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Coping with the Teacher

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: November 10, 2002
Latest Update: November 10, 2002

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Site Teaching Modules The Illocutionary Stages of Academic Discourse

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, November 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Here we go again. You guys are impatient, so I get yelled at. Now in this case, Denise knows me, and I know Denise, over several semesters. Look at her message. Just like the one I flipped over. But, there's a huge difference here. Huge! There's a playful tone. No thank yous, please, no flowery language. She sounds just like one of my kids who didn't get the answer she was expecting. In a family, in a teaching community, where we know each other pretty well, this kind of sass goes on. I just laughed and recognized that she had just told me inadvertently that she hadn't bothered to look at the huge set of comments I wrote on Shanell's messages, because if she had, she would have seen that she was included in the painting that week as well as the messages. Denise, check out the site before you fuss at me.

On Sunday, November 10, 2002, Denise Scurlock wrote:

JEANNE DID YOU GET ANY OF MY EMAILS I'VE BEEN SENDING YOU. ARE U IGNORING ME .

On Sunday, November 10, 2002, jeanne responded:

Oh, no. Here we go again. Do you thiink we could call a conference of all your mothers and get them to help me with manners? Denise, You go right back and look at What Not To Do If You Want an A.

I didn't ignore you. Instead I thought a lot about you and talked about you and used you for my model of the quiet student who doesn't talk much. When I did the painting, I recalled, as well as in the dream I talked about, that as Shanell spoke out with frustration about the structural violence of the penal institution, you agreed with her, with your eyes, with your attention, with your body language. But you never said a word.

That's what my nightmare was. That someone would ask you what you had done to measure your learning and that you and Shanell, for different reasons, would conclude together that "we don't know." That's frightening to me, because my colleagues refuse to acknowledge that the answer most students give when you ask them what they did or what they have to do is "I don't know." It took me quite a while, and several group meetings with other students in my office before I began to realize that you're not the only one who's quiet, who just doesn't say anything. Would you believe my husband does it, too?

It never occurred to me how structurally violent it was to simply assume that others could talk up as readily as I could. Just promise me that if some weird investigatory team starts out sending people to quiz my students again, that you won't tell them you "didn't learn anythiing" and that "you don't know what you did to pass the course." Let's be sure you get that much straight in some way that you're comfortable with. One nightmare a semester is enough, trust me. For example, You continued to send in your e-mails consistently over time. That counts. And you told me about how stress felt for you, especially with your mother having been so sick. You were giving me information on the narrative that defines who you are, and that let me respond accordingly, such as laughing when you asked if I was ignoring you. I had information about you. You were more than a number to me.

And now we'll see as we go through the messages how they need to be edited over the next three weeks for an A in the course. For example, my pondering what made you so quiet led to my sharing that with ohter students who turn out to be equally quiet. How terrible that I was unaware of that. That was a failure on the part of illocutionary discourse in learning who you all are. Now as we consdier that more deeply, we may find some effective ways to deal with students who are quiet, without making unfair assumptions. For me, that's almost like white privilege. It's a privilege I use and rely on, but that I wasn't conscious of. I just assume that everyone talks up, and denied the silence I heard around me as something I didn't need to listen for in good faith.

You used to not write to me. So I kind of wondered how we were going to cope if you don't want to write messages, and are quiet, too. But then when you fussed at me, and I went back to hunt up all your messages, lo and behold, you're writing now, just like Shanell. I think that's neat. It seems to indicate that over a few semesters this interactive pedagogy seems to grow with us. And it is less stressful and more fun for all of us.

Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002
Subject: denise scurlock

hi jeanne this is denise scurlock i havent been emailing you. the reason is because my mother was sick last friday. my mother's heart was so tired, the doctors found out that her heart rate was 30, so the doctors decided to give my mother a pacemaker. the average heart rate is supposed to be 60. so now since my mother has the pacemaker it helps her heart rate to go 60.

