22 September 2009

I revise. I will revise. I have revised. I will have revised.

Oh prospectus.

So while I'm waiting for the registrar to get me my list of IDs, I digitized my survey for my participants. In a perfect world, I would distribute each in person, shake the hand of my potential participant, and thank them for their time. Instead, I had to go to SurveyMonkey. Bah. However, I do think with my population's own time crunches (I remember being terribly busy as a first-year student, or at least feeling terribly busy), they may be more likely to respond if it's digital. We shall see.

In the meantime, I'm burying myself in my prospectus in the hopes that it'll suddenly, magically clarify. I've made SO MANY assumptions that I didn't realize were assumptions until I was called out. (What do you mean? It isn't obvious that class is a cultural marker primarily free from theorizing? You want what? PROOF?) I found out that I've been doing the same thing I've accused others of doing: blind assertion, scant evidence, because-that's-the-way-I-want-it support. It's really no different than the collapse of productive discourse we were talking about last week. I'm still not optimistic about its return.

I am also interested in this connection between American ideals and discourse patterns. I think the wholesale adoption of the terms pro/con has structured how we think about issues, and we're working in FYC against these simplified answers to posit opinion as usually existing on a continuum somewhere, rarely to live at one extreme or the other. I blame 24-hour news and Internet info bytes. People so often complain that they get "bored" before they're finished reading, so they don't continue. If it's not packaged in easy-to-understand 30-second soundbites, they don't want it. Thus, they don't fully explore any topic. Maybe that's why this prospectus revision feels so painful: I'm deeply engaging with just a few major ideas (too many, if you ask my committee), instead of sliding along a bunch of ideas very quickly. I didn't think I was a member of this newly digital, newly distracted (ahem, conference anyone?) culture.

You've met those students: they google a few terms and make an argument. They visit two or three sites and suddenly have a full understanding of an issue. That's what we're rallying against in FYC. A few googled terms does NOT a strong argument make. In concert, an undertheorized prospectus full of assertions and unquestioned terms does NOT a successful prospectus make.

18 September 2009

Entitlement Epidemic

subtitled: Why I am Not Optimistic about the Rise of Productive Discourse

sub-subtitled: Having Your Opinions Echoed By a Screaming Crowd Validates You! Try it Today!

sub-sub-subtitled: Narcissism is Patriotic.

Ruben Naverette

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN)
-- Thanks to Joe, Kanye, Serena, and other misfits, a lot of people are talking about how society is undergoing a rash of rudeness.

That's not completely accurate. It's more like a rise in self-centeredness.

Among the self-centered: Congressman Joe Wilson, rapper Kanye West and tennis star Serena Williams. But this phenomenon isn't limited to celebrities and previously anonymous backbenchers in Congress basking in their 15 minutes.

There are many people out there, in all walks of life, who think they're more significant than they really are. Plagued with an exaggerated sense of self-importance, they feel entitled to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it no matter whom it hurts.

The self-centered rarely think about the consequences because they're too busy claiming what they see as their rightful place in the spotlight. And when they're criticized for letting their narcissism get the best of them and face the wrath of their colleagues or the disapproval of their fans, they might apologize. But, even then, they often don't do a very good job of it because their heart's not in it.

They don't feel genuine remorse but they've been told by their press secretaries and publicists to fake it as best they can as part of the damage control. They mouth the words because they consider it to be in their own best interests. It's always about them.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford made matters worse at home by apologizing for an affair with someone he called his "soul mate."

Singer Chris Brown -- who began performing community service in Virginia this week in connection with his sentence for assaulting his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna -- publicly apologized for the abuse and then played the victim when Oprah Winfrey criticized him.

So how did this virus of self-centeredness get in our national bloodstream?

Some in the media blame the coarseness of talk radio and the Internet where the most extreme voices are the loudest and where people tune in not to hear different points of view but to have their own views validated. That's no picnic for those of us who won't be boxed in. I've had liberals comment on this site that, as someone who sometimes voices conservative opinions, my column belongs somewhere. But, when I recently hosted a radio show, and expressed liberal views, an angry caller protectively informed me that "AM talk radio is for conservatives."

Others blame the look-at-me-I'm-so-special culture bred by egocentric social networking sites such as Facebook, My Space, and Twitter. With thousands of "followers" caring enough to take time from their own day to shadow you through yours, is it any wonder that the followed are getting big heads as they "tweet" what they had for breakfast?

