Thoughts from a bad day

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Today was a bad day.  If it weren’t for the wonderfulness of my friends it could have been much worse.

To make a long story short, I’m doing badly in my classes.  The early morning Japanese classes have me overwhelmed, and the afternoon classes have me underwhelmed.  It’s a dangerous concoction of low self-esteem, stress (I really really need that scholarship) and (from the evening section) topics that don’t pique my interest.  So my body does always does in these situations–fall asleep.  I don’t mean to- I try very hard to pay attention, stay awake, make the topic more interesting for myself- but despite it all my mind starts to wander, the room goes fuzzy, and the next thing I know I’m asleep.  Which, of course makes the problem worse.  It’s happened since middle school, and I’ve never been able to figure out how to remedy it.  So my grades have slipped, and now I’m in a bit of trouble in my Japanese writing class.

In the afternoon I went to “Intersection of Fantasy and Real Life in Japanese Fiction,”  a class I have serious problems with.  I got into a “discussion” with my professor today about the nature of “quality,” and it was pretty draining.  Basically, he argued that while there were certain individual likes and dislikes, there is a difference between high and low quality products.  Which, on a basic level I agree with.  However, I argued that “quality” in itself is a misleading term, because the standard by which you judge things to be of “good quality” or “bad quality”–worthless or valuable– was determined by what someone else once liked and disliked; and if one fails to take that into consideration one can fall into the trap of using the argument of “quality” to promote your own likes and dislikes.

For example, he talked about McDonalds versus Fancy French Food; of how one is of higher quality, but if someone likes McD’s better than that’s their opinion.  However, I (was going to–never got it out) argue that how certain foods were determined fancy depended on WHO liked them–if enough of the right type (eg. fancy) of people like your food, the food itself will be considered fancy.  That’s not bad per se, but to simply that there is an innate “fancy-level” in food ignores that class, race, sex etc. privileges were inherent in choosing what is and what is not “fancy,” and allows this type of thing to continue.  It gives people an excuse to keep the “Old Boy’s Club” intact (e.g. I’m not an ethnocentric bigot, my culture’s just of a superior quality). I’m not sure we understood each other, or if we did and if we just disagreed–but either way I was unhappy with the way it turned out.  I wouldn’t have bothered to argue it in the first place, except that I felt uncomfortable with the classicist nature of the discussions we’d been having.  (To sum my argument, I felt he was saying: why is it good? It’s of good quality.  Why is it of good quality?   Because it’s good.  I’m asking WHO determines good?)  But I never got my argument out (not for lack of effort, but I’d worry about posting why on this blog for fear of grade retaliation–if you have questions about anything though I can email you).  Times like this I miss Oberlin… yeah there’s a lot of -ism there too (a lot), but there’s a lot more willingness to a) call someone out on it, and b) to get into theory discussions.

For the record, I usually prefer a nice french onion soup to a McDonald’s 99 cent Cheeseburger.  I’m NOT a moral or cultural relativist (although I recognize that it’s a valid and complex argument, I don’t agree with or believe in it).  I love reading, analyzing literature, writing–I plan to be a traditionally published writer someday.  I’ve taken literature and creative writing classes, I’ve taken a critical thinking class, I’ve taken anthropology classes.  I believe that there IS a difference between an informed opinion and an uninformed one, between Kanye and Common, between Twilight and LOTR, I believe in “the medium is the message”–I just also believe in the EA games motto (Challenge Everything), because if you don’t challenge the system, how can you make it better or do anything new?

Long story short, I’m tired of academia.  Thinking is great, but academia has a tendency to feast on its own stale air.

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7 responses »

  1. 1. for boring classes or reading, especially if you are having to read by yourself, “drama” read the words! I also used to give myself a break for 15 minutes every hour.

