Tall, Dark, and Mysterious

2/2/2005

Extremely clever joke I came up with the other day:

File under: Those Who Can't, Hubris. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 11:34 am.

If I had 3/4 of a dollar for every student of mine who can’t work with fractions, I’d have 120/160 dollars.

Thank you very much; I’ll be here all day.

Precalculus And The Case Of The Missing Children

File under: Those Who Can't. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 10:30 am.

Absenteeism is a tricky problem to deal with, because by its very nature, lecturing your students about how bad it is invariably reaches the wrong audience. It’s only a problem in my precalc class, partly because precalculus is an evening class; however, attendance in precalculus last semester was crap as well, when I taught it at a perfectly reasonable time in the afternoon. I don’t want to take attendance; my students are adults, this isn’t a seminar class, and I want to evaluate people on their work, not on their presence in the classroom. Moreover, some (maybe three) of my chronic skippers actually know the material, and I don’t want to penalize them. Wanting my students to come to class is a byproduct of my wanting them to actually learn the material properly. So I’ve resorted almost subconsciously to dealing with the problem in the most passive-aggressive of manners. In particular:

  1. The class is long, so I give the students a ten-minute break in the middle. Many students tend to leave after the break. Gradually, I’ve pushed back the time of the break; it used to be halfway through the class; now it’s around two thirds of the way through.
  2. I tend to take a few minutes of each class going over homework. Recently I decided to leave this until after the break.
  3. Ditto for the friendly reminders that my students have a test next week, which I’ve taken to administering to 60% or so my students. The test dates were in the syllabus, so my students have no excuse for not knowing them; but I have a creeping suspicion that many of my students will be away this coming Tuesday. (I usually hold quizzes on Thursdays, and a lot of my students seem to interpret this to mean that Tuesday classes are optional.) This, incidentally, is why I’d make a mediocre high school teacher and a downright crappy elementary school teacher: because I am willing to let students dig their own graves. God help anyone who decides to complain that they didn’t know about the test: I only mentioned it in the course outline and in the two classes leading up to it. To say nothing of the review session.

We’ll see how it goes. I think that whether or not I get decent attendance for the test, it’s not going to be very well done: the last quiz was a disaster, and it was on material we’d covered a few days earlier. Nothing like a test worth a fifth of a grade to improve the percentage of students who come to class: some will be scared straight, and the others will drop out. (Well, except for this woman, whose other uncle will die right before the test. Or something. She’s still enrolled; I haven’t seen her for two weeks, but I’m sure she’s keeping up with the material. She told me so herself.)

Because there aren’t enough stupid arguments regarding same-sex marriage

File under: Character Writ Large, Sound And Fury, Home And Native Land, I Read The News Today, Oh Boy. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 10:03 am.

A few months ago, when George W. Bush won a historic victory with a campaign that called for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage for all eternity, progressively-minded Americans gazed longingly at the 49th parallel, and many contemplated moving here. Little did they anticipate that Canada’s inferiority complex would drive our Parliament to try to outdo our neighbours on this front: you may be able to campaign on an anti-same-sex-marriage amendment, but WE don’t have fixed election dates, so we can call an election over this sort of thing! Even after our Supreme Court rules that restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional! Take THAT!

So, off to the polls we’ll go (or not) to vote on whether gay marriage is OK, or whether Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is right in that it will lead to polygamy, like the stuff that we’ve already had for years and years over in Bountiful, but enough about that. (The Conservative MP for Bountiful, Jim Abbott, is among those who are emphatic that gay marriage has nothing to do with the practice of 50-year-old men taking a dozen 15-year-old girls as wives: the other day Abbott called on his party to stop alienating the latter group, while assuring his constituents that he’ll vote against gay marriage when the time comes. You can’t make this stuff up.)

Anyway, this being Canada, Prime Minister Martin’s not going to be defeated over his support of the Supreme Court decision to uphold the rights of gays to marry. He may, on the other hand, be defeated over the fact that he’s been an egregiously spineless, ineffective leader, and - oh, wait. This is Canada, and he’s a Liberal. He’ll be back in the Prime Minister’s office.

Harper’s behaviour on this issue - in particular, his caginess regarding the use of the Notwithstanding Clause* - has been positively loathesome, and yet somehow, of all the criticisms available to him, Martin manages to harangue Harper for bringing his message to the people who are most likely to listen to it:

Prime Minister Paul Martin is accusing his federal Conservative foes of “racial profiling” in their bid to rally opponents of same-sex marriage among Canada’s ethnic and cultural communities.

…He told them a recent wave of Tory ads against same-sex marriage — strategically placed in newspapers catering to new and immigrant Canadians — show Harper discriminates on the basis of race and nationality.

No, Mr. Martin, that’s not racial profiling, that’s PANDERING, and it’s the cornerstone of every successful political campaign, including many of your own party’s. To wit: last June, I attended an all-candidates meeting which took place a few weeks after the Liberals had decided to run with the complete nonissue of abortion, which some noname Tory MP had brought up and which Harper spent the rest of the campaign backpedalling over. “If you vote Conservative,” the Liberal candidate warned us, “you women will be leaving your Right To ChooseTM in the hands of a bunch of MPs, 80% of whom are men.” Yeah, including the vast majority of the Liberal MPs, but who’s keeping track? If Harper’s ads targeted at new immigrants was racial profiling, then I guess this was gender profiling, and pretty crappy gender profiling, since young Canadian women are more divided/apathetic over abortion than new Chinese immigrants are over gay marriage. By the way, Stephen Owen, if you’re reading this - you lost my vote that day.

This basically sums up my frustration with identity politics in general: anyone can play, which allows discourse on all sorts of issues to degenerate into some lame parody of “Some of my best friends are [members of some minority group]!” / “Yeah, well, EVEN MORE of MY best friends are [members of some minority group]!” Which is why multiculturalism needs to be subordinated to, say, principle. I’m just sayin’.

* Brief Canadian law primer for my non-Canadian readers: once the Supreme Court rules that X is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the legislature may invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the ruling and do X anyway. Quebec’s language laws, for instance, violate the Charter’s rights to equality and freedom of expression, and are permitted via this rarely-used loophole.