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I’m Teaching What?

Update (a few months later):

Well, surprisingly this turned out to be one of the better classes of the semester, and in fact I rather enjoyed it. We read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” excerpts from Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans, organized crime, and the massive documentary film The Corporation; not that it was a massive propaganda session, of course: I just played devil’s advocate, presenting materials that challenged a lot of the more common beliefs and attitudes among students. We had plenty of thoughtful discussions about cultural and economic imperialism, the relationships between government, the press, businesses, and the citizenry in a capitalist free-market society (and important differences in how the relationships work between the government, business, and the press in English-speaking societies, from how they work in South Korea), the importance of a stable business sector to a country’s development and modernization, the relationship between business and health care, and much more. It was actually a great class overall, one I often felt excited about, and I can say I honestly learned a lot teaching it, too, in part because of the excellent students and their diverse beliefs and attitudes, in part because so much of it was new territory to me. The syllabus is here, and the course log is here.

Original Post:

So… registration for my debate course was low enough for a course cancellation.

(Well, because of circumstances I guess. The minimum enrollment for a course is 6 students, but once I was made to teach a class with 5, actually 4 in the end, because it was the night program and because there was no other course for me to take on. And, of course, some courses fill up in the first week of classes, but anyway… whatever, a canceled course, I don’t mind much.)

The thing is a new faculty memeber for the other department in the School of English backed out at the last minute, so there are some classes that are left in the lurch. I’ve been asked to take over one…

Business Across Cultures.

Seriously. Not joking. If you know me, you know how bad an idea this is.

An excerpt from my reponse to this suggestion:

Wow, the new Lit professor didn’t show up? That’s horrible.

I have absolutely no problem taking on a new day class, but…

Well, I have to say, I don’t know all that much about business stuff.

Well, wait, no, I actually do know some things about it, which is why I’m pretty harshly against mainstream business culture, I have problems big companies with a passion that is hard to contain, and I… okay, Shakespeare said, “Kill all the lawyers,” but I think he should have said “businessmen.”

All of which is to say, I could teach business vocabulary, could walk them through job interviews, but I’m not likely the best person for the course. Having said this, I suppose I could put something together, but if there’s something more related to my areas of knowledge among the classes that this professoor abandoned, it would be better for the students. I worry that whatever I end up teaching in a Business course would be, well, a waste of time for the students.

Anyway… given the way things work with [The Other Department That Is Asking Me To Cover This Class], I doubt any of that will make any difference. So, I’ll just shrug and say, “Sure, I guess?”

Please do let me know if that schedule is final, as I’ll need to do some thinking about what in the world I’m going to do with this class!

Yeah, I could have said, “Sure!” and figured out what to do later. But I’m really not the person who should be teaching this class, in part because this kind of course does not belong in a Humanities department course schedule, and because our students get plenty of this in workshops, hakwon, TOEIC study, and so on. They don’t need another Business English class!

And that’s all I really have to add: I don’t think this kind of course really belongs in a School of English. This is what happens when Education gets downgraded to Career Preparation: inherently academic departments get stuck offering supposedly “useful” courses (as if understanding a culture’s literary history, or media fluency, are not “useful”).

Ah well. I am pretty sure I have a copy of The Corporation somewhere. And Boiler Room. We could talk about how contracts work in the West, as compared to in Korea. Hmmm. I could have them interview business people on ethical issues.

But it is quite absurd. A course on war, I could do. A course on literary work from some random time period, sure. Business English?

Come to think of it, I think I know why the PhD in English Literature decided not to come and teach, being stuck with an out-of-left-field course like that. Wouldn’t take much of a better offer… say, being given a gig involving any course even remotely related to his or her field?

Well, anyway, I’ve found my solution to the problem: I’m going to teach a business-themed course on English literature and culture in the English speaking world.

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