FANDOM AND ACADEMIA: CRITERIA TO DISCUSS TEXTS

Even though it is already four years since I taught my monographic course on the Harry Potter series, Rowling still features prominently in my academic activities. This time I was invited to the ‘Semana Harry Potter’ organized by the undergrad students of the Facultad de Ciencias de la Comunicación of the Universidad de Sevilla. The Dean, Mª del Mar Rodríguez Alvarado, opened the inaugural session by confessing that she had borrowed from her 10-year-old daughter the Gryffindor hooded jumper she was wearing… which was very sweet! She was very much surprised that her tweet about the Potter week had become so popular; also by the generous press coverage of the event.

I chose to offer for the occasion a 45-minute lecture on Sirius Black, based on the article which I wrote a while ago; this was rejected by five Anglo-american academic journals until I decided that enough is enough. “Between Brownlow and Magwitch: Sirius Black and the Ruthless Elimination of the Male Protector in the Harry Potter Series” is now available online (also in Spanish) at https://ddd.uab.cat/record/163545. I first gave this lecture in the 2016 Pottercon and it went down well, by which I mean that the debate was lively and many fans joined in my critique of the cruelty that Rowling pours on poor Sirius. In Seville the reaction was different.

As I developed my argumentation about why Sirius’ sad fate may hurt sensitive readers very much, particularly children, I noticed that the audience was split–some nodded, others were sitting quite stiff. I observed something similar later in the day, when Paula Rodríguez Hoyos gave her excellent lecture on Albus Dumbledore, the subject of her recent BA dissertation, “Creación literaria y arquetipos: Aproximación al personaje en la fantasía del siglo XXI” (https://idus.us.es/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11441/64429/TFG%20FINAL%20.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y). In both cases the question and answer sessions revealed that the students, all of them Potterheads, had received our critical approach quite negatively. I noticed that both Paula and I were answering defensively, almost apologizing for having an opinion–which is a new experience for opinionated me…

Paula and I both did something similar: we took for granted that Harry Potter is worth studying in a university context and, then, proceeded to offer a critique of how these two prominent male characters, Sirius and Dumbledore, are presented in the text. In my case, I questioned authorial decisions while at the same time praising Rowling for a) having created Sirius, b) managing to manipulate my affects in a way that I care very much for this character (even too much!). Paula’s reading was not really a critique but a thorough examination of how Rowling deconstructs the figure of the mentor, traditional in heroic tales, by characterizing Dumbledore as a blemished example. This is not at all far-fetched and can even be deemed obvious if you consider, for instance, Dumbledore’s withered hand in the last stages of the saga–a clear sign that he’s up to no good behind Harry’s back. Everyone agrees, beginning with Severus Snape, that the way he grooms Harry to be slaughtered by Voldemort is disgraceful. Dumbledore is, in short, a born manipulator and what Paula did was simply (or not so simply) to highlight how Rowling steers our reading in that direction.

The audience, however, chose to put their feet down and correct us: basically, I was told that all the (wrong) decisions that Rowling makes about Sirius are unquestionable, simply perfect; Paula was told, to our surprise, that she was misreading Dumbledore and that he remains to the very end a devoted mentor to Harry, unlike what she suggested. Let me rephrase this: the fans in the room were protecting their own misreading of Rowling, in the belief that they were protecting her authorial decisions. Whatever happens to Sirius, they told us, is his fault (as Rowling argues), and Dumbledore is a good guy (even though Rowling points out in many different ways that he’s not!). There is, in short, a single way of approaching the text, and it belongs to the fans. Not to us, academics. Perhaps not even to the author…

I think that I finally understood why my article on Sirius has faced so many problems. It’s because it offers an opinion and we, academics, are not supposed to offer any–just praise the text we analyze. I was, plainly, wrong to approach Rowling from a critical position that questions how she takes the wrong turning points in Sirius’ narrative arc. Instead, I should have stayed on safe ground and, for instance, deal with James Potter as a reviewer suggested. Please, consider that, once he is described as a teen bully, nothing saves James’ reputation as a secondary character, not even his being a good father to Harry. He is unproblematic, unlike Black and, so, off he goes. What I did, then, was similar to arguing that Shakespeare wrongly endorses Hamlet’s misogynist attitude towards Ophelia and that, hence, her drowning is an excessive cruelty that really adds nothing to the Prince’s characterization. Poor girl.

