Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rewarding day.

So, I spent the three hours of class time in some pretty solid discomfort, but it was worth it.  I had one of my students come in and tell me that he'd started doing research on his topic, and then realized that he'd hate every minute he worked on the paper, and needed a different topic.

The kid's a good writer.  He's smart.  He's another leave-me-the-hell-alone-libertarian.

We spent the first class period discussing college costs, paying for college (turns out his mother abandoned him, and his father gets disability--and makes more than I do, which this kid doesn't think is right).  Then, we started talking books.

Turns out, the kid's a major Harry Potter fan.  Made fun of the books until he read the first one, but now loves them.  So, I pointed out that he could write about the Harry Potter books.

He thought I was kidding...until I told him of some of the scholarly work I've seen on Rowling's work: that Potter is a Christ figure, that Dumbledore is evil, and other rot like that.

So, when I pointed out the current discussions about the books, the kid flipped.  Snapped that people are reading way too much into the books, and decided he was going to go read some of the criticism and jump in.

He also gave me a few suspicious looks like I'd just peed in his lemonade.  I pointed out that I didn't really agree with the theories, that they're just the mental wankings of the minds incapable of creativity onto someone else's creative work.

To be honest, I agree with my student: the books are written for kids, and show a boy's coming of age.  The themes and motifs in the works are simple.  The symbology is Christian, but until recently, Britain (like the United States) was a Christian nation.  The symbology is important in the culture, or at least, it used to be, and that shows in the works. 

He thanked me and left, and a few students from my other class came in.  Two of them thanked me profusely for pointing them toward JSTOR*, and I got into a discussion about language acquisition with another, whose paper is proposing that teaching a foreign language begins too late for most kids to be able to learn it.  I pointed out that my intro to modern linguistics textbook has a whole chapter on language acquisition, and has already made the argument--that sometime around puberty, language is set--and proved it with solid research.  His eyes lit up, and he hurried off to go find a copy of it.**

So yeah, all in all, I had a good, productive day of actually helping students.

*JSTOR is the most awesome of databases for scholars: it has hundreds of arts, sciences, and humanities peer reviewed journal articles--archived by journal and volume--available for download in PDF format.  Completely identical to the print version.  And accessible from off campus, by using your log in.  I spent five hours in the library, total, when I was in grad school--and four of them were in supervising my classes' research time, not doing my own.

**Our library keeps copies of all textbooks used for all classes.  All my student had to do was go down to the circulation desk and ask to see that book.


  1. Some days it IS worth chewing through the straps... :-)