Monday, October 11, 2010
Forgive the vulgarities
I tried to help a young Liberian student in his freshman English class at a local community college. He was given a forty page essay written by the French scholar Jaques Lacan and was to apply his thinking to his writing and reading habits. This is a young man with five years of English classes, a refugee experience, and an introduction to literature class. I didn't show this comical video, but I watched it last night trying to make sense of how (and why) one would offer such esoteric thinking to a 19 year old freshman who is still learning English as his second language and who has very limited reading and writing experiences provided by his high school education.
The only answer I have is that we are a comedy of apes.
Language is power, and in higher education, the competition exists for who can communicate the simplest ideas in the most complicated ways. Individuals who preach equity, justice, democracy and freedom, do so from an elite language that does nothing but serve the status quo of those already in power (at least in terms of how higher education in the humanities defines power).
Karma to me, however, is being Robin Hood and stealing the language of those who bully others and being able to put it in terms that everyone can understand. The problem with this for most intellects, I believe, is that if such language was allowed to the common person, their very essence of being an academic would be obscure and obsolete.
To me, students need to learn to read and write and I will constantly question why reading Lacan as an introductory lesson on literature is useful. I don't think it is unless they who teach it are able to put it in terms a 4th grader can understand. If they can't, then I'm unsure if they should be calling themselves teachers.