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I’ve been humming this song all week long. Actually, I’ve just been humming the chorus – I admit, I don’t know the rest. It all stems from a conversation I had with a colleague. Classes have started at Dordt and we were talking about the highs and lows of teaching the Core classes. You know… the classes that everyone is conditioned to not take very seriously. So we were talking about how to keep students engaged, how to encourage them to do the reading – basically sharing tips and insights. Then a third colleague entered and decided to share a bit of news with my friend, telling him that the word on the street is that his class is “easy.” Don’t you love it when people share? Happens to me all the time – they decide to let you in on something, thinking they’re doing you a favor, not knowing what they’ve said has set off Armageddon in your soul. “Good,” I said to my friend, “I think you should take that as a compliment.”
For the past few weeks I’ve been taking my comprehensive exams. Months and months of preparation have given way to sitting in front of a computer dumping out all that I’ve learned in my PhD program thus far. Truth is I’ve learned more than I could ever type on a computer. Deep down I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed the comp process. Its been hectic… sometimes frantic… but I’ve been given an excuse to spend time engaging the ideas of people like Charles Taylor, Michel de Certeau, Elaine Graham, and Serene Jones. The stuff I’ve read has prompted me to think about “practice” – specifically the practices of the college classroom. The pressure is on for academics to be complex and tough while at the same time entertaining and “not boring.” To measure and assess through countless little papers, quizzes, or projects. To create the “user friendly” classroom experience that culminates with students filling in little dots that hopefully puts your IDEA forms into the “grey bar of mediocrity.” Maybe Core students and professors need to be saved from themselves. Maybe we need a heavy dose of “easy” by which I mean simplicity. Not an “easy” that’s surface-y or trite but an easy and a simplicity that has more depth than we can possibly handle.
So here’s to being “easy”and even a bit of boring. It’s good to be bored every now and again. I know I’m looking forward to it.