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Bradence
11-25-2004, 08:06 PM
Hi all,

I have a short story followed by a few questions that I would like feedback on...

I received some bad news today. I was told by a teacher of mine (not a MA teacher, a college professor) that he was going to fail me. After the first few lectures he gave I realized that I disagreed with him on all the major points in his interpretation of the literature we were studying. His teaching method didn't motivate me in the least to think critically about the material and I felt that I could use the time to focus on my other studies. So I stopped attending classes, although I still dropped my assignments off regularly at his office. Today he told me that he didn't appreciate my lack of attendance and was going to fail me. He wanted to know if I would appeal the decision because he realized that since he didn't specifically state that attendance was required he would lose an academic appeal. So he asked me if I was going to appeal his grade and I'm left trying to decide whether or not I should. Basically if I do, I get my papers graded and pass the course against his wishes, if I don't he'll fail me.

I raise the thread on this forum because I tried to decide what I would do if I found myself in the same situation at my dojo. The advice I see offered here all the time is "find another teacher." While this advice applies to some extent here there is an added dimension of being able to force my teacher to give me a grade and then never see him again.

I suppose there are three questions here:

1. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?

2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

3. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North Americaan University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?

Thanks for reading,

Brad(ence)

Devin McDowell
11-25-2004, 08:44 PM
1. I suppose so. It all depends on the person.
2. The aiki thing to do would be to compromise (I think). Do you respect the professor? Wouldn't letting him fail you as a sign of respect be very disrespectful if you don't respect him?
3. Not only will the cultural difference possibly play a role, but the situation is different regarding your sensei. All you lose when changing dojos is the money you paid at the first one, rather than losing a university credit.

Rocky Izumi
11-25-2004, 08:51 PM
I preface my answer as both an Aikido practitioner and an adjunct professor (previously full time associate prof in admin).

The prof is an ass (assoc prof speaking). Hang his butt out to dry. He can downgrade your mark if he specifically stated attendance as a requirement but he didn't so he loses. And unless there is a specific reason for attendance, why should he require attendance if you are learning what you are supposed to be learning based on assignments and examinations? Smaller the class, the better I can concentrate on the students who really need help from me directly. And unless you really needed this class to graduate, what were you doing in it in the first place? You should be enjoying your university time, learning what is useful and interesting to you, and is taught by a decent professor.

It is his right and your right to disagree but your etiquette was deplorable (aikidoist). He should fail you on the basis of your poor etiquette. If there was a disagreement which could not be resolved, you should have dropped the class and found something better to do with your time rather than just not attending. He may be trying to help you by making you deal with your problems directly rather than not facing up to them. On the other hand, he may be trying to pull a ego trip on you. You have to decide which is which but you were still very poor in your etiquette. There is nothing else you can do now but to apologise for your poor etiquette.

Answer from both at the same time:
You must apologise for your poor manners/etiquette, then hang his butt out to dry so that you can survive this without a failure on your GPA. Learn of your mistake and next time, for heaven's sake, drop the class instead of acting like an ass and skipping classes. Your prof has better things to do than to worry about why you are not attending class. His class, his interpretation; just like your Sensei's dojo, his rules. Whether or not you agree with his or her interpretation, it should be your goal to discover the varied ways things can be interpreted, just like different Sensei's interpret techniques and do them differently. The pleasure should be in discovering the many ways that things can be done or seen so that we can choose among those things we think suit us. However, to be able to deal with the variety in the world, we must learn the many different ways so that we can deal successfully with all of them just like dealing with all the different ways techniques are done and attacks are conducted. When you go to a different dojo or class and meet up with a different Sensei or Prof, empty your teacup and try to learn what they are showing you so that you will know the good and bad of all the different ways of things and then, can choose intelligently, with logic among them for what suits you and what you like.

Before I started on my later (graduate) academic career, my Aikido Sensei (who later became one of my profs) told me that I "should not criticise what I do not know well." After a drinking competition I lost, I found out the next day that I was enrolled in the MBA program after awaking from my stupor. Now that I have been a business prof for several years and have my Ph.D in the field, I can safely say that I was right. The MBA doesn't train the students to be decent business people and when they get out, they really don't know anything about how business is done and are virtually useless as executives. They just come out as good raw material. My mistake during the time I ran that business was that I thought they would come out from the MBA as good exec material and that I wouldn't have to retrain them. I made the mistake by not knowing what I was criticizing. The job of the profs is not to make them good business people but making them into good raw material. So, my Prof/Sensei was also right. It was my mistake in not knowing what I was complaining about.

Rock

stuartjvnorton
11-25-2004, 09:36 PM
Some classes cannot be skipped (short of changing courses completely).

Zato Ichi
11-26-2004, 01:26 AM
2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

The aiki thing to do would be atemiwaza. I'd go with aigamaeate, but that's a personal preference.

This guy soulds like he needs to separate himself from his job: as long as you keep handing in your assignments and do whatever tests are required, he doesn't have a leg to stand on. If he takes it personally that you don't show up for class, that's his problem. Appeal.

PeterR
11-26-2004, 02:18 AM
Hori-san;

How do you get one of those animated gifs up. I think every Shodothug on this site (there aren't that many of them) should have their very own.

Dibs on ushiro-ate.

bob_stra
11-26-2004, 02:45 AM
1. I don't know. But as they say "The map isn't the territory". So - this guys doesn't represent all teachers. No need to disrespect teaching (profession) because of one teacher (person)

2.Well, if you wanna get arty-farty about it.

The guys 'attacked you'. Re-direct his attack back at him. Whatever comes of it is his fault. Modify viciousness to suit.

IRL - yeah: You're damn skippy I'd appeal. Then give him / his course a bad (truthful) academic review, quit the course and do a science based degree. None of this ego stroking there - at least not in the minor leagues (undergrad).

FWIW

3. Ummm...I think you're thinking too much abt this. People are people. "Sensei's" are people.

So.

Treat people like people treat you. "Sh*tty" people get treated sh*tty (without abuse), good people get treated well.

Sow what you reap and all that.

Personally, I can't believe you'd even consider not appealing the result. You do the work, pass the class and what....have to kiss ass to get a grade?

Zato Ichi
11-26-2004, 02:55 AM
Hori-san;

How do you get one of those animated gifs up. I think every Shodothug on this site (there aren't that many of them) should have their very own.

Dibs on ushiro-ate.

I'll whip one up for you later tonight after I get back from work. A few minutes, and Nariyama Shihan will be endlessly performing the same technique over and over again in digital form!

PeterR
11-26-2004, 02:57 AM
I'll whip one up for you later tonight after I get back from work. A few minutes, and Nariyama Shihan will be endlessly performing the same technique over and over again in digital form!
Fantastic - did you read the article yet?

happysod
11-26-2004, 03:16 AM
1. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?

2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

3. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North Americaan University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?


1. yes
2. do not let them fail you, this is your education we're talking about
3. no, as Bob said people = people, no matter what the circumstances of your connection.

concerning Rocky's suggestion for an apology - caveat: only apologise if you mean it. I'd personally prefer a sincere fuck you from someone than an insincere apology.

OT: Peter - glad there's finally going to be some way of distinguishing shodothugs easily, a very good thought :D

Bradence
11-26-2004, 03:40 AM
I would like to thank everyone for the quick and enlightening replies. Particularly Rocky, honest criticism is always particularly welcome.

Thanks

Brad(ence)

Robert Townson
11-26-2004, 08:25 AM
Hori-san;

I would be very interested in finding out how you created your animated avatar.
Do you use flash? Also where do you get your images from?

Appologies for being cheeky :D

Zato Ichi
11-26-2004, 09:06 AM
I would be very interested in finding out how you created your animated avatar.
Do you use flash? Also where do you get your images from?

Totally OT, but what the hell:

I'm not using flash (and I doubt any message board would let you use Flash in an avatar (plus my own deep seeded hatred of Flash would prevent me from using it)). I'm grabbing my GIFs from the JAA hompage (http://homepage2.nifty.com/shodokan/en/kyogi10.html), and then using Adobe ImageReady to edit them. Easy stuff - takes a few minutes at most.

Fantastic - did you read the article yet?
Indeed I did... with that article, the Shodothug Army will grow until the final, apocalyptic battle with the Aikifruities... I imagine in something like the battle in LOTR: the Two Towers. The pretty boy Aikifruites (the humans and elves) on one side, cowering in their fortress... the powerful, yet somewhat musky, Shodothugs massed outside (the orcs), ready to tear down the walls....