But I'm old-school. I believe that what matters most is not what happens at your computer but around your dinner table. When we consider the reasons for this rash of self-centeredness, I think most of it comes down to just one thing: bad parenting.

Americans have reared at least one generation of kids, or maybe two, to think of themselves as the last bottle of soda pop in the desert. We said we were building children's self-esteem so they could be successful, but it never occurred to us that giving kids what psychologists call "cheap self-esteem" could do more harm than good by making our kids think they're 10-feet tall and bulletproof when they're neither.

Besides, what many of these parents were really doing was feeding their own egos; by telling your kids they're special, it confirms that you're special for having such special kids. Isn't that special?

Experts who study the generations say that, thanks to reliable birth control and legalized abortion, the last couple of generations have been the "most wanted" in American history. When they arrived, we drove them around in minivans with signs that broadcast: "Caution: Baby on Board." And when they went to school or summer camp, we made sure everyone got a trophy so no one got their feelings hurt.

One person who has zeroed in on this is Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University. Twenge has spent more than a dozen years examining generational differences. Her research includes comparing studies on the self-esteem of more than 60,000 college students across the country from 1968 to 1994.

As a result of this, and the feedback of hundreds of her own students, Twenge has written two highly informed books on our self-centered culture. This year, she put out, "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement," with co-author and fellow psychologist W. Keith Campbell.

Twenge recalled the student who asked her to postpone a final exam because it interfered with his plans for a birthday outing to Las Vegas. She also heard from a person who runs a company in Minnesota who said it was not uncommon for employees to call into the office and say they were too tired to come to work.

In their book, Twenge and Campbell list the factors fueling the entitlement mentality. They include celebrity culture and the media, which teach Americans that they're entitled to be famous.

"Narcissism is absolutely toxic to society," Twenge told me when I interviewed her about her book a few months ago. "When faced with common resources, narcissists take more for themselves and they leave less for others."

And, as usual, diagnosing the ailment is easier than curing it. But cure it we must. Before we learn all the wrong lessons and come to think that the abnormal is normal, and the intolerable is acceptable. iReport.com: Why so many outbursts?

A friend who used to work in the Bush White House tells me that some Republican voters are already flooding the Congressional switchboard and pushing the idea of Joe Wilson running for president in 2012. No lie!

We had better work fast.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette Jr.

17 September 2009

Doxa, not Daschund

Today, in class, it struck me that Big-D-Discourse correlates directly with the Greek idea of doxa. As in orthoDOXy, the idea of doxa relates to universal beliefs, popular opinions, namely, the cheap parlor tricks sophists made their money on.

Thus, we have a binary:


These relationships break down in my head, though, because I'm more of a relativist than Plato. (Natch.) However, I do think there's a connection here between Big-D-Discourse and doxa. Maybe it lies in the creation of cultural memory.

And when you throw in the concept of techne, or art and craft, as it compares with doxa and episteme (can you have a techne without episteme?), the waters muddy even further.

If I had to write a seminar paper for this class, it would be on doxa and Big-D-Discourse.

I'm still puzzling through the idea, and I think I'm probably too tired to write a coherent blog.

16 September 2009



Now I round out my committee, revise my prospectus, and turn it in to the grad office with an abstract.

Very much happiness!

15 September 2009

Big Fat Deal

I guess I don't see it.

We've been "talking"--if that's what the online back-and-forthing can rightly be termed--about the bounds of DA and whether or not they cross with SCIENCE! (cue Thomas Dolby.) I didn't participate much in the discussion because the scrolling ticker in my head flashed "So what? Big fat deal. What's so great about long-held and politically powerful communities of practice anyway?"

You see, I'm not normally combative.

What came to mind was Anne Ruggles Gere's introduction to Into the Field: Sites of Composition Studies. She foregoes the typical "let's fill the gap left by edu psych/psych/etc." metaphor to suggest that Composition Studies (of which some are DA based) is more of a "restructuring" of methods and concepts from other disciplines, not a stopgap.

Gere writes, "The bridge-building metaphor, which has served composition for several decades, can be used to describe much of the history of composition studies. One early intellectual association, between composition and educational psychology, accurately demonstrates composition's unproblemitized adoption of methods and values from another field." Gere suggests "deconstructing received boundaries" to "accommodate a more complicated relation, one that refigures both educational practices and scholarly research" (3-4). Well, so what? What's this blah blah posturing of Composition Studies (of which, I reassert, some are DA based) as a restructuring, not a linking between more "reputable" disciplines mean for us in class?

