I just read a post on Lifehacker, it’s called What’s the Most Important Class You’ve Ever Taken?. There is one guy that made a very long reply. I can judge from his legible writing that he’s telling a truth, and in that case, a sad truth of the current state of our education system.
By far, the most enlightening class I ever took was an English class (which I subsequently left after the first day). While it didn’t teach me much about the subject, it opened my eyes to the extreme political and philosophical bias in many of our colleges today. A bias that rewards those who agree with the doctrine professed by instructors, and punishes any thoughts that contradict their beliefs. This isn’t as big an issue in many schools, and it certainly varies between teachers, subjects of study, departments and the makeup of the students in a class, but it my case, the hypocrisy of these “enlightened” teachers was on full display that day, and taught me to question not just the statements people make, but their motives for making them.
The class began as most do, with the distribution and reading of a syllabus, a brief introductory of the instructor and students, and then proceeded to the professor’s overview of the class’ objective.
“This will be like no class you’ve ever taken” she began. “Here, we won’t just learn about English literature, but also learn how to apply it to real situations, with an emphasis on women’s suffrage and black rights”.
I double checked my schedule, to be sure I was in the correct room. Yes, room 206 at 10:00am in the English building, I was in the right place. And the title of the class in my schedule confirmed what she was now scribbling on the chalk board “Thirteenth Century English Literature”.
So I raised my hand. “What does English literature in the 1200′s have to do with women and black rights?” A fair question I thought, but apparently, I was wrong. She muttered some round-about answer that dodged the question while staring scornfully at me.
I asked again, hoping I could clarify the question. “Weren’t the major English writers of the time men? Mostly monks I thought, with such high illiteracy among the non-clergy.” She hesitated in her response, so I wen’t on. “…and since the period predates the Northern European colonization of Africa, how many English writers had ever seen a black man?”
“Well,” she answered, “we’re looking at the link between what they wrote and racism and misogyny today”.
“So the writings were influential to the suffrage and civil rights movements?”
She quipped back “I don’t think you can understand what we’re teaching here, your a white man, so you don’t have the perspective needed to see the link between these topics.”
“Couldn’t it equally be the case that I haven’t read any 13th century English writings, and that’s why I don’t understand?” The annoyance was becoming obvious in my voice.
She stormed out of the room, in a hissy fit, saying she couldn’t teach a bunch of ignorant rednecks.
So, one bad teacher I thought. I’ve had plenty of good instructors in the past, she was just a fluke. I wen’t to the bursar’s office and tried to get my money back for the class. I had little interest in the subject anyway, and was only taking the class because it offered dual credit towards my degree.
I was told that, in spite of this class starting late in the term, it was in fact past the drop-add period and I would need a letter from my department head to get a refund. I made an appointment to see him. When I arrived at his office, four of my teachers were there to have a talk with me. If he was to sign off on my refund paperwork, the policy was that I needed counseling first from the staff . They proceeded to tell me how shocked they were at my behavior, how disappointed they were in me. The terms racist and sexist came up more than once. I reminded them that my girlfriend was half black, so as a woman and a minority, she could attest to the fact that I wasn’t some bigot. I was merely questioning the link between the course presented in the course outline I saw when I enrolled, and the very different subject matter I was presented in the class, not to criticize it, but just to understand why such a discrepancy existed between what was advertised and what the school was really giving me. My refund was refused. They strongly urged me to change major, as this teacher I had offended was the head of the department who oversaw all the humanities classes that qualified for the computer science degree I was pursuing. I would need to go through her to graduate.
“She doesn’t like me” I said, “but isn’t it a bit petty to assume she’d pressure a teacher to fail me on those grounds, even if my grades are passing”. That seemed to be what they were implying, but they acted offended that I understood what their implications were. I was then told that I may not be a “good fit for this school”.
I had paid up all of my other classes, so I continued through the semester. At this time, I carried a 3.9 GPA, which dropped a whole point by the end of the semester. I’m confident my grades were passing, but papers and lab projects I handed in were graded as incomplete, as though the teachers had never received them. Only one teacher stood by me and acted fairly. One of Eight teachers had any integrity.
I changed schools, stepping back to a community college (with a 2.9GPA for a spring transfer, that was the only option available to me). The community college was more fair, but I began to notice certain similarities. The math instructor who likes to review political polls, and then segway into his beliefs on the fallacies of the electoral college and it’s injustice. 40 minute rants to solve one equation. The robotics and manufacturing technologies teacher who advocates the wonders of automation, but insists they must not be used to displace union labor, in spite of the efficiency or cost. As for English teachers, I have yet to meet one with an ounce of sanity or a shred of integrity, they must be out there, but they aren’t teaching in a school near me. The students who succeed in college are the ones who keep their heads down and write what the instructor wants to hear, saving criticism for when they’re off campus. Even a number of the professors who seem to have contrary opinions to what most of the staff believes are careful not to make waves, and will seldom speak frankly to a student who may repeat it in front of another teacher.
That class changed my outlook on many things. I have great respect for those who can tolerate 6 years of college. After all that, they’ll tolerate pretty much anything, which often includes lower wages. Let’s face facts, if I’m hiring two people, one with 6 years of college, and one with 6 years work experience but no college, my experience tells me to value the latter. I’ll bet my money on the man who spent the better part of a decade in the real world, than the trained, professional Yes-Man who knows how to tell me what I want to hear while secretly harboring the ideals imprinted on him by deranged, intellectually stagnate hippie douche bags. That may not be the case with all graduates, but it’s the right call most of the time and I make no apologies for my belief.
My history professor said it in jest, but I have witnessed how true his statement is: “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach in college.”