But, wait!! We do that, right…?

I’m sure you see that I am being sarcastic. What worries me is that while I can more or less accept that I overstepped the boundaries in my critique of Sirius’ ill-treatment (though this is not at all the first time I question authors’ relationships with characters), what worries me far more is the reaction to Paula’s lecture. That was based on the audience’s blatant misunderstanding of the text. We joked that perhaps the simple presence of a long white beard and the connotations associated with Santa Claus are enough to put Dumbledore beyond suspicion. Yet, that he does manipulate Harry is not a matter of opinion but of engaging in a solid close reading of the text. Of course, a fan is a fanatic and, so will tend to approach his/her favourite text uncritically. This might be acceptable in very young readers but it is worrying in university students… and in relation to their favourite text.

When I taught my Harry Potter course I was certainly anxious that a scholarly approach would result in constant wrangles with my students. This didn’t happen perhaps because I made it quite obvious from the beginning that a) I’m a Potterhead (though not of the staunchest variety), b) the academic method is supposed to enrich the depth of any reading, not destroy the text (unless it is very bad, but, then, why teach it?). I did ask my students at the end of the course whether their pleasure in Harry Potter had been spoiled by their course work and they said no. That was unanimous. Surely, they were at points dismayed to see obvious flaws but that made, so to speak, Rowling more real to them as an author. Less godlike, more approachable. And I am not saying that this is exclusive to Harry Potter or to any popular text. It is a general phenomenon: you may love Jane Austen as a committed, blindly adoring fan, or you may appreciate her talent from a more sophisticated position. What makes no sense to me is keeping a fan’s stance in a university classroom, for the simple reason that fanaticism is out of place if you want to be educated. Quite another matter is passion, which is a good foundation for education, I think.

As teachers, then, we do not face any problems when inviting our students to read the classics or more modern texts in which they have not invested (with few exceptions) much emotional energy. The problem, I’m warning you, may surface when dealing with texts that our students have first approached as fans, whether they are YA fiction, TV series or videogames (cinema is, I insist, fast disappearing from our horizon). It is no longer necessary, as it was in the past, to erect an impassable wall between fandom and academia, and to force students, as many were and are still forced, to put aside the texts they do love in order to do proper academic work. What needs to be remembered, and in this I may have been very naïve, or very lucky, is that whereas fandom is based on adulatory celebration of authorial achievement, academic work is about wondering how texts work, which may result in sharp criticism even when you admire the author profoundly. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is less confusing to English Studies students because there is so much bibliography on any aspect of popular culture of the kind that inspires committed fandom. Perhaps, just perhaps, what I am describing here is a situation far more visible in the Spanish context, in which popular fiction is still kept outside the university walls unless, as you can see in the example of the ‘Semana Harry Potter’, students bring it in.

Still, Sirius Black hurts–stubbornly. My good friend Bela Clúa, now a teacher in Seville, and the person responsible for bringing me into the Potter cult (my thanks to her!), kindly reminded me that Sirius is doomed from the start–as doomed as Hamlet. Yet, while I don’t care much for fickle Danish princes, I am a total sucker for characters that risk their lives to protect children–call me sentimental! You need to blame Dickens for this: he gave us John Brownlow and even Abel Magwitch, and now I think that for every Oliver (or Pip), there must be a good man ready to help. Harry gets Sirius (or Sirius Harry, I’m not sure) but things go as wrong as they can go, and, so, I overreact. If in order to be an accomplished academic in Literary Studies you need to be coolly indifferent, then I must acknowledge that I’m as bad an academic as they make them (and so I was told, ouch!). I wonder, though, how many throwing their academic stones at me have overreacted in their own academic work (or were overreacting to my own critique).

What baffles me, then, is uncritical admiration in any context, for no text is perfect–the flaws, the chinks in the machine is what make us react to them. The fan invests colossal amounts of emotional energy into beloved texts and becomes awfully territorial, even within academia, which is why I have been told at so many levels “don’t touch my Rowling!” (as others have been told “don’t touch my Joyce!”. Yet, the true connection with a text only happens when we lower our defences, prepare to be hit in the head with interpretations that question our own, and engage in meaningful debate with other admirers. If you cannot do that you have two options: a) stay away from academia and be an uncompromising fan, b) separate what you love as a fan from what you do as a scholar.