Of course, the orcs were defeated, but... uh... well... it was a deus ex machina thingie... :D

Robert Townson
11-26-2004, 10:23 AM
Ok thx.

I have no idea how to use ImageReady unfortunately.
I'll have a play and see if i can work something out.

Thx for the help.

sunny liberti
11-26-2004, 10:26 AM
I think calling a college kid an ass over this is a little over the top.

To the OP, I'm sorry you're in this dilemma! Hope my thoughts can help you come to a conclusion, even if it's to know that you totally disagree with my position!

To answer your questions:

1. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?

Not in my opinion. You get to choose a MA sensei every time you walk into the dojo for instruction. The system is constructed out of an entirely different culture and mindset than University. If a MA teacher is an arrogant jerk, you don't have to come back. Universities assign you a teacher for the most part, and you have to make the best of it. In *my* experience, professors can take advantage of their positions over students. Dropping a class is only appropriate in extreme situations, like an English prof can't pick out the verb in a sentence. (Hey, it happened to my brother-in-law!) If you drop every class in college in which you disagree with the professor, you'll never get your degree! But you don't have to respect the person, or even his/her decisions.

2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

I think the aiki thing to do is get your degree, get a good paying job, and keep training and putting your resources back into Aikido.

3. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North Americaan University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?

Absolutely. As mentioned above, they are born out of entirely different cultural systems, and therefore it's not always appropriate to behave the same in both. I don't mean flip the guy off, but you have a different relationship with this guy than with a Sensei. And you're looking for different outcomes. College is for degrees and careers (money making potential), and training - whatever it is about for you - is not.

Appeal, get the piece of paper, and keep training!

Amendes
11-26-2004, 10:30 AM
Appeal. Plain and simple.

When I was going to be failed on my college placement for reasons that were inappropriate I told my Sensei. He told me to do appeal as well. I of course won hands down being as the reason for failure was inappropriate and only out of spite.

Later on about a year after I found out Sensei had a lawyer who was going to do the work for me for free if I lost against the college.

Thats my big lesson in standing up to being wronged by authority personal in school.

Where ever your getting this feeling of respecting him for, you can forget it. In this situation do what ever it takes, as you are clearly wronged.

Jeffrey A. Fong
11-26-2004, 11:23 AM
These situations can be regarded from two levels:
From a traditional North American academic perspective, you clearly have the opportunity to express your displeasure with the professor and force the issue, in as much as attendance wasn't noted as being required - it wasn't part of the contract. I think you are entitled to receive a grade commensurate with the level of competence demonstrated in your work.
You didn't mention whether this was an undergraduate class or part of your graduate course of study; this is important as it defines in large part what kind of "relationship" you may have with the instructor. As a graduate student, particularly in smaller departments, there is a more intimate relationship between student and teacher, where the rules of implied or expected behavior are more pronounced. This is part of academic "culture," so how you behave will have an effect on your progress and your grade. This seems to be a very difficult concept for many "western" students to accept, whether it be in a class room or dojo (and it is within the latter where the unspoken rules of conduct, particularly those defined by authority predominate).
In my experience and from observing the conversations which pop up here about whether traditional Japanese/Asian cultural artifacts can be successfully transfered to Western settings, indeed, whether should be in the first place, it seems that many of us westerners reject the notion that others or circumstance can or should control our lives. In this instance, I refer to control as reflecting our willingness to immerse ourselves in a foreign or novel situation where we are challenged to believe or adopt something that is unknown to us or the opposite to what we have learned. To make a broad cultural generalization, "Eastern" thought is oft charaterized by respect for the voice of authority and tradition, whereas "Western" thought is more individualistic and challenging of the status quo. Whether it be in the college classroom or dojo, some students want the living experience to reflect a confirmation of self and accomplishment ("give me my grade; I am my own authority"): some call this independence and self-awareness, whereas others would call this arrogance; others, choose to conform to the experience and understand the process, both satisfying and lacking, as comprising the learning experience. Some would call this acting like a lemming.
I guess my point is that this is like comparing apples and oranges, college and dojo. But most importantly for me, in the dojo, I am tired of the arrogance of certainty and choose to reflect on my MA training as being an opportunity to not know the answer, even if I think I can do the technique. What a shame it is for people to put so much into something so wonderful as Aikido only to come away with the sense that they are superior to others.

Lan Powers
11-26-2004, 11:33 AM
<OT: Peter - glad there's finally going to be some way of distinguishing shodothugs easily, a very good thought >

Indeed! Bell that kitty! :)

Funny to be grouped by association as an "Aikifruity" since I am almost always the first with the atemi-jones in my dojo....after Sensei I suppose, since he is a big atemi proponent.

In the Lord of the Rings scenario I suppose the Shihans would then be the society of wizards?
Strange,almost unexplainable power, wise sayings delivered in obtuse wording, (different language)
flowing robe-like garments.......hmmm, you may have something there.
I love the gifs BTW, very nice.

On the main subject, I have to go with the herd here, appeal. After all you aren't expected to allow an attack to land, just redirect and be as nonviolent as possible.
Then put it in your past, and lesson learned.
Lan

darin
11-26-2004, 12:45 PM
A lot of academics and aikido teachers live in their own worlds. My advice is never let professors push you around especially when your paying for the course. I was in a similar situation like you before at uni and was a fool for not fighting for my rights. I would appeal if I was you. At least you get the grade and hopefully never have to take another class from him again.

Actually university professors are nothing compared to some people you will meet in the work force. You will be suprised what people will do out of greed, jealousy and hatred.

SeiserL
11-26-2004, 01:14 PM
IMHO, if its their turf and you want your ticket punched by them, do what they tell you to do, the way they tell you to do it, when they tell you to it. Who says they have to run their class the way you want them to? They have the right to their curriculum and grading system in their own class and school. Get over your ego and train.

Shipley
11-26-2004, 01:55 PM
Hi Brad,

I'm a professor and an aikido instructor, so I hope my perspective will add to this.

Firstly, appeal. For sure. Hands down. When you enter into a professor-student relationship you are given a contract. That contract needs to clearly state how you will be evaluated. His part of the contract is to give all of his lectures, be competent in his field, cover the material he is mandated to cover, and evaluate your performance. We don't call it a contract in our business, but a syllabus is really just that. If you can pass his class without attending, and attendance isn't mentioned in the evaluation criteria, then you do not have to attend.

Secondly, I think that the way that this is being handled is sending you and your professor into a death spiral where somebody has to lose. From an aikido perspective it seems to be time to redefine your relationship so that everybody wins. Sit down and talk with the professor, and explain why you stopped attending. Do not do this apologetically, but also do not do it confrontationally. As soon as you start saying that your view is right and his is wrong, even by inference, you will be back to winning or losing. Don't forget that he will be writing and marking your final exam, and can write it in such a fashion that you won't pass. That's hard to win on appeal... I would hope that he wouldn't, but people are people.

If you get him on your side, then promise to attend the week or so of lecture that remains, hopefully you can salvage the situation.

Take to heart everything that's been said above. Students who come thinking their cup is full are wasting their money. Listen, absorb, and incorporate what is taught, even if it is different than what you believe to be right. Don't forget that a professor has been at this for quite a while, just like a sensei would have been, and often their perspective is based on experience that you haven't had yet.

Anyhow, good luck with it, and let us know.

Paul

P.S. On rereading the thread, there isn't much here that Rocky didn't already say better, so just go reread that... :)

Rocky Izumi
11-26-2004, 11:34 PM
I think calling a college kid an ass over this is a little over the top.

I thought I said the prof was an ass. As a ex-prof who retired except to teach grad students and do research because of assnine behaviour like that in universities, I get to do that.

I know that is a flame of a person that is not able to defend his/her position here and I normally don't like but I have seen much too much of that type of behaviour in universities. All profs know that the information that the prof gives at the beginning of the semester about the class is a contract. If you screw up that course objectives and grading scheme contract, you eat dirt and live with it.

Rock

rachel
11-27-2004, 12:00 AM
Dear Brad,
One college student to another, I ask, do you need the credit? Also, do you need to be on this teacher's good-side for any reason?
Yes, the professors generally deserve a lot of respect, but if they do something that is just not right, it deserves to be noted. Personally, if I were in your shoes, I would definitely appeal the "F." The entire point of having a syllabus (or some equivalent) at the beginning of the course, is for this type of thing. If he did not state from the beginning that attendance or a good attitude of something was required for a portion of the grade, he has NO right to fail you. Just because he's your Professor, doesn't mean he can get away with doing something agaisnt the policy!
Personally, I view my Aikido Sensei differently from my college Professors because there are fewer Aikido Sensei (in my life) so I can trust them on a more personal level. Also, the Japanese culture the comes with Aikido teaches a different kind of respect that (I think) would be inappropriate/overly respectful at a North American university. :)

Rocky Izumi
11-27-2004, 09:47 AM
I wouldn't put an Aikido Sensei necessarily any higher than any other teacher. The Japanese culture isn't what it used to be and what we often think of as Japanese culture is often a model of what existed only in about 15% of the old population. Peoples is peoples. While the Japanese may wish to emulate that 15% of the population as the ideal, it is not always the case that they are successful.

