"we" the people of wherever...

A round-up of a few things since I don't have time for much else:

1. The class is going okay. I wouldn't say (write) it's going brilliantly but it's not going too badly. Another instructor and I had a long talk a few days ago and we both agreed that we hated the text book but we have been dealing with it in different ways. I have used it as a "reference" and assigned articles to the kids. He is using the book and realising it is not ideal. Hah.

The thing we both are having issues with is: how much is enough? Or, when I get one class session of just over an hour to cover "terrorism", what do I talk about? The problem I've been having (and my colleague agreed) was that we both tend to think we should cover a set amount of stuff and we end up talking too much. It's bloody frustrating.

2. Life: Life is not going okay. I mean, it's going but it's not great. I'm sure yous don't need to read all about that here so I'll save it until I see/meet some/all of yous in Real Life (if I do).

3. Midterms: I'm actually amazed that almost all the kids seemed to have understood most of the concepts well and can apply them on various occasions. The most popular section was my "self-made" section, in which I gave them two assignments.

In the first, they had to read a "foreign" newspaper for 5 days and answer a list of questions based on what they read. Then, they had to discuss how that country's "interests" were defined and communicated and, finally, relate what they read to concerns here in the United States.

In the second assignment, I proposed that Iran "was actively seeking to improve its nuclear capabilities" and then asked what different actors would do, in such a case. I then listed a few questions (Including: "Where would Iran acquire nuclear material from? Justify your answer" and "how would daily life for Iranians be affected--provide evidence from online sources")

For both these questions, the students spent a lot of time speculating on various actors, the differences among various actors and a few of them even proposed elaborate plans for what would happen. I enjoyed reading these.

Things I didn't enjoy reading? Well, the many, many common grammar mistakes that native English speakers made. During my undergrad, there was a class called "Effective Writing" which all students had to take. Most of my students here would greatly benefit from a similar class instead of some of the classes they are required to take.

The highlight (as a learning experience for me, too!) so far? One of my essay question asks: "Is democracy-promotion a policy worth pursuing? Why or why not?"

Almost half my students answered this question, including some international students. All the American students answered it as "Should WE (i.e. the United States) promote democracy?" but without specifying this. They then used "we" liberally throughout their answers. None of the international students did so.

I wonder why? I've noticed that I, too, don't talk about "We" (the Nepalis). Even when the discussion is about Nepal, I say (and write), "they" or "the Nepalese people".

Saying "we" automatically gives a kind of legitimacy to what is being said especially in view of the person speaking being part of the "we". It is difficult to argue against statements like "we believe in democracy-promotion". Though, does "we" have a place in an academic essay? I say No. Not just because it's "unacademic" (whatever that may be) but because it is unreflexive.

But, I think it needs a different person than me* to explain the relations of power-knowledge inherent in identifying oneself with the dominant global power. Or, behind using terms such as "we" and "we promote democracy" while blithely unaware of the assumptions underlying such usage.

Right. Off to grade some more midterms. Hopefully it won't be a week before yous have to read all about my oh-so-exciting life again.

* Again, an "effective writing" course, which discusses issues of power (as mine did!) and the concept of reflexivity would be fantastic.

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