Sunday, October 30, 2005

What's going on lateley...

If you look at the posts below, you'll see they are all posted in a short window... not written then, but posted then as this is our first weekend home since I started the blog.

In the time since I posted that stuff, not a lot has happened -- (unless you count starting to watch Family Guy DVDs as a lot..).

Thoughts in a bit on Pam's birthday and other sad things...

Debate update -- suits

Debate Update

D1/D2 went 4-2 and broke at Creighton. YEA!!! LM / GR were a respectable 3-3 in junior, not bad for GR’s first tournament.

D1 was in semi’s again in LD – damm… the boy is getting good.

I’m getting a lot irritated about the concept that debaters must look like “40 year old Republicans” (to quote D2) – Wearing a suit isn’t a sign of respect for the activity, debating well is. I think that as long as a student is presentable, clean and respectful – they should get equal respect to some dork-ass high school debate super-star who owns a bunch of suits and thinks they look dressed-up wearing one.

The problem is how they end up ACTING in their suits… which is not professional at all. They sit on the floor, rumpled and sloppy – and my students get static for not dressing up.

Funny, this is supposed to be both fun AND educational – why do my students seem to be having all the fun, and learning all the new stuff and the “suit kids” look miserable and debate dumb?? Hmmmmmm

Debate -- Yo Matt, the Enterprise Asshole

Yo “Matt” – the asshole of Enterprise, 86th and Lyndale, Bloomington, MN

Ummmm dude, if you think your people gave anywhere close to good service the past three weeks, you are on crack.

The first week you put us into something that could easily seat 5 – with no luggage – not good enough. We were polite when we wanted to change, but apparently that was too much trouble for your tacky ass. The employee who helped us make the change was nice. I said thank you a dozen times and apologized for the trouble. He was nice. Sorry you took that as my being a bitch. Maybe it was because I wouldn’t give y’all the credit card, as I’ve never had to before… I’ll check on the contract provisions and apologize if the state contract requires a credit card – but I’ll bet you a coffee that it does not.

The Second week we got there – I walked in and saw this:
One person sitting in your waiting area. One person working behind your desk… I walk to the counter and tell him I’m here to pick up a van (not seeing any vans in the lot -- funny since the reservation was for noon, it was 12:30… anyway)…. He pretty much yells at me “you have to wait your turn, I’m helping him –( pointing to the guy sitting down). I say “ok, I’ didn’t realize you were working with him: Hazeem proceeds to take 30 minutes to fart around – pretty much stalling until you get the van there. You wonder why I have an attitude… dude, you are a fucking incompetent manager and your employees are worse than you. You should fire them all and hire me to do customer service training for therm.

This week you had the attitude – and the contract was wrong. You didn’t take the time to change it, even when I told you we were going to Iowa. You are an incompetent fuck who will always be in dumb-ass jobs because you have an ego you haven’t earned and are a freaking sexist. You wouldn’t treat a guy the way you treated me, you wouldn’t tell a guy not to come back – nor would you expect a guy to believe that you could rent that minivan for 150 per day. Bullshit.

I’m happy I don’t have to deal with your people or crap anymore. If you think I’ll just go away because you called me a bitch, you are wrong.

Update: got home and called the Enterprise corporate, turns out I don’t need to put down a credit card on the car – hmmm… dumb ass…

Dissertation -- on mine and his

Dissertation rants – on mine and Hubby’s --
Yep – I’m also writing a dissertation for a Big 12 school – from the land of the Big 10. Makes things more complicated to do stuff via e-mail… but, even if I lived in the state, I wouldn’t live in shitty college town – so most of my communication with my advisor would be in e-mail anyway.

I need the time to do my work. When that will be is a mystery, maybe next weekend I can do some during LD downtimes,

Philosopy Factory, frustration

Philosophy Factory thought for the day.

How am I supposed to both teach sections of 50 and know all of my student’s names. Setting up performance conditions that are unable to be met is silly.

Also, how am I supposed to catch plagiarism by knowing my student’s writing styles when I don’t even know my student’s names.

Also – anothe big department pisses me off – one of them said in a meeting last week, with an air of complaint in her voice, “I have 100 students we could test this on…” – I didn’t even look at her when I said, “I could do it with my 200 students as well… “ – AARGH.

Also, my co-worker JR is staying home again– how long, I wonder. I’m not sure that JR understands that when I’m not in my office, I’m not missing classes to travel for debate… it is kind of like JR has to work less than me in some bizarre contest. Of course, that isn’t hard since I do work all the freaking time… but.

I’m liking the new co-workers I’ll call G and HH Both are really nice people who are working hard both to be good teachers and good philosophers. I’m glad they are in the department, as they both push me in different ways to finish my dissertation.

Debate Life -- as of Mizzou

Regular feature: My Debate life – this year, life on the road with 5-7 guys…

Intro… I coach debate as well as teach philosophy. This is kind of unusual, and I’ll explain how it happened later. Most of my friends know the story…

My current team from BNCC (big northern Community College) is about 8 people.. although we have some hovering around, so by the time we get to NPDA we could be more like 10. If you know me well enough to break the code, I’ve probably told you these things already. The team is a big part of my life, both on and off campus -- I spend my weekends with them, nights coaching them and I develop close relationships with them so that I become invested in their successes and feel bad about their failures.

I’ve been coaching for 9 years now, and every year is a new adventure…. This year will be the first I’ve blogged -- I hope I can keep it up --

The cast of characters --- my team ☺
Current partnerships are:
D1/D2, Rex & Herbie. The Russian, Herbie and someo thers...

“Voldemort” is a recurring theme. Debater from last year whose evil left some psychic injuries we are all recovering from.

Hubby is my husband and un-official assistant coach. Keeps me sane and helps in so many ways. He’s a former debater and quite brilliant. Sometimes people don’t get him, but in order to really get along on my team, you have to take us as a package.

AC-B is a former debater of mine and looks like she’ll be a great coach sooner or later. I really like her, she was my first debater at my last school and I miss her on trips this year, as she has other jobs and can’t travel. AC-B is currently dating LM, and it is getting pretty serious. This is really great from my perspective, as AC-B is a nice girl and LM is a nice boy – even if he refuses to sign a pre-nup ☺.

AC-M is a former debater from way back and a really good friend. He comes when he can, but his job keeps him on strange schedules…. He’s good at getting into long, involved, analysis of any given situation. I like that about him, as AC-H and AC-B don’t have that kind of patience for discussion. They just want to get stuff done…

Debater update – Tournament 2 (Mizziou)

Last week D1/D2 went 3/3 and got 4 NPTE points… good start guys. Not bad for D2’s first ever parli tournament. [As of parli rd 1 and LD rd 2 D1 is undefeated, D2 lost one LD round.. and D1/D2 won their first round.. with a case about killer dolphins..]

Debter X told me she’s just out of rehab, which explains a lot. She started out looking pretty good, flowing etc – but then another DX came to class, withdrawn etc – don’t know which one is on drugs and which one isn’t, but I’m not going to hang around to find out. She’s also not going on the road with us until I see more consistent behavior from her. I’d like to have her, but only the good DX I really, really, really hope she gets things together so she can participate. I don’t know how to help her.

CJ hasn’t come back since our “talk” about week 3 – as of now, if he doesn’t withdraw, he can’t pass.

Democrat Debater is coming around again – looks like he might re-join. I like him, even though he only eats about 5 foods, he’s a nice guy and it would be nice to know him with out Voldemort’s presence.

Moonshadow in e-mail, “I think I’ll go horseback riding instead of going to the debate tournament next weekend”

What the fuck –

Getting this from a student I’ve tried so hard to nurture, one who has made life kind of difficult for me in the last year – but who I really would like to have on the team – this pisses me off. Fine, go ride a horse. Forget about developing your intellect. You are cute and nice, go where people don’t challenge you and where people will let you be “Hot Chick”, while not respecting you for your mind. If that is how you want to live your life, go ahead and do so. You have my blessing, I suppose.

I’d love to ask Moon what could I have done, early in the relationship, to make this better?

Is there ANYTHING I could have done, or was Moon just that way from the start – playing at being a debater so that she could do fun stuff and hang around with boys? Maybe that is it afterall.

On a better note, D2 won his first LD round today (and, his first LD round ever--)… big fat YEA for him. I’m really happy and proud of him, he’s worked really hard to get going this year and he’s so low-key and laid back about things – I’m really glad I encouraged him to be on the team.

I know D2 could have done well within any activity, but I think he does especially well with debate. It challenges him in a way his classes and other things at BNCC could never do. He isn’t afraid that we are always competing against bigger, better funded schools.

And, the cool thing about D2 is that he is still, technically, in high school.

Talk about potential – right there. MD, smart, young, cool and ready to go… the question is where will you go?

D1 – kind of worried about him lately.,. not so sure things are good at home, although nothing concrete to back this up. Maybe I’ll see if he wants to house-sit while we are in Chicago in a couple of weeks. Give him some space to relax, although I’m not sure he has transportation to get back and forth from West St. Paul.

D1 has made so many incredible improvements in his debate performances lately. He’s been working hard on debate, although AC-H doesn’t seem to like the fact that he’s re-cutting camp evidence for our use. The thing is that D1 seems to see that the camp evidence is for policy, not LD…. And as such is useful.

Russian: mom says he can’t travel – Russian grandma is in town until November. I can see potential there, but I wonder if his personality will hold him back, or help him.

WK – there’s a case – tons of potential, lots of anger, I hope we can channel that into something good.

Herbie great kid – really nice and not annoying yet, even after a bad tournament for him and Rex. I want these two to do well together.

Rex, tossing the ball and trying to win rounds. Great attitude, and learning about debate the hard way – by loosing. I think D2 has won more rounds in the past two tournaments than Rex has won total.

During round 3 parli – D1/D2 are 2-0, hitting the top seed. D1 is 3-0 in LD. With a cold… ya gotta love it.

LD outrage – the pompous ass on the LD circuit (probably the dumbest LD coach out there – seems to hate us. He’ll vote for arguments on the other side in one round, but not buy them from us. WTF – what did we EVER do to you?? Besides have the nerve to start a parli national championship with some legitimacy. Oh boy, there’s an offense,. I suspect this ass of dropping D1 because he’s #1 and ASS thinks D1 doesn’t deserve it.

Mizziou is a great campus – a big school I could actually see us liking. I’m not so sure about Columbia, MO – that remains to be seen – but, if Hubby got a job here, I’m not sure I’d mind a lot.

Back to work – a round off is a gift from the debate gods to the philosophy gods – and I have to use it well.

An ode to law students

Edited to add...
Warning -- in this post I am probably at my most cynical -- and my language reflects that position. There are a variety of reasons for that, all personal. While they may not excuse the tone, they may explain it -- take it or leave it... I don't care.

Now (December 2005) I am still pretty skeptical about the claims of law students and their abilities to change the world, but I probably wouldn't put it as stongly as I did below. I see that your goals are admirable, but I wonder if and when you'll actually do it. I really do hope that you aren't the sort of people I'm talking about here -- namely the ones who go into law school telling yourself that you will change the world and come out materialistic, cynical and money-grubbing. I'd be more than happy to not know anybody like that, sadly these sorts of lawyers are all around, but hopefully you'll be better than that.

Also, so you don't think I put all lawyers in the same category, the person I reference working for a non-profit below is a lawyer doing housing law. I do see the good things lawyers have done in the world --

I've thought about deleting this post many times. I decided not to at this point because, while strongly worded -- it is a picture of how I felt at the time and the only part I really didn't feel were the direct personal references. For that I am sorry, as those people probably are better people than me and would never trade their ideals for a Lexus.

In the Law Library at Mizziou…
A poem for law students

Law schools, finishing grounds for pompus asses across the state.

They come in, go out, and never really learn or see

They come in idealistic – gonna change the world, right??

Ambitious, bright eyed, “I had lunch with a US Supreme Court Justice” types --

All along using that ambition as a justification for enjoying the privilege you’ve always had.

Yea – you’ll do it – sure. You’ll change the world –

After you’ve…
• Made partner
• Had kids
• Moved to the suburbs
• Found the right cause
• Saved for college
• Paid off the student loans
• Bought the vacation home
• Earned enough so that you can “afford” it..

Let me tell you about ACTUALLY changing the world.

You see,
The world doesn’t change in big hunks.
It changes person-by-person.
Every time someone lives up to their potential,
The world gets better.

It doesn’t happen because you can afford a Lexus and a 2 bedroom place in Manhattan.

Try teaching a student who is literally hungry, both for food and for knowledge…
Give that student the ideas they need to make something of themselves.
Give them the confidence to take harder classes.
Give them the skills to succeed in those classes.
Give them the chance to get a great recommendation, a scholarship, a real path out of poverty and abuse.

