Have to get this dished out before my third day of school.
My second day of school has worn me out like a first-time kindergardner. It’s the 90-minute classes, I think. And this conversation I had with a classmate:
“I noticed that every single one of our readings is from a male author.”
“Does that make them bad?”
“Of course it makes me mad.”
“No, no. Bad. Does their maleness make them bad? Is their educational value diminished because of it?”
“Well no, but…”
At which point the professor started talking and our chat was over.Eventually, the subject was brought up by another student, and the professor gave a good and obvious response – that given the questions we’re asking in this class, these are the philosophers who cover them the best. He said “I could do a survey course, where everyone gets a fair shake, but in one academic quarter you wouldn’t learn anything about any of them.”
Business as usual. And this is all just so entertaining to me so far. “Real College,” where the things I read in the news are actually happening. During introductions yesterday, a student said “My name is Jordan, and I prefer he/she pronouns.” I rejoiced! A pronoun preference announcement! I HAVE ARRIVED. Refreshingly, the teachers that I have had so far seem to be only paying lip service to the mad PC maelstrom whirling in the campus atmosphere. In British Lit, my professor kept reminding us that Wordsworth didn’t like women, or at least thought they were second class citizens or something. But she seemed only to be saying it to preempt the eight or so kids in the room whom she knew would object if she didn’t say something.
The students are trained and on high alert, to be sure. There’s a (cough, cough) stiffening sensation in the air whenever the word “he” or “man” or “his” is used, especially in the neutral cases like “to each his own.” Or when Wordsworth, in My Heart Leaps Up writes “The child is father of the man,” it does not simply mean that Wordsworth is himself a man, and therefore writing from that perspective. It is determined to mean that Wordsworth is displaying his lack of respect for women, and saying that women do not deserve to be included in this celebration of natural piety.
Some of you reading this may scoff a bit and think that I am overstating the case. Exaggerating. Or at least misinterpreting the situation so that it will fit the narrative that I have gone in search of. Others of you will know that I am more likely understating the case than overstating it. The fact is that for many in academia – students, faculty and administration alike – every masculine noun and pronoun is a signpost on the road to oppression. In simpler, more street-ready terms, masculine pronouns are their little bell, their cue to sit up and start some shit. It’s downright Pavlovian.
If I can take a moment to exercise some naiveté: As far as I can tell, in my boundless optimism and hope, this mess is more fad than fundament. It’ll pass. You can almost see the teachers fighting to hold back a weary and bored sigh every time someone says “white male.” It has whipped up to the point of job loss in places like Yale and Claremont, but I’m starting to think that maybe it has peaked. Chicago wrote the letter to its students and faculty all but telling them to grow up or eff off. Other colleges have done the same. And the Trump thing has waned, big time. Though with the inauguration looming, brace for more hoax crimes and weirdness. Peeps gotsta get clicks and likes and paychecks, and all that. But by March, everyone will be mostly back to business as usual. It’ll be nice.
It’s 8:15 am, and I have to get back to business as usual, too. The kids are playing Pokemon in the basement and confusing Alexa by shouting conflicting commands the moment she begins to execute the previous one. They pause in their play periodically to punch each other and cry, but then get back to touting the powers of the evolved form of Pikachu or something. In other words, for them, for us, it’s business as usual.