But, then, that is so sad… right?

I publish a new post every Tuesday (for updates follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from: http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. My web: http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/

NOT MY KIND OF FEMINISM: WHY WE SHOULD NEVER SILENCE OUR MALE ALLIES

Last Thursday, 8 March, a date devoted to celebrating women, became for me a day for discovering feminism’s darkest side. Two close male friends, also university teachers, narrated to me the bullying to which they are being subjected by radical feminist girls students who have in fact managed to silence them in their own classrooms. Despite working in different areas and in different universities both had been challenged in the same way: they have been told by these so-called feminists that, as men, they have no access to women’s experiences and, so, they must not discuss them. They have been warned that, no matter how they offer to deal with feminism, any approach on their side will only be understood as patriarchal oppression, for only women are entitled to calling themselves feminists or teaching about feminism. I do call myself a feminist but this is an attitude that I find outrageous and disgusting because it is, plainly, patriarchal.

As happens, on 9 March, when everyone was still thinking of the feminist strike and the big demonstrations on the previous day, I found myself giving a lecture on how to apply Masculinities Studies to videogames before an undergrad class with 11 young men and 3 young women, all aspiring writers. None of these 11 men questioned my authority to discuss masculinity; actually, about half of them engaged in very productive dialogue with me. It was, I think, a very successful session of the kind I love best: a good conversation. Also, nothing exceptional within my career as a Gender Studies specialist.

Fortunately for me, I have never come across any male student (or colleague) who has been disrespectful of my feminist views or who has declared in a rude way to my face that since I am a woman lacking the experience of being a man I can’t discuss masculinity. Quite the opposite: men in my audience are often surprised–perhaps by the novelty of listening to a feminist who happens to be interested in men as allies–but on the whole welcoming. If anyone has ever disagreed with my position and my views I haven’t been told (or trolled), which I appreciate. In contrast, now and then, my feminist sisters try to persuade me that men have already been the centre of attention for too long and there is no need to pour more energy on masculinity. I am not that candid! My job consists of recruiting men to the egalitarian cause by explaining why they should change, not of endorsing uncritically masculinity, and much less patriarchy.

My two male friends had not met yet and it was over the coffee which I organized for them when, exploring common ground, they started sharing their pain over what is happening with their teaching. One of them had told me the day before about his problems and how it hurt to be labelled a male chauvinist, when he hates patriarchy. This, he feared (and so did I), might be a hard-to-solve, specific personal problem that threatens to undermine his high reputation as a teacher and also the quality programme he coordinates. Yet, when the other friend started narrating similar radical feminist bullying strategies, we agreed that this is bigger than just a personal situation, though hopefully just the work of a minority.

What galls me, and makes me simply loathe these obtuse girl bullies, is that these two men are not all the kind of recalcitrant patriarch that we need to out and condemn (think Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin). They’re actually the kind of good men that we need as allies in the anti-patriarchal struggle. It is because they are fundamentally decent men that I am their friend. One, who has been my friend for almost forty years, was absolutely instrumental in helping me to get the confidence I needed as a shy working-class girl to go on with my studies. I never, ever heard from him anything suggesting that I was not capable of reaching my goals as he was trying to reach his. I’m totally flabbergasted that he’s become a target of this androphobic hatred and not the real patriarchs you may find in so many university offices.

I have frequently expressed my position here but I’ll try again: patriarchy is NOT the same as masculinity. As a feminist, I’m NOT fighting men, I’m fighting patriarchy. This is a type of social organization that has traditionally privileged men but that, under pressure from feminism, is now paradoxically admitting in its ranks women (think Angela Merkel). This is because, at heart, patriarchy is an oligarchy based on power, which is the reason why minority empowerment is not eroding it but just altering the composition of its hegemonic core.

The way I see the future, at the pace we’re going, we’re not moving towards a pacifist Star-Trek-style world federation. We’ll see in the years to come the same brutal capitalism/militarism though in the hands of a variety of human beings, including women of all kinds (how soon we have forgotten Condoleezza Rice!). This dystopia might still take a long time to come but it seems to me far more likely that the utopian egalitarian socialist future that I would like to see replacing rampant patriarchy. I am now finishing an article on The Hunger Games, and let me remind you that in the end the biggest villain is not the classically patriarchal President Snow but a post-feminist, Orwellian leader: Alma Coin (that is some name!). She shows that women also ambition patriarchal power, and, please, remember this is a story written by a woman, Suzanne Collins. I am beginning to find the constant talk about empowerment really, really suspect, for, I insist, accruing power is at heart a patriarchal strategy of domination.

