How Not To Indoctrinate Students

Excellent advice from David Gooblar’s Chronicle of Higher Education essay, “What is ‘Indoctrination’? And How Do We Avoid It in Class?

His answer. . . by modeling open-mindedness and intellectual humility.

Gooblar thinks we can guard against closed-mindedness if we:

“. . . admit when we’re wrong, discuss our failures, and let students know when we’re unsure about something.”

When researching my doctoral dissertation, I spent two months closely studying a master high school teacher with a PhD in Mesopotamian history. Most PhD’s in Mesopotamian history would fall FLAT on their face if required to teach high school, but not this one because he never flaunted his intellect. One time, I recall, he started a story about something he had recently read about Egyptian pyramids. “I recently read in a book, but I don’t know if it’s true, . . . ” With one simple phrase, he demystified textual authority. The take-away, reader beware, authors are flawed.

However, there’s more to the “indoctrination story” than Gooblar reveals. A year ago, I was teaching an interdisciplinary International Honors course to a dozen whip smart juniors and seniors at my liberal arts university. One session, when discussing economics, a winsome but exasperated senior said, “I’ve never had a single professor here say anything positive about capitalism.” And on a scale of “1 to 10” in terms of liberal, liberal arts campus cultures, I’d rate my university a 4.

I thought long and hard about that statement, but also the student’s seeming resistance to critically question obvious, albeit unintended, negative consequences of unfettered free-market capitalism. As a conservative surrounded mostly by liberal faculty and peers, did he feel compelled to overcompensate? “I’m planting my flag on the hill of free-market capitalism come hell or high water!”

No, I don’t think that’s what was happening. I also taught the same student writing four years earlier in a seminar where we got to know one another well. I was reminded in the Honors course of how close he was to his mother whom he talked about affectionately. When I probed a little about how he came to his pro-capitalism views, he talked about his mother’s passion for it and their numerous conversations about it from when he was little. His hesitance to question capitalism as an economic system didn’t have anything to do with peer relationships, it had everything to do with his love for his mother. To even question capitalism, let alone reject it like an increasing number of his peers, would’ve required him to reject his mother. Far too high a cost to pay.

When teaching anything remotely political, that is the educator’s dilemma—how to honor each student’s familial context while also challenging them to expand their worldview. Or more specifically, given our example, how to celebrate the beauty of a loving child-parent relationship, while simultaneously cultivating critical thinking about closely held, unquestioned assumptions learned from birth.

How do educators challenge students to thoughtfully confront their families ideological blindspots knowing their intellectual awakening will disrupt those cherished relationships?

 

On Workism

Derek Thompson’s Atlantic essay “The Religion of Workism is Making Americans Miserable” deserves widespread discussion around dinner tables; and in churches; synagogues; and heaven for bid, workplaces.

It’s hard to excerpt from because the whole thing deserves a close reading. In particular, the conclusion is strong:

“Workism offers a perilous trade-off. On the one hand, Americans’ high regard for hard work may be responsible for its special place in world history and its reputation as the global capital of start-up success. A culture that worships the pursuit of extreme success will likely produce some of it. But extreme success is a falsifiable god, which rejects the vast majority of its worshippers. Our jobs were never meant to shoulder the burdens of a faith, and they are buckling under the weight. A staggering 87 percent of employees are not engaged at their job, according to Gallup. That number is rising by the year.

One solution to this epidemic of disengagement would be to make work less awful. But maybe the better prescription is to make work less central.

This can start with public policy. There is new enthusiasm for universal policies—like universal basic income, parental leave, subsidized child care, and a child allowance—which would make long working hours less necessary for all Americans. These changes alone might not be enough to reduce Americans’ devotion to work for work’s sake, since it’s the rich who are most devoted. But they would spare the vast majority of the public from the pathological workaholism that grips today’s elites, and perhaps create a bottom-up movement to displace work as the centerpiece of the secular American identity.”

Insightful and important, but incomplete. Thompson misses the sociological nature of workism. He implies well compensated Americans are consciously choosing to work to the point of exhaustion, but the dynamic is far more complex. More of a sociological sensibility is needed to understand two things: 1) the subtle and nuanced way status anxiety contributes to conspicuous consumption, and 2) how a few workaholics can create workplace cultures that lead others to haphazardly conform until a critical mass of pathological workaholism takes over.