Today, a lot of students don't give the Japanese profs any more respect than at a Universidad del Norte Americano. A good prof is a good prof no matter where they are and are usually given the respect due to them. Bad profs are bad profs no matter where they are and they usually don't get any respect from anyone. The same goes for Aikido instructors. Bad drivers are bad drivers no matter where they drive.

El Terror del Camino

MaryKaye
11-27-2004, 10:31 AM
I'm a college professor (Genetics). Two years ago, the last time I taught Evolutionary Genetics, I had a student come to my office hours about a week before the end of the course to ask for help on a homework assignment. I helped him, then said apologetically "I don't remember your name, but I'm bad at names--"

He said, "That's because you've never seen me before; I don't come to class. But your lecture notes on the Web are good enough that this is the first time I've gotten stuck."

I didn't retaliate. Like your professor, I hadn't said that attendance was required (personally I don't think this is appropriate for a lecture course, though I'd do it for a presentation or debate course). But I certainly wasn't happy with the student either. I carefully didn't learn his name so that it wouldn't influence my grading of his final, because I knew I was upset enough that I might be biased.

One thing to be aware of is that many universities are now pushing their faculty to write web-based or "distance learning" courses. A lot of us fear that if we do so, we'll then be dismissed (I don't have tenure) and our courses will just be replayed over and over on the web with part-time faculty doing the necessary grading and consultation. This is obviously an ugly prospect personally, but it also seems to lose a lot of the value of the university. If I wanted to write a book and have people read it, I could do that; I teach live because I think there's value in the give-and-take in class, even a lecture class.

A student who doesn't come to class can feel, to the professor, like a flat statement "Your efforts to actually teach rather than just put the lecture in a can and hand it out are worthless." This stings. I don't think your professor was right in what he did (though it was responsible of him to point out the appeal possibility rather than trying to hide it) but I have some sympathy for the reaction. This is a very touchy point for a lot of us right now.

Just a view from the other perspective.

Mary Kaye

sunny liberti
11-27-2004, 10:44 AM
I thought I said the prof was an ass. As a ex-prof who retired except to teach grad students and do research because of assnine behaviour like that in universities, I get to do that.
I saw that you did, but b/c of limited time I didn't address that. I tried to imply by using the phrase "over the top" that I agree entirely with your thoughts up to the point of name-calling. I should have noted overtly in the last post that I feel in total agreement with all that you have written except this:
Learn of your mistake and next time, for heaven's sake, drop the class instead of acting like an ass and skipping classes.
While it's not the most responsible behavior, and almost certainly will be learned from regardless of outcome, I don't think he's acting like an ass. And I challenge the idea that calling him one will help him learn in any way.

I did far more irresponsible things in response to arrogant, jerky college professors and administrators. I learned from the experience(s) in whole and in part. I didn't come away from that episode in my life thinking that people in this situation need to be demeaned. Being young, not knowing how to handle poorly behaving authority is tough enough.

Mary Kaye, your points are well taken...

Bradence
11-27-2004, 02:27 PM
Thank you for all the great responses everyone, onto a few specifics.

First to Lynn Seiser. I have to admit that what you wrote is very close to how I reacted to the situation initially. I certainly believe this with regard to my MA training. I'm beginning to think that this may be the way to respond to the situation. I agree with what Rocky said about my bad manners/poor etiquette and so I'm very resistant to the idea of appealing and forcing the grade.

Paul Shipley. Your comments were very apt and your perspective was appreciated. As for the idea of apologizing and returning the situation to a regular professor-student relationship, I think that's out of the question. I didn't include all the details in the story to spare everyone the diatribe on my life. When I spoke to my professor he wasn't aggressive or even insulting. He was coldly dismissive. He didn't want to know why I had missed the classes (not that it would have changed anything) and he also didn't want to talk to me about it for long, he just wanted the decision on the appeal so he didn't have to deal with me anymore. That's the impression I got anyway. Your point on students attending classes thinking their cup is full is well taken though. I'm sure that influenced my decision to skip the classes.

To Mary Kaye. A new perspective is always helpful and worth bringing to light. However, I have to say that I found your post somewhat troubling. It seems to me that there comes a time in everyday life or MA training (particularly if you want to reach the upper echelons of a discipline) when you must be able to learn on your own. I certainly am not anywhere near this point in aikido, however I feel that as nearly a third year university student (this semester is my last second year semester) I should be able to learn most of the class concepts on my own. The idea that a teacher is necessary in order to achieve a passable understanding in a course seems a little over-the-top.

I want to be clear that I mean no disrespect and I understand the idea that job security is what you were addressing primarily. Your explanation was meant to apply generally to the situation as a means of describing my professors reaction rather than excusing it in a specific instance. However, I have been lead to believe , perhaps incorrectly, that the goal of education (in the university or the dojo) is to eventually get rid of sutdents. Isn't the best sensei the one who eventually reduces his teaching so that students can begin to grasp concepts on their own? It seems that there comes a time in any learning process when the student must choose to find the answers for him/herself otherwise a person isn't really learning, the person simply becomes a parrot. Perhaps that isn't the best metaphor :)

Anyway I've written enough now, everyone's opinions on this matter have been excellent food for thought for me.

PS I have decided not to appeal the decision. I'm an excellent student so this grading will not sufficiently affect my GPA and I think that the loss of the credit hours will serve as a good lesson to remind me to act with a little more humility in the future. Thank you for all your opinions.

edit: I should also point out that this idea of respect for a sensei vs a university teacher is still interesting to me and I would welcome the opportunity to continue this thread on the principle now that the practicality of it has been resolved.
Brad(ence)

Clayton Drescher
11-27-2004, 02:32 PM
maybe you should've jsut dropped the course when you found out you it wasn't going to be useful (advice for the future ;) ). As a student, I know how pressed we are to fit courses in, and I dont have time to take a crap course, or even a course that I *have* to take but will not be worth the efffort this semester, I'd take it the next time around.....but then again I really really get hacked off at people who dont come to class, but at least you did do your assignments and seem to have a valid position.

But check the overall university rules about attendance and course credit, the schools I have gone to have had them, the profs were usually one or two skipped classes more strict, but missing a semester's worth of classes would definitely lose your appeal there.

Good luck

Bradence
11-27-2004, 02:40 PM
Clayton Drescher,

I did check the college rules with regards to attendance and their is no position on the college on the issue. I believe that the college leaves it up to the individual professor to write his syllabus as he/she sees fit.

Brad(ence)

Clayton Drescher
11-28-2004, 01:00 AM
Well that's good, I bet that prof won't make the same mistake twice, lol.
G'luck!

MaryKaye
11-28-2004, 11:01 AM
Brad Eamer writes:

"However, I have been lead to believe , perhaps incorrectly, that the goal of education (in the university or the dojo) is to eventually get rid of sutdents. Isn't the best sensei the one who eventually reduces his teaching so that students can begin to grasp concepts on their own? It seems that there comes a time in any learning process when the student must choose to find the answers for him/herself otherwise a person isn't really learning, the person simply becomes a parrot."

I don't believe in this dichotomy, in aikido or in the university. Ther's a difference between the step that a teacher must take with advanced students--"This one you have to figure out for yourself, I can't do it for you"--and detachment and loss of connection. In my field, the road to the PhD involves more, not less, personal engagement with the teacher, but the nature of it changes--the student challenges the teacher more, building his understanding by presenting and defending his own ideas. But a graduate instructor who doesn't engage is not "encouraging his students to learn on their own," he's just abdicating his responsibilities.

Probably the most important experience of my life as a student actually came as a post-doctoral student. After a summer of frustrating work, I walked into my supervisor's office and said "You have made a fundamental mistake in your theory." He gave me a piece of chalk, leaned back in his chair and said "Show me." Two hours later we were both convinced, and we wrote a retraction to his last paper. No parroting here, but it could never have happened if we weren't interacting--if he had left me to "go my own way" I doubt I would ever have arrived. (For one thing, I didn't fully understand my objection to the theory until I had to explain it to him.)

