Flying

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Good early morning,

On Friday afternoon, I allowed my Foundations students the opportunity to be outside for class as It was an in-class writing day. It was actually a phenomenal day weather-wise, which typified the week (which is surprising because it was fair week here), but as I made my way around the quad speaking to students, one of the things I noted was the semester was 1/3 over. I do not ever remember it seeming to go so quickly. The speed with which these past 5 weeks has gone by seems surreal at best. I have noted that sense of time passing by more quickly, but it seems to be in “warp speed” and I do not even like science fiction, but this is not fiction (and I like it even less). I wonder if it is I am aware more that the time I have left is limited. Is it that last birthday or is it more?

This weekend I was reading paper proposals, blogs, and other things students have handed in. I wish I could go back in time and be able to move through space and see what one was like in high school last year for my freshman. However, in all of upper level courses, as is often the case, I have some students who have been in a class with me previously. I should note that the previous class is generally a FYW class. My general practice is to have a “Writing with Sources” presentation with in the first week of class and using sources correctly and managing the formula (MLA, APA, CSM) is something I spend a significant amount of time on. So when I have one of them in class again and their work looks like no one ever taught them anything about citation, I am both stunned and somewhat disillusioned. From freshman to seniors, average students to strong, citation, and the formula for doing it correctly, seems to be a foreign language. I remember helping one of the more exceptional students I have ever met last year, last minute as he or she panicked at the impending deadline. I was sending pictures to show them formatting. I remember working diligently last year with a former student as that student attempted to help another. There seemed to be no recollection of what I had worked so hard in class to both teach the way to do it and stress the importance of doing so. It begs the question of why? It is because they grow up with a lack of being shown its importance or significance? That does not seem logical to me because every teacher had to attend college and the importance of citation is stressed. Is it that they do not think classes outside an English Department worry about citation, so neither should they? I know colleagues from other disciplines believe it is important, so that rationale does not seem to hold water. I know in at least some of the cases in my current class, the student was taught, but demonstrates little to no evidence that such instruction ever occurred, so then what am I to think?

I am left with something I referred to in my last post: have we created a generation of “everyone-wins-there-are-no-consequences-let-me-take-care-of-that-I-do-not-know-how-to-think-critically-why-should-I-synthesize-but-I-tried” dependents? “Houston, I think we have a problem.” I think was the line from Apollo 13. More accurately – Arne Duncan, American education system, school administrators, teachers, colleges, professors, and parents, I think (I know) we have a problem. I am a bit concerned about the world it seems we have created. I think being older and not having to be around to see what is coming might be a blessing in disguise. I am actually shocked at the self-centered attitude that seems to permeate so many of the people in my classes and this generation in general – all under the guise of “I merely changed my mind” or “it’s not what I want to do” or “it’s not convenient and stresses me out.” Welcome to being in a grownup world. Tonight in my class the idea of deadlines and being accountable or responsible for one’s actions, or lack thereof, seemed to shock people when I told them that because what they did affected others it was neither acceptable nor professional. The fact that I might question such behavior seemed like a shock, at least to some. Whether it is an assignment or merely a verbal commitment, simply  expecting follow-through or communicating should there be a change in plans is not an unreasonable point of view. Furthermore, finding such a lack in doing this as unprofessional or problematic is actually common sense; it is how the world works. It is what employers require. That is the kind way or rhetorically appropriate way to put it. After an earlier conversation, I decided to do some research to see if I was off base. What I have found was instructional and has two points I find particularly germane. This mindset of “what I decide is all that matters”, is commonplace (we are in trouble), and many employers and old people, like me, are rather stunned at this lack of dependability or a seemingly cavalier attitude toward any commitment, and second (and I wish I could say equally stunning, but I see it too often so I cannot) the 20-something is irritated by our questioning, and as such believes it is somehow our problem. As my closest colleague said, “They will get fired.” In fact, my research revealed the number of bosses or job recruiters who have fired new employees, or these new hires just quit was staggering. Yet, observing what I did today confirms this attitude as “the norm”. This teleological ethic again leads us societally toward some real problems.

It is amazing how a string of events, when analyzed, puts things into a much clearer perspective. I will have to ponder the idea of taking flight in yet another way. The title above has taken on even more significance as I have worked to write this. During the late summer, I flew to California with two people who have not flown a lot. The first flight was a propeller flight. One of the individuals was petrified and it was also a bit shocking. I have never experienced such a fear of flying in someone. While one might consider it amusing, in a bigger picture I really did not. However, I was shocked that a person who tries to appear as nothing could ever faze him or her was so completely frightened. I am not sure it is even possible to get them on another flight and I think a propeller flight is certainly out of the question. It is always surprising to me that just when I begin to trust something something seems to fly in and change or shatter that trust. I remember once writing in my notes “trust no one”. I know on the other hand living that way is a double-edged sword. To trust someone or to put trust into something sets one up for disappointment and hurt, even if they have claimed to trust you. While trusting someone might create this potential for hurt, to live one’s life without trusting can create s life of solitude, but a solitude that is really loneliness and possible disillusionment. There is a place of balance, but that balance is a tenuous place at best. The belief that the clock can be rolled back to an earlier place just because of change is naïve at best, but when applying a teleological method it seems both possible and appropriate. There are no consequences only moving on, but the belief that life offers such a possibility is quite misguided. I have had to learn this the hard way from things in my earlier life. Life is not like the movie Groundhog Day. If only it were – I would have wanted to end up with Andie McDowell too.

I do wish I could live my life in a totally conditional manner to believe that everything is a “what if” statement (not really). What if by merely deciding, there is a change; therefore, I can also change without regard to surroundings (be that things or people)? What if I could move in and out of any situation merely because I decided? What if I could disregard any commitments or have anything I said not really count, that everything is a do over if I so decide? What if . . . wait!! You can. We now live in a world where there are no absolutes, it is a Pomo world – I have experienced it at least three times in the last 36 hours or so. Maybe that is why I am feeling like we have moved toward the precipice of chaos. There is no sense of that old adage, one that I grew up with: “one’s word is their bond.” That must just be for old people, unfortunately (and it is in numerous ways unfortunate and fortunate) , I am old.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

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