[lit-ideas] Re: Free the Radicals

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2011 16:26:16 -0800

Read my student evals today...for two classes anyway...those for the other 
class the administrative people are currently hunting high and low, with 
diligence and acuity.  In one of the two sets that were available, I came 
across a completely new adjective which, after a quarter century of teaching is 
remarkable.  One student described my class as "adorable."  

Today I had...three students.  Five are signed up.  It's completely weird.  
Last semester my Friday class in this very time slot was over-subscribed and my 
Wednesday one was thin.  This semester, the complete reverse, in spite of the 
fact that the Wednesday class is now at eight a.m. rather than three p.m. and 
the Friday one is still at the comparatively inviting hour of eleven.  Could it 
be the subject matter?  No.  Both seminars are on the same topic: history, 
film, postmodernism.  Is it my reputation, then?  Nothing in the student evals 
suggests widespread, or even localized, terror or aversion.  The worst they say 
is that I should be "more structured."  

If I were "more structured" could the class still have the potential to be 
"adorable"?  And would it be fair to be "more structured" after the syllabus 
clearly says, in twelve point type, that preparing students for independent 
work on the thesis project, means this class will not have the same kinds of 
structure, test, exercise and close supervision that is often found in 
introductory ones?

Cold, wet and miserable here today.  Feels like ancient wether somehow.  My 
wife asked what I wanted to do this evening.  "Not much," is the answer.  
Huddle round a small fire and tell tribal tales while the kill and evaluations 

J. is going ahead with her application for a year at Oxford.  She gets e mails 
saying things like, "Be more specific about which courses you would like to 
take."  While this might be good advice for someone in Literature or History, I 
doubt there's a whole lot to specify in a year's study of Chemistry.  "I'd like 
to do a lot of Naptha cracking, please.  Skip the basic structures and really 
get cracking, that's my idea.  Free the radicals."

Naptha isn't a hydrocarbon, is it?  But like many a thing, it sounds like might 
benefit from cracking. Or, possibly, crackling.

Carry on,

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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