I'm so sorry, Denise. Pacemakers do work wonderfully. I hope your mom will be ok. love and peace, jeanne

Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002
Subject: Denise Scurlock

hi jeanne this is denise scurlock. i've been wanting to email you for the longest. the reason is because at the beginning of the semester i was enrolled in all of my classes. then i got dropped for non payment so i had to re- regrister fot all my classses. i was on the offical rollsheet. all my instructors added me back in the class except one intructor, Dr.Hsu. he wouldn't let me back in the class. he told me someone took my spot that was on the waitinglist. so i went to the chair of the department of sociology, thinking he was going to do something about the situation. all he told me was if this semester was the last semester for you he could of put me back in the class. (bullshit) . Dr.Ryave said since i have a another semester take the class next semester. jeanne i wanted to share this with u. Im so angry. now i have to take this class next semester because this teacher didn't put me back in the classroom. and i need this class sociology 305. it wasnt fair what the teacher did. jeanne, i spoke to several departments on campus about this intructor and no one seems to care. i've been fighting with this shit since the beginning of the semester. i feel that since i was already offically on the rollsheet, he could have added me back in the classroom, but he chose not to.

Denise, I'm sorry I didn't get around to answering this till now, but I beg you to realize I have over 200 students. I guess this is where they came when Dr Hsu wouldn't let them back in.

You've done a very good job of describing a situation of structural violence. I understand that you wanted to tell me about this, because structural violence is one of the concepts about which we share many concerns. I also recognized when I first read it way back in early October, that I had no effective power to make any difference for you.

For the story, and the accuracy of the theoretical linkage, you have a C for the message as it stands. But these are the weeks of review in which we are trying to edit the messages so that they earn A's and B's. So what would I like you to do for an A or a B on this transaction?

  • Let me know that it's structural violence you're referring to. Either use the term or explain it in your own words.
  • Identify your source, as a source. In this case, you're using your own lifeworld experiences. Acknowledge that. Then I know that you know that I know what your basing your conclusions on.
  • Explain how the concept of structural violence is related to this situation. Dr. Hsu wasn't making a decision based on you as an individual, but on the rule that says if a student is dropped from the roll for whatever reason, he may replace that student with another from the waiting list.
  • Explain the three perspectives now invloved: Dr. Hsu's - all he did was what the rules said to. Yours - you were dropped without any attention ot the personal narrative that might have averted the harm. The other student's - That student got to take the course because now you didn't. I'm not sure the administration at that school takes a perspective, although Dr. Ryave did suggest that he might have taken action had this been your last semester.
  • Explain the pain, anger, and frustration that stay with us when we are treated this way by rules with no acknowledgment of our real lives as humans with real problems. Identify either the site or Maria Pia Lara's text as your source on that. Or you could use Hal Pepinsky's Peacemaking Primer in Arrigo's Social Justice, Criminal Justice.

I'd say that if you could do that, that would assure you of a B for this transaction. But if you'd like an A, then it's time to move from the mere acknowledgment of the ways in which structural violence causes harm, destroys egos, and deflects people from their goals. What can we do about that?

  • We can talk to others who understand. Though here I mean not mere gossip and hanging out in the midst of the injustice. I mean finding others who understand structural violence and are committed to overcoming its effects through unified support and demand for change. Dear Habermas is such a place. And you did just that. You came to tell me to post it on Dear Habermas, and you fussed at me when I didn't get it up. That was just the right thing to do. And now that Im finally over the flu and catching up, your comments will be up on the site as a forum for others who encounter injustice. Let's hope they'll write to Dear Habermas, too.

    One thing such a forum accomplishes is that it habituates us to breaking the silence. The universities and corporations have had years of control to themselves that if their rules say they can do whatever they're doing, that's all that counts. Who says? But we're so silenced by colonialization, we don't speak out. Every forum that permits us to speak out binds us together as people who do speak out, and helps us to remind those who would control us that we are thinking and caring humans. Maria Pia Lara would say that both we and they grow in the process a little closer to the kinds of discourse we will need in public sphere governance discourse.

    Peace organizations are really into asking us to write e-mail and letters to demand justice. But this siuation is right here on our homefront. Even I don't want to suggest a letter or e-mail of protest to Dr. Hsu or to Dr. Ryave, because we have to live with them, and they do have power over us, and they do seem to indicate that they see no harm in exercising that power. I think on the homefront, illocutionary discourse needs to come first. And, as the most famous chicken in the department, I prefer to build the discourse with those of us I've been able to share the theory on illocutionary discourse with. I know you know what it is. I'm not sure they do. I know you know the spirtuality and theory behind it. I'm not sure they do. And common sense should teach you to be a little wary of conversations on serious matters with people who lack much of the information on which you are basing your propositions. Chicken. Yes. Passive? No. In the process of theoretical discourse amongst ourselves we grow united and come to support one another.

