or….a Scamp and intolerance.
I’ve had really horrible heartburn all day. Not only does it feel like something is eating away my esophagus, but it is leaving a bad taste in my mouth (of course, that could also be the combination of Tums and toothpaste) There is another strong possibility for the bad taste in my mouth though. It could very well be leftover bad feelings about my Language, Culture and Pedagogy class yesterday morning.
I knew the day was not going to be the best when I woke up. I was extremely tired, and even though the morning was clear, it was cold and my bed was warm. When I got to class everyone was grumbling about the homework that was assigned and the incomprehensible reading we were given. When the professor got to class, instead of asking us if we had any questions about the readings, she scolded us like we were five year olds because we did not post a non-homework assignment that is not being graded or used for anything outside of the one class that we discussed it in. She was pissed too. She told us that she knew what was best for us, and that when she asked us to do something, she expected us to do it (I’m pretty sure her tone of voice indicated that she thought that was too much for us to handle). She had given us a homework assignment that required us to go to the pub and observe people, so when it was clear that some of us did not post the non assignment, she asked if we had gotten drunk at the pub and decided not to take her seriously. I was a bit insulted, but since my group didn’t post, I felt like I had earned a little of her wrath. It wasn’t handled very well, and I did not appreciate feeling like I was five and colored on the wall, but I was tired, so I tuned her out and tried (and failed) to stay awake in class. One of the other girls in class spoke up and said she didn’t appreciate being talked to that way since she was doing the assigned reading and assignments. The professor mocked her, and basically ignored the comment in general.
Once we got around to discussing the readings, things got really interesting. One of the concepts that we are focusing on in this class is intercultural competence. We are learning how to be good moderators of culture, and how to best understand all of the students that we will potentially have in our classrooms. One of the concepts involved looking at complex situations in which cultures clashed, and as a group, students are supposed to come to a conclusion of what could be done in these situations so as not to offend any one culture. The two scenarios that were given as examples were very controversial. One involved a westernized woman in the Middle East being scolded quite forcefully because her head and body were not covered. The other scenario involved a Middle Eastern man in a westernized country who gets forcefully scolded for stopping in the middle of the street to pray.
Both of the scenarios are quite serious, and as one of the members of the class put it, “It would be next to impossible to get people to agree on a conclusion of what should be done in these situations. If you have a class that is a mix of western and eastern people, they are not going to agree on how these should be handled.” The professor jumped in and said that part of the theory was about negotiation.
This is where the fun began.
One woman in the class is from Palestine. She is very traditional, she keeps most of her body, including her head covered, and she is clearly very very very pro Palestine. She immediately puts her two sense in, saying that negotiations are pointless, and the only way to get what you want is through the use of weapons. She then went on a tirade about how Israel stole all of Palestine’s land, and how they have all the power, so they have no reason to negotiate for anything. She talked about the 20 years of being killed and abused by Israel, and how all the problems started with Bill Clinton (she looked at me and the other American in the class when she said this). She went on and on about how the people in Palestine were not slaves, or oppressed, but their land was stolen, and Israel was refusing to be reasonable. The Irish girl in the class spoke up and talked about the peace treaty between the Republic and Northern Ireland, and how before negotiations, the two side wanted to kill each other. I mentioned that women in the US had no power when they negotiated with men for the right to vote, but they didn’t kill anyone to get what they wanted. The Palestinian woman shook her head to all of this and said the only way to get peace was with weapons. She said, “If someone kills you, you should kill them back.” Everyone was uncomfortable at this point, but the prof let the woman continue her tirade. One of the British men in the class pointed out that Gandhi didn’t use force to get what he wanted. but she overlooked that as well. 40 minutes later we had not started the lesson, had a break, or done anything worth while. I was really uncomfortable. I’m a Jew, and American, so to this woman, I am the ultimate enemy….good thing she doesn’t know I am Jewish.
Here is the thing: I’m not upset that she has an opinion that differs from me. I’m upset that she felt the need to stand on her soapbox with a totally brainwashed one sided opinion and then tell the Chinese girls in the class her one sided view of the conflict. I am not saying Israel is perfect, and I am not saying that negotiations are not working because of Palestine, but the middle of a cultural sensitivity class is not the time or place for her views. She is not the least bit culturally informed, or sensitive, and I did not feel comfortable enough to voice my opinion, or even tell the woman she is the reason that the theory of cultural negotiation didn’t work. I resent that I went to class and the professor didn’t think to stop the soapbox and actually teach us. I ended up sleeping through her lecture when she finally got around to it, and then later in the day I was so annoyed by what happened, that I was telling girls who were not in the class about how we were treated like five year olds, only to have the professor walk by and smile at me (and yes, I said her name, and I was talking loud enough for her to hear me).
Here is my dilemma: one of the girls in the class was also really insulted by being talked down to, and then having to listen to the argument for 40 minutes. She plans to go to our program director and tell him the situation and see if he can help us out. I think that maybe we should try to talk to the professor first and voice our concerns, but she has a reputation for being a bitch, and no one wants her wrath directed at them. I’m so tired that part of me just wants to let it go and chalk it up to her not being a good teacher, and know that next week is a new week and she will probably be fine. I can always raise my hand and complain in class if a discussion like this is repeated and nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. Part of the class is about learning how to understand and demonstrate our understanding of various cultures, so I think I am going to try that.
Should I say something though, and if so, to whom? Or, should I just let it go and focus on the homework, writing assignments and my upcoming dissertation? (I’m in favor of the last option)