Give them a hand-up, not a hand-out.
Use your brains and power to teach at a school where not everyone is as bright as you are.

Use your passion and energy to encourage them
Use your power and achievements to motivate them
Use your mind to challenge them
Use yourself as an example to pull them
Use yourself to push them to success

Those are the places they need the best minds and the brightest teachers.
Not at Stanford, Harvard or Yale
Places like po-dunk CC, under funded and un-glamorous, they need you.

Provided you mean it, when you say you want to fix injustice…

Actually work for non-profits making barely enough, after 20 years, to buy your FIRST house… and even then you need your partner’s salary teaching at a community college to do so.

After you do those things, you’ll see why your attitudes of privilege, arrogance, entitlement and elitism (yea, I can smell them on you – you can’t hide it..) are so offensive to me.

What you don’t see
That I do as I approach 40
Is that your “idealism” is false
You don’t know or see the world’s actually problems.
You can’t do that at 22.
You don’t’ even understand yourself yet
How can you understand the world?

Good luck,
Call me when you turn 40 – then you’ll be interesting to me.

(note: this was moderated after some feedback from people I respect, but my not always like... it was a bit too personal the old way)

Paper comments, poetry

To my students…
Written while grading your papers…
It is so hard to use a paragraph indentation?
Three little letters on a keyboard
Use the little finger on your left hand
To separate your thoughts.

Be organized in your thinking
Think BEFORE you write.
Think WHLE you write,
Think while you REVISE
(yes, you should do that too..)

Make your papers
Worthy of my time
Screw “my time”
Make your papers
Worthy of YOUR time

Think, be original
Take a risk

You can do it..
I know you can
Because you’ll never have this class again
Never have the chance
To think about right and wrong
At least not before
You’ve done some right and wrong

Debate Haiku

Debate tournament
Humming brains all around me
Finally at peace

Friday, October 07, 2005

Why the "Philosophy Factory"

Every blog should, in my opinion, start with a post explaining the name and purpose of the blog...

I teach in the Philosophy Factory. We are community college in a northern state with a fair-sized philosophy department. Teaching philosophy to a bunch of people who are more or less interested in actually doing philosophy has provided me with a unique point of view. I think it is time to share that point of view with the rest of the world :)....

I also coach debate for this community college -- which is an odd combination, but then again, maybe I'm an odd combination. There are plenty of challenges in coaching debate at my college -- and I suppose those challenges will also be the subject of future posts.

In addition to teaching and coaching I'm also writing a dissertation on Just War Theory --- which leaves little time for fun stuff, but, being called "Dr. Steck" by my grad department (i don't care if anybody else calls me that, ever) will be worth the trouble.

So--- I'm going to try to keep this as officially anonymous as possible, so that I can be as honest as possible. The idea is that my friends will know who I am --- but the administration of my school will have a hard time proving who I am in time to deny me tenure :) --- not that I'm going to say things that radical, or reveal student information here -- but, one of my favorite blogs is the "Phantom Professor", and I don't want any of the trouble at my school that she saw at SMU.

I suppose now you are wondering why, the "Philosophy Factory" -- kind of an odd title, since philosophy is about ideas and theories, not making stuff.. Teaching philosophy at my school is much like working in a factory --

We are in a union, and it is a strong one. Being elected union president is a big political deal, and the administration is pretty much afraid that we'll complain to the union about things -- so they keep us in decent working conditions. Of course, our union dues are outrageous ($43.00 per paycheck), and those at the top of the union heirarchy don't give a crap about us worker bees... so it is pretty much the same as working in a unionized factory

Our contract requires us to teach 15 credits per semester -- at some colleges their teaching load is 15 credits PER YEAR. In our department we also have 3 courses with class limits of 50 students. So, some semesters I teach 250 students. At most colleges my contemporaries teach 90 students per semester. In a year I'll grade 500 students, they'll grade 180 --

Like factory workers, teachers at community colleges don't get respect from those in 4 year schools. We are seen as providing opportunities for technical education, not higher thought. The thing is, with the ability to inflience 500 students per year -- we are haviing a much higher impact on the world than the bozos in the ivory tower.

That is all for now --- generally I'll use nicknames for my friends, husband, colleages and students --- but first I have to think them up -- for now, I'm writing from a hotel room at a debate tournament in the middle of hick-ville... and it is time to get going for the day.