Re: Guest Post - Video games fucking rock!

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I'm not sure why an actual gaming session was required for people to get the analogy, but I suppose it can't hurt. If somebody wants to do the thing with the cat in the box with a radioactive isotope, please let me read the IRB submission.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 12:56 PM
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I found it.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 1:01 PM
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I'm wrong!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 1:09 PM
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Great. There goes my world view.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 1:09 PM
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That's pretty awesome.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 1:35 PM
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I want to see REAL LIFE TROLLEY PROBLEM. And I want the trolley to have some motherfucking skulls painted on it. Actually, playing the video game in the classroom kind of pisses me off. Do people not understand the point of an analogy?

Even if they don't, that seems like a lame ass way of getting the concept of "privilege" (whatever that is) across, especially since Scalzi's thing was a one-off analogy and not actually an analysis of anything.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 2:26 PM
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I thought the point of actually playing Halo was the overlapping handicaps -- that you don't jack up the difficulty just by making it harder overall, but by piling on unrelated problems one by one. So it was more of an illustration about intersectionality than making Scalzi's exact point about privilege. I'm not sure it was a great pedagogical technique, but there seems to have been some idea going on there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 2:29 PM
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Actually, playing the video game in the classroom kind of pisses me off. Do people not understand the point of an analogy?

Most people are not particularly moved by abstract thinking. Giving them an analogy is better than simply giving them a bare assertion, like "white people have it easier," because the analogy is a bit more concrete. But they will forget the analogy pretty quickly and go back to their default assumptions. Within a month, they'll be able to say "men and women face the same kinds of obstacles, so there is no patriarchy" as if the lesson hadn't happened.

If you want any idea to have any real impact on most people, you have to make them completely live it, even if living it adds no real content to the information you are giving them. To someone used to thinking abstractly, this will look like belaboring the point an absurd amount. But most students don't learn the way that their teachers learned the same material.

Also, if you use lived activities your student evaluations will look amazing.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 2:43 PM
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To put the point another way: You may think the point of an analogy is to compress a lot of ideas into one image, so that you can build even more complex ideas off of that image. And of course analogies can be used that way. But for most people most of the time analogies are a way of removing abstract ideas, not building them in.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 2:47 PM
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I absolutely agree that people aren't moved by abstract thinking, but I'll bet dollars to something they also aren't moved by fake video gaming exercises of this kind (but it's not like I'm a teacher or have pedagogical evidence).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 3:03 PM
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I mean, were it otherwise people would have been taking really really bad lessons from Halo unmoderated version for years, which I don't think is the case.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 3:06 PM
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I'll bet dollars to something they also aren't moved by fake video gaming exercises of this kind

It sounds like in practice it worked about as well as you could hope for -- not a source of astonishing insight, but a reasonably productive use of class time.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 3:08 PM
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Well, except that they largely just learned about video gaming, which is something they can do in their nonacademic life, instead of abstract thinking, which isn't.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 3:12 PM
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sorry, why can't people think abstractly on their own, Halford?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 3:24 PM
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Sometimes I've thought as many as six abstract things before breakfast.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 3:30 PM
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No one class has a huge impact, except occasionally, but four years of this does tend to nudge people to think more critically. Of course, they're also four years older and more mature in general.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 3:35 PM
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This bears repeating:

If you want any idea to have any real impact on most people, you have to make them completely live it, even if living it adds no real content to the information you are giving them. To someone used to thinking abstractly, this will look like belaboring the point an absurd amount. But most students don't learn the way that their teachers learned the same material.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 3:53 PM
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Both groups honed in on the intersection of ability and class, noting that not everyone is able to afford the assistive devices and medical care that a person with a disability might require.

If they were honing in on the intersection of ability and class, it can't be all bad.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 4:04 PM
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13: I would think the main thing they would be learning wouldn't be Halo, per se, but how to have an experience and discuss it as a group. The experience isn't all that interesting, but it does seem like enough that you could use it as the basis for an interesting discussion.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 4:05 PM
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Did anyone here come to understand the concept of "privilege" through either a process of abstract reasoning, or more generally through any kind of academic exercise? Genuinely curious. For me it sure feels like the answer is "no" although I guess maybe I'm just not remembering accurately.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 4:07 PM
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I learned privilege through abs.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 4:07 PM
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Since most people are only capable of abstract reasoning within the classroom, all would depend on what they were taught by their betters, right Halford?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 4:12 PM
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personally I learned about privilege by always doing whatever I was told.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 4:14 PM
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Thing is, the main thing I want to teach is the ability to think abstractly. Advice on how to teach things always comes back around to making it concrete and lived. What do you do if your goal is to teach people to learn to stop relying on the concrete and lived?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 6:14 PM
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24: Start with a distrust for rebar. Then move by association to concrete as something else to be distrusted.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 6:18 PM
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24: that's a matter of difficulty of content relative to the student, no? Everybody can handle some abstract ideas, up to a threshold. (An individualized threshold.) Beyond that, we all need scaffolding to understand an idea - experiential, or an example, or whatever.