I'll tell you what:

1. Gere suggests--and I agree--that to call for disciplinary relevance vis a vis established methods and concepts often results in reductive and/or incomplete methods and concepts. BECAUSE THEY ARE OFTEN INCOMPATIBLE SYSTEMS.

2. Therefore, I propose that disciplinary quibbles and whether or not DA (or Composition Studies) "count" as Big-S-Science serve to highlight only the differences between the two paradigms while eliding the commonalities. As such, I'm not sure debating the definition(s) of Science (which are both rarefied and hegemonic) any further is the best course for getting us really debating the intricacies of DA as a method and product of inquiry. After all, if we're so busy clamoring for disciplinary credibility (through our affinity, however scarce, to SCIENCE!!!), we lose sight of the rich methods and methodologies of the field. (And I understand that the word "field" used here, in this way, is ideologically laden, but I'll leave it for now. Maybe we can back-and-forth about it post-prospectus-defense.)

3. Therefore again, I propose that we assume that DA is a Science in its own right, as defined by practitioners in the field (a process very much like the Scientific Revolution, a process of trial and error, disciplinary best-practices establishment, failure, success, etc.) based on its rigor, adherence to common method, and other factors which I cannot recall but should be able to.


Long post. More later and less obnoxiously.

08 September 2009

Sick and Tired

No. I've just been both sick and tired. And neglectful of my blog.

I met with the registrar on Thursday to work out a plan to get the student IDs of women who I can survey for my diss. I'm panicking a little because the delay (I guess someone didn't get my email two weeks ago, which isn't surprising, considering Tmail). I can't stop thinking that I'm already a full month behind on my diss. I think the whole "let qual research evolve!" philosophy is so much easier when you're not staring down the barrel of job interviews in a year.

Anyway, it's all to say that I was really intriged by our 531 class last week. I meant to talk about the differences in audience addressed and audience invoked; audience and genre theory are passing interests. How interesting that neuroscientists are appealing to classroom teachers! Distraction isn't a behavior issue, but a brain chemistry issue. I keep thinking of the (cue music: dun dun duuuuun) rise of prozac in the 1990s. Though the content of the brochure wasn't really our focus of discussion, I was intrigued (as one of the few non-edu people in class) by this "brain-based approach." Is that what it's called?

Anyway, I look forward to another productive discussion on Thursday. I am enjoying Single Woman immensely. My English 102 class revolves around body politics, so this book would fit right in.

02 September 2009

Work? What's that?

I'm really intrigued by the idea of the construction of language through discourse communities. I think that's at the heart of what our two readings (Discursive Psychology and Discursive Constructionism) are getting at. I had started to formulate a post in my mind that involved my past-life as a personal trainer and how we define such nebulous terms like "fat" and "fit" and "workout" and "goal." However, since I've had the Swine Flu (that's right) for three days, I've fallen miserably behind on my work. This morning, on the phone, my mom mentioned that the flu doesn't keep a schedule. But my work does. And that schedule is largely inflexible.

See, she comes from a discourse community where "work" is something you have to show up for Monday through Friday, sometimes the infrequent weekend, and once you're home, the "work" part is done. I should also mention that these definitions of work are class-based, as we self-identify as working class. Thus, work is primarily physical. It makes you tired, gets you dirty, and at the end of the day, you can relax knowing that you've exhausted your body.

But my work isn't physical (usually). My work is isolated. It's quiet and usually operates on longer-termed deadlines. I sometimes don't move from my office chair for hours. (In truth, it feels like I've been sitting here since 2004.) But my work--and most of the work in academia--operates on a self-guided plan; that is to say, no matter when we work, we must have certain projects (books, articles, teaching notes) completed by a certain time. That structure makes it feel like our jobs are 24/7/365. I mean, honestly: Who's taken books on vacation to "catch up"? Who's edited articles in the airport? Who's graded papers in the car? Yeah. Me too.

My work is middle- to upper-class in that I don't get dirty, risk on-the-job injuries like other trades, or "answer" to some boss. (That last part is controversial, but I'll leave it for now. I'm a grad student. I answer to everyone.) I read and write and grade, and I am exhausted at the end of the week. My discourse community supports this exhaustion because they share a frame of reference. And though I ally myself with this "new" discourse community and its definition of work, I still maintain my ideologies as working class. It's a difficult negotiation, and one that I hope to explore both in articles and through my dissertation.