Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mixed Bag

I had only one student complain about the film. Although some students in my Mon/Weds class did not like the film and found it repellent, they did not argue that they should not be asked to watch it, and instead did exactly as I would hope: they watched it and had thought about lots of reasons that it was repellent. In other words, they were thinking, paying attention, and wanted to talk about the film. Some others, many, perhaps the majority, were fascinated by the film, and none seemed to have difficulty understanding it as was suggested last week by my colleague. I provided something of a historical context, discussing attitudes about poverty and crime that existed at the time (mostly environmental arguments about the causes of crime, and the subsequent implications of these views), the youth culture of the late 60s and 70s, the Cold War, etc. They seemed to understand very well how these things related to the film, and I got very good in class writing on it, for the start of a discussion on a text.
Of course, I am still deciding what to do about the student who dredged up the censorship appeal, arguing that the film was banned by the Church, something I have not been able to find evidence of, by the way. I am not at all certain that the Catholic Church still has a list of banned texts, though I know they did at the time the film was released.
The student wants to stay in the class and essentially have me teach a whole separate class to her, although I explained the difficulty of this. She cannot take the department chair's class, though he offered two sections of it for her to choose from, or so she says. I am not ready to teach her, but perhaps this is a teachable moment for both of us.


Robin said...

I am sorry you are going through this, Robbi! It seems a bit much for you to have to teach an entire alternative section of the class to one student, though she is in a difficult situation with her religious beliefs, etc. I can only hope with you that your colleagues can help you find another section of the class for her (though this has been difficult, so far), or help you come up with another solution. If I were in your student's shoes, I would simply drop the class and try to find another teacher, another semester, etc. No one is to blame for this situation, and it does not seem right to me that you should have to do all the extra work. Plus, other students might get the idea that they can come up with reasons to expect you to alter the course for them as well(?)

If you do come up with a positive 'teachable moment' from this that enhances your students' and your own learning experiences, more power to you as an instructor! Good luck!!

Robbi said...

I think I may have just talked her into doing the assignment. She came to class, and afterwards, I took her to the TA office and we looked at John Stuart Mill's essay On Liberty. I told her to read it for next Weds. at 1, and I'd meet her at the Writing Lab to discuss it. But in the process of talking about what I envisioned as that alternative class (a discussion of various arguments for and against censorship and a paper contrasting and analyzing them), I began to argue that it didn't serve any useful purpose to run from something she found hateful, and that confronting it and articulating a reasoned argument about it would be far more empowering. She asked me what was in it for her, and I persuaded her (isn't that my job, after all?) to give it a try. Let's see whether she can do it.