So your goal is actually to move their threshold, which already exists, towards more complex ideas. Giving them navigated experience in ideas past their threshold does in fact work, I'd argue, by helping them identify similar situations in the future. If you actually want to witness them thinking abstractly without relying on the concrete, you'd need to dumb down the course a lot.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 6:36 PM
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I think my comment was completely incoherent.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 6:36 PM
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20: I seem to recall first encountering the term in the "invisible knapsack" piece.

8: Also, if you use lived activities your student evaluations will look amazing.

I used a 9-week online simulation for the first time this semester, and for some reason my class experienced a ton of problems that no one else I know who has taught this sim has seen. I've bent over backwards to be sympathetic, trouble-shoot, and assure students that technical issues won't affect their grades, but I'm a bit worried they will affect my evals. I hate new preps.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 6:53 PM
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Giving them navigated experience in ideas past their threshold does in fact work, I'd argue, by helping them identify similar situations in the future.

In my experience, this works much better if you explicitly articulate what they are doing as and after they do it.

When you narrate to them what they've just done, they encode their understanding of the activity in a different (more transferrable) way.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 6:55 PM
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What I wish I had are some good tools for helping experienced abstract thinkers to relate to not-very-sophisticated abstract thinkers. It's really really hard to do without sounding (being) condescending.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 6:57 PM
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If you could do that you would revolutionize an army of shitty math teachers.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 7:05 PM
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In math instruction, I've given the advice "you have to take the time to remember what it was like before you understood the concept" but for people who are quick at math, that moment is so fleeting that they won't do it.

I mean, as your 9th grade teacher was explaining "slope" there was a moment you didn't yet get it, and then you did. For everyone, regardless of brilliance. But many (poor) math teachers seem unable to recall that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 7:10 PM
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And then you could turn them to your own dark purposes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 7:11 PM
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33 to 31.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 7:12 PM
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Tomorrow I get to find out if people are going to yell at me for pitching a talk about my research at too advanced a computational level and then, once that definitely happens, figure out how the hell to explain more of the background in ten minutes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 7:13 PM
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Let me be the first to suggest a PowerPoint slide with lots of poorly labeled boxes connected by arrows, all of which point in both directions.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 7:20 PM
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pitching a talk about my research at too advanced a computational level and then, once that definitely happens, figure out how the hell to explain more of the background in ten minutes.

Oh man. This is so hard. I had the realization recently that this is one of the reasons I don't like doing webinars.

When I do an in-person presentation, I'm constantly adjusting on the fly -- paraphrasing, rephrasing, clarifying, adding humor, etc. -- based on what I'm getting from the audience's body language and reactions.

But on a webinar, you have nothing. It's just eerie. It's so hard to figure out if you are connecting at *all* with where they are. Pre-surveys and watching the chat window just don't even come close to equaling what it's like to be in the room with your audience.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 7:23 PM
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36: hm, at the moment none of my arrows point in both directions. This is clearly a problem. Lots of them have a jaunty double bend to them, though. I feel like that lends things a sense of untroubled fun.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 7:31 PM
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Most people are not particularly moved by abstract thinking. Giving them an analogy is better than simply giving them a bare assertion, like "white people have it easier," because the analogy is a bit more concrete. But they will forget the analogy pretty quickly and go back to their default assumptions.

If you want to give them something concrete, why don't you give them something concrete? Tell them stories illustrating how some people have it easier than others, say. The analogy just takes you farther away from the thing you wanted to talk about.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 8:19 PM
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The analogy just takes you farther away from the thing you wanted to talk about.

Sometimes that's true. Other times, they're so firmly convinced that the sky is red that no amount of landscape photos is going to change their minds.