Now back to 8 March. Sorry but I find strikes very unproductive. I have seen students organize them again and again, with little success–meaning that their actions did not lead to actual change, no matter how many streets they filled. Last week many women occupied plenty of public spaces, though it is hard to say how many were actually on strike (or what happened in each individual home). When I declared my intention not to join the protests to a male taxi driver he shifted uncomfortably on his seat and told me that it was obvious to him that the call to strike had given feminism, and women generally, a huge media profile. I had to agree but, one week later, what is left of that colossal media presence? Has the right message been sent? Is the rhetoric convincing? And, above all, considering that we all saw Mariano Rajoy sport a purple bow on his lapel, as if he were not one of the patriarchs, who did the protest target?

It seemed to me, and this is what worries me, that all men were the target, as if these were the 1970s. Actually, the local Spanish feminist organizations took inspiration from the 1975 strike by women in Iceland (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_Icelandic_women%27s_strike), without considering whether this was an appropriate model for 2018. The confusion about which role Spanish men should play in the strike is visible in an article published by El Diario (https://www.eldiario.es/sociedad/papel-hombres-huelga-feminista-marzo_0_738426885.html), by which I deduce that the strike organizers expected men to support but not contribute to the protest. Some men did in the end join in, but I wonder how their collaboration was received.

What puzzles me most is that in these supposedly gender-fluid times, some feminist women are actively marking gender barriers even against the men who do support our fight for equality. This shows a dangerous inability on the side of (radical) feminism to target with effective accuracy the patriarchal men oppressing us. Surely, they must have spent 8 March as usual, safely enjoying the occasion to fill Twitter with anonymous misogynistic trash and do nothing to change. For, in case you have not noticed, if gender issues change for the better this is because the good men, the pro-feminists, lend a helping hand (remember J.S. Mill?). Or did you really think that the feminist discourse is convincing any of the male chauvinists? I can tell you first-hand because my own father is one of them and he has not budged an inch from his archaic position in all the years I have known him. He’s actually getting worse. If, with all my training to produce feminist arguments I can’t convince one recalcitrant man, how are going to erode patriarchy collectively? By silencing our male allies?

A woman silencing a man is as patriarchal as a man silencing a woman. I don’t have the experience of being a man but I happen to have the experience of being a person, which should include a good share of empathy. We, women, cannot expect men to change unless we appeal to their empathy for us, and for our experience. The way forward is a common alliance against patriarchy, not this constant gendered division of the world between male oppressors and victimized women. Many of the women who joined the strike did so hypocritically, for they are part of the hard core of patriarchy, yet they were not silenced. It is then ironic in the most disgraceful way that many good men were told to stay silent. They may have felt in this way what it is like to be a woman silenced by patriarchy but this is not a strategy that feminism should apply. We are supposed to be the good ones in this war!

One of my two harassed friends told me that his female colleagues had volunteered to defend him but this is no good, either. I don’t want to find myself in a situation in which a male colleague defends my right to discuss masculinity in a classroom full of men, for this support would only stress the weakness of my position. Nothing has been achieved, then, with the silencing of my two friends. Even worse, they might decide never again to mention feminism, which only benefits patriarchy. I can only say that the women students denying them their freedom of speech perhaps do not really want to be educated. This is what defines a fanatic, NOT a feminist. At least, not in my book.

I publish a new post every Tuesday (for updates follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from: http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. My web: http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/

WHAT WE DON’T SEE FROM THE UNIVERSITY: THE BATTLE FOR SECONDARY SCHOOL EDUCATION

Every family with young children eventually faces the crisis that starting secondary education, or E.S.O., supposes for many of them. It is difficult for us, university teachers (with no children), to offer solid advice to troubled parents. This is why, seeking to help my own family, I have read a couple of excellent books on this subject.

