Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin is the Woman!

Hallelujah! I've wanted McCain to pick Sarah Palin for VP since I first heard of this woman. Not just because she has the moral courage to give birth to a Down Syndrome child, but because she is a strong woman with leadership skills, ethics, vision, guts, and smarts.

It is hilarious to hear the people who are voting for Obama only because of race make fun of McCain for picking a woman because "he's pandering." Who is he pandering to? Evangelicals? They were going to vote for him anyway. Women? Is that why Walter Mondale did it in 1984? They can't have it both ways.

She has no experience, they say. And your argument is. . . ?

I think she's an excellent choice. For all those stay-home-moms who think their choice makes them qualified to judge, I say, get over yourself. I struggled for years because of your judgmentalism--I always worked while raising my son. I had no choice, most of the time, if I wanted to eat and have a roof over my head, and my son's. He is a fine human being and not scarred by my working (because I made him my priority in everything else), and I have been able to be in a better place professionally. And the judges are, well, still judges or have wised up.

Maybe this will make no difference in the election. Maybe we're going to get Obama no matter what, that it's just plain inevitable, as the media wants us to believe. It was still a bold choice and adds a lot of fun to this election--and some looks.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Broken Record

Traveling Through, a novel about finding one's purpose without losing oneself, is available at (cheapest price)
Use Barbara G. Tucker in the search engine.

Random comments, including Bigfoot

Time for some random observations on life.

The internet buzz is that Bigfoot has been found in North Georgia. OK, I live in North Georgia, so there is no end to jokes about this situation. What was Bigfoot doing in North Georgia? (registering at Dalton State College; looking for Deliverance). Where did they find him? (that would win the redneck award--Murray County? Resaca Beach?) This story will go the way of the Montauk monster. Bigfoot for President--could he be worse than the two candidates we've got?

I went to see Brideshead Revisited. Having never seen the PBS version from the '70s, I liked it, mostly because Emma Thompson is incredible (she is especially good in Wit). What control! But as one critic said, I did find the Ryder character really bland.

Classes start Monday. Our college is busting at the seams, as is often the case in a recession. Very full classes. I'm trying a whole new approach to teaching--empathy. I've traditionally been a drill sergeant.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


The former post "Somewhat Sad Day" is only a reflection of a melancholy mother. On another front, I mourn the loss of the Georgian people. What region in the world is not racked with these kinds of conflicts, and how little do we Americans acknowledge them?

Somewhat Sad Day

Today my son went back to college (as a sophomore). He packed up his truck and drove back to the college he attends about 150 miles away. He had to be there a week early to train freshman for the scholarship program he's involved in.

It isn't as hard as last year, when he was a freshman and I had to help him move in, of course, because that's what we middle class parents in the U.S. do with our college age children. This year, he's on his own, as it should be. He's taking about 2/3 as much stuff as last year, perhaps less (we learned that lesson!). The question of his success and happiness and adjustment in college is not an issue now. But the house is empty again , and his two old fart parents will go back to our quiet, boring lives without him. (We were both well into our 30s when he was born, so we were always much older than his peers' parents when he was growing up).

As for him, I know he was glad to get back to 24/7 friends and fun and independence and academic challenges. One of my main goals for my son was that he would enjoy college to the fullest--since I'm a college teacher, I believe that is a seminal time that needs to be nurtured.

Which brings me to an excellent book I just read, My Freshman Year, by Rebekah Nathan (pseudonym, I understand her real name is Cathy Small). I would recommend it. It made me rethink my scheduling and requirement issues in class. Students are supposed to study 2 hours outside of class for every hour in class; I think I've been requiring my students to exceed that, which means they learn superficially. However, I understand the ethical concerns with the book, and I really have a hard time believing that a woman my age could go live in the dorms and not be laughed at by the 18-22 year olds. I know how I would have thought about that when I was 19 or 20; I would have thought the woman was mentally deficient or something. I also can't believe none of the students knew she was a professor at her own college, and that no one outed her.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Academic Freedom

This link takes you to the American Council on Education's statement on Academic Freedom. I found this interesting. Academic Freedom is not what people think it is--the right of a college professor to pontificate, demean, evaluate or grade as the mood hits him/her, miss class, come to class drunk, etc--in other words, the way we are portrayed in movies. Maybe (and I say maybe)in the past some of that was tolerated, but not now.

The American public is vastly underinformed about the professional life of college teachers. There are a lot of lazy ones out there, of course. However, the majority of us work in state and community colleges with 5/4 or 4/3 course loads, 40-50 hours a week, and all kinds of outside-the-classroom expectations. And we make less money than public high school teachers, I suppose because we should feel privileged to teach motivated students. People with that idea have never interviewed most (traditional age) college freshmen at community, technical, and state colleges. As much as my colleagues hate the situation, I have accepted that this is a market-driven environment that cannot hold on to past views of tiny class size and 1/1 or 2/2 teaching loads just because one has earned a doctorate.