Simply put, in some workplaces, you are not truly free to choose whether to make work the centerpiece of your identity or not. Your co-workers make the decision for you.

 

 

I Hear You

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, I think, a loyal PressingPauser chided me for being too political in recent posts. Given the state of our disunited union, and the angry nature of our national dialogue, political burnout is totally understandable. He implored me to write more about other things. More personal ones.

I do not get as much feedback on the humble blog as I would like, so I’m prone to heed any I get. Please consider following my friend’s lead in letting me know what you do and don’t like. The reader is always right.

So let’s get personal.

First off, I’ve long suspected I’m on the cutting edge of societal evolution, but now I have hard and fast proof. Context. My “friends” like to tease me about my $14 Kirkland jeans. Prolly because I look so good in them #jealousy. Get a load of what WBuffett had to say about Costco in his just released annual letter:

“Here they are, 100 years plus, tons of advertising, built into people’s habits and everything else,” Buffett said of Kraft Heinz’s brands. “And now, Kirkland, a private-label brand, comes along and with only 750 or so outlets, does 50% more business than all the Kraft Heinz brands.”

And:

“Customers see the brand as a blend of quality and value, and it gives shoppers a unique reason to go to Costco that other retailers can’t match — online or off.”

Taking names and kicking ass, one pair of jeans at a time. Once this post goes viral, I expect Costco to call and ask me to participate in an advertising campaign. Maybe a “famous bloggers in Kirkland jeans” expose. Oh wait, they don’t have to advertise because you can already find their label on my backside most of the time.

Not personal enough? Okay, brace yourself for the next level.

One time my sissy borrowed my iPod, remember those, and had a good laugh at my expense. “You’re iPod is filled with female folk singers!” Yeah, what of it! Just more hard and fast evidence that I’m secure in my non-toxic masculinity. When it comes to groovy new female folk singers, the 23 and 26 year old prove helpful. Here are three worth checking out, that is, if you’re not beholden to some antiquated notion of gender.

• Billie Eilish, When the Party’s Over. Not even old enough to vote yet. Video is weird, but that’s to be expected from a teen. I’m sharing it because 162 million people have watched it and I don’t want you to feel left out. Grooved to this track while running yesterday afternoon. Started out in a light rain and ended in glorious sunshine reflecting off the Salish Sea. 7 miles, 54:30.

• Sigrid,  Strangers. Only 44 million views, so please help her close the gap with Billie by watching. 22 years old, Ålesund, Norway.

• Maggie Rogers, Light On. 24 years old. Career launched after Pharrell Williams listened to a tape of hers in a masterclass.

Alaska is her most listened to track, but I like this below the radar vid even more:

Two predictions. Olivia Colman will win Best Actress and my running posse will give me endless shit for highlighting three young women singers. The R-17 jokes will fly fast and furious. In my defense, one of the things I like most about these young women is their rejection of the pop music dynamic of the past, where young female singers felt compelled to sell their sensuality. These women, in their Kirkland jeans and t-shirts are saying f$%k that. Accept me as I am. Or not.

Still not personal enough? Jeez, maybe I should just write about the President tweeting back at Spike Lee for reminding people that there’s an election in 2020 and to choose love over hate.

2018 fitness report? 276 kilometers swimming. 4,868 miles cycling. 1,050 miles running, thus keeping my 20 year 1k+ miles running streak alive. . . barely due to an end-of-year calf strain. Now that’s some personal snizzle fo shizzle. For the record, “snizzle” is an actual weather term meaning a “mixture of snow and freezing rain” but my hip use of it means “shit for sure”. Feel free to come up with your own meaning.

And, of course, to weigh in on your blog.

 

 

 

 

Cold Water Swimming is Trending

Here at Pressing Pause, I’m used to people looking to me to determine societal trends. At times it’s a burden, so much so, I think I’ll sit this one out. In West Seattle there’s a group of cold water enthusiasts that swim at Alki beach everyday of the year, some without wetsuits even.

I just returned from one of my fav get-aways, Victoria, Canada. One of my happy places in Victoria is the Victoria Athletic Club’s steam room. If you’re looking for me to extol the virtues of cold water swimming, that’s a good place to start.

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Exercise May Help to Fend Off Depression. I would state it more definitively.