Last winter I had the priviledge of training aikido at Maui Ki Society, and participated in a class where the first half was led by Suzuki sensei (8th dan) and the second half by his student Curtis sensei (7th dan). Clearly this relationship has to have gotten past the point where the senior is telling the junior what to do and the junior is simply copying it. Their aikido was not identical even to my relatively untrained eye. But equally clearly, they were still very much engaged with the teaching relationship. There was a kind of electricity between them on the mat that was different from classes where only one was present, an ongoing dialog.

Of course not all teacher/student relationships, in aikido or elsewhere, live up to that one. But I think it shows how a student can develop his own style and identity without requiring disconnection, and to me it's an ideal to aim for.

Daniel Linden's recent book (haven't gotten to read it yet) should have some stuff to say about this.

Mary Kaye

Rocky Izumi
11-28-2004, 04:46 PM
While it's not the most responsible behavior, and almost certainly will be learned from regardless of outcome, I don't think he's acting like an ass. And I challenge the idea that calling him one will help him learn in any way.

Okay, you are right, I should not have called him any names and I do sincerely apologise. I should have said that he was acting somewhat irresponsibily, stubbornly, and without much respect for what the prof was trying to do, even if the prof's approach was also somewhat unethical, stubborn and irresponsible on his/her part.

Why is it that this round-about approach is any better than the direct one?

Please understand that I am not trying to sarcastic or anything like that. I really don't understand. I was always taught to be direct and attack the centre of the issue by my profs and senseis and not waver around the edges.

And I really am sorry if the approach upset anyone. Especially you, Brad.

:confused:
Rock

Jeanne Shepard
11-28-2004, 08:24 PM
What a fascinating thread!
It's making me evaluate my relationship with my sensei and with my thesis advisor.

Jeanne

pezalinski
11-29-2004, 09:32 AM
One aspect not being mentioned here is that not everyone learns well in the same "modality." In some cases (mine, for example), listening to a lecture is just "doing the time required." I'm a visual-tactile learner, not an audio-visual learner. Listening is just not how I learn, and note taking is something I do to distract myself -- I can't possibly take down everything the prof says, to refer to later, anyway... If I had a prof who honestly wrote good material, I'd rather read what he's written than have to listen to him -- for one thing, I can read much faster than he can speak, and cross-reference what he's written to get further meaning from it. If he's a lecture-only guy, I'm doomed without a good text to back up his "babble."

So please don't be insulted if you have students who'd rather read your on-line materials than hear you speak -- take kudos from the fact that they can learn from you AT ALL, and congratulate yourself for an excellent presentation of the topic(s).

And on the counter point -- be assured that there are students who won't understand your canned materials without the human interaction of a classroom.

sunny liberti
11-29-2004, 11:59 AM
[QUOTE=Why is it that this round-about approach is any better than the direct one?[/QUOTE]

What are your goals? I think it comes down to that question...

Aikido is about refining your approach and becoming extremely efficient. And as a matter of principle we train to choose to inflict minimum damage necessary to meet our goals. We practice being in the optimal position relative to uke (others), which gives us tremendous potential to cause injury. But we act on the most compassionate option to resolve a situation.

Your initial approach conflicts with these two specific principles of aikido.

To pick on someone and get them out of a listening frame of mind is not only damaging, it is also indirect. It's like starting a technique from a bad position and them ripping them to the ground.

"Direct" and "compassionate" are not mutually exclusive by any means. And incidentally, in many cases, "indirect" is the least compassionate choice of action.

I honestly am not interested in giving you a hard time. You come across as a nice guy with excellent ideas and experiences very much worth learning from! I hope you take my perspective for whatever it's worth... :)

aikidocapecod
11-29-2004, 12:20 PM
Sunny said, "To pick on someone and get them out of a listening frame of mind is not only damaging, it is also indirect. It's like starting a technique from a bad position and them ripping them to the ground."

She is 100% correct. I have witnessed this situation in meeting at my office. Person A disagrees with Person B. And the manner Person A uses to display the disagreement is almost like a public attack on Person B.

In any forum, one with many participants, or only two people, when one attacks anothers idea or thought in a way that makes the attacked feel threatened, all valid rational communication stops. When communication stops, there is no hope of progress, or learning.

Aikido practice teaches us that cooperation is the easiest way to resolve an issue.

So I think Sunny's words are totally correct....

Rocky Izumi
11-29-2004, 02:23 PM
[QUOTE=Why is it that this round-about approach is any better than the direct one?

What are your goals? I think it comes down to that question...

Aikido is about refining your approach and becoming extremely efficient. And as a matter of principle we train to choose to inflict minimum damage necessary to meet our goals. We practice being in the optimal position relative to uke (others), which gives us tremendous potential to cause injury. But we act on the most compassionate option to resolve a situation.

Your initial approach conflicts with these two specific principles of aikido.

To pick on someone and get them out of a listening frame of mind is not only damaging, it is also indirect. It's like starting a technique from a bad position and them ripping them to the ground.

"Direct" and "compassionate" are not mutually exclusive by any means. And incidentally, in many cases, "indirect" is the least compassionate choice of action.

I honestly am not interested in giving you a hard time. You come across as a nice guy with excellent ideas and experiences very much worth learning from! I hope you take my perspective for whatever it's worth... :)[/QUOTE]

Dear Sunny and others,

I really do appreciate your comments and I am thankful for your help. I did not take your comments as any attack but a useful comment for me.

I guess my problem stems from the fact that I MAY still consider the second approach much more of a direct attack on the person. I am not sure. However, I do know that both down here in Barbados, out in Western Canada, and in Japan, the second approach that addresses the actual behaviours would be considered direct attacks on the person's integrity but not the first approach that just states a general opinion. We would consider the second approach a little too graphic and specific.

I know that in Western Canada, we often have a similar reaction from and to Eastern Canadians who tend to use the more specific approach. In Western Canada, we often tend to just blow off the comment if we don't like it but if the person gets really specific, them's fightin' words.

I may have to put this down to my general illiteracy when it comes to the English language (I never really learned it that well when I was a kid, just like I never really learned Japanese that well either--bilingual problem and mixing schooling). On the other hand, it may also be a cultural difference between people from the Western part of North America (except for the Granola Coast) and the Eastern part (I notice you are from the East Coast). Would some others from the Western Provinces/States and from the East Coast like to comment on this? It may help us become a little more understanding of each other.

I know this seems to be getting off the topic of Aikido a bit but I think this is important in that we need to be able to understand each other and be able to talk with each other without getting each other all riled up over mistakes in protocol. Also, it is about joining and working in harmony.

I think we had this discussion about ten years ago on the Aikido-L but never came to any good conclusion. It would be nice to get some closure to this issue. Or, does anyone remember how that discussion ended up?

Still confused but grateful,
Rock

Bronson
11-29-2004, 06:01 PM
Would some others from the Western Provinces/States and from the East Coast like to comment on this? It may help us become a little more understanding of each other.

As for me, if I'm being an ass I'd rather be called an ass directly.

Bronson (born and raised in midwest USA)

Peter Goldsbury
11-29-2004, 06:40 PM
In Hiroshima University, the general rule is that five absences loses the credit for the course, that is, the student cannot take the final examination. However, final judgement is always left to the professor and I myself make the rule more severe (the third absence loses the credit). Actually, I have been known to complain to the dean of the student's faculty over prolonged absences from my classes and this has always produced a dramatic improvement. The argument that a student can find my lecture notes more beneficial than actual attendance would cut just a little ice if the student showed that he had mastered the lecture notes and had read all the texts on which they were based. In other words I expect the same degree of commitment in the classroom as I would on the mat. Since all my classes except language classes are electives (jiyu sentaku), students are free to choose to take the class, but on my terms, not their's.

Nevertheless, I think it is very important to be straight with the students from the very beginning. During the first orientation session students are told exactly what their obligations are, in terms of attendance and work required to obtain a credit for the course. With language classes attendance is checked every class. Since it is a common practice for absent students to get their friends to answer in class roll call, I have devised other methods to ensure that this does not happen in my own classes.

Finally, I do not think that attandance in a class or in a dojo is regarded as a contract here. In any case contracts are regarded differently. They are much less explicit and there is a general rule that disputes shall be resolved with 'sincerity'. Thus, I think that a student who attempted to argue that his own way of study was superior to that of the professor would lose every time.

