Now that I’m back teaching after a short hiatus, I am reminded that teaching means grading. You might think that as a professor at a research university who is blessed with Teaching Assistants, I don’t grade. You would be wrong. I’ve been told that I should leave the grading to the TAs, but when I do I have less of a sense of how the students are doing. What are they getting wrong? What are they getting right? If I don’t know, then I can’t tell whether my teaching is resulting in their learning. It is, after all, an interactive process. So I grade. And yes, like all professors the world over, I Hate To Grade.
This semester’s courses feature in-class written exams, which means reading students’ handwriting. For the most part, student handwriting is pretty awful. I believe the reports that say handwriting has become worse over the years. So I was taken by Philip Hensher’s thoughts about the role of handwriting in a digital age, especially what we might be losing by abandoning it:
We have surrendered our handwriting for something more mechanical, less distinctively human, less telling about ourselves and less present in our moments of the highest happiness and the deepest emotion. Ink runs in our veins, and shows the world what we are like. The shaping of thought and written language by a pen, moved by a hand to register marks of ink on paper, has for centuries, millennia, been regarded as key to our existence as human beings. In the past, handwriting has been regarded as almost the most powerful sign of our individuality. In 1847, in an American case, a witness testified without hesitation that a signature was genuine, though he had not seen an example of the handwriting for 63 years: the court accepted his testimony.
Handwriting is what registers our individuality, and the mark which our culture has made on us. It has been seen as the unknowing key to our souls and our innermost nature.
I don’t agree with everything he says, but I’m intrigued enough to look forward to reading his book. I still write by hand, even though I do a lot of composing onscreen. I take notes, I transcribe from archives (when computers aren’t allowed or easily used), and I write longhand when I’m having trouble at the computer. When I journal, I can only do it longhand. I’ve used fountain pens for decades, and I still write with them despite the ink-explosion risk (beware on airplanes).
Students today tend to print, which a sign of discomfort with longhand. If you’re faster at printing than writing cursive, you probably weren’t taught cursive early and well. When I run across a student whose longhand writing is better than mine, it’s a delight.
Next, a distressingly apropos article from The Awl on hate blogs, i.e., blogs that are created specifically to excoriate people the blogger dislikes. One part of the conversation really stood out to me:
Adrian Chen: Well, what [possesses] someone to make a fan site, where they slavishly gush over everything a person or entity does? It’s passion. To me the hate-blog phenomenon is basically anti-fandom: someone is totally obsessed with something but instead of expressing their passion through love, it’s hate. It’s a totally different product but comes from that same root, irrational fixation on the thing in question.
Jessica: But the people they’re fixating on don’t seem like a big enough deal, in most cases, to encourage such an obsession. Have you observed a particular quality in the Internet types who end up having hate-blogs dedicated to them?
Adrian: Yeah, I think the more someone’s Internet persona depends on them being a “real person,” the more they attract these kinds of crazy obsessive hate-bloggers. The logic is almost the opposite of what you’d think, where the fact they’re small-time means it’s more appropriate to hate on them like you would a real-life enemy. What’s the point in dedicating a hate-blog to, like, Lindsay Lohan when you know she’ll never read it?
Jessica: That seems right. When the commenters convene in these blogs, I’ve noticed two common responses to the reason for their obsession. 1. They claim they actually want the person they’re blogging about to change (be less narcissistic, write about things that are less frivolous, etc.); or 2. They are projecting some major personal baggage—comparing the person blogging to someone they hate in their actual life.
The way the post accounts for the emphasis on ordinary-but-not-famous bloggers (or, in our case, reviewers) makes a lot of sense. Even in romancelandia, hating on DA or SBTB is kind of uninteresting; big sites always attract haters. But why hate on people who have small blogs and do little to publicize them? This article reinforces that it’s not about the blog, it’s about the hater.
Next, the incomparable Garry Trudeau on how we find (or fail to find) real news in today’s media. I can’t see a way to embed it, so here’s a taste:
Now go read the whole thing and despair for our future. Why should I be miserable alone?
And finally, an announcement from one of the longest-running romance review sites around. AAR has been a terrific resource for romancelandia over the years; I never would have explored the community and the genre the way I have over the last decade without it. I wish Lynn, Blythe, and the rest of the AAR staff the best of luck in their transition, and Sandy the same in her new endeavors.