Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Check Out the Levels

I have a friend who, when I first met him, spent a lot of time making trompe l’oeil drawings (well, really doodles in the margins of lecture notes he was taking).

One night he was showing us some of these and every now and again, impressed by his own ability to conjure faux three dimensionality from two dimensional lines on paper, he would exclaim, in a kind of wonder, “Check out the levels!”

Now, if you teach anything like literary theory or film studies or music appreciation or what have you, this imperative sums up your endeavor. In fact, what you quickly find is that, for many students, the fact that there are levels at all, and not just the plot and the characters, is a kind of revelation.

This revelation can quickly spread into all aspects of life and is part of the natural, cognitive maturing process, I believe. When we make the transition from childhood proper to adolescence and adulthood after, for example, a big part of that proces is the realization that our childish worldview, as complete and self-sufficient as it seems to us while we are living in it, is limited, circumscribed by our ignorance, experience (or lack thereof), and the information that our environmental wardens have deigned (or not) to pass along to us. You can see this most obviously when speaking with teens who have become aware of things that their younger siblings just obviously don’t get. Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging for the Hell of It

Yesterday, in a class on “Blogging” that she was teaching as part of a course my company produced, Erika Napoletano said something to the effect that, “Nobody blogs just for the hell of it.”

My first response was: “Actually, I blog just for the hell of it.”

“This blog—an ill-organized assortment of essays, reviews, aphorisms and ephemera—serves no purpose,” I wanted to say.

But then, as I thought about it, I knew that this was mere posturing. My blog serves a very specific and, for me, crucial purpose as a space that I “own,” one where I can post and publish my views, my thoughts, and my philosophy.

In fact, I frequently motivate myself to add to this collection new thoughts, or at least newly formed revisions of old thoughts, by saying to myself, “If you really have something to say, something to teach the world, some wisdom to impart, comfort or guidance for the lost or wounded, aid and counsel to the youth, a truth that must be spoken and known, etc., you’d better put it somewhere where it might endure and, from time to time, be discovered.”

That somewhere is here.

For the Hell of it.

Is Marketing Mainly Manipulation or Might It (also) Be Education?

3232486691_16a0553f54_m-1Last spring, while attending a lovely brunch, I got into an unexpectedly heated dispute with the host and one of the guests, professors at a local business college, about the Nazi philosopher, Martin Heidegger.

Having told me that they sometimes taught Heidegger’s essay, “The Question Concerning Technology,” to their students, I told them that Heidegger’s unrepentant allegiance to the Nazi cause, coupled with his very conscious desire to provide the philosophical groundwork for an as yet unrealized hyper-elitist society in which the Many served the Few, made such a pedagogical choice highly problematic.

To my way of thinking, I explained to them, introducing impressionable minds, or any minds for that matter, to the diabolical musings of the old, forest-dwelling, Swabian sorcerer was to fulfill his clearly articulated plans and, therefore, to be avoided at all costs.

Naturally, they thought me mad.

Flash forward to a recent dinner party featuring many of the same characters. Recalling our bygone dispute, one of my erstwhile protagonists found it ironic that I considered teaching marketing the better alternative to teaching Heidegger. Ascertaining that he equated marketing with manipulation I asked if he didn’t in fact try to manipulate his students, an imputation he vociferously rejected before absenting himself.

There ensued an illuminating discussion with his colleague concerning the way “marketing” had supplanted “sales” in the college’s curriculum. Whereas the institution had once upon a time striven to steep students in the subtle and not-so-subtle arts of persuasion proper to business, this was now deemed “kind of sleazy” and had been replaced with the more oblique, and ostensibly scientific, rigors of marketing.

On hearing this, I remarked that, funnily enough, with the ascendancy of “content marketing,” it was now education that provided sales and marketing with its dominant paradigm. And so we sat down to eat.

Customers don’t want to be marketed to anymore than they want to be sold to. They are, however, hungry for information, if not knowledge (or, perish the thought, wisdom). For this reason the contemporary marketer begins to increasingly resemble a research assistant or a reference librarian and, in some cases, a teacher.

Which is why I would like to suggest that, while education may, in its way, be manipulative, we must also allow that manipulation, in its turn, may also be, at times, educational.

Don’t you think?

Image Courtesy of coyote2012.