Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Community colleges hostile work environments for conservative students? 

Jerry Plagge tells of a student at Normandale Community College who listens to a Shakespeare professor make some point relating George Bush (and we might guess, Iraq) to Henry V. (One of his commenters made the Iraq connection, and I buy it.) Fine, but the student said the classroom got away from the professor.
And whatever reach of a connection he had before completely fizzled away into a full fledged Bush bashing marathon. I was getting a little upset, but I didn't get super angry until my teacher asked some question relating to conservatives and the girl behind me answered:

"Because they're crazy f***ing conservatives."

Hm. What an intelligent answer. These liberals, I tell ya.
I am not critiquing the professor's lecture for content but for style here, and the style is troubling because it licensed the student to use an epithet in reference to conservatives. If I was teaching a course on genocides and got my class to full froth over, say, the Armenian genocide and a student referred to "crazy f***ing Turks" and there was a Turkish student in the room, would that be a hostile environment for that student? Why yes, yes it would be. You would hope that the faculty member would take that very moment to tell the student that she had acted unprofessionally and hold her accountable for that. It's what you do with any student using any curse word in the classroom, and why faculty should check their pottymouths at the door.

Jerry says he's sad to see this behavior at Normandale and surprised it happened there rather than some more elite institution, whereas I think it's more likely to happen at the less-selective institutions. These are not going to be the best-trained, most nuanced professors you can find. They will not be as adept at argumentation, lecturing, and persuasion, and may resort to the same sort of cheap tricks that you hear amateur comics use on open mic nights.