I go to see my sociology professor for what may be the last time. [I didn’t take notes on this so I may have the date wrong.] I ask her the question I’ve found myself putting to people lately: “What do you think of Noam Chomsky?”

She says she likes him and agrees with what he says but feels that a full picture of things needs to take into account not just propaganda but also structural differences in behavior. For example, lower-class people are more reticent to assert their rights and demand things. Even in schools like Stanford, middle-class students will feel free to go to the teacher and demand the test be changed for them or so on, whereas lower-class students won’t.

I’m not sure I really understand the concept or where these effects come from. I note that I’m not really lower-class, but I’m still afraid to demand things. For example, I point out, my TA graded my paper down because it was ‘insufficiently academic-sounding’, but I’m too chicken to bring it up with her.

She laughs. ‘You’re afraid to talk to the TA but you’re not afraid to bring it up with me, the one in charge?’ She offers to read the paper but I don’t want to impose. She says that she gives out grading requirements only in this one intro class just so people know what she expects from a college paper and, indeed, the grading rubric says “Exhibits basic elements of college-level writing”.

As usual, another student is waiting patiently outside while we chat about nothing in particular, so I awkwardly leave, feeling bad about myself.

posted February 07, 2005 05:47 PM (Education) (3 comments) #


Stanford: Saturday, December 4
Your Congress is a Bunch of Idiots
Stanford: Sunday, December 5
George Ryan on the Penalty of Death
Stanford: Tuesday, December 7
Stanford: Wednesday, December 8
Edward Tufte on Beautiful Evidence (and more Stanford: December 8)
Stanford: Thursday, December 9
Home Again
Home: Life and Love
Home: Gloom and Loneliness


Well, what do you expect from a linguist?

posted by at February 7, 2005 07:20 PM #

Is that in reference to Chomsky?

posted by Aaron Swartz at February 7, 2005 07:21 PM #

Ooh, being the armchair analyst is fun: There’s something telling about your relative fear of the TA vs. the teacher. If the vector remains the same, what are you going to do when the authority lay not with those older than you but with your peers (on the assumption that the discrepancy here is purely aetial (aetial is my new favorite made up word))?

posted by Dan Steingart at February 7, 2005 08:08 PM #

Subscribe to comments on this post.

Add Your Comment

If you don't want to post a comment, you can always send me your thoughts by email.

(used only to send you my reply, never published or spammed)

Remember personal info?

Note: I may edit or delete your comment. (More...)

Aaron Swartz (me@aaronsw.com)