    2. In the quality arena, I tend to think it is a personal opinion and in other cases, whether the masses agree or not. Perhaps this is not a good example, but here it goes. I have an good leather bag, a Coach for example which many people think is a great bag, it’s leather, expensive….blah, blah, blah. However, I am not using the bag as much as I am using the bag I got at Walmart which is made of synthetic materials retails for a lot less. So which is better, is the quality in the product or in the actual usage. And to add a spin on this topic, I got the Coach bag at the Goodwill for less than the cost of the Walmart bag, So you can say that the previous owner didn’t think it was worth much as it was donated to Goodwill. You can debate or discuss a thing to death,, but let your thoughts and ideas be known and let it go at that. You don’t always have to get someone to agree with you. And that last point, I learned from my brothers.

    3. Don’t forget to look at the wonderful things that you are learning as this helps balance out the difficulties that you are experiencing.

    4. Remember that I love you and God loves you more!
    Keeping you in prayer,
    Auntie, Toshi

    • Quality is not the same as Preference. They have some similarities, but they are clearly distinguishablve. Take for example the two sets below:

      [1, 3] [1, 3, 5, 7, 9]

      Both sets have a “1” and a “3” in common, but the second set is still different because it also has a “5”, “7”, and “9.”

      Now in the case of McDs and a five star restaurant, they both have fish on their menus: One frozen and deep fried and one fresh, with fresh herbs and seasoning. They both may be “white” fish. I may prefer the McD’s version because of personal taste, but I would not argue about the quality (freshness) of the ingredients. In addition, the level of expertise of the cook and preparer in the 5 star restaurant can be documented as being more highly trained and the presentation of the meal would also rate a higher aesthetic appeal. Now this does not change my personal taste, but we are not just looking at personal taste. We are looking at taste, appearance, freshness of the fish (all fresh fish do not all have the same quality, nor does any other meat–they are graded per cut and selection), the freshness of the other ingredience, the skill of the cook and preparers, and the presentation. Quality involves more than personal taste and current desires.

      Getting back to my set analogy, McD is like the first set [1, 3]. The five star restaurant is like the second set [1, 3, 5, 7, 9]. Taste and current desire are the 1 and 3. Both sets have those areas, but quality includes more items: 5, 7, 9. Preference and quality are then not same. They have similar components, but quality involves more items. I may prefer my Hyundai Accent or Ford and like its styling and this may have been influence by my upbringing in a United Auto Workers family, but the Consumers Report listings of defects, repairs, and cost per mile isn’t effected by my personal perferences. Quality is different than simply personal or social perferences or aesthetics!

      This is basic logic, basic statistics an basic science 101.

    • Love you too 🙂 And I do enjoy my morning classes alot (is it ironic that the ones I enjoy more I end up doing worse in?)

  2. Oh, and I forgot to add that life is about relationship which involves more than mind and mental spouts from the mouth.

  3. PS. I forgot to tell you that I believe in you. I know that you will survive and thrive.

    Go with nature and go with God. Take a power nap in between classes. Eat a smaller lunch and eat snacks during the breaks to keep your metabolism up.

    Do your best that’s all that God and your uncle wants for you. To God be the Glory!

    Unk!

  4. I’m wondering if the teacher you were arguing with was Japanese or American? Because in Japan class does not mean the same thing it does in America and I could see some culturally-based issues contributing to your disagreement. But I won’t go into that any more without knowing one way or the other cause it could be totally irrelevant.
    But I totally know how you feel about missing the way dialogue happens at Oberlin. I felt the same way at Kansai Gaidai…I witnessed a lot of intolerance not just between Americans and Japanese but all the nationalities. KG is like some kind of crazy international social experiment. It can be really frustrating to be in a community where tolerance, dialogue, and understanding aren’t valued as much as they are at Oberlin- even though you’re all there because you want to learn about (a) different culture(s)! For me the best thing in that situation is to find your niche of people who think like you, and try be patient with the people who don’t- not everyone has had the opportunity to reflect on issues like class and race and gender etc. You never know, maybe their meeting you will make an impact on the way they look at things.

    • The teacher is American (perhaps Canadian, but I’m pretty sure American).

      And I was going to ask you about your experiences at KG–I like it here to an extent, but yeah– people here can sure get on my nerves.

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