Sunday, June 20, 2010

A two-part update

I moved to Murfreesboro not quite a year ago, and thought it was a pretty welcoming community. That was until the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro wanted to expand and all of a sudden, hatemongers started coming out of the woodwork. (In case you watch Diane Sawyer, this was the center covered by ABC World News last week.) I had a lot of thoughts about this, starting with a puzzlement over some of the protesters and their misunderstanding of Islam, Christianity, the First Amendment and zoning processes. I even had a full argument laid out about just how wrong they were.

But the more I got to thinking about it, I had to wonder if it would do any good. Those that agree with me agree with me, and those that don't aren't going to change their minds because of my well-thought-out and incredibly snarky rebuttal. So I won't offer my opinions on the issue. Instead, I'll offer the following:

This whole situation brought up something that we've been talking about in composition class. In the past, composition teachers were kind of the unnamed moral police of the university, teaching our students the way they should go. Part of our duty as composition teachers is not to simply teach composition, but to also teach critical thinking skills.

This brings me back to the whole idea of students having a right to their own language (as established by CCCC in 1974). If they have a right to their own language, then they also have rights to their own beliefs, as backwards and intolerant as I think they may be. I also know that it's impossible for me to keep my own political and religious biases out of the classroom, though I try as much as I am able. And I have dealt with hate speech in the classroom before (not particularly well that first time) and I've taught selections from the Qu'ran, as well as from Genesis, Matthew, the Dalai Lama and the Bhagavad gita.

I've seen students with certain viewpoints about Islam or Mormons or Catholics or Buddhists or Christians and done my best to help them apply their critical thinking skills to the situation. Some of them followed what I was trying to say and started thinking about it. To be honest, I don't know that there was a student I was more proud of than one who did apply critical thinking skills to it and then presented me with a well-thought-out argument for why he believed what he did. I didn't agree, but I could respect his conclusions.

But my question is not if I have a duty to introduce my students to these different viewpoints, because I firmly believe I do. It is whether or not I have a right to push them towards changing their own views. Or am I? If I can respect the student above, am I pushing them? I don't know.

The adventures of teaching in a multi-cultural society.


Back to what this blog is really supposed to be about: books! I've read a lot of Yeats research over the last week, and finally finished my annotated bibliography (I think). I read a very interesting book by Virginia Moore called The Unicorn which gave an overview of Yeats' occult beliefs and how they intersected with the Christianity of the day.

Also, my favorite Snarky Writer loaned me Kim Harrison's Dead Witch Walking, which was a very entertaining read. I had to laugh that the Hollows (the supernatural portion of Cincinnati in the novel) was across the river in Kentucky. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Covington, the Midwest's supernatural crossroads. I got far too much joy out of that. I also got a lot of joy out of the protagonist transmuting herself into a mink. That squeaked at her pixy friend. Definitely looking forward to the next one, but it may have to wait as my Yeats paper is due next week. Time to put in some quality Word time.

I'm also halfway through Charlotte Bronte's Villette, which is much more enjoyable than I thought it was going to be. Despite the fact that I know, I know, that there's not going to be a happy ending (have you ever met a Victorian lit novel that did?), I keep hoping that Lucy Snowe is going to stop fearing heartbreak and let herself be swept away by her handsome doctor. Not going to happen, but a girl can dream. If it wasn't on my prelim reading list, I'd stop there and let myself pretend she lived happily ever after.


Okay, so this is a three-part update, despite the post title. Leave me alone.

My dad is awesome. Seriously, he rocks. He works awfully hard to keep our family above water, and I don't mean just financially. I mean that he works on keeping us together--on keeping us a family, rather than a group of people who sometimes share the same space. He's taken care of a lot more than any man should ever have to, and he's done it with grace and courage.

I know he doesn't read this, but I'll say it anyway.

Happy Father's Day to the best dad in the world. I love you.

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