Monthly Archives: August 2009

FYCL #5: On Ungrateful Assholes.

FYCL #5, click to listen, etc, you know the drill.

Dubious advice on gratitude, fuck buddies, relationship talk, feminism, faux feminism and babies, and drinking.

We really blitzed the links with our discussion of Roiphe and the reactions to her, so here you are:

Music in at the end is “Rubberband Girl” by Kate Bush.

Please post comments, questions and ideas here, or you can email me at whatladder at gmail dot com.

So, apparently RYS mods have gone soft. In the head.

I have recommended RYS a number of times because of its level of snark and honesty about being a prof, but it looks like there’s a new regime. I’ve been noticing it a bit over the past couple weeks, and this one really brought it home.

Someone’s dad posts about how is kid is having trouble adjusting to college.

Some profs respond, basically sympathetic, you know, explaining how college works, and so on. There are pros and cons, but basically they are saying the same thing.

Now, my perspective on this is different. I think the student is gaming the dad, and so I offer them the following:

Congratulations, Petey’s dad, on raising a snowflake who is already such an expert on shifting blame and lowering expectations. Petey has done a masterful job at creating a climate in which you are not going to say peep when he flunks one or more of his classes at the end of the semester. How could you? His teachers are all totally incompetent! Even if he did his utmost, he would be lucky to scrape a C- in that math class with that inaudible foreigner!

Petey is also charmingly arrogant, with his assumptions that someone 5 years his senior cannot possibly have anything to teach him, and just a teeny scootch racist and sexist with his assumptions about the quietly-spoken math TA. I bet he made his judgment about her in the first 2 seconds after noticing she wasn’t white, anyway. Jeebus, a non-white GUY would be bad enough.

Here’s my assessment of what probably really happened.

The English TA with the low GPA was probably making a point about screwing up as a freshman, and offering some words of advice (which Petey likely ignored) about coping with your first year in college, while saying something like “Hey, screwing up in first year is not the end of the world; look at me, I messed up as an undergrad, but I knuckled down and got accepted into a Masters program”. Petey ought to pay attention to this guy, who is quite likely to be the best role model for his own college career.

The nervous Math TA was likely spooked, you know, being young, female and foreign in a class with a bunch of yahoos. Did she leave for no reason? Or did maybe Petey and his cohorts heckle her just a teeny bit? Were they belching, farting, scratching themselves, yakking and Facebooking while she was trying to explain her syllabus? If the problem really is that she speaks too softly, it is easily fixed, not by bitching to his parents, but as people have said, by getting her a mic. Of course, the guys in the class, having smelled blood, would much rather make her cry than hear what she has to say.

The History guy is the pick of the bunch. I bet he scared the pants of little Petey with words like “late assignments will not be accepted” and the fact that he looked like he meant what he said. This guy is experienced enough not to try to be friends like Hippie English Guy, or to be intimidated like Foreign Math Chick. This guy has Petey’s number; he’s not going to take any bullshit, and savvy Petey has picked up on that. His only out here is going to be to try to accuse the guy of being mean and/or neglectful.

If Petey’s dad is smart, he will tell Petey to pull up his big boy pants and deal with it. I have a suspicion all of this is really about whatever bargain you made with him about his grades – were you going to buy him a car for a 4.0?

They decline to publish this, saying “We’re assuming that a lot of the issues have come about because Petey is a first generation college student. We were one, too, and our thoughts are that Petey just needs some time.”

Which I have to say, gets a major WTF from me. I am not butthurt about them punting my submission, because I get about 75% of the stuff I send in published, but the reason stinks. Because the mods were first generation college students, they aren’t willing to publish something that suggests a different interpretation of events?

They seem to have been taken over by the Nice Police, who are getting a depressingly strong grip on the internets these days. Over on, disagreeing with someone in any form at all is now likely to get you a warning for making a “personal attack”. I tell you, if those Nice Police bastards come knocking on the door of this blog, Ima get my canon, and like Borges, fill it up with shot made up of lead type, and fire it into their pansy asses.

Update: according to my blog stats, the RYS people have been here, and there response has been to get even more pansy-assed. Apparently, you can’t be mean to first generation college students. Someone over there has issues, man.

FYCL #4: Bromance is the new pink.

FYCL #4, click to listen, etc, you know the drill.

Dubious advice one day early because SJ is going to the movies. Dubious advice highlights include comments on dressing your daughter, dealing with envy of your more successful friends, making new friends (possibly because you can’t stand your older, more successful ones, who knows), if and how to broach the subject of your affair with the spouse of your lover, making friends online, and our awesome new mini-segment, Dubious Sex Toy of the Week.

Here’s your list of links to things we talked about.

  • Mark Bittman makes corn salad.
  • Funny time-waster websites we enjoyed this week: Probably Bad News for funny news reports and typos, funny repairs on There, I Fixed it, funny stuff yoinked from Facebook on lamebook, and Tweeting too hard, which does the same for twitter.
  • For less dubious news, Wonkette.
  • Sex toy non-recommendations, click at own risk, definitely not safe for work, the prudish or the easily bewildered: the strange thing nicknamed the Frankenfucker and the “authentic” vampire penis from Tantus.

