Syllabus Week

SYLLABUS WEEK used to be that you come to class, do some ice breakers and listen to what is expected of you for the rest of the semester. But those days are long gone. For whatever reason, some instructors are now dishing out homework on the first, second, or third day of classes. And that’s just insane!

Syllabus week has been rough, too. One homework here, some over there, and another one in my backpack. Why are professors so insensitive?! Have they forgotten that we have other responsibilities?! 

I had one professor say to me; “If you’re taking more than 15 credited classes, you better do yourself a favor and drop this class because I am expecting a lot from you.” Though he was smiling when he said that, I don’t think he was joking. Another professor said to us that she’s planning on handing out challenging homework this semester because, last semester, students did the bare minimum.

If you’re handing out homework while students are just doing the bare minimum, then obviously dishing out more homework is not the answer. Perhaps, your students might be doing the bare minimum because they’re trying to find a balance between other responsibilities?

Refusing to acknowledge that homework is not the end-all-be-all, signifies that you are out of touch with your students. Also, that you admire your ego more than you value their well-being. Students are not simply soulless robots solving equations and crunching up numbers all day, we have other obligations, too! Majority of us are working, trying to navigate complicated relationships, and are involved in extracurricular activities.

I, for example, have 16 credits to worry about, an internship to complete, and a host of other responsibilities that are in constant need of my full attention. To the student like myself, it is ludicrous and insensitive to expect us to fully commit ourselves to more demanding assignments.

It may sound like I am indifferent to homework, but that’s not the case. Like most teachers, I agree that assigning homework to students gives us the opportunity to strengthen what we’ve already learned. Furthermore, I believe that homework – as an idea or as a practical tool of measurement – is absolutely essential because it encourages competition. This element of competition is what drives innovation and creativity. Without competition our schools and our lives would be dull and disinteresting.

So, you see, I don’t think that having homework is a bad thing, but what I think is that having too much of it, especially on the first, second, or third day of classes, can be discouraging and overwhelming. The introduction of syllabus week was meant to give us a snapshot of what the rest of our classes might look like. In other words, it’s a time to relax and to get to know the people who you might be spending the rest of the semester with. When we depart from this general school of thought, syllabus week not only becomes stressful but it also primes us to do the bare minimum.

Though doing the bare minimum or dropping a few classes sounds appealing right now, I will not do that. Rather, I’m going to hunker down and get all of my homework done because that’s just who I am. I love the challenge.

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To The Poor People Of The World…

THE WORLD MAY LOOK DIFFERENTLY through the eyes of the poor by the way they are treated by those who have and by those who have more. To the poor person—irregardless of skin color—the delicious fruits and many ripening privileges of society are not theirs to be enjoyed nor savored. No, it is only those that are affluent that are obliged to indulge in such privileges, not them. The poor person, having been the subject of extreme “otherness” and systemic negligence by a system concocted by those who have and by those who have more, may also see the world as a place just a little shy of what Thomas Hobbes once described as; “A condition of man….is a condition of war; everyone against everyone.” That is to say, that the world is not only dangerously unfair, to those subjected to its many anachronisms, but it is also unflinchingly barbaric, and essentially, riddled with an-eye-for-an-eye mentality.

Although the poor are not entirely wrong in the way that they may view those who have and those who have more, my concern is, however, that those who have and those who have more are not preordained by God to infinitely oppress the poor. They do not have a monopoly over our bodies, our destinies, and ultimately, how the ripening privileges of society—that are just now beginning to bare their fruits—should be distributed to us. It is we, the poor, that are in charge of that. It is we, not God, that, like an English Queen when she is knighting someone, decided that those who have and those who have more should rule over us—for eternity. Thankfully, though, when this aforesaid and grossly ignored fact is realized—-and echoed through the ether like a massive trumpet—it will spell disaster for those who have, and continue to, abuse the power that we have given them. I am not much of a Christian, but when that glorious day comes—-when we, the poor are ready to judge those who had oppressed us—-it would be sufficient and completely acceptable for someone to quote scripture, specifically, Revelations 12:9, “The great dragon has hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