2. The Economic Gains of a Liberal Arts Education.

3. Two hundred years of health and medical care.

4. John Gruber’s 2018 Apple Report Card.

5. How Muggsy Bogues saved his brother’s life, and found the meaning of his own. Dig the pictures.

Abolish Billionaires?

There are about 2,200 billionaires in the world, about one-fourth of those are U.S. citizens.

Farhad Manjoo recently wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that engendered more than 1,500 comments. Most simply, he argued, we should abolish billionaires through much higher taxes and related policies.

When it comes to billionaires, I’m of a mixed mind. On the one hand, given rising inequality, I’m surprised more people aren’t agitating against members of the three -comma club. Not just writing commentaries, but taking to the streets Occupy Wall Street style.

On the other hand, as the philosopher Peter Singer points out, some billionaires are giving away the bulk of their wealth to philanthropy. Bill Gates, in particular, plans to give away 99.6% of the cash money I paid him back in the day for successive versions of Microsoft Office.

Of course, as Manjoo points out, we have to analyze whether the billionaires’ charitable giving is having positive effects or not. Anand Giridharadas style. As Manjoo explains, Giridharadas argues that many billionaires approach philanthropy as a kind of branding exercise to maintain a system in which they get to keep their billions. Especially when they put their largess into politics.

“. . . whether it’s Howard Schultz or Michael Bloomberg or Sheldon Adelson, whether it’s for your team or the other — you should see the plan for what it is: an effort to gain some leverage over the political system, a scheme to short-circuit the revolution and blunt the advancing pitchforks.”

Gates might be an outlier, but his giving is so exemplary, I’m less inclined to order a pitchfork from that billionaire with the online superstore.

Gendered Bullshit

I knew what I was going to think about Jennifer Palmieri’s essay, “The Hidden Sexism Behind the Amy Klobuchar Reports” before I started it.

Yes, reports of Klobuchar’s egregious mistreatment of her staff are drawing more fire because she’s female, one person referred to it as “gendered bullshit”, but the remedy is to respond more quickly and effectively whenever men in power abuse their staffs. We should be gender-neutral when it comes to abuse of power.

Ah heck, may as well read it anyways.

I can’t recall doing a mental 180 in a shorter period of time. There’s no such thing as gender neutrality. Palmieri’s argument is this:

“. . . the problem is not that political journalists fail to report altogether on demanding and difficult men in politics. It’s that the reporting on such behavior is presented in a dramatically different fashion than it is in stories about female bosses in politics—as a badge of honor, not a mark of shame.”

I let that phrase, “badge of honor, not a mark of shame” sink in.

Palmieri’s just warming up y’all:

“It is not hard to think of tough male bosses in Washington. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has a reputation for being demanding; you will find such stories chronicled in the press. The same holds for men in politics with whom I have worked. A Google search of “Bill Clinton” and “purple rage” yields a number of anecdotes about the private temper tantrums we in the Clinton press office would endure when preparing the president for White House news conferences. Profiles of my friend and former colleague Rahm Emanuel are littered with stories of his profanity in the office and warnings by his staff that anyone working for him needs to “develop a thick skin,” write off going to weddings or family vacations, and expect to be available “25/8.”

While the anecdotes about these men are not entirely flattering, they are presented as colorful asides meant to give dimension to the hard-charging zeal with which these individuals do their jobs. Stories about intimidating male bosses are typically not presented as disqualifying, but as evidence of these men as formidable leaders. These are men who should not be underestimated. These are men who should be respected.” (emphasis mine)

Hook firmly entrenched in mouth, Palmieri reels me in:

“Imagine if it was reported that a female politician was prone to bouts of “purple rage” or that she expected staff to skip weddings and family vacations, and be available to her “25/8.” She would not be admired for the hard-charging zeal she brought to the job. She would be seen as unhinged. She would not be considered a formidable leader.”

Damn. She’s right. And not in a subtle, nuanced way, but in a “Wow, I’m not nearly as enlightened as I like to think” kinda way. I’m guilty of the thought process she details, and when it comes to gender relations, I’m much less a Neanderthal than normal. Hence, the systemic nature of the double standard.

To resolve myself of my gendered bullshit, I once again am firmly in the Kobuchar 2020 camp. Or EWarren. Two formidable leaders, either of whom would represent a bit of an upgrade.

Postscript: Also worth reading.