By Stan Persky | November 28, 2001

Chapter One: Preparation
(A Synopsis)

In Chapter One, Knighton and Persky deftly tackle in great detail the heretofore unexamined theoretical and historical foundations of "preparation" or "prep time", an integral activity of any successful contemporary post-secondary instructor. Greatly truncated, prep time refers to the many lost hours or minutes experienced immediately prior to entering the attendant classroom to give the day’s lesson. Some Formalists uninformed by the history and theory behind this important mechanism in the modern pedagogical machine fritter away this time with the unnecessary re-reading of the day’s materials, inventing of soon-to-be-misplaced overheads, copying of quizzes and antiquated exercises, rewinding of approved videos, gathering of chalk, grease pens, attendance sheets and course syllabi. But etymology teaches the observant practitioner that "prep" is a shortened vernacular for the more subtle, and radically contrary, "depreparation". Depreparation is sometimes also confused with the more animistic-later co-opted by psychoanalytic schools of preparation theory-"deep-preparation" or "deep deep preparation". What most Formalist hunter-gatherers miss in the prepping of overheads and reading quizzes is the highly ritualized time and space depreparation originally circumscribed. Not engaged in Xerox paper-jams, the depreparationists of today have recovered through Derridian deconstruction the play and indifferance requisite prior to a self-reflexive classroom performance. Post-modern pedagogues schooled in depreparation strategies often "horse around" in the stables of department office enclaves, punning and riffing with animal abandon in the very halls of Conflict Resolution Officers. In that same spirit of play, depreparationists often occupy the "work room" as an act of social intervention, engaging that space and its prescribed actions with irony and satire. There, depreparationists will often sit on countertops in place of memos and committee minutes, occupy computer chairs, blocking access to the equipment of technocracy, and talk nostalgically about the days of, say, sugar cubes by the coffee pot or push-top pop cans in the waste baskets, thus commenting with subtlety on the shifting but persistent face of consumer education. Jokes unrelated to the instructor’s discipline or that day’s lesson are bricolaged from other disciplines and functional areas to underscore through juxtaposition the lack of disciplinary loyalty as part of the ritualized depreparation of the work space. In one anecdotal account, the authors summarize an occasion in which a mathematician depreparationist was overheard delivering a "how many business administrators does it take to screw in a lightbulb" speech act and, with poignant self-reflexivity, miscounted the actual number, thereby ruining the expected punchline and its timing, thus both brilliantly critiquing such management practices as those taught by business administrators while, simultaneously, destabilizing the master narrative of mathematics that very critique relied upon. In conclusion, Persky and Knighton provide an insightful socio-historical account of the generic structures common to depreparation before class. To "horse around" is rescued as the complex act which readies the cutting-edge instructors of today’s academy to a degree only matched by Jonathan Swift’s intelligent, although fictitious, horsies.

Stay tuned for Chapter Two: Zeno’s Paradox: The Problem is Getting There

483 word November 25, 2001


  • Stan Persky

    Stan Persky taught philosophy at Capilano University in N. Vancouver, B.C. He received the 2010 B.C. Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence. His most recent books are Reading the 21st Century: Books of the Decade, 2000-2009 (McGill-Queen's, 2011), Post-Communist Stories: About Cities, Politics, Desires (Cormorant, 2014), and Letter from Berlin: Essays 2015-2016 (Dooney's, 2017).

  • Ryan Knighton

    Ryan Knighton lives in Vancouver, teaches at a college in North Vancouver, and peers at the world with a strange but distinctive focus. He just signed a whopping book contract based on a series of pieces that appeared on this site, and his publisher made us erase them.

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