing a couple of zeros just for political correctness' sake? You're no better than the others. This country is going to hell in a handbasket.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:00 PM on May 29, 2008


Employing a couple of zeros just for political correctness' sake?

That is easily the most crass and offensive take on the Democratic primaries I have read thus far.

Oh.

Never mind.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:48 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


How many of them know what 4.15 X 100 does to that decimal?

Like I said, 3rd grade is just understanding what decimals are, most schools don't teach actually multiplying decimals by other numbers until 5th grade. Remember, K-5 is 5 to 10 year old kids, so they don't cover many advanced concepts. The vast majority of adults understand the vast majority of K-5 material, thanks mostly to K-5 education.

I hated school by the second grade, even though I was good at it.

I'm not saying that K-5 schools do a good job of making kids love school, I'm just saying they do a pretty good job of forcing everyone to learn the bare minimum of skills needed to function as an adult.

Teaching kids that age is extremely difficult, because children mature intellectually at different speeds. In any given 3rd grade classroom, there could be kids who read at the same level as the average 1st grader sitting next to kids that read at the same level as the average 7th grader. The teacher's job is mainly to make sure that all of the kids walk out at the end of the year reading at a 3rd grade level or higher, and I think overall they are successful in doing that.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:03 PM on May 29, 2008


How many of them know what 4.15 X 100 does to that decimal?

Like I said, 3rd grade is just understanding what decimals are, most schools don't teach actually multiplying decimals by other numbers until 5th grade.


Uh, if they can't multiply decimals by powers of ten, the kids don't understand what they are.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:59 AM on May 30, 2008


I thought we were talking about K-5th and understanding math, yeah? True story, I recently heard a late-night repeat of a radio show where two math education experts had a heated debate about the best way to teach kids long division. It was awesome, and I am a huge fucking nerd.
posted by Tehanu at 7:01 AM on May 30, 2008


Know anywhere where one can find that show?
posted by grumblebee at 8:20 AM on May 30, 2008


I think it was this episode of On Point. There are some interesting links to the right on that page.
posted by Tehanu at 9:22 AM on May 30, 2008


$400 buys you 20.00, same as in town.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:42 AM on June 2, 2008


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