One is very new–Pablo Poó’s Espabila Chaval: Cómo NO suspender y aprovechar tu tiempo en el instituto (2017); the other–José Sánchez Tortosa’s El profesor en la trinchera: La tiranía de los alumnos, las frustraciones de los profesores y la guerra en las aulas–is older, from 2008. Even the subtitles are worth reading! In the nine years between them, you need to realize, tablets and smartphones have become common among secondary-school children. Television, which Sánchez Tortosa hates as one of the monsters that devour children’s time, is practically a relic of the past for the new YouTube generation. They no longer text each other using Messenger or sms, but Whatsapp. This, I’m told, is fast replacing Facebook… Poó’s volume, which even offers teens advice on how to set up a successful YouTube channel based on his own experience, might soon be out-dated.

The two authors paint a very bleak panorama, using widely different styles. Poó addresses teen students (trusting that they will read a book!!!) in a fresh, straightforward language, very apt for his target readership. He offers very useful practical advice and I particularly applaud him for explaining the actual cost of living. He declares his own income and his monthly expenses, thus teaching children a valuable lesson: life is expensive, and you need a job that is rewarding but also minimally well-paid. Studying might not be a secure path towards that kind of personal success but it gives you at least a chance. There is no shortcut between failing spectacularly in school and owning a Ferrari, though it may have happen, very exceptionally. And I love the bit where he explains that Cristiano Ronaldo only wins a third of the earnings of the current best-selling author, James Patterson. So, read!

The approach chosen by Sánchez Tortosa is very different, as he is not addressing students. He is voicing aloud for any adult to hear his own feelings of disappointment and despair, common among those of us who discover that, despite our efforts, students reject learning. Tortosa’s style is somewhat pedantic but his many quotations from classical philosophers and Enlightenment pedagogues show that although teachers’ concerns with students’ difficulties have a long history, the situation today is really worrying. Unlike Poó–a cooler, happier teacher who highlights that what he is describing is mainly the students’ problem and not his–Tortosa sounds awfully bitter. His descriptions of an anarchic, unruly student body and his difficulties to keep the teens in his classroom in silence reveal an underlying, palpable sadness; also, deep sorrow for that those that, in better conditions, could learn in peace instead of wasting precious time because of their classmates’ annoying insubordination. Tortosa is very clear: when students disrupt a lesson with their misbehaviour, those who suffer most are not the teachers but the students who do believe in education. The bad dynamics of current classrooms mean that, regrettably, the most popular are also the most ignorant students because they impose with their bullying a group code that marginalizes the individuals interested in self-improving.

Although from very different stances, Poó and Tortosa agree on a basic idea: learning offers liberation from slavery; by rejecting education the current teenage generation is embracing their own oppression. Tortosa constantly refers to the Wachowkis’ trilogy Matrix (1999-2002) and to how, despite Morpheus’ efforts to free him, Cipher chooses willingly to remain enslaved to the false reality created by the dreadful machines that control human life. Each in their own style, both teachers preach the same maxim: education is not about the details of each specific subject matter; it’s about turning children into full persons who understand the world around them and who won’t be taken in by its many false allures. Or tyrants.

Poó and Tortosa focus on E.S.O., the compulsory segment of secondary education, though they also refer, logically, to what comes next, Bachillerato (and the university entrance examination, Selectividad). It is assumed that students’ negative attitude towards education improves as they move onto higher levels which they freely choose. However, reading their books, I conclude that students never shake off the idea that whatever is compulsory curtails their freedom and must be rejected. They may freely choose a university degree but still treat its obligatory aspects as shackles restraining them. This might also explain their resistance to reading in Humanities degrees what teachers select as compulsory. We should, in short, forbid reading and perhaps that might give students an enticement. Just kidding…

Many other countries suffer the situation described by Poó and Tortosa: extending compulsory education results in students’ restlessness, as their impatience with what they’re being taught grows together with their adolescent bodies. In my time as a schoolgirl (1970-1980), E.G.B. (Educación General Básica) ended at 14, which was also the age when you were allowed to take a job. This was later raised to 16 as the labour market shrank, which made it necessary to keep disaffected teens in school. Many of them would possibly be happier working for wages but employing children has now become anathema in most Western societies (except for the children of celebrities working as models… Kaia Gerber, anyone?). When secondary schools release these indifferent students into the world they have often destroyed their own chances of getting a reasonably good job by rejecting all attempts at being educated. Thus grows the notorious ni-ni generation (or ‘neets’ = ‘not in education, employment or training’), who should pay for our future retirement pensions but cannot fend for themselves.

