Monday, February 15, 2016

Reconstituting History

    This past weekend I presented at WSECS, which ended up being an absolutely lovely conference (I'm already trying to come up with an abstract for next year!). The reception on Friday included a demo/lesson in English country dance, which was great fun and sparked plenty of conversation about eighteenth century social structures. Dr. Tomko, who had arranged the program and patiently instructed a large group of novices, afterwards commented on the differences between studying modern dance, where there are often films, and historical dance.

"What happens when we have to reconstitute the dance in order to study it?"

   I feel this is pertinent to any number of historical inquiries, but most especially kinetic "objects" like dance...and of course, riding. Simple things like why riders remained perpendicular to their horse in levade (which today seems an odd and dangerous habit), become clear when you sit in their high-pommeled saddles (no one wants to be punched in the gut by their saddle). The more complex the movement, the more likely we are to miss something examining it purely in the theoretical. Ideas of "personal space" and social connections become concrete experiences in reconstituting dance. The difficulty, of course, is being precise as to what, from whom and when, is being reconstituted.

We could all learn a little from dance historians.

Any conference that feeds me this much cheese is awesome.
In this case, it was just a bonus.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Student Emails

     Student emails. Who doesn't have stories about them? The bad grammar, the terrible manners, the utter lack of punctuation, and, oh yes, the "entitlement." There are plenty of articles on this.
    Many of them talk about this as a millennial issue. Millennials have no respect, think everything is about them, disrespect language, etc. But this is not a generational issue.

Let me repeat: this is not a generational issue. 

    I started collage at the end on the 90's. The internet was alive and...slow. Very slow. Home access was not yet common. Colleges had just started providing students with emails (often their first ever email), but no one really used them. And you know what? Professors still got addressed "Hey!" (in person!),  still got complaints about grades, and still got positively terrible papers (oh, yeah, some of those papers were even handwritten. Crazy.)

    So why do we see so much of this today? Email is fast, you don't have to drive to campus or look up office hours. And, now professors (and lowly TAs and grad instructors) can keep a record of the rude, obnoxious, and downright uneducated things students send them. I (a millennial, at least technically) have been appalled by students email manners and lack of care regarding their own education. So have my younger (firmly millennial) colleagues. I have also, on unfortunately more than a singular occasion, been appalled by professors' emails. I and most of my (firmly millennial) graduate peers actually tend towards over-formality, for fear of committing these blunders.

    So what do we do? We educate. We set guidelines. We instruct. We set good examples. We teach.