Monday, June 20, 2005

7 Mile Loop

I went to a training session today for teaching with a widely-known test prep company. While prepping for the class, I couldn't help feeling a little brain-washed with their ideology (e.g. "never villify testmakers"). Granted, this is a busines with a product to sell - a tool for success - but I can't get over the fact that I am teaching not Knowledge but knowledge of a test. We are told never to go off about algebra or science or literature (i.e. content) but to focus on the test, test, test. Which is a good strategy, but it sends chills down my back.

One of the guys in my class (a minority like me) brought up the topic of the bias of standardized tests when they use questions involving assumed knowledge of, say, the Louvre or golf. Unfortunately, he brought this up a little randomly and it was clear we were not going to discuss it. I gave him a ride home and he went off on the discussion. At some point I asked, "Yes, but why bring up the topic at all?" I mean, you are signed up to teach. We are not here to question principles. I just feel that there are shrewder ways to observe and subvert. Obviously our trainers felt it was inappropriate and, actually, so did I. It had really nothing to do with the subject at hand. After going around with him on this several times I gave up...it felt too much like I was talking to a brick wall. He kept accusing me of ignoring the fact that there is an underlying philosophy at work. Well of course there is. I'm all about a hermeneutics of suspicion. But I'm also about logic! What did you come here for? Why are you discussing this? What did you hope to get out of this? Do you seriously think they recruited us to have discussions on race and class marginalization when they are counting on sales?

But after dropping him off I thought, maybe I should stop being so cynical. Maybe he's right to take things at face value - for example, really believing the trainers want us to discuss the principles and not just show we are good trainees and have read the material.

And then I went on a 7 mile run in training for the marathon. The route we used (found online) had the brilliant idea of sending us through a...less than safe neighborhood just south of our town. And I was thinking as I ran through: only a yuppie-esque twit like me would be training for the marathon because we sit on our asses at work all day. If I were a grocery clerk or a server or a factory worker would I be spending my leisure time running, of all things? That (and, well, because I'm a different shade) is why everyone looked at us as if we had sprouted horns. Sigh. I...just don't know.

2 comments:

Gaunilo said...

Go easy on yourself. You need a good dose of false consciousness to be a yuppified twit.

And as a fellow beleaguered corporate worker, I too yearn for the day when I get a pat on the head and hear those wonderful words: "Good drone."

noirah said...

I run in my old neighborhood once a week. My grandmother still lives there so she watches my son while I train. No one else exercises in this community...especially women (except for girls walking to the bus stop with strollers). The first few times I felt strange. I wanted a t-shirt made that says, "I'm from this hood". Of course having a t-shirt made is already a mark of privilege. But now there are familiar faces along my route and even some smiles and hellos. So go easy on yourself indeed. Fitness, motivation, drive, confidence. These things you wonderful yuppie-esque twits possess almost from birth, I have spent my life trying to master. We meet you in college (if we make it) and we are awed by how much further along you are. And I suppose as we're learning who to quote and how to tip from you, we are secretly counting on you to romanticize the working class so we can bring something to the table.