Martin Luther King Jr., in his brilliant “Where do we go from here” speech attempted to prescribe what he thought was the way that poor people, specifically those of color, might have viewed the world—-i.e., a constant struggle for dignity and respect.  To this point, he wrote, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.” The meta-communication in his statement, and throughout his entire speech, for that matter, was that poor people—indivisible of race, nationality, or creed—-are constantly waging battle against known and unknown forces that are ever presently refusing to recognize their humanity. Although that may be true—-that the ontology of poor people’s struggles are linked to the intrinsic desires of respect and dignity—-what concerned me the most, however, with his brilliant speech, is that what Martin Luther King Jr., and those who shares his beliefs, refuse to consider, is the omnipresent barbarity, unfairness, and each-man-for-himself mentality that seems to be as fundamentally intertwined to human pathology as the night is to the moon. No amount of legislation, marches, and “Moral Mondays” will ever change that. It can be the time when Martin King Jr. gave his brilliant speech; the 60’s, or it can be our present moment; 2016, what will not change, until we make certain adjustments, of course, is the pathology of our human society to oppress those that are weaker and more disenfranchised than their are.

Now then, it seems to be that the solution is to not wait nor beg for those who have and those who have more to recognize the humanity of the poor, but rather to make certain adjustments to our society—-adjustments, that will act as social levees to protect against the constant flooding of human barbarities. One such adjustment, is a moral one. You can decide who gets what, grant manumission to some oppressed groups, or erect legislations to protect those that need the most protection, but until you change the moral understanding of the people that are supposed to uphold those aforesaid things, then you will forever get regression and barbarity. If you argue otherwise, shall I remind you that “The condition of man….is a condition of war; of everyone against everyone”?

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Brittany Herbert, Beyond The Limited Visuals of Beauty

brittany-herbert-for-blog“THE FIRST AND SIMPLEST EMOTION WHICH WE DISCOVER IN THE HUMAN MIND, IS CURIOSITY, said Edmund Burke, a philosopher back in the mid-1700s. And I couldn’t agree more. Curiosity, or what I like to call “Innocent serendipity,” is what makes the journey of life so stupendously exhilarating and meaningful. Without the rudimentary elements of curiosity, I believe that not only would life become extremely boring to those who lacked curiosity, but it will seize to make sense altogether. In like manner, it was that kind of “first and simplest emotion” of curiosity that Edmund Burke talked about, that, provoked me to want to pick the brains of 21-year-old Brittany Herbert. And what I discovered about myself and about Brittany Herbert, during our intercourse of literal delights and awe-inspiring contingencies, further cemented my beliefs in the power of curiosity.

21-year-old Brittany Herbert is a senior at the University At Buffalo—-double majoring in legal studies and African American studies. And she’s from a very small town in Saratoga New York—-only 3,000 people—which she did not like, by the way. “There weren’t a lot to do there,” she said, with one of her legs crossed over the other, “Except for hiking at the Adirondacks mountains…..”—Brittany pauses for a brief second to survey the handful of students walking by— then, she resumed while staring directly into my eyes; “When I came to Buffalo it was a huge culture shock. There was a lot of diversity; a lot of things to do….and I just fell in love with it.”

By the same token, and speaking of falling in love, the amount of celestial beauty that has been bestowed upon Brittany Herbert is enough to make any decent man of nobility and vigor instantly fall in love with her. Her long flowing hair was a rich shade of mahogany. It sometimes flowed in waves, from her right to her left shoulders; to adorn her glowing, porcelain-like skin. Her eyes, framed by long lashes, were two different colors; one bright, emerald-green and the other golden-brown, which, seemed to brighten the world. With her straight nose and full lips – she seemed the picture of perfection—sculptured from the hands of God himself. When she smiled, it seemed like the whole world sighed with contentment. When she laughed, it seemed like whole the world laughed with her. And had Brittany decided to weep right there in front of me, the whole world would have wanted to comfort her.

As our delightful conversation progressed, Brittany revealed to me that she liked spending most of her time working out, playing intramural soccer, going to various sporting events on campus, and getting involved in demonstrations. Insofar, she’s been to two Black Lives Matter protests, a Donald Trump rally, and another different kind of protest on campus. “Were you here last year?” she asked. No, I replied. “Well, last year this one white, artist girl had a white-only sign on campus and it made a lot of people really angry with her.” Then she shared with me about the time when she bravely went to a Donald Trump rally at the Buffalo, Niagara Convention Center. “It was really scary;” she said. “Those supporters of his were really passionate.” Given how problematic Trump is and also how passionate his supporters can be, I wasn’t surprised when Brittany said that she was scared. I myself did not go, but I heard from one of my good friends that braved the event, that there were lots of police outside the convention center making sure that protesters weren’t getting out of line and, that, some people got their cameras smashed.