I have been saying for years that the difference between school pre-LOGSE (1994) and post-LOGSE is that the ignorant bullies used to be the minority whereas those in the majority where the students with grades between C+ and B+. LOGSE, and the beginning of secondary education at 12, rather than 14, means that a general immaturity affects relationships in the classroom. The ignorant bullies are now the centre of attention of a lazy majority that rallies around them, while the C+/B+ students are cornered and frequently despised. I fail to understand how the A students cope, though I assume that it is with great difficulty: their absurd labelling as ‘gifted children’ only worsens the situation by making them feel like singled-out freaks, when they should be classroom leaders. As they used to be.

This perfect storm is compounded besides, as we all know, by bad parents who a) disauthorise the teachers because they believe that their children are special and unique, b) are too busy to really care to educate their children at home, c) are themselves in need of training as parents and persons. Poó begins his book by declaring “Mira, chaval, eres un privilegiado y ni siquiera te das cuenta”, not only in the sense of belonging to a relatively affluent society that thinks nothing of children provided with smartphones worth a person’s monthly salary, but also because only a minority on Earth has access to a school education. The privilege, far from being acknowledged, leads to this sense of entitlement and of arrogance we often see, to our chagrin, in the children of our own families: they have everything, they know everything, and they never listen. They have their own authorities on YouTube and whatever we may say to them is worthless. Of course, I refer here to the worst case scenario but I’m certain that the admiration I felt for a few wise adults as I grew up, and who were my role models, is now a thing of the past.

Is this ranting and raving productive? Not really but I am at a loss about how to correct the situation, even beginning with the children going astray in my family. If you read Poó’s book between the lines you will see that now and then he refers to what is actually taught in secondary schools and perhaps a key factor in the general failure is that the curriculum is not adequate. I don’t mean ‘useful’ in that utilitarian way in which students regard education (“What’s the good of learning this?”). I mean adequate in the sense of being generationally well-targeted. We have gone past the bad pedagogy that demanded learning lists of monarchs by rote but, clearly, we’re not producing a sound, updated pedagogy that attracts children (and this is not about using hip ‘modern’ technologies).

Tortosa claims that the post-Francoist project to make schools democratic has failed, and hints that the classroom should be far more authoritarian that it is now. I agree that teachers should not try to be their students’ friends (this comes once marking is over, if it comes) and I regard myself as a very strict professor. Yet, I also try to be democratic, which means that as my experience shows, when students are allowed to choose what they want to work on, they’re more creative. This does not mean that they should be able to choose the contents of the courses but that their opinion needs to be heard. Feedback certainly helps to improve our teaching and I do believe that students can provide it from the age of 12 onward.

Something else that Poó writes strikes a deep chord: an education is the way to, ideally, find a job which makes you happy. Even more ideally, a job which doesn’t feel like work. He explains how little kids usually enjoy school because they see no difference between play and study, and although I am fully aware that I am sounding here hopelessly romantic, this is what the best jobs are about. Perhaps the problem is that Poó and I myself think that teaching is perfect in that sense because it gives you the privilege of extending your education for decades by educating others. In contrast, the current teen generation sees this mixture of play and work only in the (apparently) effortless success of YouTubers, football players and models. They see how popular Instagram celebrities are and wrongly believe that this is what they are also entitled to. They do not see the much more modest rewards of daily effort because that is not part of the media and the social networks.

Teachers, besides, were people we used to admire, now we are ridiculous figures. The same applies to parents (including those who are teachers!). So, how do you convince a teen daughter/son, niece/nephew that they need to make an effort? Well, you can’t, unless they accept reading Poó’s book… which is unlikely. You, parent or uncle/aunt, perhaps grandparent, can learn what is wrong in the secondary school classroom and admire the teachers for their courage and dedication. Yet it seems to me that there is little we can do. Perhaps we could focus on the most motivated students, and ignore the others–provided, that is, none of them is in your family. Or even your own child.

In the meantime, it would be important to consider why so many of our children are so privileged, yet so ungrateful, and so fond of ignorance. Perhaps, unlike Poó, we have failed to clearly explain to them what adult life is about and have gone too far in trying to delay their assumption of personal responsibility. Just an idea.

I publish a new post every Tuesday (for updates follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from: http://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. My web: http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/