Best regards,

Lan Powers
11-29-2004, 10:23 PM
In regards Mr. Izumis request
I much prefer the direct, to the point, approach....But here in the southwestern part of America, it is very important to temper the directness with direct eye contact and open body english.
( I understand that varies from culture to culture,fascinating isn't it?)
Much is lost in printed form. At least on the level of communication you can achieve without being especially verbose.
Lan

sunny liberti
11-30-2004, 11:00 AM
Wow! So it doesn't just come down to "What are your goals?"!! It's more like, "What cultural vehicle are you using to meet you goals?" Fascinating! I really like your response!

I didn't do a good job in the last post explaining my position that I think the *direct* way is to kindly address the behavior, as doing this would keep the listener open and you'd have a better chance at getting though. I thought the *indirect* way was labelling a person over their behavior, as doing this shut down their capacity to hear.

Am I ever myopic in that thinking!?!?!?! The *direct* and *compassionate* way would be the culturally appropriate version of inviting someone to listen and saving face... and my way was very cultually specific.

I can't even plead that I don't get out much. I have lived in LOTS of places around the world.

Rocky Izumi
11-30-2004, 01:10 PM
All right, this is exactly where we ended up last time on the Aikido-L. It is frustrating because we all end up at the same place, which is "it all depends."

I suppose that is a lot like Aikido but we still have to communicate with each other and not piss each other off for no good reason. Anyone with suggestions for how we handle this? The last suggestion on the Aikido-L was "Don't worry about it. Someone is always going to be pissed at someone else for something. Ignore it." We could do that again but then the issue comes up over and over and can create bad feeling for some.

Rock

Peter Goldsbury
11-30-2004, 04:55 PM
All right, this is exactly where we ended up last time on the Aikido-L. It is frustrating because we all end up at the same place, which is "it all depends."

I suppose that is a lot like Aikido but we still have to communicate with each other and not piss each other off for no good reason. Anyone with suggestions for how we handle this? The last suggestion on the Aikido-L was "Don't worry about it. Someone is always going to be pissed at someone else for something. Ignore it." We could do that again but then the issue comes up over and over and can create bad feeling for some.

Rock

Hello Rocky,

Well, it does "all depend". The initial poster's experience was of a university in Canada, but my experience in the UK, US and here in Japan has been different. In my experience disagreement with the professor's views on his own senmon subject and his way of teaching is a delicate issue and (a) has to be structured (i.e., the student has to be in a good position to argue the case\it is not based on "feelings") and (b) is best done with the professor face to face in class or in the study, rather than expressed through absences from class.

Thus the student needs to have the negotiation skills to work his/her way through a "grievance procedure", if you like. If you look at the martial arts as a form of general communication, then aikido is advanced negotiation\of an integrative kind, not a zero-sum kind. These advanced negotiation skills are sometimes in much evidence on the tatami, but are rarely in evidence off the tatami, especially at meetings and on discussion boards like Aikido-L.

I am using "Tasaogare Seibei" in one of my classes at the moment and in the last part of the movie Seibei Ikuchi tries to negotiate with the samurai he has to kill. The movie is another of the late Tokugawa-early Meiji genre, made popular with "Last Samurai", but I think it is much better than this latter film. Sakamoto Ryoma is another example of a (real) samurai & martial arts expert with unusual negotiation skills.

So, if a student has a grievance of some kind, he/she has to be able to communicate this grievance in an effective way. (I am talking now of situations outside any grievance procedure set up by the university.) Students who can do this with me, especially here in Japan, will certainly get credit for it. This sometimes happens with students who need a grade in order to graduate, but have been absent for various reasons (but not the reasons the poster had here). I have never withheld a grade from a 4th year graduating student, but the student has to come with a case prepared as to why I should give/him her the credit. But if it is based on disagreement with my approach to my own subject or my way of teaching it, the case had better be pretty watertight.

Best regards,

Bradence
11-30-2004, 05:02 PM
A couple of responses here.

First to Rocky, I have been on a few message boards and this issue always comes up. When something is written it is much more difficult to interpret the innuendos than if the person was standing directly in front of you. However, in this case spefically I didn't have any problem with the way you phrased it. Others pointed out that it might not have been the best way to respond, but I don't feel that criticizing Rocky calling me and ass is the best way to respond. I could tell that no offence was intended and therefore no defense was necessary. If I felt that it was inappropriate then maybe it would be alright to chime in as a third party, but when Rocky means no offense and I don't see his comment as offense then it's quite clearly not a problem. I think I even thanked Rocky for his comment. This is just a small comment getting out of hand.

To Peter Goldsbury. Your perspective was an interesting one. I'm curious about whether you feel your approach to your class would transfer over into western culture. Would teach a class at a western university the same way? The second point I would like to bring up is a mild correction. My position was not that my method of study was superior to my professor, my position was that my method of study was adequate because I felt that I could learn the major concepts of the course on my own. I've stated that not attending classes was bad manners/poor etiquette as Rocky pointed out, there's no doubt that I would've learned more had I attended class. I think the specific issue for me was that not attending classes meant automatic failure even though I had done the same work everyone else had done.

Do you think your students would be incapable of developing a passable understanding of a course that you teach without attending lecture? I suppose it depends to a certain extent on the discipline. It would be nearly impossible to learn any discipline without any instruction, but surely there are basic principles that a student can learn with or without a teacher.

Brad(ence)

Peter Goldsbury
11-30-2004, 05:59 PM
A couple of responses here.

To Peter Goldsbury. Your perspective was an interesting one. I'm curious about whether you feel your approach to your class would transfer over into western culture. Would teach a class at a western university the same way? The second point I would like to bring up is a mild correction. My position was not that my method of study was superior to my professor, my position was that my method of study was adequate because I felt that I could learn the major concepts of the course on my own. I've stated that not attending classes was bad manners/poor etiquette as Rocky pointed out, there's no doubt that I would've learned more had I attended class. I think the specific issue for me was that not attending classes meant automatic failure even though I had done the same work everyone else had done.

Do you think your students would be incapable of developing a passable understanding of a course that you teach without attending lecture? I suppose it depends to a certain extent on the discipline. It would be nearly impossible to learn any discipline without any instruction, but surely there are basic principles that a student can learn with or without a teacher.

Brad(ence)

I can give only a short answer at this point, since I have to go to class. My students might think that they need not attend, but would be very unhappy indeed if I was absent. :)

I understood from your early post that you yourself did not think your approach was "superior", but I think this is a matter of words: 'adequate for your own purposes' is what you no doubt thought, but 'superior' is how I would have understood it, had I been your professor.

The second issue you raised is that not attending class meant automatic failure, but I think I made clear in my earlier post that this would be an issue here only if a professor chose to ignore the five absences rule, which is an official university rule and is clearly stated in the materials students receive at registration/orientation.

If a student had a grievance against a professor for withholding a grade due to absence from the course and took the grievance to the academic affairs committee, in principle the student would lose if he/she had been absent more than five times. There would need to be other, mitigating, factors and the argument that the student believed that he/she did not need to attend class, for whatever reason, would count for very little.

There are other issues you raise in your post that require a longer response, which I will give as soon as I have the time.

Best regards,

Rocky Izumi
11-30-2004, 06:44 PM
Thanks Brad, for you comments and I appreciate your understanding. And Peter, I absolutely agree with you. My greatest problem in teaching students back in Canada was that they never really learned rhetoric so they couldn't argue with me in a coherent manner. If a student put up a good argument, whether I felt they were right or wrong, I usually gave them the points, the grades, or whatever and left the field "in disgrace". I figured my job was to teach the students how to make and support their point, not necessarily to win an argument. If the student was actually even interested in coming to my office to continue the discussion in a sensible manner, I usually gave them double the marks for persistence and a fighting spirit.

My questions aren't about the actual academic situation, but about the situation here on the internet. It is usually not the intent of anyone here to really blast someone -- that is against the flaming rule anyway. However, people do inadvertently hurt others in the way they respond. Sunny is right. If Bradence wasn't from Western Canada, I might have actually hurt his feelings and that was not my intent. Now, it may be that the only way to respond clearly and without personal attacks that connect is to make sure you know where the other person is coming from based on you knowing their background and the culture they are from. . ...........

Oops. Well, there you go. I just learned something just by being here on the forum. Just like Aikido. Violence is in the intent. The person reacting to the actions of someone really has to know the basis for those actions. That is why we must train to not react with extreme prejudice when someone seems to attack us. A true attack will often be easy to spot but not all seemingly threatening approaches are attacks that should be dealt with extremely. Aikido allows us to stay safe yet not have to react extremely. We can take back our techniques because the person isn't dead.

