Digging Deep for Optimism

Friday, January 15, 2016 | 0 Comment(s)

It's been a tough few weeks. It got cold.  The world lost a few great famous people, one's that left their mark in their respective arts.  But I am not one to wax on about such things.  Death is final and terrifying and oftentimes requires deep breathing.  So, to do my part, I offer you a deep breath.  Because as I said, it's cold out there.

Last weekend Viking's kicker Blair Walsh missed a gimme of a field goal versus the Seahawks, which sealed his team's playoff defeat.   It really was a short kick. Twenty-seven yards.  Shorter than an extra point. Blair Walsh, an extremely talented kicker, had the worst day of his professional life -- by far.  Post-game he dutifully answered questions from reporters.  He took complete responsibility for the shank and for his teams subsequent defeat. He made no attempt to diffuse the blame across the concept of "team."  Blair just spoke the truth.  He messed up when it meant the most for his team.  And after the reporters finished with their questions and dispersed, he broke down at his locker.

This is not the deep breath. You have to wait for it.

How My Students Are This Semester

Friday, January 8, 2016 | 0 Comment(s)

How are your students this semester?

I get this question multiple times at the beginning of each semester that I've taught at the college level. And while I firmly understand that the intent of the question is to gain more insight into my teaching experience and show interest in my life in general, it's a question that has constantly irked me.

The question presupposed the idea that there are good classes and bad classes. Good students and bad students. And I can tell you that this mentality has rubbed off on the student body. In many student meetings I've had UMass students talk about their education as if is somehow less than the educational experience at nearby colleges like Amherst, Hampshire, Smith, and Mt. Holyoke. There is this invisible glass ceilings that UMass students feel their education is below in a geographic area chocked full of management-level educational institutions.

The Tyranny of Overusing the Word "Tyranny"

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 | 0 Comment(s)

I never do this. I never start with a definition. It's trite. It's cliche. It's . . . the beginning to almost every horrific wedding speech. But here we go.

Tyranny is defined as "cruel and oppressive government or rule." And I'm not sure whether we've lost track of what "cruel" is, what "oppression" is, or both. But people across the US have been talking a hell of a lot about tyranny lately, and with all the tyranny talk -- Tyranny this . . . Tyranny that . . . the word has lost all meaning.

It bemuses me that any of the "Big Two" political parties in America could believe there is any systematic tyranny in the USA. I mean, the president is a Democratic, both houses of government are Republican led, and as a unit they do almost no governing. No governing and oppressive governing are very different animals. No governance is like a sheep that has gone lost and returns years later with matted wool and a desperate need to be shorn.

Whereas THIS is an oppressive government (Warning: this metaphor is graphic).

Now can you see the difference?