Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lit. Research and the Metaphor of One's Position as a Structure

I'm afraid to start talking about Lit. Research.

I'm afraid of analyzing it.

I'm still not that confident in the validity of it as a curriculum.

I spent a year fighting for it, but towards the end, I got tired. I began to grow skeptical myself.

I keep trying to reflect on it, but one thought keeps looming above all others: What if it isn't actually that good of an idea?

Every time anyone questioned it (slash me, because I take things personally), I was able to justify the program. But just barely, it seemed. I don't know that I really convinced anyone.

I know that it's okay to have an idea that doesn't work. It's part of the invention process. It's part of iterating. "I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work," and all that. I know that it's completely acceptable and that I would say the same to my students.

It's just hard to admit it.

It hurts your pride.

Especially when it's about something you've tried over and over to convince a hundred doubtful people of.

Especially when you're trying to convince a hundred doubtful people of your professionalism at the same time.

But of course it COULD still be a good idea. It COULD work.

And that's one of the reasons it's so hard. I don't know whether to keep fighting or to just give up.

And I'm not going to know unless I explore it more.

Repeat from line one.

I just have the sinking feeling that I'm fighting in vain. That I'm working on a useless project. That I'm trying to claim I'm an engineer while building a bridge out of toothpicks.

See, here is a concept I've played with in my mind for years: Each position, stance, or philosophy you hold to be true is a structure. Every time it's questioned, your structure chips at the foundation. Through reasoning and logic, you can fortify the structure of your position, making it stronger. At times, an enemy may deliver such a stunning blow to your structure that it becomes irrecoverable. You may discover that that structure wasn't defending, that it was build on shaky ground to begin with, and no fortifying will ever make it stand tall again. At that point, you may have to forfeit your claim and take up the enemy's. Or, in the case that your enemy's structure was likewise destroyed, you may be forced to build an entirely new structure out of broken pieces of the old and your enemy's put together. If your structure is never questioned, it is weak. It's only through dialogue, through delivering blows to one another's castles (ACTUAL blows, with intent to knock them down) that one can build a strong, worthy stance on anything.

My castle of beliefs about Lit. Research has been questioned, but instead of fortifying it with reasoning and better logic, I've just been patching the cracks and ignoring them. I haven't truly been trying to build my castle to withstand anything thrown against it. I've been turning my back to it, assuming it was still there, standing strong! In fact, it may have been dealt a finishing blow ages ago. The only way to know for sure is to analyze the cracks.

And what that means in reality is a deep analysis of the program as a whole, both the foundation it's based on and the details of how it's done.

It's just that it's scary because I created this program. I believed in it. I viewed it as my own child.

But it's not. It's only a structure.

I take blows against it personally, but I shouldn't. Those blows aren't towards me as a person or even as a teacher, they are just testing blows. They are testing the validity of my castle.

I'm afraid of discovering that my castle has suffered a fatal blow because that might mean that I'd have to take up my enemy's flag. But didn't I just say that it's acceptable, the that case, to build a new structure out of the remaining pieces? That's what iterating IS. Build the structure, try to knock it down. If it falls, take the existing whole pieces and build a better one.

I want the best for my students. I want to teach them in the best, most efficient and effective ways, and that means that I need to analyze my methodology. I need to test its strength and look for cracks that need to be fortified. I need to see if its integrity has already been so damaged that it doesn't hold weight anymore. And if that's the case, I need to pick up the broken pieces and start again.

Because I'd ask the same of my students as I would for myself.

I will analyze the shit out of this program. I will test it for weaknesses myself. By the time August rolls around, there won't be a disputing attack strong enough to hurt my castle anywhere to be found.