>Date: Wed, 11 Jun 97 02:02:15 GMT      Dear William,
>Findout="A friend told me about it"
>How is life treating you?="bitterly"
> I like what you are doing here. One of my students, knowing I would, emailed me to check out the site. You stick your neck out, take risks, by actually being brave enough to have heroes and opinions and favorites. But why else be alive? This is the tradition of the nineteenth century "commonplace book" in which folks like Emerson recorded the ideas an d quotes that most turned them on. But this is better cuz it is shared.
Thank you for the nice words about my webpage! I found the concept of a "commonplace book" very interesting and had previously heard nothing about it.
I read your webpage with interest - especially the part about Winthrop and Thelma and Louise. For example,
"Having dethroned the mainstream WASP tradition with its hegemonic tendencies, we multiculturalists need to concede that this WASP tradition is, if no longer dominant, at least one part of the American multi-ethnic scene, and that it deserves to retain at least a slice of the new multicultural pie."Can you indeed say such a thing with a straight face William? With all respect to your point of view, the thing I hated most about being in the university was having history and literature used as a football in political struggles. Do you really believe this about "WASP tradition with its hegemonic tendencies?" I think only in the university would one hear such an expression.
I also think Reynold's interpretation of "Moby Dick," as you explain it, to be hard to stomach. I wonder if Steinbeck would agree with popular culture being so much more important than the inherited literature of the past? On the other hand, I enjoyed reading your comparison of Thelma and Louise vs. the Puritans. An interesting idea the conversion ideology - probably a myth in real life (real world), I would think. I used to be a cop and I can tell you Thelma and Louise probably wouldn't have worked out the way it did on film. Neither would Butch Sundance, etc. In real life, they probably would have had their throats cut for their boots or been turned in for $20 by their "friends." Sometimes I think we Americans are so adolescent. So many people who have never pointed a gun at anyone is their lives yet love the outlaw myth. With a more violent past, no wonder the Czechs with you at the time didn't "get" the movie.
"Thelma and Louise flee, I was told, into what Elaine Showalter calls "a female wild zone, a cultural space unintelligible to men."With all respect, Ms. Showalter is so full of shit I cannot believe it! Female wild zone! Armchair revolutionaries! Radicals screaming for blood who have never ever seen it shed before!
"Yes, she kills a man, and the feminists see empowerment. But it is not a unique female empowerment. The gun has always been an American symbol of individual empowerment."Any feminist who killed a man and then with pride said it "empowered her" would have reminded me uncomfortably much of the prison people I used to deal with. I have met a number of persons who have killed people for good reasons and most of them didn't feel empowered by it at all. They felt guilty and traumatized. And those that liked it... well, that tells you something about that person, doesn't it. So many "bad ass" feminists who it is better not to cross! Give me a break.
William, I very much respect the argument you are trying to make - especially with the "balkanization" aspect which not only was very high-minded but totally accurate. It seems a sorely needed injection of common sense and reason. You labor to make points which would hardly need explanation to anyone innocent of academia. However, in dealing with the more extreme members of our modern-day intelligentsia you might as well try arguing with farm animals! I quickly learned that such people are like rabid dogs and the best thing to do is give them a long wide birth so they won't bite you in the ass. I get the feeling you would very much prefer to study the Puritans in peace without having to justify them to modern day professors in the context of current ethnic or gender politics.
Well, enough for the unsolicited comments. I hope everything is going well for you out there in Virgina and that soon enough life will no longer be treating you "bitterly."
Very Truly Yours,
P.S. Amen to all that Dave:"Is this then what academia is to be reduced to, the squabbling tribalism of a bunch of Balkan clans? Sometimes it seems so, that there is only self-interest and group interest. Women fight for women's texts, gays for gay, blacks for black, white males for theirs. Since the old unifying generalities with their assumption of a "metanarrative" themselves are seen to serve the interests the dominant interest groups, what we are left with is what John Higham recently called "America as a federation of minorities," competing and increasingly hostile minorities I might add. This Balkanization of our discipline and to some extent our culture into cultures is where our theories have led. And why? Because post-structuralism leaves us two options, nihilism or tribalism. Either no text has any meaning and no reading is valid and only silence has any verity, or we are free to make whatever we want of whatever text we want in the name of empowering our own preferred group."It seems to me you just summed up the rediculous state of the study of literature nowadays.
At 11:16 AM 6/11/97 -0400, you wrote:
>Whata response. Ain't the internet great?
