Wednesday, January 22, 2014

For You and You and You...

A student angered me a little today. He felt that I was not teaching enough of the white male experience. Although he seemed to acknowledge learning a lot about White people in the text and just about everywhere, he felt that my lectures should also be devoted to uncovering that curriculum oversight. People talk about teachers being parents and mentors but I have to say the emotional restraint I demonstrated in that moment can only be compared to something I would do if I were born on Krypton. If ever there were a time to add superhero to the list of what teachers really are...That P90X must really be working.

I've mentioned my tendency to obsess so in an effort to get some sleep tonight, I wrote out what I intend to say to the kid tomorrow. I thought I'd share.

"The importance of teaching an inclusive curriculum is two-fold: people of color can't continue to either not see themselves at all or only as victims and White people need to understand that the greatness that is the United States did not come without the blood, sweat, and tears of African-descended peoples, Native peoples, Raza, Asians, non-Christians, women, non-heterosexual peoples, poor people, and colonized people. And if I can take it one step further, the persecution and existence of said people would not exist had it not been for the capitalist, imperialist ventures that occupy "whiteness."

"It's uncomfortable to be put in a position where your paradigm has shifted, where you are momentarily not the altruistic protagonist. And that's right. That's the point. So my goal isn't that you remember specific names and dates and places when you leave here. I want you to remember why you felt uncomfortable. My hope is that one day when you are confronted with something that removes you from that place where you are the hero of the story, that you think critically about how you arrived in your situation, how that person arrived at theirs. And I'm only asking for those few seconds of thought. That would be success for me."

I've been somewhat cataloging the reactions from the more conservative elements in the room.

When I called the Bracero program yet another example of the US' "immigration of convenience," he almost tossed his desk at me.

When I talked about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, I got a reluctant nod and a mumbled "that was pretty bad."

Atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? A very enthusiastic hand raise with five minutes on how it "wasn't as bad as they would have us believe." Whenever I ask who "they" is, it somehow ends up being Obama so I just stopped asking.

Seeing as how I am not a viewer of Fox News, I am particularly unfamiliar with this perspective on history and events and I must say while fascinating to watch, it scares the mess out of me.

Kids in another class would often joke with me about my seemingly rigid rules for Omar. In their defense, I did say he didn't need to go trick-or-treating because that was just begging people for stuff and he can get his own candy when he's old enough to get a job to pay for it. But I did end up taking him trick-or-treating.

The one thing I wouldn't budge on was Disney princess movies. I explained to the kids that it didn't have anything to do with heterosexual romances and why as a culture we insist on hetero-sexualizing children from birth, although that was part of it. I said that it is because as a male, I can see that he is learning a gender identity that includes women waiting on him constantly. If Omar wants some juice in my house, he gets it himself. If he needs me to do something for him, he asks and says "please." If he starts screaming and yelling, he doesn't get it. I make one dinner; if he doesn't like it, guess who isn't eating? While it seems harsh, the alternative seems worse--thinking that someone is waiting around for the kiss, just to pledge their devotion to someone they've known for all of three seconds, just seems to be the wrong way to raise children to have healthy friendships, colleagues, relationships, and commitments.

And that seems to be the same interrogation of privilege that I am trying to teach students. Crossing my fingers on that one.

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