I guess, in this forum, we just have to be a little more understanding about we react to someone, both as respondent and commentator. We have to read well to understand if it really is an attack or if the person uses a linguistic approach with which we are unfamiliar. We also have to understand based on our understaning of the individuals' cultures. The way people say things is often a product of their cultural upbringing. Not all seemingly harsh ways of saying things are attacks.

My two and a half cents.

Rock

Pauliina Lievonen
11-30-2004, 07:25 PM
I was just going to say... I think it's pretty much the same as training in the dojo: even in the most safety- concious of dojo, sometimes people will get hurt. If you try to eliminate that completely, your training will be paralysed. Some people can't handle this, and they choose to leave. Some people like hurting others intentionally, and they get asked to leave. The rest recognises that accidents happen, and don't take it personally. I think a discussion forum is exactly the same in this regard. Anyway, so I agree completely, it's in the intent.

I got to thinking about something else just now: not responding to a perceived attack is hard, but it's also hard to be the perceived attacker. I think it even takes more strength sometimes.

kvaak
Pauliina

sunny liberti
11-30-2004, 08:25 PM
In a dojo, when we see thoughtlessness, it's appropriate to step in, and help out. I perceived thoughtlessness here, so I spoke up. And, no offense Brad, but your perception has little to nothing to do with how I act when I see something as an issue.

I was called to expound on a comment I had made and I obliged. It turned into a very helpful discussion for me, and according to others, them as well. BTW, thank you to all those who are participating here...

About the intent of attacks topic, I'm gonna start a new thread about this so as not to further hijack this one...

Bradence
11-30-2004, 08:44 PM
Point taken Sunny. Although these types of issues can often be frustrating it's true that they can just as often be enlightening. No offence taken, I think the conversation was helpful for everyone.

Brad(ence)

Bradence
11-30-2004, 09:09 PM
I understood from your early post that you yourself did not think your approach was "superior", but I think this is a matter of words: 'adequate for your own purposes' is what you no doubt thought, but 'superior' is how I would have understood it, had I been your professor.

I don't think I would characterize it as "adequate for my own purposes," I would think of it more like, adequate for the purposes of post secondary education. Maybe that's just nitpicking, but I truly feel that I'm not pitting my interpretation against my professors. I would liken it to a Dojo which doesn't require a minimum amount of hours for a kyu test (if one existed). If person A has 60 hours of instruction and person B has none and yet they perform the same at the test does person A really know more? It's certainly likely that A does, but it isn't a given.

The second issue you raised is that not attending class meant automatic failure, but I think I made clear in my earlier post that this would be an issue here only if a professor chose to ignore the five absences rule,

I understand what you mean here, but I was referring to the principle rather than the practicality. I suppose the most apt question is, why is there a policy of failing a person after five absences? This reminds me of a story of my first year History professor. She told me that when she was in her teens she used to read historical novels. She liked the non-fiction ones because she liked the idea that they actually happened. Once she got into university she found that she was well-versed in the areas she was interested in already so she challenged the courses. She kept on challenging them until she got to the final course for her degree when the committee realized she had never actually taken a class. So they forced her to sit through the last three month course without challenging it. I'm not sure if you would call this self-instructing, but whatever the case she knew the material well enough to get a degree without ever sitting through a single lecture.

Obviously this is an extreme case and it is certainly a far cry from what I experienced, but I think it illustrates the point nicely. This was an able and intelligent woman who didn't need the lecture in order to understand the material. I suppose my point is that attending class shouldn't be the important point at all, understanding the material well enough to satisfy the institution's requirements should be all that's necessary.

Thank you for your excellent replies thus far Mr. Goldsbury I can't wait for the response.

Brad(ence)

Rocky Izumi
11-30-2004, 09:52 PM
I've taught university in Texas, Hong Kong, and Canada (Saskatchewan). Only in Hong Kong was attendance at lectures compulsory. But, I have never taken nor requested attendance in a lot of lectures since I was used to teaching lower level undergraduate classes of anywhere from 45 to 1000 students at one time. I've also taught higher level undergraduate and graduate classes where attendance was important. It wasn't so important in the lower level undergraduate classes since I published all my lecture notes on the internet for my classes in PowerPoint format at the beginning of the semester (some students learn better from a visual format -- like me -- so attendance for them isn't as important). I have never really had much problems with attendance and usually had at least 90% attendance in all my classes (except in Canada during harvest or seeding time). I think they came for the extra explanations, stories, and answers to student questions where I would elaborate beyond the lecture notes.

That is fine and dandy for educational purposes but I think the dojo is different. It is not just education but also training and it is a kinesthetically learned subject. You have to practice to learn Aikido. I still have some people come to Aikido and say "Yeah, I know how to do that." but cannot do the technique because they lack the practice and they have not gained the muscle memory to do the technique even though they conceptually understand how to do it. So, attendance at Aikido is compulsory if you really want to learn it.

I think that is where the difference lies between academic learning and Aikido learning. That is also where the difference lies in how we react to our students in the univesity setting versus the dojo.

Rock

Peter Goldsbury
11-30-2004, 10:14 PM
After your last response to me I went back and reread the entire thread. I see that there are three issues that have been run together: (1) Responses to the actual issues raised above in an 'Aiki' way; (2) Cross-cultural issues; (3) Issues relating to the linguistic behaviour in the thread. Here is the first response.

I suppose there are three questions here:
1. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?

Yes. I think you have to do this very often with people in authority and the academic world and the world of the martial arts are similar in this respect. The differences relate to larger issues involving the teaching/learning processes involved, as much as on "respect". If you think that to learn aikido you need a teacher and a teacher who needs your "respect" in areas other than technical competence, this will be an issue for you, compared to someone who goes to the dojo, trains, goes home and has nothing else to do with the instructor.

2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

This depends on your prior idea of "aiki". Either course might be seen as an 'aiki' thing to do.

3. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North American University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?

My academic training in the US was at Harvard and I trained in aikido with the late Kanai Shihan at the NE Aikikai in the old Boston dojo. I think there were very few cultural differences here. Perhaps Kanai Shihan was a little more 'god-like' (in the eyes of the students in the dojo) than my professors at Harvard, though the latter were certainly well above the clouds.

This was my first response more specifically directed at your first post. There are a few more things I want to come back to, based on your later posts and also Rocky's responses. I will do it in between meetings, as and when I have the time.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury
12-01-2004, 08:38 AM
Mr Eamer,

Here is a second response to your earlier post.

A couple of responses here.

To Peter Goldsbury. Your perspective was an interesting one. I'm curious about whether you feel your approach to your class would transfer over into western culture. Would teach a class at a western university the same way?
Well, I think I learned this perspective at Sussex (UK), Harvard (US) and London (UK), from my own teachers, so I supposed it was 'western' to begin with. Of course, it has been influenced by the 25 years I have been teaching here. The method by which I was taught as an undergraduate was the one-to-one tutorial method and lectures were optional. Tutorials were weekly and featured the reading aloud of an essay, so attendance was pretty much compulsory. I think this is the classic aporetic method of teaching and certainly trains the student in rhetorical and critical skills. The courses in Harvard graduate school were more of a mixture, ranging from lectures to individual tutorials. All were extremely stimulating and very demanding.

Do you think your students would be incapable of developing a passable understanding of a course that you teach without attending lecture? I suppose it depends to a certain extent on the discipline. It would be nearly impossible to learn any discipline without any instruction, but surely there are basic principles that a student can learn with or without a teacher.

Brad(ence)

Well, as you say, this would depend on the discipline. I specialize in two areas: the philosophy of language (for undergraduate students) and rhetoric & negotiation (for graduate students). All of these areas rely for their effectiveness on verbal exchanges. Of course, students could master the main issues in the philosophy of language by reading the main sources (e.g., Plato, Descartes, Wittgenstein etc), but would need to test their understanding in some way and in fact my 'lectures' are really seminars.

Best regards,

jester
12-01-2004, 09:17 AM
I don't think the dojo and a lecture hall can even be compared. You take a class to get a degree to get more money in a job. MA is for personal growth.

You have to learn to play by the rules. If your in school, do what's needed regardless of your personal opinions.

To even ask someone if it's better to get a failing grade or not is crazy. Of course protest and get the grade. An F doesn't help your GPA out.

If you disagree with your instructor, suck it up. You might disagree with your boss one day, and he might fire you instead of failing you. Participation in class is a major portion of learning. In life you sometimes have to do things you don't like to do.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Q. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?

A. Of Course, but it seems that you would find a MA teacher that you do respect. In a class room, you might not be able to choose, in the dojo you can choose.

