UBC and their inability to learn

— and why that proves the theory the learner has to learn they need to learn

I know anyone who knows me has already let their eyes glaze over if they haven’t already put me on mute. If I hadn’t been married to a saint, I’m sure it would have cost me my marriage. There’s only so many times can hear “I know I told you my school was bad last week, but let me tell you how even more badder they made the situation this week” before it becomes something she no longer wants to hear.

I think the embargo on the word “conflict” or any topic related to how important has been extended until 2055.

But man. We had a talk about it last night and what she was sick of hearing was how bad people were at their jobs and I realized ooooops, that’s not what I was complaining about at all. I was complaining about how poorly trained they were at their jobs. Which I’d assumed she’d known because everyone understands about training voids. I’ve explained them so many times they’re also on the banished word list.

I was trained to recognize training voids as any mistake more than a few people are making consistently. Just like you can reverse engineer a pedagogy (or lack there of) from what the learners are actually learning in class (rather than what the teacher is thinking they’re teaching) you can see the problem by how consistently the same problem echoes in the workplace.

One person could have been slipping. Two or three people could be just misremembering something and then one shared the misinformation to people with the same problem. But an entire department is a problem. It means whatever is misunderstood was misunderstood at the source.

And go one level up from that if the problem is the same across multiple departments.

If I haven’t said it before, I do not doubt that every single person I talked to other than the Chair just had a lapse in judgement. I don’t think the Chair should be involved in any part of education considering how much contempt she’s shown for the basic concepts of empathy and educational theory. Since that’s teaching, it’s my opinion that if someone fails both boxes they should be anything but a teacher.

The Provost got his nose in a snit and couldn’t unsnit it to get his head out of someone else’s ass.

And then he abused his authority and told everyone that he could abuse his authority and everyone honestly believed that he could abuse his authority.

But training voids aren’t the individual worker’s issue. If they weren’t trained what to do or had been trained so poorly that they’re willing to overlook their obligations to the policy and the student first, it’s the culture they’ve been steeped in.

I’m sorry your methodology broke because someone asked how it worked. I assumed it did too, somehow, until the Chair told me she had no clue either.

When I’d learned about training voids that could spread across departments, it seemed like such a ludicrous idea at the time. But here we are, more than a decade later and I got to witness one happening before my eyes.

So I did talk to you personally, I hope you understand I didn’t think you were stupid, cruel, or ignorant. I thought you were ill-trained. And if I couldn’t convey that to you in a way that made you understand the severity of your choices, you know it’s not because I didn’t try.

I think back to an email I sent the first week I had to learn the Chair’s name. I said what happened that month was going to be a dry run for when it really mattered if they didn’t start listening to their students who were adults and brought their own knowledge to the table.

You won’t find an email that doesn’t contain something about how important this was to keep internal. If the person I was speaking to didn’t understand that, I did. There’s an email from me somewhere asking why I was the only person who seemed to care about the school’s reputation.

The moment the Chair looked at me and said that she didn’t want to change her program even though she knew students were agreeing on factually incorrect information for the very competitive market they were trying to break into, this was going to happen. She didn’t want to change it because students liked it when their education didn’t challenge their preconceived knowledge of their craft that most amateur writers believe.

I thought, damn. There’s no way she’s putting that in writing.

And then she put it in writing.

I thought the Dean has to care that this methodology in no way can get their learners any closer to their intended outcomes if they just learned how to do what they already knew how to do better. But I don’t blame her for this. Everyone gets to sell out their integrity (SC6) once and have their story believed.

I thought the Provost understood that policies don’t have to be illegal to still need to follow them.

I thought the legal counsel would understand an institution is beholden to their policies first.

Anyone else, total pass by my book on anything but just not following the policy. I have absolutely no malice towards you.

Dear instructors. You did your best with a failing method that barely worked for me. You were extremely polite, even when it must have felt I was attacking you, personally. I really just thought we were having a discussion. We all believed your methodology had a pedagogy and so at that point was your method was just as valid as mine. When this was a difference of pedagogical opinions, I just sent emails to my instructors telling them hey, I just want to graduate, how can we make this work.

And they made it work. So thank you for that.

Emily from the Dean’s office and Jennifer or Jessica from HR thank you for hearing what I had to say, I know you did what you could.

But if we did have discussions and you tried to tell me I was wrong about what controlled documents say, I want you to go to those controlled documents that you ignored and write down, by hand, every line in them that indicate how seriously all of this should have been taken. The people who wrote those documents tried to prevent this from happening.

And know the student who read them went to so many lengths to keep this internal to the system, it will shock the right people. Educational theory is like any other theory out there. It needs to adapt and change to the student demand and the growing market. Had these policies been followed, we could be teaching creative writing instructors how to teach a repeatable method with a solid pedagogical backing.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but you cannot teach someone who does not think they are wrong. I saw classrooms and classrooms full of learners who could not be convinced they were wrong, either. The problem isn’t what you teach or how you teach, it’s how you prime the modern learner to accept the fact that they are still learners in their own progress. The vast majority are not unpublished professional writers with a professional writer’s level of craft preprogrammed into their creative software like your instructors are. And the very small minority would be very interested to learn how to teach craft, not just do it automatically and think that’s just how meaningful prose happens. The rest is just polish, right?

Which again, no shame. Everyone thinks everyone shares the same knowledge base. Piaget proved that in the 1970s.

I know when I read a story that was just beautiful prose or a meaningful moment that wasn’t worth the thousands of words of buildup, I used to think wow, you are 80% there. You just need to figure out how conflict can push your character to the point where they’re going to be forced to make a meaningful change in their lives and then show enough to the reader where the choice they made had consequences.

You know, “the easy stuff.” Me? I couldn’t get my prose to not look like I wrote it and confused google translate for a grammar checker, so translated it back to English and went with that. Beautifully smooth prose was the hard part to writing.

I also was severely ADHD and undiagnosed until my 40s. I wonder if there was a connection.

Oh god. And not one word about literary fiction being just pretty prose. If you don’t understand driving tension with internal conflict is a hell of a lot more difficult to do than driving tension with conflict, that’s where you need to start.

Literary fiction is not conventional fiction without the conventions. That’s just nice prose. Literary fiction is an UNCONVENTIONAL story in which the tension is most often driven by non-external conflict. Try to have a journey about a character with an internal conflict that keeps them pushing forward through a meaningful journey based solely on this character still has to understand something about themselves to a novel-length’s work point of climax.

Tell me that’s easier than adding at least one external source of conflict just to push the story forward, narratively speaking.

Stop thinking literary writing is easier .: MFAs just need to teach nice prose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s