>As a matter of fact, things aren't going all that well in Virginia, or at least in acadmia. My "reactionary" stance has kept me from getting a real job. I am Just an adjunct, very low pay, no benefits at all, no job security. I teach 7 courses of 30 plus students each a year; the tenured folks teach 6 of 20 each a year. Yet I am designated "part time" and hence exploited. I mention this because at my ripe old age I have been persuaded to get my secondary school teaching certificate and opt for a job in the public high schools. I see that is your profession. You seem to enjoy it. But how much of your time is spent being a cop, and how much being a baby sitter? And aren't you expected to spend your time working on the lower half of the class, thus leaving the better material and better students out? I am curious to hear how you like it before I take the plunge. I get a sense that the webpage is not an extension of your class work but a compensation. Am i wrong?
Sounds pretty lame what is happening to you at the university. It seems adjunct professors and grad students get screwed pretty bad in academia. As a school teacher, you would have very much more security. However, I think the jobs would be very different. In my experience, the public schools can be very different in differing locales. For example, there are some excellent public schools in the suburbs and true hell holes in the inner-city. You have to choose your school and you have to get some seniority. Teaching AP classes at a prestigious high school is like teaching college with some of the best and brightest.
Of course, the schedule is much different. You have the kids every single day when you are in a good mood or bad mood - likewise with the students. In college, I seem to remember that the students who didn't care just failed to make it to class. In high school, they are there whether they want to be or not and hence the discipline problems. I noticed in college even the worst teachers would just get up there in lecture. You just cannot do that in high school - the attention span of the students is too limited. I had a rule where I would do no less than three activities every hour. I used to see new teachers come into to teach out of the university and they would try to lecture like they had become accustomed as college students and they would go down in flames. Anyone can teach motivated and well-prepared students, it takes a special teacher to teach the more difficult classes filled with the good, the bad, and THE CONTUMACIOUS! I never sat down when I taught in the inner-city. I would be walking around and engaging the students all the time. To turn my back was to invite disaster.
This is both the good news and the bad: The interaction in high school between teacher and student can be very intense. You can be a little bit of a prophet and really touch kids lives, but you have to really roll up your sleeves and get into it with them (the good, bad, and the ugly). It is really not possible to have more "adult" relationships like at the university because the teenagers are just in a different stage of their lives and need different things. They will challenge you and you have to be tough. I always thought the best role for a high school teacher was that of a benign tyrant. On the other hand, I truly think you can have a greater influence. I hardly ever talked to my professors in college and used them more as travel guides for the primary reading material which was more important. In high school, I remember having very much more student/teacher relationships. I have noticed that good teachers have a very much easier time of it than do bad teachers in high school. At UCLA, I had some terrible teachers who were probably geniuses at doing research but couldn't teach their way out of a plastic bag and/or could barely speak English. Nobody cared, and the students just sat there pissed off in silence. Such a teacher in an inner-city classroom would not last a month. There would be a popular revolt in the classroom and students would simply ignore the teacher and do whatever the hell they wanted. You have to keep their attention or things go downhill. And they have to fear you a little. Not hate you, but fear you.
I worked as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for some months after the academy and they offered me a full-time job. Sheriffs work in the jail, and I had seen enough of that to think my talents would be better used elsewhere. I learned cops mostly deal with totally trashy people who are not really fun to be with and that a jail is a truly horrible place to be. I learned pointing a gun at someone is no joke - something I guess Thelma and Louise never learned before they drove off the cliff. I paid my last two years of college working full-time for the UCLA PD in the emergency room there. Quite an eye opener, that job. Even in my worst days as a teacher near downtown Los Angeles, I preferred that job to law enforcement. All those movies that talk about police work as totally sexy, exciting, etc. are lies. It can be exciting, but is can be death for your soul to be surrounded by such total negativity. My family is especially happy that I changed paths.
Go for the secondary credential, William. You have a union and you can teach young and fertile minds instead of jousting at multicultural windmills all day long. I think that might be a more sane lifestyle. And those knucklehead students who don't care, give you shit, etc. just be mean enough to cower them into silence so you can teach those who want to learn. My classroom is my castle and I don't care all that much what other people want me to do, how to teach, etc. I see what works and what doesn't, and teach a lot by instinct. Every teacher - whether at the university or high school - needs to find out how they are most comfortable teaching and what is their personal style. I never let others tell me too much how I "should" teach. The teacher education professors would cower in horror if they heard me say that, but they are totally full of shit. Here in California, I learned next to nothing in those classes. Unfortunately, they are necessary for the license.
Good luck in the future!
Very Truly Yours,