Q. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

A. The Aiki thing to do would have been to go to class and do your work like everyone else.

Q. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North Americana University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?

A.Of course. I used to argue with my professors if I thought they were wrong. You have to pick your battles though.

rachel
12-01-2004, 09:38 AM
I have decided not to appeal the decision.
I urge you to reconsider. I've basically been in the dojo my whole life. The rules to Aikido aren't as clear cut, and there is no syllabus. I'm also currently a college student. I'd never accept a bad grade without appeal if I didn't deserve it. But maybe that's just me repeating my last post.

Peter Goldsbury
12-01-2004, 09:49 AM
Mr Eamer,

Here is the third response to a later post.

I don't think I would characterize it as "adequate for my own purposes," I would think of it more like, adequate for the purposes of post secondary education. Maybe that's just nitpicking, but I truly feel that I'm not pitting my interpretation against my professors. I would liken it to a Dojo which doesn't require a minimum amount of hours for a kyu test (if one existed). If person A has 60 hours of instruction and person B has none and yet they perform the same at the test does person A really know more? It's certainly likely that A does, but it isn't a given.

Well, I probably misunderstood your intent. It seemed to me in your earlier post that your were preferring your own 'take' on the course to your professor's. However, such a large statement as "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education" opens up a large can of very juicy worms. What exactly is the purpose of post secondary education and who and how does one judge what is adequate? The example you have given does not amount to very much, since I would not measure the quality of a dojo according to the number of hours required for a kyu test. The assumption seems to be that a kyu test is a good analogy of "post secondary education", but I doubt this. For me, a better analogy would be 3rd dan or thereabouts. Secondly, a kyu or dan rank has traditionally expressed a relationship between student and teacher, which seems to imply a training relationship of one to the other. A dojo that advertised kyu and dan tests with no minimum hours implies a different view of what the tests are for.

I understand what you mean here, but I was referring to the principle rather than the practicality. I suppose the most apt question is, why is there a policy of failing a person after five absences?
I think the reason has to do with how education is seen here. Universities are institutions run by 'senseis' who are thought to dispense knowledge to those who do not possess it or are seeking it. The students are there to 'receive' it, but are regarded as weak and fickle beings, always prone to follow immediate sources of gratification, intellectual or otherwise. There is thus a large element of training involved.

This reminds me of a story of my first year History professor. She told me that when she was in her teens she used to read historical novels. She liked the non-fiction ones because she liked the idea that they actually happened. Once she got into university she found that she was well-versed in the areas she was interested in already so she challenged the courses. She kept on challenging them until she got to the final course for her degree when the committee realized she had never actually taken a class. So they forced her to sit through the last three month course without challenging it. I'm not sure if you would call this self-instructing, but whatever the case she knew the material well enough to get a degree without ever sitting through a single lecture.

I do not quite understand what is meant by "challenge" here. In my undergraduate days at Sussex, I attended just four lectures in my entire undergraduate career. As I suggested ealier, the weekly tutorials were much more interesting and stimulating, but they involved a dialectical exchange between student and tutor. In western philosophy, this has always been essential.

Obviously this is an extreme case and it is certainly a far cry from what I experienced, but I think it illustrates the point nicely. This was an able and intelligent woman who didn't need the lecture in order to understand the material. I suppose my point is that attending class shouldn't be the important point at all, understanding the material well enough to satisfy the institution's requirements should be all that's necessary.
But this would be a very poor substitute, in my opinion. There is far more to a university than acquiring a 'satisfactory' level by mastering lecture material, in order to graduate. The old model of a disciple learning skills at the hands of a master has changed to a new model of education as a universal right, but the intensive human relationships implied by the old model have not thereby ceased to be necessary.

In Japan there is a phenomenon known as 'hiki-komori'. Young people, of student age, simply cease contact with society. They shut themselves in their rooms, emerging only to visit the local drug store ("convini", in Japan) and more or less live in front of their computers. Some of these people are very bright, but find human contact just too demanding to contemplate. A computer\with the Internet\is far more anonymous and comfortable.

The basic reason why I insist that students attend my classes is that I want to get to know them as individuals. In my creative writing class, they have to write and what they write is marked, sometimes collected, marked at home and them returned, or marked on the spot, which I prefer. Equally, a doctoral student in the final stages of his/her thesis, has to come with chapters written. Which are then taken to pieces, analysed, and put together again. This rhetorical aspect is so much a part of education that I am somewhat suspicious of any one who has not done this.

Similarly for a dojo. A student comes regularly and the teacher gets to know the student as an individual. Testing and grading are seen in this context. Now the overall 'frame' or 'paradigm' of the interaction does not have to be 'teacher-centred', in the sense that the student is following just one teacher and seeing the art solely through his/her eyes. But even if the approach is 'student-centred', or 'technique-centred', the student still needs to have a fruitful training relationship with someone who posseses a higher level of skill. I would say that this is necessary until the student is capable of genuine creativity, of creating his/her own opportunities to increase the level of skill. All the people I have met who can do this are 6th 7th and 8th dan.

Best regards,

Rocky Izumi
12-01-2004, 10:55 AM
Wow!! Hoot, hoot, whistle, whistle! That last response by Goldsbury Sensei tugged at my heartstrings. I couldn't find what he has obviously found in my teaching career in the Universities in Canada so I left the field almost altogether. Peter, I am happy for you. When teaching university becomes just a job or just a contract for providing students with the papers necessary to graduate and get a job, it is no longer worth the trouble. My problem wasn't with the students since there were always a lot of students who wanted more than just the paper. My problem was with the university itself which has become a paper mill and the intensive student/teacher interaction can no longer happen because outside of the classroom, there is no time or room -- too much committee work and administration. There is no room for doing things outside the ordinary. And there is no room for students who excel.

Rock

Bradence
12-01-2004, 06:42 PM
Rocky,

Your point about Aikido being a kinesthetically learned subject was an excellent one. I'm not sure why this didn't occur to me, but it obviously has a huge impact on the question. I completely agree with you.

Brad(ence)

Bradence
12-01-2004, 07:19 PM
Mr. Goldsbury,

Well to begin with I would like to thank you for your careful attention to everything in this thread and the excellent posts you have made. Your first and second responses helped me to see your perspective to a much greater degree and I found them very enlightening.

My response to you will mainly address the third response which you made to me.

such a large statement as "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education" opens up a large can of very juicy worms. What exactly is the purpose of post secondary education and who and how does one judge what is adequate?

When I said this I meant it in a practical way. The prupose of post secondary education would be to graduate, who would be the institution in which you are enrolled, and how would be a consideration of the requirements for graduation. While I feel that a teacher who exceeds the bounds of these answers is an excellent teacher, I don't feel that anything beyond these practical bounds should be a requirement for any class. This is evident in your question. As you rightly point out, there is no way of answering the question without these practical bounds so how could a teacher choose to develop his/her own criteria for a class without running into this difficulty. I suppose this is what I was trying to express with my "Dojo analogy," but, as you aptly pointed out, the analogy was a poor one.

I do not quite understand what is meant by "challenge" here

"Challenge" in this context refers to electing to take the final exam for a course before it has started and having it count for your entire grade. Thus you can challenge a course and not take any lectures, tutorials, or have any contact with the teacher.

But this would be a very poor substitute, in my opinion. There is far more to a university than acquiring a 'satisfactory' level by mastering lecture material, in order to graduate. The old model of a disciple learning skills at the hands of a master has changed to a new model of education as a universal right, but the intensive human relationships implied by the old model have not thereby ceased to be necessary...The basic reason why I insist that students attend my classes is that I want to get to know them as individuals.

It sounds as if you are an excellent teacher Mr. Goldsbury, however, I would have to say that your perspective and my reality are two very different places :) I have certainly had teachers who act as you describe, but I have had many more teachers who have treated students as numbers rather than people. Now I have only had about 18 different professors throughout my post secondary career (partly because I have taken multiple courses with some of the same instructors because they resemble what you describe) so my experience can hardly be taken as fact, but I have run into a disproportionate number of less than excellent teachers. Which isn't to say that I feel they are failing at their job; not at all. My experiences have created the impression that post secondary education is simply for graduating and that's it. If I can find a teacher, or a few teachers, who actually wish to impart more than just the course material then I consider myself lucky.

Your point has really helped to clarify my view on this matter. I believe that this is the fundamental disconnect between our two perspectives. At the Dojo I expect a level of instruction that goes far beyond simply learning the techniques. I agree with you that the relationship with the instructor and the respect it entails should be a necessary part of my MA training. I don't see the university environment, at least at the undergraduate level, the same at all. I suppose my actions in that one particular class were not only rude, but also judgemental with regards to the instructor because I went into it with the belief that he was likely not the type of teacher you described because I have had so few teachers like that.