    So you see, for an A, I'm asking that you find positive alternatives on which you can begin to climb out of the imposed silence of the institution. That shows understanding of the theory, transfer of learning, and creative application. That's what I give an A for.

    love and peace in solidarity against injustice, jeanne

Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 13:54:07 EDT
Subject: DENISE SCURLOCK

HI JEANNE, I'M GOING OVER YOUR SITE RIGHT NOW, AND I JUST WANT TO LET YOU KNOW THAT YOU'RE DOING AN EXCELLENT JOB ON DEAR HABERMAS. I NOTICE WHEN I'M READING YOUR SITE AND I DONT UNDERSTAND A WORD I CAN JUST CLICK ON THE WORD AND IT REFERS ME TO CONCEPT INDEXES TO UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF THE WORD. JEANNE, I REALLY LIKE THAT. THAT IS SO COOL. I THINK THAT IS A WONDERFUL THING THAT U ARE DOING FOR THE STUDENTS. THANKS, JEANNE. GOOD JOB. I LOVE IT

Thanks, Denise. I put that dictionary link in because I found that it made life a lot easier for me, too. I like it. And if you'll look on the main page for the current issue, just about Announcements, you'll see there's a dialog box there for entering a word to the dictionary, in case I forgot to link it. Pat likes it, too. She fussed very gently when I accidentally left it off of a couple of weekly issues.

This is one of the wonderful bits of flexibility technology allows us, that really can save us time and relieve some of the fast track stress from which we're all suffering. As many dictionaries as I own, there's never one under hand when I need it, and I'm too tired to get up and go look for it. Hooray for technology! jeanne

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002
Subject: denise scurlock

jeanne i think the sniper is doing this because one of his family members died on september 11th and maybe he is just sad because of that and now he realized he wants to get back at god.

Interesting theory, Denise. One problem. You're assuming that I'm going to know precisely what you are responding to. That doesn't work when I've been out with the flu and trying desperately to catch up with a mushrooming site. So tell me where on the site you were reading. Probably in one of the major newspapers, yes?

Now I didn't even know one of the sniper's family members died on september 11. I missed that. If you had told me what file you were on, I could have found it quickly. That 's particularly important when I'm trying to decide if your conclusions show an understanding of the concepts we have dealt with and the fact pattern.

Did the idea that the snipe wanted to get back at God come from what you were reading, or did that just come to you. Give me a source, if you can still find it. That's my fault, I know. And if that getting back at God was your own idea, I'd like to explore it. What an scary concept to kill a dozen innocent people in such cowardly fashion to get back at God. Wow! Perhaps this will illustrate how important it is to cite sources so that others can share in your comments.

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002
Subject: Denise Scurlock

so the sniper killer is throwing a big tantrum crying like a baby, saying that they will not answer his calls, and they are hanging up on him. what a big cry baby.

But doesn't that tell us a lot about the kind of person we're dealing with? He is screaming for attention. Pattern of behavior going back to childhood temper tantrums that went unnoticed. Thiink of what this means to the welfare mother who works all day for poverty-level wages and is then so tired in the evening she ignores one of the children's temper tantrums. We are a social world. All these things are interdependent. They make up the interpersonal relationships that make up our neighborhoods, our communities, our societies.

it seems that the problem he feels is that all his life no one has listened to him. waaaaaaa.

Denise, slow down a moment and compare your "waaaaaaa" to the paragraph I wrote on the welfare mother above. A part of what I am trying to teach, as is Gordon Fellman, is that we all hurt. Animals and humans alike. We have lost compassion in the midst of the structural violence of rules tht treat as things, nots as humans. Go back and look at the cynicism of the "waaaaaa". Of course he was wrong to kill people over a tantrum, if that is part of what in fact was happening. But our coldness in refusing to hear what may be genuine pain takes us a step closer to the structural violence that then hurt you in October. We are a "we." We all suffer. And we all need sometimes some understanding in that suffering.

so he decides to kill innocent people. what a jerk he is. I bet he will not try to take out the president or senators and others in high fields. no he will not try that for fear he will get caught. so he picks on innocent citizens rather than the big guys that he really has the beef with. what a a punk he is. may death come to him soon ........

