Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Digital Age.

There are so many ways in which the Internet has improved the lives of students and educators; I'm sure I don't need to list them here. But there are also some drawbacks. UT has a system called Blackboard that is set up to make it easy for teachers and students to communicate in myriad ways. It's full of amazing, powerful tools. But at least 2 or 3 times a week, I get emails like this:
Hi everyone,

Sorry to do this, but I was wondering if someone who types their notes could send me what notes they take in tomorrow's (Monday July 27) lecture. My air conditioner has gone out and I'm going to have to meet someone back at my apartment tomorrow morning so they can fix it, and I doubt they'll be done by the time class starts. I'll be happy to return the favor if you don't mind.

Thanks so much,
[hapless college student]
I really have to summon up superhuman resistance to keep myself from replying, "Lamest excuse ever. Did you ever think of having the a/c person come AFTER class?" I mean, c'mon. I even typed up that exact reply just now, but caught myself just before hitting send. I mean, I'm not exactly the most credible person to be giving lessons in how to grow up and manage life as an adult, am I? (And, to be honest, I should be the first to excuse any sort of behavior, no matter how immature or irrational, brought about by a broken air-conditioner.)

Post-racial America? Not Where I Live.

Rachel Maddow is one of the very few things that ever make me think I might want to get a TV.

On the bus the other day, I happened to sit between two women who were having a conversation. There's lots of conversation on my bus. People know each other in my neighborhood, at least the black folks do, and that's most of the folks in my neighborhood. These women were speaking in a dialect so different from mine that I could not understand most of what they were saying. I could understand enough of it -- and I recognized certain rhythms or cadences, I don't know the linguistic terminology -- to know that it was English, but other than the odd word here and there, I had no idea what they were saying to each other.

It struck me that right there was a lesson in racism in America, that this community of people right here in the middle of a big American city is still so isolated, so culturally separated, that they speak a dialect that barely resembles the dominant dialect.

So, lots of feelings and ideas come up which I don't have time to sort out here right now. I have to say, though, that, despite the difficulty sometimes of living in the squalid, bleak, risky neighborhoods I've lived in most of my adult life, one positive aspect, among many, is that I didn't end up as ignorant as Pat Buchanan. I'm grateful for that.