Gordon Ramsay and “teaching p*rn”

Note: I asterisked the title of this to make sure it didn’t come up in the wrong kind of keyword searches, if you know what I mean. 

Also, I wanted to steal AWB‘s useful term, “teaching p*rn,” which is not about teaching the kiddies about the classics of the genre, but about commercialized  simulations of teaching activities, which bear the same relation to teaching realities that, say, p*rn-flick pizza-boy scenarios have to the job of delivering pizzas for Domino’s.  And frankly, most of us, most of the time, are delivering pizzas for Domino’s, only not in a good way.

In any case, there are some blogging posts that are so good that you wish that you’d written them yourself, and A White Bear’s recent post about Gordon Ramsay’s pedagogical drama made me feel that way [h/t: the Salt Box Teaching Carnival].  Here’s a sample:

It’s difficult when confronting a student who admits he doesn’t like the feedback he gets from papers but refuses to admit there might be anything wrong with his writing not to scream, as Ramsay does, “You ungrateful piece of dogshit! I’m trying to help you!” Anyone who is friends with a teacher will know that we bitterly complain about student arrogance in exact proportion with how much we care about helping them. If you’re putting in countless office hours and even more writing emails and comments on papers, and a student keeps coming back to say, “How can I get an A?” without even trying to take any of the advice you give, you know how Ramsay feels. Sometimes, baffled, Ramsay will shout, “You bloody asked me to fucking come here!” If my feedback and advice is worthless to you, why ask for it? You clearly enjoy getting C’s.

I won’t embroider this too much, because I think AWB has nailed the frustration of the teacher with the stubborness of her student, while showing why this kind of drama is riveting to people who would never want to enter a comp classroom ever again.  So go read it, and then go read the long comment section, which shows just how well AWB has captured this kind of problem of the gap between student perception and performance, which an education professor would call the problem of “metacognition.”

AWB’s formulations especially interested me, because I’d long shared similar thoughts about the English obsession with reality shows (an obsession now shared by American television audiences, I suppose).   These shows seem to thrive on the self-delusions and stubborness of their subjects.  The visiting expert comes in, gives an accurate appraisal of the broken-down bed and breakfast, and then we watch the show’s subject spend the next 50 minutes denying the obvious and resisting the expert’s advice about improving the B&B.

The one point I would like to add to AWB’s post is that what makes shows like Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares or Top Chef so entertaining is their fantasy of the authority-figures who assess the contestants.  Unlike ourselves, a Tom Colicchio or Gordon Ramsay as portrayed on these shows never evidences any self-doubt, never faces a contestant unprepared, is never at a loss as to what to do, and  never experiences a plausible challenge to his authority or his judgments.  The framework, the editing and the framing of the show’s challenges  all bestow an illusory authority on them that no actual chef, no actual boss, no actual teacher could ever project.  And that, my friends, is the difference between p*rn and real life.  As if we needed to be told.

DM

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