At the end of our class on 22 February 2012, a student that I suspect is The Reluctant Blogger, made a comment about how much she dislikes blogging and the reasons for why. I think her comment struck a chord with others in the class, myself included. What was particularly interesting for me, however, was not that someone shared my discomfort toward blogging, but the way in which Shelli responded. To be honest, I was disappointed in the answer. I expected her to reflect on why some people may have legitimate reasons for not liking blogging as a class assignment. Instead, what I heard was her accuse the student of being in need of some self-reflection (as if she hasn’t been self-reflecting over the course of the semester about this assignment already). Rather than taking the comment seriously, our teacher suggested that the student should reflect on what’s wrong with them, as if something must be wrong with them if they disagree with the assignment. I have full faith that Shelli did not intend to insult or put down the student, but that was the effect. It was disturbing.
The other part of Shelli’s response was quite on-point and meaningful. She reminded us that we have “agency.” Don’t do the assignment if you don’t feel comfortable with it. This is of course a great answer and very true. And we, all of us, everyone, should always employ this in our everyday lives: do and don’t do things as an active choice. “Agency” is a very powerful thing.
Of course it is hard to ignore that we are the students and she is the professor and the power imbalance in this relationship is obvious. (If not, see Chapter 4 of Weimer 2002.) And so the answer to the question is correct in that, yes, we DO have agency over our actions, but although that’s a correct answer (and a thoughtful one) it is still disingenuous because it ignores the power dynamic. Of course I, as the student, can forgo this blogging assignment (and I’m still considering it), but I do so at a cost to my grade and, more importantly, to my relationship with my teacher. Furthermore, it is particularly noteworthy that we had just read Weimer’s chapter 4 and discussed it in class, which then seemed to be ignored in Shelli’s response to the student.
I think that a better answer to the students question on 22 February 2012, would have been to say “(1) You have agency; your actions are your own. (2) Hmm, I hadn’t realized that someone would have legitimate concerns about blogging. I’m going to have to think about this. (3) We are running out of time today, but let’s schedule a meeting and talk about this outside of class, or maybe during next week’s class time, etc.”
You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. I wish that this blogging assignment was less of us blogging and more about exposing us to blogging (different platforms, different existing blogs about education, different blogs by students, different ways to incorporate blogging into our classes, how to protect our privacy and that of our students when we use blogging in class, etc). Shelli should bring us to the watering hole of blogs, but not assign us to actually blog. Blogging is very personal and should remain as a choice. It may be the perfect platform for some people. But it is not the perfect platform for everyone: others may prefer to privately journal, some prefer to privately paint, and others may prefer to have actual real-life conversations face-to-face with actual human beings. Thus far I have learned that I hate blogging.