Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Bee Movie, or, Lessons in not rocking the boat

OK, I admit it; sometimes my critical brain simply WON'T TURN OFF. I try, but sometimes, I just have to read my world critically.

So, last week I went to see Bee Movie as an escape from the pressures of academic life and the real world. I figured, cute kids' movie, Jerry Seinfeld... what could be bad? Gee, I was wrong.

For those of you haven't seen the movie, you might not want to read on. I am going to ruin the movie for you right now. For those of you who have seen the movie, I'm probably going to ruin it for you, too.

The movie is about Barry Bee who fights 27 millions years of evolution to break out of the bee mold in order to do something different with his life. After graduating school (after three days!), he is told he needs to pick a job that he will have for the rest of his life. Not satisfied with the idea of doing one thing until the day he dies, he decides to take a risk and go out with the pollen jocks. Unlike the pollen jocks, who resemble the archetypal WWII fly boys, Barry is, shall we say, rather puny. But, he goes out with them, and discovers a whole world beyond the hive. And here is where the trouble really begins.

It was bad enough that he couldn't decide what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, he actually went out and met a human girl. That's right, he was dating outside the species (and a big deal is made about this). After all, humans are not supposed to know that bees can talk, and there is a long standing history of bees dying at the hands of humans, what with the swatting and all. What makes it worse (or at least, how I read the message in the remainder of the movie) was the fact the he continued to fly in the face of 27 millions years of doing things the same way. Barry discovered that humans were exploiting bees by smoking them and stealing their honey. So what does Barry do? He sues the human race... and wins.

Everything goes south of course, because the bees get back all the honey that was taken from them. There was so much honey, in fact, that they had to suspend production. As a result, the formerly industrious bees, became lazy and slothful, because they no longer had to work. As a result, no pollination, and the world's flowers, trees, and crops started die off.

Of course, with the help of his human girlfriend, Barry learned the error of his ways, and saved the world by convincing the bees he'd made a mistake, and it really was a bad idea to fight 27 million years of evolution. So, they pollinated and the bees went back to producing honey, etc. And Barry became a civil rights lawyer for animals.

The message? Everyone has their place, and we can't disrupt the natural order of things, particularly when it comes to workers, production, and consumption. Workers can't be trusted to know what's best for them or for society, and one uppity individual who fights for workers' rights and justice can undo the entire order of things. And that, is far more dangerous.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How can we afford $459 billion for war and not $151 billion on education, health, and labor????

It's official, I could SCREAM. For those of you who don't know, President Bush vetoed a spending bill for Education, Health, and Labor (at 150.7 billion) because Congress was acting "like a teenager with a credit card," but approved the $459 billion INCREASE in war spending.

What!?!?!?!?!?! I get the fact that my priorities are vastly different than the President's. I accepted that long ago. But to continue to mandate the pressures of NCLB without filling in the funding gap makes me want to puke. Certain folks in the Administration are complaining that Congress is being pressured by special interest groups to fund these earmarked projects. I think this is the first time I've ever been forced to view kids as special interest groups.

And this, all from the "Education President."

You can read more about it here. And yes, I am biased. Deal with it (I'm also, apparently, really in a bad mood).

Sometimes when you fall down, it's better to just stay there

No, this is not about "stupid human tricks." It's about the fact that I realized (well, finally let go of my denial) that I am doing way too much. The end result? I am doing nothing as well as I should. Three classes, two doctoral dissertations, one doctoral, portfolio, 5 masters thesis projects, one independent study, my own research and writing, 4 committees, Graduate Council... and that's just my professional life. I like being busy, and I tend to be more efficient when I have a lot on my plate. But, come on! This is ridiculous.

The reality is that in every workplace, there are people who get away with doing the minimum, those who kill themselves, and there are the smart workers. They are the ones who know how to pick and choose their responsibilities, and really shine because they can focus on what they need to. Clearly, I am not a smart worker right now. But I gotta get there. And soon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Heading down the homestretch

It's been almost a month since I've posted. To be honest, I didn't think it was that long. I guess time got away from me.

Teaching can be grueling. It's not the planning or the grading that gets to me (though I hate grading, I admit it). It's what happens in the classroom that drains me. Teaching simply takes a lot of energy.

First, getting students engaged is not as easy as some would like to think. There is this perception out there that learning has to be fun in order for students to be successful. Lights, and music, and lots of movement... sorry folks, it just doesn't always work out that way. Learning can be really hard work, especially when you have to stop and think about what you are reading, talking about, and working towards. Sometimes, goals are not all-that-apparent.

Second, there is always too much to teach and not enough time. You always have to decide what to cut. It kills me to say that, but it's the truth. Do I cut the reading? The lecture? The KWL? The paper? I can never decide.

Finally, teaching never stops. A friend asked me last night if it was like being a student: you never really relaxed until that last final was in. Well, sort of. Except, once all of the students hand in the finals, someone still has to grade them.