Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"I Learned It By Watching You!"

When I was in graduate school at FSU, I (at least) once wore a baseball cap to a meeting including faculty and students. A stats professor, who I knew well, somewhat mockingly said as I entered the room, "A good Southern male would never wear a hat indoors." I responded, "Dr. Brewer, please don't ever confuse me for a male from the southern United States." While my quip didn't go over so well in Tallahassee, Florida, I'm reminded of it when I read this article:
Rude behavior in college classrooms is often a matter of course: College students more disrespectful, professors find
I've noticed this at my college, too. Not the rudeness of college students, but instead the fact that a lot of professors are getting their undies all bunched up due to students texting, or students' clothing choices, or, basically, students not offering them enough respect. Profs I know frequently complain about the same things as those in the article:
(P)rofessors...find they must devote space in the syllabus to ask students to refrain from surfing the Web, texting or answering cell phones during a lecture. Some have to remind students that, when making a presentation, they should remove the backward baseball cap and save the bare midriff for a beach party. Others complain that students randomly leave and enter the classroom during class.
Indeed, students, like anyone else, can be rude. And I would never fault other instructors for trying to teach civility to their students or trying to structure class the way they'd like it structured. But I wonder, assuming that I might do something that helps students learn, whether it better to teach students how not to offend or how not to get offended. Face it, people get offended for the most retarded of reasons (words chosen purposefully):
  • People on the political right get pissed if the greeter at Walmart says "Happy Holidays" in December rather than "Merry Christmas."
  • People on the bat-shit-crazy right feel it okay to kill other people if they draw a cartoon that hurts their wittle feewings.
  • People on the left get all upset with the flag someone displays on their car.
  • People on the bat-shit-crazy left feel it okay to kill other people trying to cure diseases or feed the poor.
Seems to me, the only battle that might win any ground is *not* to get people not to offend, but rather to get people to fucking suck it up and take it when someone does something that disappoints you. Albert Ellis, one of my all-time favorite psychology dudes, called it rational other acceptance. Rational people recognize that other people are not always going to act in such a way that will make us happy. And we accept that. Obviously, there is stuff that shouldn't be tolerated. But I can't see backward baseball caps as part of that category. We in education are constantly bombarded with the buzzword diversity, and many throw it at their students like inflated grades. But then those same professors can't handle it when someone doesn't dress they way they want them to? Suck it up and take it. Otherwise, if we feel it appropriate to regulate clothing, it becomes very difficult to argue against bullshit like this:
Sudanese widow Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, a former journalist who last worked for the media department of the UN Mission in Sudan was charged under Article 152 of Sudanese law which imposes 40 lashes for anyone “who commits an indecent act which violates public morality or wears indecent clothing.” She was wearing a pair of trouser at a restuarant (sic) on July 3.
Obviously, rational lines have to be drawn somewhere, lest students come to class naked. But "I find it rude because it wasn't like that when I was younger" is not sufficient to draw the lines. And if we assigned to instill critical thinking skills can't see that, how can we expect anyone else to?

Heading reference here:

Posted at Reverse Sickology

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