Closing music is “Thank You” by Dido, because it’s the SJ and the Egg Bromance Theme Song. Die, haterz.

Also, if you need reminding, the pale green pants with nobody inside them.

pale green pants

FYCL #3, the leaky radiator edition.

FYCL #3, click to listen, etc, you know the drill.

Dubious advice on when to have children, Montessori school, censorship (or not) on the internets, the etiquette of oversharing, body image and advertising, and the nexus of blogging and rubbernecking.

Links to stuff we talked about:

Apologies again for problems with audio quality, including, but not limited to, my cat who kept opening the creaky door. SJ’s headset might be dying, and her volume is a little up and down. I feel like every week I learn new things, but for every issue we fix, a new one crops up. Hey, this is a venture in its infancy.

Music this week at the end of the podcast is “Love, Etc.” by the Pet Shop Boys, and our theme music is the FYCL Podcast Theme, specially composed by our in-house musician, who will take commissions, reasonable rates.

For anyone who is left on the edge of her seat wondering, yes, my brother and his wife arrived, and yes, we had a lovely visit with them.

Please post comments on this episode and questions for next episode here, or you can email me at whatladder at gmail dot com.

Cry if you want to.

So, this pussy at the Chronicle writes about how shocking and affecting it is that students cry. Let me respond:


Let me respond in more detail:

Students never just drop by a professor’s office for a friendly chat. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Normal students who aren’t slightly weird, manic, evangelical, driven to freaky over-friendliness by a burning desire to be academics themselves don’t drop by. Going to a professor’s office is a sign you have a Problem.

Students who make it to your office are already on edge, and people who are on edge are quite likely to react emotionally.

Many of the meetings I have in my office involve tears. Occasionally, there is shouting, or something more outre, like being splattered with pineapple, but tears are the regular staple. Unlike professionals whose jobs are openly about dealing with emotional distress – therapists and the like – professors aren’t trained to deal with tears. No one ever sits a junior professor down and says “look, most students who will come to see you will cry, this is how you deal with it.” The sum total of my training on the subject was a senior colleague who said “I keep the tissues in the drawer, because if they see them on the desk, it’s like permission.”

The way most professors deal with this is a callousness about crying that shocks outside observers, particularly the watering pots who have an expectation that tears are going to be their capstone argument. I’m not saying that most students who cry are trying to manipulate professors into relenting over grades (and yes, it is almost always over grades), but that there is an underlying assumption that if something is bad enough to make you cry, that it must melt the heart of even the crustiest old bastard who makes a living torturing young people by making them learn the periodic table.

Alas, no.

Crying doesn’t convince me of the seriousness of your response to the depth of the shit you are in, either. I know exactly how deep you are standing in it; I am the person with the canoe and the paddle.

Crying becomes a stage of the meeting we need to get through before we get to the substantive part; yes, yes, I am ruining your life by giving you an F for cheating, not handing in your essay, forgetting to go to the final and not mentioning this for 6 weeks, or making some incredibly dumbass statement about how Shakespeare must have been writing those sonnets to his son because there was no such thing as homoeroticism before 1970. Now let’s move on and discuss consequences and possible remedies.

If you cry, I won’t openly mock you while you are in the room, but my likely reaction is going to be something other than sympathy. I’ll wait until you leave to put that notch in my desk.

I am not here to make you feel better about yourself, as the student who failed her semester miserably by not handing any work argued, through her tears, when I told her there was no point in letting her sit the final. I don’t deal in feelings. This doesn’t make me mean (other things, admittedly, make me mean; I am not ducking the tag), it makes me your teacher, not your therapist or your mother.

If I let myself be affected by your tears, I am not doing my job. What kind of a professor gives out grades based on how many hankies are expended in his or her office? Okay, a professor of Early Childhood Education, right. But I teach in an actual academic discipline. I have standards.

I didn’t pick my profession thinking that I might one day define myself as a person whose day consists of 3 meetings with people who sobbed their hearts out, and walked away whistling, but here we are. I laugh at my students because if I didn’t… well, you know.

Still life with podcast.

I am ashamed I have written NO POSTS between podcasts. Well, on one level I am. On the other level, I am like, “screw you, I am on holidays”. I will not promise to do better, lest I be accused of hypocrisy.

I give you FYCL #2: Kiwi My Ass (click to listen, right click to download for playage on your mp3 player of choice).

Things mentioned in this podcast you might like to look at:

If you have questions you would like us to address in the next ep, please post them here. I am totally dedicated to sorting out the RSS thing, since the podcast appears to be a go. We may even enter the Great Corporate Maw that is iTunes. Eventually.

Music at the end was “Sitting on the Moon” by Enigma.

Dubious Advice Weekly

Presenting FYCL, starring SJ from I, Asshole, and me.

Marriage, Librarianship, and Apple Maggots (click to play, right click to save for later playage on your mp3 player of choice)

We even have a cool graphic.


The plan is, if it gets enough critical acclaim for a second episode, to make an rss feed. If you have questions, requests for dubious advice, or criticisms of the hamhanded audio quality, please post them here.