In those cases, you're often better off giving people a noninflammatory analogy that can help them to think rigorously and structurally, rather than triggering a gut-level emotional response.

I screwed up a version of this situation in a presentation not long ago, in which a student asked a question about scholarships and I responded with data answering the question (=scholarships do not go disproportionately to ethnic minority students).

I saw immediately that this was triggering a strong negative reaction from some students, and I regretted having engaged the question at all (it was off-topic from the discussion).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-28-13 8:29 PM
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The way people talk about privilege on the internet=why things will never change. Oh, John Scalzi, no, etc.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 4:50 AM
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It is interesting watching kids work this stuff out for themselves. Sally's rugby team has a bit of a rescuing-underprivileged-inner city-youf mission, which means that one practice a week is actually a workshop on something like personal finance or college admissions.

The other week was a know-your-rights-when-dealing-with the-police workshop, and she was startled by how well bad experiences with the police lined up with color. And literally color, not neighborhood or obvious socioeconomic status. Without that kind of one-degree-of-separation anecdotal evidence, though, this is stuff that's hard to internalize.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 5:12 AM
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If you play and complete the last level of Halo on the highest level of difficulty, you get this scene, which shows that one of the main characters has all sorts of intersecting levels of oppression going on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czRxAR8KboU


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:07 AM
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Does knowing your rights make bad experiences with police less likely? (I expect it depends on how it is taught.)


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:09 AM
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Speaking of privilege and the police, my dad once wired a cop's gate shut and the cops assumed it was some kids he'd stopped recently getting him back. My dad confessed before he could shot the kids or whatever he was going to do.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:16 AM
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Just watch lots of cop shows on tv and you'll be fine.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:16 AM
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I absolutely agree that people aren't moved by abstract thinking, but I'll bet dollars to something they also aren't moved by fake video gaming exercises of this kind (but it's not like I'm a teacher or have pedagogical evidence).

I'm not a teacher, either, but I think it goes without saying people don't like to be condescended to.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:42 AM
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I'd say the first time I thought about white privilege in an "oh, this has a name and is a thing I should look out for more" way was in social work school when they gave us a pretty good article called...what was it...apparently it's "Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege." I didn't remember the dorky "Knapsack" was in there.

But anyway I had thought about it some before because I'm not completely oblivious to the world around me. I imagine lots of people have, and (okay I am having a strong reaction to this whole thing apparently) as such, they don't wish to have someone say "let me present this to you in a way your pea-sized brain can handle."


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:50 AM
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||

What is the deal with putting "Misha" in quotes and saying that his "real name" is Mikhail? Reporters start treating common nicknames as scary terrrorist pseudonyms when they're Russian?

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:50 AM
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It's a sinister alias!!!!!!!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:51 AM
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The nickname thing makes Russian novels a pain to read. Also the ongwindedness.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:52 AM
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I just feel lucky that I got out of school before they started including video games in the curriculum. This could have been as humiliating as the time the teacher asked me to blow up a balloon in front of the class.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:53 AM
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longwinded, that is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:53 AM
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This could have been as humiliating as the time the teacher asked me to blow up a balloon in front of the class.

It wasn't a balloon, was it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:55 AM
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I absolutely agree that people aren't moved by abstract thinking, but I'll bet dollars to something they also aren't moved by fake video gaming exercises of this kind (but it's not like I'm a teacher or have pedagogical evidence).

I'm not a teacher, either, but I think it goes without saying people don't like to be condescended to.

Students do not give a shit if you're condescending to them, compared with how much they love anything that breaks up the monotony of the classroom.

To address the condescending bit, all you have to say is "I know this is cheesy, but humor me, ok?" up front, and then that addresses any patronizing feeling and they're solely relieved to break up classroom monotony.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 6:59 AM
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"Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege."

I don't know what it is that makes this title so funny. It's like a sort of social studies Humphrey Lyttleton.
"And so, as the bathtub of racism drains slowly into the U-bend of institutionalised discrimination, and the Tupperware box of militarism is filled with the left-over curry of phallocracy, I see we've come to the end of the show."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 7:18 AM
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Students do not give a shit if you're condescending to them, compared with how much they love anything that breaks up the monotony of the classroom.

A lot of things we would call condescending are perceived by most students as an effort to meet them halfway. Far from an insult, it is generosity.

