Monday, June 22, 2009

Tough Times

Yesterday, I finished grading the final papers for the two sections of comp I was teaching simultaneously. In a 6wk session, teaching 2 at once is, I have discovered, the worst idea in the world. There has not been one moment in the past 6 weeks where my brain has been totally relaxed...

But yesterday's grading of final papers was made more difficult by two things. First, a student sent me a gharishly, horrifically inappropriate email that essentially wished harm upon my family. It took me most of the weekend to get past it. What finally worked was reporting the incident to every possible school official and having my friend Robin remind me it wasn't about me, it was about her. "When a gust of wind knocks over a tree," Robin said, "It's never the tree's fault. It's the wind." I was a tree that got in her way.

While that may be true, I still have fantasies about publicly shaming her, and I was not what one might call lenient while grading her papers. This student, for instance, did not get a free pass for pronoun/antecedent agreement or lack of commas after introductory clauses.

The other difficulty I ran into was the student whose final, persuasive paper was trying to convince the audience of the horrible wrongness of Alameda County's "Gay Agenda Curriculum." This is curriculum that encourages children to accept one another's differences, whether they be differences of class, religion, race, or family makeup or sexual orientation. This student is very horrified by such curriculum.

It's hard for me to not be allowed to give her a poor grade for having such views on the world. I'm just not allowed. I'm allowed to remind her that her persuasive arguments don't consider the oppositional point of view or that she slips into emotional/opinion language rather than persuasive, logical arguments supported by scholarly research. I can dock points for those things. But at the end of the day, she still feels that it's wrong to teach kids to accept the normalcy of all of their classmates. She even had a few lines in the paper where she referenced the "homosexual agenda to be viewed as normal."

I feel good that I referred her to a PFLAG survey that found over half of Americans DO view homosexuality as normal and just fine (I would link to the survey, only it was part of some print literature I picked up at Pride and I don't know if it's online).

I guess what surprises me about her feelings is the fact that she is a college student. In my Soc119 class in college, we learned that education level is inversely proportional to prejudice and discriminatory feelings. In other words, the more book-learnin' folks get, the less they seem to fear/hate those who are different from them. Apparently this student represents the margin of error for that equation.

At any rate, all of that stress is over with and I can now go on with my maternity leave. I have never felt more in need of a rest in my entire life.


Amy said...

Some people just take longer than others, you know? Who knows what this girl's background is, what her fears are, etc. She's young (or I'm guessing she is, since she's in freshman comp) and still has a great big world to explore and learn. Hopefully something positive you said will settle somewhere in the back of her mind and spring forth one day.

Katy said...

oh no, dude, she's an adult learner with 5 kids who lives in New Kensington.

Amy said...

Wellll (I don't know why I'm so intent on finding the good in people), but maybe it's just a matter of lack of exposure. And as people become more and more open about their sexuality and more and more people get to see the most-are-just-regular-people side of things, then tolerance/understanding/whatever can arise. I stand by the seed comment. (;