On online homework services

I understand the value to teachers of not having to spend time grading homework, but when I have a class where (math or science problem) homework is administered via a third party online service where you have to type in answers, I often spend at least as much time wrestling with the software than I spend actually completing the homework. So like, 2 hours of homework is actually 4 hours, where half that time isn’t actually about studying. It increases the likelihood that I am going to search online for help with a problem as soon as it starts to look complicated, rather than puzzle over it for a while and experiment (good for learning!), like I would do if I actually had all 4 of those hours available for doing homework.

I can’t speak strongly enough for what so many teachers have done over the ages: assign a selection of problems from the book whose answers are listed at the back, then give a checkmark or whatever to students if they at least make an attempt at a majority of the problems. The teacher doesn’t have to evaluate if the student is doing things right: that’s up to the student to ask for help if they are getting answers that don’t match the book. For classes where the homework counts for like 10% of the grade, this isn’t unreasonable and takes a minimal amount of time for the teacher: for an unreasonably large 40 student class in which all of the students actually turned something in, this should take no more than 10 minutes. Alphabetize the stack, then go through the gradebook and add a mark for each one that looks like work was done.

And it means the student isn’t stuck shelling out for the cost of this routinely crappy online service.

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Quick notes regarding triggers, social justice efforts, and the Chicago Dyke March

Quick reminders/thoughts related to the whole Chicago Dyke March evicting Jewish marchers thing. None of this should be taken as establishing what went down, this is just intended to challenge some of the ways I’m seeing people respond to some of the information getting reported.
  • people have the right to be triggered by anything; there isn’t a list of acceptable things to be triggered by, an application process, etc
  • people have the right to self determine whether something is a trigger, without requirement of formal diagnosis from a profession which historically treats marginalized people as mentally ill for refusing to comply with their marginalization
  • people are responsible for figuring out how they manage their triggers and their space needs related to those triggers
  • just because something is an important concept for social justice and people’s wellbeing does not prevent people from using that concept to harm individuals and communities; patterns of behavior should shape how we view one off occurrences
  • no space is responsible for or even capable of removing every possible trigger in that space
  • many spaces are highly capable of providing resources to support people in that space with common triggers, including but definitely not limited to trigger warnings, as well as uncommon and therefore unlistable triggers, including but not limited to having mental health support staff on hand
  • taking care of people most at risk due to marginalization and resisting the divide-and-conquer methodology of kyriarchy are common goals, even though the steps toward those goals may often appear to conflict
  • how much can those steps conflict without actually working at odds with each other? Context matters always
  • adhering strictly to simplistic arguments for social justice purposes allows you to act quickly, and it also gives people easy tools to dismantle your efforts. Allowing for complexity slows you down, and it also gives you the ability to work with people who would otherwise aim to dismantle your efforts. Both simplicity and complexity can be used toward the same goals even when they appear to conflict.
This is a test, this is only a test.

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Asking gender on surveys

Frequently, when people set up surveys, they ask for gender. This question is often included out of habit, but it still is often a relevant question, even if the only contribution of the question is to show that gender doesn’t have a significant influence on other responses. In modern efforts to be more friendly to gender minorities, the gender question is often updated. And it’s often updated in silly ways.

Here’s the two most common “inclusive” ways I have seen the gender question presented over the last few years:

a) What is your gender?
* Male
* Female
* Transgender
* Prefer not to say

b) What is your gender?
* Male
* Female
* Other

There are minor language variations, such as sometimes using “transgendered” instead of “transgender”, but this is the gist. So, what’s wrong with these? Continue reading

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If something says “please copy and paste to share”

If you see something presented as information (as opposed to opinion, fictional story, joke etc) along with “please copy and paste”, ask yourself: what is served by copy and pasting, thus erasing the source?

There are valid reasons for asking people to copy and paste before sharing to obscure the sources of some things. Some common reasons include:

  • Managing distribution of information about protests and similar activities where the source can become a target of law enforcement, but many copy and pasted sources are more than law enforcement can do anything productive with.
  • Minimizing spectator influx when something on Facebook gets shared beyond the sphere of people you’re up for interacting with.
  • Getting past the shared-with-friends wall set by the poster of something you’d like to share.

The first of these is likely to include information that, by its nature, can’t easily be confirmed. The latter two have no reason not to have sources. Included sources. Continue reading

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On being an ally to friends, enemies, and strangers who make choices we don’t understand

Being an ally is not the same thing as being a friend. This may seem obvious, or it may seem baffling, and hopefully this can be relevant reading either way.

You can be someone’s friend while also marginalizing them, either through microaggressions (such as being a cis person telling a trans person that they don’t look trans) or outright aggressions (such as being a white person calling a person of color a racist slur). They may or may not perceive what you’ve done as marginalizing. They may have gotten really good at finding internal ways to manage that marginalization (such as apologizing for your behavior for you, or agreeing with your behavior and its implications about them) in the interest of maintaining the friendship, or maintaining jobs, family, housing, whatever. They’ve likely lost any or all of those things before when advocating for themself about that thing. Yes, your friendship with someone can matter enough that they would rather put up with being repeatedly hurt by than risk losing yet another damn thing in their life.

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Resource list for challenging exclusion of trans women from women’s sports

This is a brief list of resources addressing the question of if trans women have a physical advantage over cis women in sports. (Spoiler: no.) Exclusion of trans women from women’s sports due to supposed physical advantage is often considered scientifically valid and therefore not transphobic. These links demonstrate the lack of scientific evidence that trans women have a physical advantage over cis women, and explore the history of developing policies of both trans exclusion and inclusion in sports. These are intended to meet the needs of people who are potentially open to this type of proof for trans inclusion, or at least who claim to be interested in science, but lack the interest, resources, time, and/or energy to seek out and interpret information which challenges familiar ciscentric standards. Allies, take this stuff to your cis friends!

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On the Family Guy bit about Caitlyn Jenner

Family Guy didn’t predict shit.

Homophobia is directed at straight people too, to remind them to not be like us, and sometimes it hits a straight person who is actually not straight and just closeted. Transphobia is directed at cis people too, to remind them not to be like us. And so many trans people have early experiences while living as the gender they don’t identify, managing every little behavioral tick so that no one would guess that they were trans. Sometimes that’s for fear that everyone would actually believe it, and then the transphobia would never stop. Sometimes it’s just because even worse than transphobia is the transphobia you face before even getting to transition, the transphobia that teaches some of us to never transition. I know too many people who have chosen to never transition because of this.

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