What kind of music do you listen to? I asked. “Have you heard the album ‘To pimp a butterfly’ by Kendrick Lamar?’…..I like that album because it’s so symbolic and powerful,” she said. When I asked her; if you had three words to describe yourself what would those three words be? she replied, “Independent, Unique, and Passionate.” In view of that, she also said that she likes to speak her mind and that she did not care what people thought about her. How fascinating! Brittany Herbert, one who tends to be very reserved and private in class, was actually turning out to be a pretty interesting, complicated, and directional human being. It would be a crime to say that I wasn’t enjoying what I was discovering.

On the contrary, and although Brittany is speaking freely with me at the moment, she’s sort of guarded and being very strategic with her words. If you could see her now, you would see that she’s carrying the expressions of a chess player, whose opponent hasn’t made a move, but yet, wants to decipher what their first and next move is going to be. And some of the answers that she’s giving me are short and brief—-partly because she’s nervous, but more so, because she’s trying to protect herself from something. “People always say that to me;” she admitted, looking a little surprised after I mentioned it. “That….I don’t come off as someone approachable.” And why is that?  I asked. “I think it’s because I’m always thinking….and I always look so serious because of it,” she replied.

Whatever made Brittany be so guarded and protective, was not my business. And plus, I got the sense that she did not want to entertain that type of curiosity—-so I left it alone. What was interesting and far more important, however, is that I was discovering—-thanks to that “first and simplest emotion of curiosity” that Edmund Burke mentioned, that Brittany was more than just her celestial beauty.

“I am really funny!” she said, with a smile on her face. “And I’m very passionate about eating healthy. It’s a big thing for me!” In addition to those things that Brittany was proud to reveal to me, she also emphasized that fact that she likes to “Think.” On her twitter and other social media sites, she tells me, are home to some of her deepest and most poetic thoughts. As an illustration, allow me to draw your attention to exhibit A and B; both from her twitter site. She writes; “May I always find the strength to continue to be a genuine person despite falling victim to the deception and bad intentions of others.” Here is another one; “Forgive yourself for the blindness that put you in the path of those who betrayed you. Sometimes a good heart doesn’t see the bad.”

Social theorist and feminist writer, Simone De Beauvoir once wrote, “I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.” This may be a stretch of my imagination; but I think partly the reason why Brittany is so guarded and protective of her person, is because she knows—philosophically and literally–like Simone De Beauvoir, that no matter whom you may run into, no one will be able to know and love you completely like you would to yourself. Inasmuch as that may be true to intelligent people like Brittany and Simone De Beauvoir, it is one of the many dilemmas that people with beauty often faces when they try to express themselves to other people. The eyes of beholder, in what I’ve come to discover, only sees what’s on the surface—and not below.

For this reason, and in conclusion, that is why curiosity or “Innocent serendipity” are two of the most important qualities to have in the first place; because it cuts through the physical assumptions of people and gets right to the core of who or what people are. To the end that I was able to entertain my curiosity by intercoursing with Brittany, admittedly, however, I too had fallen victim to the limited visuals that are ever present in the eyes of the beholder. You see, before I approached her, I too thought that Brittany was just her celestial beauty, and, that she lacked agency, expression, and reveries. And boy was I wrong! Brittany Herbert is/was smart, strategic, and very poetic. I am happy that this experience has enabled me to discover how limiting the visuals of beauty can be. And that, moving forward, I need to approach—not just beautiful people—but every other person, with the first and most simplest emotion that can and, has been, discovered in the human mind; curiosity.

To find out more about Brittany Herbert, look for her on Facebook; Brittany Herbert

To see some of her poetic and thoughtful quotes, visit her Twitter; @___Brittxny

Click the following link to read about our last week’s Weekly Inspiring Person; Melinda Ortiz-Rodriguez, a young aspiring social worker.

melinda-for-blog

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