Eek! I gotta get ready for Chicago. No way will I be able to handle that last paragraph in the space and time I have. Just a few quick notes.

  • You've reverted to rhetoric of reaction. Name calling. No hint of illocutionary discourse or of governance discourse in a situation so sensitive at this time of terror.
  • Sticks and stones will break my bones and piss me off, but are unlikely to keep me from killing.
  • Sticks and stones are unlikely to bring me even a step closer to hearing you or recognizing that you, someone I might have killed, are human just like me.
  • Better he should have gone after the big guys!!!! I know you didn't mean that assassination is an acceptable alternative to his behavior, whatever it was. I know you didn't mean that.
  • Granted he's got a beef with our leaders. So do I. That doesn't mean that beef leads to violence, and to the suspension of our reason and ethics and moral understanding.
  • There's an underlying assumption in the last phrase that the death penalty is OK. Wow! Killing is what led to this kind of debacle in the first place. Some of us don't think killing is good for living things, any of them.

This last paragraph gives you some sense of what's wrong with the rhetoric of reaction. It's unlikely to bring us to the discourse table and support justice and representation for all.

Denise, please let me know that you understand this critique. jeanne

Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2002

hi jeanne before you arrived in class on tuesday pat had a interesting topic to discuss the topic was why we like jeanne classes the student had some very interesting things to say about the class. well, jeanne, there are so many reasons why i like the class, but i would like to start and say the class is stress free u dont have to worry about a tests u dont have to sit and worry about what grade will i receive from the test and also we have interesting discussions we get to tell u how we feel on certain issues.and also i dont feel this class is a easy A grade i feel that we had to work hard for our grade.

I remember that day, Denise. It was one of those days when the flu almost got me, but I was still fighting back. And I agree with you that it looked like an exciting session when I came in. How good of Pat to encourage you to think theoretically about the pedagogy we are trying to establish. I like what you had to say about that.

  • Stress free. I think that's important, too. It's hard to learn when you're stressed out. And most of that stress has to do with accreditation, which shouldn't be our job anyway. We're here to teach; not to stamp good, better, best on the forehead of your future achievement. Anyway, our tests don't measure that kind of good, better, best.
  • No tests. Tests aren't set up to measure interactve discourse on social issues like this. They wouldn't help us; just scare you. Besides, I don't believe in torture. Last time I looked neither did the UN.
  • Ideas that Matter to Us. You called them "interesting discussions." Yeah, I think so, too. nd that's where most of my time goes. Hunting for the best pieces I can find for you on those "interesting topics" so there will be enough choice to accommodate your many differences. And in this pedagogical program we're working on, I think the time we get to spend face to face should be spent on coming to know each other (illocutionary discourse) and on developing the skills of reason, intuition, use of authority, rejection of authority, and generally, thinking on our feet. (Moot Court).
  • Getting to know you. Yes, Pat and I do come to know you, to know what your interests are, to know when you're going to take off on an outrageous rhetoric of reaction at which we'll wince, and try to drag you back to illocutionary understanding. You have so many talents, we can barely keep up with them all. But it's fun to work with talented people. Our offices in SBS are two of the most exciting places in the world I can think of. Even Jerome, Pat's fish, amazes me.
  • For an A on this interactive discourse, Denise, I'd just like you to share with me that you understand how much you told me and how many supporting facts you gave me. You may need to use that technique of persuasion in the future, and maybe then your promotion will depend on it.

At 02:25 PM 11/11/2002 you wrote: i come around all the time i always attend the 11:30 12:45 class. i sit in the back of the class. But are u referring me to come to your office .

No, Denise, I'm just pointing out that you guys are spoiled. Not only do you want me to post your comments and my comments in response, but you want me to e-mail you that I've done it. Honey, I'm too tired. Learn to check the site. Maybe by this Spring I'll have the pattern down better. But I am impressed that you really do check your e-mail and answer promptly. Points for that, even if I don't know what to do with points for grades. Sounds like work for food, doesn't it? Maybe that's why I don't like it.