Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Ethelred II has, in my humble opinion, the best epithet of any English King, including Farmer George. He's usually known as Ethelred the Unready, or, if you like Old English, Aethelred Unraed (where the "th" should be a thorn, and the AE is an ash). "Unready" here doesn't mean "unprepared," but "unadvised," or "poorly counseled." Evidently his attempts to buy off the Vikings was considered a bad idea. Ironically, Aethelred may mean "noble counsel" in OE, so the nickname's a bit of a pun.

It's advising season, and yes, my student Ethelred dropped by. Ethelred's a new advisee for me; in this case, Ethelred is a first semester student (a freshman, in the old parlance), so I've got an advising sheet from his summer meeting with a faculty advisor. Sometimes by the time late summer advisees get their classes, they have few choices, but usually the faculty advisor figures things out pretty well for new students. Unfortunately, what the faculty advisor wrote down about a suggested course of study for the first semester bears little relation to what classes Ethelred signed up for.

Now, sometimes the summer advisors make mistakes. I have an advisee who put down a totally different major, but was somehow assigned to me at that first meeting. Go figure. But usually the faculty member who takes on the summer advising job is beyond competent and smart.

Ethelred, on the other hand, seems to have decided that the summer faculty advisor was totally wrong, and so he chose different classes. Unfortunately, he's basically spent a semester taking courses that won't help him go where he says he wants to go as a course of study. Some of them will work for general education, but not in a way that makes for a really useful general education. (In my fantasy life, people actually think about what general education classes they take, and form a kind of coherent, meaningful set of experiences. But then, I live a rich and full fantasy life.)

I advised Ethelred on the classes I think he should take this coming semester, and why, and gave him a couple of "assignments" (in the form of: go talk to person X, go talk to the career center folks, and such) so that he can get himself a bit better informed about his major (no, teaching High School isn't actually the only job one could imagine with an English major, and besides, it's a very specialized major within the department) and the opportunities he's got here at NWU. We'll see how he does with signing up and the tasks.

Maybe he'll lose the epithet. I can hope!

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