Reporting from The Storm. HASTAC 2013.
I still remember the experience that chose my undergraduate major. The first class that left me perplexed, that made my brain hurt in a good way, that forced me to expand my perspective beyond anything I'd ever known or imagined -- that was it. The class happened to be Wahneema Lubiano's Intro to Cultural Studies (LIT 100) at Duke, and what left me in such a state was Althusser's concept of Ideology.
This past weekend, it happened again. As I sat in the audience, listening to the second half of Cathy Davidson's keynote address, it hit me. Davidson made two points that particularly stuck out in my mind:
- Our culture is increasingly one in which learning, unlearning and relearning are fundamental.
- If teachers can be replaced by computer screens, they should be.
Maybe it was the fact that I'd just stepped off a plane or maybe it was because I'd never heard Davidson make these points to a live audience, but I took these points, one after the other, quite literally.
Unlearning + Teaching --> Unlearning Teaching
What, I thought, does it mean to unlearn teaching? As I listened to the presentations and discussions that followed throughout the conference weekend, this question began to solidify and expand. Are there any be habits or patterns that I have fallen into over the years? Do any of these make me similar to a computer screen? No less effective than a computer screen? If so, how do I even begin to unlearn these?
I teach writing for the Culture, Art, & Technology program at UCSD
. The reality is that I've spent the last 20+ years of my life systematically learning to buy into (or at least conform to) a certain opinion of what constitutes "good" scholarly writing. Come on, I'm a grad student. I imagine many of you have done the same. I also know that the form of traditionally structured academic writing doesn't always equal successful communication in today's technology-rich environment. Come on, I'm a HASTACer.
Here's the problem. Grading pencil in hand, I sometimes find myself reverting to the standards of writing I've been conditioned for. Worse, I get frustrated when students don't meet them. While I encourage my students to think deeply and engage in alternate forms of scholarship, my and my student's and the academy's expectations are stuck in what I we already know and have already imagined.
So, if I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that I need to practice unlearning teaching. This doesn't mean lowering my expectations of scholarly writing when grading, but it does mean unlearning a great deal of what I've been trained to achieve. Any success stories, suggestions or ideas as to how?