November 11, 2004

Umm, Wow.

I'm off to shoe shop with The Boy of Burgeoning Feet, so read this item (by an English Professor, no less!) about the perils of groupthink.

Yeah, it's been linked everywhere, but it's good.

On dialup, so too lazy to Google: is the author the same guy who's been trying to actually reintroduce stuff like Shakespeare into the NEA?

Posted by Big Arm Woman at November 11, 2004 12:05 PM

Dana Gioia, a very good poet who also thinks and writes about such things as the role of poetry in society (who knew such creatures existed anymore?), is currently the chairman of the NEA, and the one who spearheaded the "Shakespeare Across America" productions. I assume he is probably buddies with the professor who wrote the article.

Having dwelled in a graduate English program some years ago (where I successfully put the moves on... uh, wooed the lovely BAW, btw!),I love the fact that an English professor wrote the article. The mentor I was given, before I was let loose as a teaching assistant, was a bald, earring-ed, associate-prof.-hack who had a poster of the great humanist Che Guevara in his tiny office. I also witnessed him, during his freshman honors class, work the phrase "f_ _ _ing Republicans" into a discussion on "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (no small task, that).

Several years later I had to attend a six-week accelerated education program at another university in order to get my teaching certificate (it was a good deal for me, so I hate to knock it too much). All the students in this program were, like me, coming from other walks of life and seeking alternative licensure, and many were from other regions of the country. This was an interesting group, because the university was in a military town, and it also had a much larger than average black student population. So, there was a wonderful array of opinion represented.

At one point during that summer we were all supposed to read a noxious little book of "sociology" entitled "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Beverly Daniel Tatum. Given one guess, I'm sure you could correctly predict her answer, which no doubt was endorsed by Groupthink, Inc. I came in on the day we were supposed to start discussing the book with a sense of foreboding, but as intellectually-armed as possible to dispute her (cough) arguments. Turned out that we barely discussed the book at all, as virtually the entire class, including all but two of the black students, dismissed it out of hand within ten minutes or so of discussion. Consensus: "Thank you for assuming we are moral-morons, but having lived for some years, and worked out in the wide world, we will happily rely on what our own experiences have taught us regarding human relations. Now, could we actually talk about something useful?" The professor on rotation that day, wisely understanding the value of not beating her head against an agitated rock, quickly changed the discussion away from the book.

I am sure, however, that Dr. Tatum, a la Pauline Kael, sits around and thinks, "I've written a really useful book. Everyone I know tells me so."

Posted by: Husband of BAW at November 11, 2004 01:28 PM