Returning from last week’s online holiday make-up session, discussion asked after questions from earlier. It then turned to review of front matter concerns, as well as orders of composition. Concerns of review were also addressed, and a printed document was read and reviewed to offer in-class practice.
Students were reminded of upcoming assignments:
Discussions (four posts per graded thread), due online before 0059 on 11 June 2018
Course Project: Front Matter, due online as a Word document before 0059 on 11 June 2018
Class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 111 of the San Antonio campus. The class roster listed eight students enrolled, unchanged from last session; four attended, assessed informally. Student participation was reasonably good. No students attended the most recent office hour.
I have not made a secret of the fact my current day-job–the full-time work that pays most of my bills, so that my ongoing teaching work can help me get my family ahead–has me work as an administrative assistant for a substance abuse clinic in the Texas Hill Country. It is, as it were, what I do as an academic expatriate, the source of those remesas that I still send to that country which I sought to enter and to which I can only return at intervals. And while I approve of the job for many reasons (the hours are good, the pay is steady, I can leave work at work, I get vacation time to go do the academic part of my life, and I am helping people), there are some functions of the job that sit less well with me.
Perhaps the chief among such ill-sitting job functions is the destruction of records. Like many organizations, that for which I work has a records-retention policy, and, because one of my job duties names me as a custodian of records (on which account I have been called to court more than once), I enforce that policy. That is, I put things into the records room at our facility and, when the time comes, I take things out–forever. I’m not generally able to do it on a daily basis, but what I am able to do is take out large chunks of information that has passed its retention time and prepare it to be taken where it can be destroyed in appropriate fashion.
I know that we have a retention policy for a reason. We have limited storage space and no budget to rent more. There are also liability concerns involved with keeping the information; the longer we keep it, the longer we can be held to account for keeping it, which can have court implications. (I do not like being called to court. I go, but it is not one of the more entertaining parts of my job.) And, in all truth, there are matters contained in our records that those whose records they are may well want to have buried, chapters in their lives that they would have closed–and I cannot blame them, truly. Even with as sedate and uninteresting a life as I’ve had, there are things I’d rather other people not know about, that I wish I could forget and that I am relieved other people probably have; for those whose lives have been a bit more…dynamic, I imagine the longing to forget and be forgotten–and to be kept confidential, as is clients’ right (you’ll notice that I name no names)–is a bit more pronounced.
But it is not merely a matter of packaging papers to be ported away. It is a matter of readying them for slaughter, for taking the traces people have left behind and setting them up to be destroyed. If, as Edmundson writes (and about which I have commented more than once before, not just here), the records left behind are testimonies to the worth and dignity of the people they record, and they are therefore deserving of respect as human creations–metonymically or synecdochally the people themselves–then what might well be an unreflective preparation of kindling or shredder-bait becomes something far less pleasant.
I sought to settle in the academic land of literary study; I am a lover of books and of writing, generally. And perhaps I romanticize writing and records and archives to some (great) extent as a result of that attempted homesteading. But although I am an academic expatriate, although I know that I must labor as I am bidden if I hope in any way to support the country I sought to enter, I am made uneasy by what I have become in making the attempt to join those ranks. Though I appreciate getting to do the work I do, I cannot say that all of it is as I would have it be–but that is true of all jobs that can be had.
It is the time of year in my part of the world–the Texas Hill Country–when high school careers come to their ends. (Colleges, for the most part, have already done so, and the scramble to find work before student loans start to come due has begun in earnest.) As is to be expected, there is a fair bit of pageantry going on, the pomp and circumstance to which Elgar gives the traditional soundtrack, and, at the high school from which I graduated, what is hoped to become a new tradition has begun: the Senior Walk, in which those about to graduate return, in regalia, to the elementary schools they attended, where they cheer and are cheered by the students in attendance.
I can see the value in such a gesture. In reminding the graduating seniors of their own educational beginnings, the schools promote students’ reflection on their achievement and enrichment, as well as helping to foster pleasant memories that may well lead to future support of the schools. In showing the elementary school students what the end-results can look like, the schools promote more attention to and focus on school from the younger pupils, which is likely to increase their engagement with the formal educational enterprise. And for families who may have pupils across grades–whether siblings or cousins–there are welcome opportunities for reaffirming familial bonds. (As a family man, the appeal thereof is not lost on me.)
That said, there are some problems with the event. Not all who graduate from the high school attended any of the elementary schools, for one; people move into the town and the school district later than fourth or fifth grade, after all. Some students–and I would have been in this group–attended more than one of the district’s elementary schools; which elementary school gets to have a student for Senior Walk who attended three or four of them?
And then there are the students like me in other ways. Had this been a thing when I was at that age, I’d’ve hated it, and if I couldn’t have skipped out on it, I’d’ve been…less than pleasant. (I was something of a little shit as a kid. Now, having grown past that, I’m something of a big shit.) It appears I’d’ve had company, as well.
Admittedly, I am a curmudgeon, a gorgon to the joyful heart and fond of graveled paths. But, then as now, I would have resented being forced to parade about–indeed, I tried to get out of attending my own high school graduation, raging against having to walk the stage, and I still maintain that I had better things to do with a rainy Friday evening than sit and listed to speeches and a long roster recited slowly. (It is a lesson I have learned; if Ms. 8 wants to sit hers out and the school will permit it–as some do not–I will allow her to do so. But that is a way off yet.) And so I have to wonder if, in the attempt to foster community, the schools have not pushed some further outside it, bred resentment at being the subjects of a dog and pony show into students who had wanted nothing more than to get out at long last–and what they might well have lost in so doing.