Social Class Reproduction

Four Rules for Teaching Writing:
Image result for image: joy of writing
Always give writing assignments that

1. you will enjoy reading;
2. students will enjoy writing;
3. students will enjoy reading what others in the class have written
4. you will enjoy writing.

If any one of these conditions were not true, then it probably wasn't a very good assignment.

Advice I give to my students: When your words surprise you, you know you are writing.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Following my last post, I had a conversation with a close friend--one of the most intelligent people I know--about who cares what you think? She said something about how most people's self-oriented thoughts are boring. We were talking about memoirs, the essence of her claim being that the only memoirs worth reading are those written by people who have gone behind the veil.

Most of us  have been veiled. We have learned to think in the way our culture has taught us to think. I doubt that I need to cite evidence for this claim. The function of culture is to indoctrinate those within the culture into the dominant way of thinking. The dominant way of thinking is unsurprisingly controlled by those who benefit most from the dominant way of thinking. So in a way, I agree with my friend: who wants to read memoirs from those who have been brainwashed?

I don't know where to go from here. Who has and hasn't been brainwashed--and who's washing our brains? On the surface, it seems as if people who read and have been perhaps super-educated are those who might have evaded the washing machine. A book by Jeff Schmidt, Disciplined Minds, challenges this assumption of educational-privilege. Schmidt, a physicist, argues that the more degrees you have obtained, the more you have been washed. He makes a good case. The more degrees we obtain, the more we benefit from the existing order--and consequently, reinforcing that order to maintain our privilege.

These are random thoughts. I don't expect anyone to take them seriously. I think, however, that if we find a way to encourage and listen to the voices of the disenfranchised, we might move forward rather than running in place.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting. When I read the start of this sentence, "On the surface, it seems as if people who read and have been perhaps super-educated are those who..." I assumed it would finish with "...are most likely to have been washed." My initial reaction is that Schmidt is right; formal education promotes and perpetuates the dominant way of thinking. Whose memoirs are assigned in most classes? Whose ideas get selected for academic amplification? Whose lives lead to academic careers? Whose bodies are and voices are valued and praised and selected for graduate careers and promoted through academic positions?

    The longer I am in it, the more I think the academy is a deeply conservative (small "c") institution within which many people are trying to be radical. I don't think we're fools for doing so; even the iceberg of academia has been budged a little this way and that over the decades, and not all of what sits below the waterline is bad. I do wish more of us recognized the power of these forces -- the inertial force of a huge, ancient institution, and the constant centripetal force of culture pulling toward the dominant voice -- and took them into account in our efforts to change ourselves and our academic homes.

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