This leads me to the conclusion that either I am completely wrong with regards to the intentions of my past professors (whose classes I regularly attended) or the dojo has a very different type of learning environment than the acedemic institutions in my area. Whereas many of professors teach the course materials necessary for graduation, Aikido is a subject which has many more aspects to learn and because of this a sensei requires a different type of relationship in order to impart the required knowledg/attitude.

Thank you very much for your perspective Mr. Goldsbury.

Brad(ence)

Bradence
12-01-2004, 07:35 PM
Mr. Goldsbury,

Just as a quick addendum to my last post I would like to point out that when I said "your perspective and my reality are two very different places" I didn't mean any offence. I should have said that your situation and mine are different. I have no doubt that what you describe is an accurate description of your attitude towards your classes and your conduct within them as well.

Sorry if there was any confusion.

Brad(ence)

Peter Goldsbury
12-01-2004, 09:22 PM
Mr Eamer,

Thank you for your reply.

When I was a student, it used to be the custom to graduate with honours (1st class, 2nd class, 3rd class) or with a bare pass. You could also receive a doctorate 'summa cum laude', or 'cum laude' etc. The class of degree could be a crucial factor for one's job prospects.

In my own university, I always tell my students that to receive an A, they have to go beyond the minumum requirements for obtaining a credit. We have A, B, or C and a fail grade D.

Last semester, I gave a medical student a C. He was more shocked than if he had failed the course. Why? If you fail a course you can repeat it with another teacher, if such courses are available. The C will stay on his record and will be a factor when he applies to enter graduate school. He questioned the grade and was told that the bare minimum of work he produced led to the bare minimum pass.

Would you agree that this was "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education"? From your posts, it seems that you would.

Of course, students here routinely choose courses where the grades are 'yasui' (i.e., do not cost very much) and they they coast through their university life on neutral. Since they are retrained anyway, this might be thought OK, and would be, if the job prospects were good. But they are not and the academic record matters. They realise this when it is too late to do anything about it.

Best regards,

Rocky Izumi
12-01-2004, 09:48 PM
Wish all profs had your attitude and behaviour Peter. If they did, I might have remained one myself. Unfortunately, these days in Canada, that is not true. Office politics and union activities seems to take up more of their time than either teaching or research. Once prof in Canada get tenure, they seem to slide into complacency and end up using the same lecture notes for 15 years. (I'm not kidding!!!) They are more concerned about who gets paid how much. The junior faculty are too scared to take chances and research papers are recycled crap based on one piece of faulty research conducted when they were graduate students. Yeah. I'm bitter. But bitter that so much of my tax money is wasted on people who don't deserve to be paid what they are paid. I am not bitching because of my pay when I was there. I got paid one of the highest salaries on campus but that was what got me into trouble with the union and other faculty members, along with the fact that even though I had tenure, I was trying to get rid of the tenure system because of all the bad profs it protected.

Rock

Peter Goldsbury
12-01-2004, 10:20 PM
Wish all profs had your attitude and behaviour Peter. If they did, I might have remained one myself. Unfortunately, these days in Canada, that is not true. Office politics and union activities seems to take up more of their time than either teaching or research. Once prof in Canada get tenure, they seem to slide into complacency and end up using the same lecture notes for 15 years. (I'm not kidding!!!) They are more concerned about who gets paid how much. The junior faculty are too scared to take chances and research papers are recycled crap based on one piece of faulty research conducted when they were graduate students. Yeah. I'm bitter. But bitter that so much of my tax money is wasted on people who don't deserve to be paid what they are paid. I am not bitching because of my pay when I was there. I got paid one of the highest salaries on campus but that was what got me into trouble with the union and other faculty members, along with the fact that even though I had tenure, I was trying to get rid of the tenure system because of all the bad profs it protected.

Rock

Hello Rocky,

I am sure that Japan is just as bad as Canada in some ways, so I do not want to hold up universities here as a model. Japanese universities are now undergoing a major revolution. The population is shrinking and so universities are chasing a dimininshing number of potential students. In addition, national universities are being semi-privatized and some will have to merge or go under. There is still an awful lot of dead wood around, especially in the arts faculties. However, the reforms will neglect a more fundamental problem.

Japan as a culture is still fundamentally mollycoddled and xenophobic, even 150 years after the Meiji Restoration. People here are too satisified with the bare minimum and this is what prompted my response to Mr Eadmer's posts. I disagree with his viewpoint, but at least he had a run-in with his professor. This would not happen here. Students would shrug, think 'shikata-ga-nai', and check the latest messages on their mobiles.

I think I am able to teach in the way I do, partly because I am one of the very few tenured foreign faculty members here and have my own niche, so to speak. Students know that if they attend my classes they will undergo quite a different educational experience from what they have been used to. For some this is quite unsettling.

Similarly with the dojo. It is extremely unsettling for some Japanese prospective students to be taught a Japanese martial, in Japan, in Japanese--by a foreigner. It is just not part of their mental software.

Best regards,

Bradence
12-01-2004, 11:40 PM
Mr. Goldsbury,

I'll just jump into it...

Would you agree that this was "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education"?

Absolutely. I would also note that this is what I was expecting from my teacher.

Of course, students here routinely choose courses where the grades are 'yasui' (i.e., do not cost very much) and they they coast through their university life on neutral.

I would have to say that this attitude is prevalent in Canada as well, at least the institutions I've attended. I can't say that I disagree with your view in general. My point in this thread, generally speaking, is that a teacher need not be required in order to recieve a bare passing grade. This is not to say that teachers are not required. Obviously, for practical reasons, an academic institution has to lay out broad guidelines for requirements in any discipline in order to ensure that specific injustices don't crop up. I'm not asserting that this should be the norm. I think that the purpose of recieving post secondary education is, practically speaking, to get a degree. However, I believe that a person can get a lot more out of it than just a degree and professors, particularly those like yourself, are instrumental in culling meaning and purpose out of specific knowledge.

My general point is that attending lectures and developing a relationship with every professor shouldn't be a necessary requirement for completion of a degree, but these things obviously add a wealth of experience and value to any course that a person could take. Everything needs to be based on the practical, admissions need to be organized through testing and grading, registration has to be done by GPA, but the exceptional students and the exceptional teachers can see beyond these things to a greater meaning and purpose. I just don't feel that this should be a minimum requirement in academic institutions. This of course lies in opposition to my belief that it does belong as a minimum requirement in MA training. I suppose that is why I treat my sensei different than some of my professors.

So often today I here students talking about education as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. It seems as if your saying that it should be required to be considered an end. I think education is partly responsible for this though. For example, a large percentage of first and second year arts students go through school to get a degree so they can get admitted to the teaching program and teach at primary and secondary schools. Yet the courses that they take will never be taught in those institutions, most of the students will never even remember the courses they took to get their BA. It becomes a hoop to jump through rather than a purpose. Obviously for science and technical degrees this is a very different discussion. For an Arts student I often hear people talking their degrees as requirements for jobs, but I've rarely heard students regard their education as valuable.

An example of this would be my Philosophy class. A previous student of my Philosophy instructor sat in on a class this semester and everyone that I knew in the class thought he was insane. I see the purpose of my education, and my MA training, as something that is leading me closer to being the kind of person I want to be, but for many other people it is a means to an end. It seems as if you're advocating a change to this, or a return to a time when it wasn't like this, but I see this in most of the students I have met. I would hope that with graduate students this would be different.

Do you think perhaps that by making something free or accessible we devalue it?

To me, this attitude is not very different from one that you would find in a McDojo. I don't think that the answer lies in professors mandating their own standards. I think the answer clearly must come from the administration of the institution by raising the standard of what is "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education."

Brad(ence)

PeterR
12-02-2004, 01:08 AM
Just a quick comment here but the major difference between a university degree and Aikido is that the primary relationship in the former is between the student and the degree granting institute while in the latter it is student/teacher.

University - do you respect the value of the degree. Yes - stay, no - transfer.
Dojo - do you respect the teacher. Yes - stay, no - do something else.

Individual Professors would be the equivalent of other instructors under the primary teacher of Budo.

I would say in respect to the martial arts if you transfer to another teacher you may find that although your dan rank is not nearly as transferable as a University degree.

I would also say that if your primary motivation in doing Aikido is a piece of paper from a respective Honbu than your priorities are wrong. This wont get you very far at that Honbu.