Depending on where you teach, you might get a small group of students who perceive different teaching techniques the way you would have perceived them as a student--that is, condescending time wasters. With those students, I try to find a nice way to tell them to get over themselves. You aren't really that much smarter than the student who needs the teacher to actually play through a video game in class. I had to get over my intellectual arrogance to learn to teach this way. You can get over yours to learn this way.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 7:28 AM
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the left-over curry of phallocracy

mmm, yummy phallocurry.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 7:29 AM
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A lot of things we would call condescending are perceived by most students as an effort to meet them halfway. Far from an insult, it is generosity.

My carpoolmate and I call it "classroom humor" - that the bar for what counts as a funny line from an instructor in the classroom is way lower than what's funny in real life. They'll laugh at the dumbest jokes, just because they're so relieved that you're trying to insert any levity into the situation, and they want to encourage you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 7:40 AM
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44: Probably not, but it limits your damage once a bad interaction has started. I supplemented at home with the "Policemen are heavily armed and in a profession where they're expecting people to try to hurt them. If you're interacting with the police, be very very conscious about not making them nervous -- slow movements and anything you can do to keep the situation calm and friendly." Less of an issue for Sally than for Newt, and less of an issue for Newt now than Newt in three or four years, but still good to know.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 7:46 AM
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I'd say the first time I thought about white privilege in an "oh, this has a name and is a thing I should look out for more" way was in social work school when they gave us a pretty good article called...what was it...apparently it's "Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege."

I first heard of that piece the summer after my sophomore year of college, when a Brown student at the summer program I was attending referred to it as an article that of course I and everyone else was familiar with. Thus was I introduced both to the article and to certain things about undergrad education at Brown.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 7:54 AM
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What really drove the "privilege means that a lot of things are invisible to you" point home for me was learning about the "smile" phenomenon.

Years ago on a discussion board a woman mentioned how annoying it was when random men told her to smile, and immediately nearly every other female commenter replied with "Ugh! That sh*t drives me crazy!"

So apparently men telling random women who are complete strangers to "smile" is a thing, and is so common that it was probably going on all around me without my noticing.

That said I can sometimes get a bit fed up with progressives who don't seem able to complete a sentence without inserting the word "privilege" some how or other.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 8:32 AM
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Probably not, but it limits your damage once a bad interaction has started. ...

I am not convinced of this. For example you may have a theoretical right to observe that a policeman is ugly and smells bad but this probably won't improve the interaction.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 10:03 AM
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It's as if you're not really committed to free speech and the fearless pursuit of truth, Shearer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 10:05 AM
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that the bar for what counts as a funny line from an instructor in the classroom is way lower than what's funny in real life

I've noticed this! Sometimes my class laughs just because I say something in a kind of wry way that no one in an ordinary conversation would ever laugh at.

My slide full of José Canseco tweets killed at the workshop on Friday, but I think it was funny even by real-life standards.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 10:40 AM
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that the bar for what counts as a funny line from an instructor in the classroom is way lower than what's funny in real life

Also apparently, a President at a formal dinner.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 10:57 AM
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Thus was I introduced both to the article and to certain things about undergrad education at Brown.

Ha! True fact.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 10:58 AM
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I thought the point of _Halo_ for teaching intersectionality was that the disadvantages heterodyned, that is, having two 5% problems was equivalent to a 15% problem, not just a 10% problem. I've noodled around with a sort of Axelrod-ish simulation of that, but it was as abstract as the words. Knowing people, like LB's kid's sports group, or reading thick fiction -- Zadie Smith, maybe? would be un-abstract, but _Halo_ has the edge of being fast and being clearly *not* designed for this didactic point. Just happens.

Scalzi's thread on this devolved into a few men outraged that not being pulled over, groped, etc should count as a `privilege'. I'd be OK with leaving `privilege' for private law and using `advantage' for the social state of not having your shoe nailed to the floor. Even when using `advantage', I have to remember that people who don't think of everything as community-assembly competition forget that, in a constant all-against-all competition, a drag on anyone else is an edge for me. And now we're back to Axelrod.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 04-29-13 3:21 PM
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I'd be OK with leaving `privilege' for private law and using `advantage' for the social state of not having your shoe nailed to the floor.

I can see a good argument for this: saying "you're privileged" is not a great way to describe some people having things that _everyone_ should have. Not being unjustly harassed by the police isn't a privilege. It's a right - it's just a right that isn't enforced for everyone. (Getting a job because you went to the right school is a privilege).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-30-13 4:16 AM
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