All this aside, I still love my job. If only three people out of a class really get it, really come out of my class with a revised world view, that's ok with me. Only one healed leper came back to thank Christ, so I have no misconceptions about the human capacity for transformation. (Please do not think I am comparing myself to the Lord; I hesitate to use that illustration. It's only for purposes of showing how slow we humans are to recognize reality when it hits us in the face, myself included.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

In the Category of "I Hate to Say I Told You So"

I have told my family that I didn't want to seey the Beijing Olympics on our television sets, since I pay the cable bill. Like my pretend tyranny means anything to my sports junkie family. But I've maintained through all of this that the IOC should not have chosen Beijing. Yes, a country has a right to revoke the visa of anyone it likes, but it's kind of funny who the Chinese government chooses to banish.,98718

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Irony and the Christian

Can a Christian use irony? Irony is saying the opposite of what one means, but that's not all: it is saying the opposite of what one means in a way that it is clearly opposite of what one means to a person who knows how to read irony.

So, depending on the audience, irony may be more than just saying the opposite of what one means. To the unitiated, irony is lying. To a savvy audience, irony is clever, fun to ferret out.

First, we must clarify what irony is not. People use it to mean "coincidentally," a usage I really don't understand. "Ironically, he was buying the widget at the same time I was." That's not irony. It is also not just being a wise guy. "Oh, that's attractive" when someone spills soup all over herself. Irony, I think, is a sustained attempt at presenting a meaning; that is, it takes a paragraph or two at least. And I'm not sure that true irony can be used as a subpoint or minor argumentative point in a larger piece. Maybe, but its presence could be more confusing than anything else unless the writer can say, "I've changed my tactic here and am now speaking ironically."

I recently assigned, for extra credit, the essay "A Modest Proposal" for my humanities class, after which the students were to post to a discussion board. Of course, most of the students didn't get it, but at least their outraged responses allowed for discussions. Some knew he wasn't serious but didn't get the point of the savage irony in the piece, an essay whose audacity amazes me every time I read it. Maybe someone needs orientation before being exposed to an essay so wickedly sardonic; I did not really give them any, although I lectured in class about how Swift used satire in Gulliver's Travels and how satire was the predominant mode of the early 18th century (a posting in itself).

So, to the sincere and literal, irony is a flop. Does that mean Christians should avoid it? A lot of Christians are sincere and literal and perhaps, then, immune to irony. And maybe their sincerity and literalness means they don't need irony in the first place because they take messages in open hearted ways. Say "Obey the Word," and they do their best to obey it; no irony needed there.

Perhaps the better question is, does irony work in persuading or influencing anyone, or does it just work at a level of "isn't that a clever way to make a point" that the cynical admire but still ignore and the sincere don't need anyway? In other words, does irony serve any purpose other than the quality of its own cleverness, other than its own existence?

I am reminded of Archie Bunker from "All in the Family." Even as a young teenager, I knew Normal Lear was making fun of working class people and their supposed narrow-mindedness. Archie was more a caricature than real irony, I suppose, but the surface level was opposite of what the creators of the show wanted to say. But most of America just didn't get it, from the liberal creators' points of view. They saw Archie as a true Everyman, funny but saying things that weren't so bad, even when the creators wanted us to see what a racist and conservative buffoon he was.

Perhaps then irony is a type of code, a secret language for the in-crowd, like slang, just a much more intellectually demanding type of code.

The Apostle Paul uses some irony in II Corinthians, and some invective against the Judaizers in Galatians, but not in any sustained way, and no one would miss it. I have not studied this point, but some scholars say there is a great deal of irony in Pilgrim's Progress.

It also seems that to use irony one must take a superior and intellectual and moral stance over the audience. The ones who don't get the irony would then inferior in some way. There are Christian humor magazines that use irony, such as The Wittenburg Door. They are quite funny but sometimes leave me uneasy. Who is the butt of their humor? At whose expense do we laugh? And when we laugh, what are we feeling? Common humanity, as in "I see myself in that" or derision "what a fool that person is!"

I can't help bringing Stephen Colbert into this line of thought. As someone recently said on the CT website, his shtick is that he has so many levels of irony he might be sincere. Colbert, I think, knows where to draw the line; he makes fun of people's positions but not their right to have the position or their mental ability that led them to the position. I'm not above laughing at irony or Stephen Colbert, I'm just not sure how effective it is at making a point for anybody but those who are already in agreement with the writer/speaker. I'm not sure Colbert or any user of satire/irony has made me rethink any of my positions by making me feel stupid for holding them. the human mind and heart doesn't work that way.

Public Speaking Online: Part III

This is a continuation of articles below on speaking for webinars, etc.  Experts give a few other preparation tips...