Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Super Tuesday; Classroom Politics

(Originally published March 3, 2004)

I don't have any especially profound insight into this election year. I'm no insider, just an observer. My principle news sources are CNN and NPR, with an occasional look at the NY Times' online edition. But here's a quick sketch of my general politics. I do not like George W. Bush, even though I am a (transplanted) Texan (I keep running into people who think that my long-ago, faraway birthplace (Austin, to be precise) somehow dictates my politics. It does not. It DOES, however, dictate my preference for U of Texas basketball). I would not go so far as to say the current administration is "bad" in the sense of "evil," but I would argue vehemently that it is misguided and woefully short-sighted in both its foreign and domestic policy and so, in the long run, actually poses a greater "gathering threat" (to borrow a phrase) to our nation's welfare than any enemy abroad or liberal (or moderate) at home. The chickens haven't yet roosted, but isn't that them I see on the horizon? Just some quick food for thought: it was a so-called tax-and-spend Democratic administration that presided over the creation of a budget SURPLUS in the latter years of the 1990s; it was a so-called fiscally-conservative Republican administration that has just presented Congress with a budget with the highest-ever deficit AND expressed the desire that the 2001 tax cuts be made permanent. It will be interesting to see how Bush can present himself and his party as financially responsible in contrast to the Democrats. Our country's present ills are certainly not all Bush's responsibility. But, in my view, he has done little to improve those ills. As for specifics, don't EVEN get me started on the events leading up to our occupation of Iraq.
As you can see, I have my wishes and blind spots, just like anyone. And though, on the whole, I like John Kerry, I had been pulling for John Edwards to win at least enough delegates to create some drama at the convention, if not actually cause a brokered convention. Howard Dean energized the party; I think a brokered convention, while messy and POTENTIALLY devisive, would have energized the party going into the official election campaign: In front of the nation, Democrats would have worked on/out their differences, arriving at a true consensus on a candidate, the platform truly reflecting that consensus. So, yeah, I want my cake and eat it, too: I was kinda hoping for drama, but I also want to see someone other than George Bush in office after January, and "drama" would have yielded a candidate but not necessarily a November victory.

Classroom politics now:
As part of the work I assign in my Humanities class, I require the students to post a few messages each week on the electronic message board for the class, accessible via the college's network. There's no way to make postings private or restrict their viewing to only a select few. Anyway, while I certainly like to hear that students like what is happening in class, one of my students, in my view, was awfully excessive with his praise, to the point that it was embarrassing rather than merely affirming or flattering.
I thank students when they compliment my work (duh!), but I've decided not to respond to this particular thank-you--certainly not on the message board. My chief fear is that by responding publicly I draw more attention to his post, and I don't want to give the impression to others that a positive response to the post signifies that this post has stroked my ego and he thus will benefit in some way. Nor do I want to reprimand him in public (duh! again) for fear of prompting a negative reaction from students toward him. I suppose this bothers me because in my 11 years of teaching I have yet to choose not to acknowledge a student compliment. I will not go into detail about the post here--it's not as though it's a private communication--but suffice it to say that the post goes well beyond the usual "I learned a lot in your class" sort of compliment, even beyond the "My life is changed as a result of this class." I'm glad that the sentiments he expresses in his posts are true for him; those sentiments are so immoderate, though, that, as I say before, it would be inappropriate to respond directly to them in public.
Well. There's my quandry, or, rather, my still not being satisfied with my solution to the quandry.

Voice inside me: Hey, Blog: write about something more substantive, will ya? Like March Madness, maybe?

Me: Okay. But that'll have to be tomorrow's musing as we (well, I) continue to survey in search of the Meridian.

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