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You know what's really flat-out unpleasant? When you find yourself so unsafe-feeling in a classroom environment that you have to leave. You know what's never happened to me before today? Exactly that.

Let me explain. I'm taking an introductory philosophy course, in social/political issues. We've discussed libertarianism, Marxism, feminism...a variety of things. Generally, I trust the professor and think of her as a progressively-minded individual generally*.

But then there was today. We looked at homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Right off the bat, there's an issue here. Same-sex marriage falls pretty firmly into the political arena, so that's fair for the course. But homosexuality? Not so much, or at least it shouldn't, particularly in a course fairly centred on looking at political theories. But it gets worse. Oh boy, does it get worse.

So, one thing she's done before is ask if anyone objects to a given political theory, whichever one we're looking at in that lecture (say, for example, libertarianism). Now, that's cool. But can you see what's coming? That's right, she asked if anyone in the class morally objected to homosexuality. That? HUGE PROBLEM. Asking if someone thinks a political theory is flawed from a moral standpoint is pretty much ENTIRELY DIFFERENT from asking if an integral part of many people's identity is. Seriously!

To her credit, she seemed to realize we were looking uncomfortable, because then she asked if anyone thought her asking of that question was problematic. My hand, of course, shot up. I had a moment of relief when she picked someone else first, because I was already pretty freaked out, and I was happy to have someone else tackle the issue. Unfortunately, the guy she called on then started talking. And what he said was along the lines of "I think it's a problematic question because homosexuality is so accepted in our culture that even if someone disagrees with it they aren't necessarily going to say so".

I'm sorry, what? WHAT? For him to say that...and for her to not call him out, but to comment that he may be right that our classroom trends liberal, without noting (a) the hugely problematic nature of what he just said or (b) the fact that society at large is NOT LIKE THAT? That is majorly uncool. Hugely. Colossally. So I was feeling even more uncomfortable.

And finally, the last straw. She put verbatim quotes from anti-gay organizations up on the overhead. Now, she did this in the context of "I want to talk about how these arguments are flawed", which, okay. But to have written material directly attacking me up on the overhead, when it has already been established that today's lecture is not a friendly environment? I couldn't cope. I was actually shaking. Normally I'm able to distance myself somewhat from these things, but today, in this class, I couldn't.

I trusted my professor. And she betrayed that trust by allowing her classroom to be made into an unsafe, potentially triggering space for queer students. And that? Is not how you teach.

*Though there was an incident with ableism a couple of weeks back. I called her out on it after class, and she seemed responsive, but her apology to the class next day sort of missed the point (it was one of those "I'm sorry a student was offended" type things). So this wasn't completely untelegraphed, but still surprised me. [ETA: I should point out I believe that she meant well. But her execution was full of MASSIVE FAIL, at least in the part of the class I was there for. And that needs to be addressed]


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)
I should point out that I have e-mailed her requesting an appointment to discuss this. For completeness. I left this out of the main post, because I felt it pulled focus a bit. But it's my next step. And if it fails, I'm failing a complaint.
Nov. 18th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
Oh those poor oppressed downtrodden bigots they are so fucking hard done by what with how they are not allowed to kill us with impunity any more and people occasionally cluck their tongues when they say something appalling.

Fucking no. Holding a political view is a thing which can be reasonably objected to. Having a goddamn sexuality is not. Do we ask if anyone in the class morally objects to heterosexuality with any expectation that someone might? If heterosexuality isn't objectionable, why would homosexuality be?

Nov. 18th, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
Exactly! That question was what started the whole problem--it is a majorly problematic thing to ask, especially in an environment where student safety should be paramount and, in particular, your responsibility. Such as, I don't know, WHEN YOU'RE TEACHING A CLASS.
Nov. 18th, 2009 05:21 am (UTC)
Oh God, Dorian... I want to go to Guelph right now and give you a big hug. :( Good for you for leaving. Don't go back until she gives you a damn good apology when you talk to her.

What the frig does she think she's doing? As you said, sexual preference is a part of a person's IDENTITY. Ugh.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )