I remember taking one of those career aptitude tests as a student – remember those? Based on my results, I was told that I ought to be a historian . . . or a banker. Sometimes I wonder what Earworm the Banker would have been like. I suspect she would enjoy the figure-out-the-system aspect of banking. And she would not have to fail nearly half the students in her survey course, which Actual Earworm the History Professor will soon have to do, based on the results of the final exam. How do you teach people to retain information and think about the connections between things while also not lapsing into fuzzy generalities? (Then again, if I knew how to teach people to think both abstractly and precisely, I’d probably be making more than
most bankers I am making now.)
This level of student failure is not unusual here, based on conversations I have had with colleagues. Still, part of me thinks there must be a way to teach this stuff so that I’m not dumbing it down (that would be unfair to the five or six straight-A students in the class, who do not deserve to be bored) but the students still learn more of it.
However, the exam that explained in great detail how Robert Owen invaded Nicaragua sort of made the whole thing worth it, at least for a few minutes. (I think the student got him mixed up with William Walker.)
The short version of all this is that I need some music that will cheer me up. I have begun with Rachel Podger and the Arte dei Suonatori Baroque Orchestra playing Vivaldi’s Op. 4 violin concertos (“La Stravaganza”) because Podger, who both plays solo and conducts, tears into these with an incisiveness and an energy that makes me happy that there are violins in the world. I think that from there I will proceed to Patricia Petibon Island, with a brief layover in Liederland, if only because the people in German art songs always seem to have problems that are worse than mine. (I read Dan Savage’s advice column for the same reason.)
Finally, I ran across a translation of the text of Brahms’s song “O liebliche Wangen” which rendered the title as “Oh, sweet cheeks!” which seems to not quite hit the mark, somehow.