Not an Open Mic

Open mic is a live event during which non-professionals perform on stage for a short time, often from 3 to 7 minutes. Depending on the rules at the location, “open mic” may be poetry reading, music, comedy or even striptease. Performers have to sign up and stick to house rules. There’s usually a master of ceremonies to moderate things.  In Taiwan, open mic happens in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. Even in little Holland, MI (where I now reside), there are several venues.

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Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

I recently joined another kind of “open mic” experience,  an online class from the University of California on “How to Write an Essay”, The course is for people who plan to study at the college level. It’s designed to help learners transition from writing reports and stories to “academic writing”.   There are about 350 people from around the world enrolled in the current class cohort. 

Academic writing is not easy to learn.  The course begins with a basic lesson on grammar and sentences. It soon launches into the nature of a thesis statement. Well designed exercises allow an almost “open mic” atmosphere in terms of what to write in the online forums. Given this freedom, many classmates from around the world ignore everything in the assignment and spout off about COVID-19. There’s nothing wrong with that topic, but mere opinionating and bloviation about it outside of the assignment to create a thesis statement is like open mic without a master of ceremonies.  

Some international students struggle with expressing themselves in English. Allowances are made.  Others have been mis-educated to the degree that they do not allow themselves to do independent thinking. In an assignment to write an entire paragraph, I initially admired one learner whose English language ability made me suspect that he is from the USA. He wrote about Biblical illiteracy. I didn’t agree with him, but since the forums are open. a little faith in there is a positive thing. I was moved to repent of my admiration, though, because after the first short sentence, in everything that followed he was about as articulate as a rant by the current American president. In the end, his “testimony” probably did more harm than good in front of the Pakistanis, Arabs and Indians on the course. 

We are encouraged to respond to other students’ submissions. In fact, those who desire the course certificate are required to respond to at least two other students in each lesson. As I write responses, I try to be encouraging.  When tempted to write something like, “go back and finish 8th grade before taking this course,” I take a breath and choose someone else’s post. 

Since I’d be a rotten moderator of an open mic night in Tainan, or even here in Holland, I’ll look for something else to do in retirement. 

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan. 

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