23Sept2012S3: What gets left at the door
I've always thought a lot about "what gets left at the door" when entering (or leaving) a classroom that fosters growth, enrichment, education. To frame question in a different way, a way that reveals how I believe this topic is pertinent to our class theme, I’ve thought a lot about what topics and at what times we should remain silent in the classroom. This post is to express my thoughts on this in relation to our experience together this past week.
As I think we all know, a type of objectivity, lack of emotion and personal investment, and reason is valued in the classroom. The reasons are easy to point out: doing so allows us to remain concentrated on the subject matter at hand. What’s more, this allows the classroom a freedom to discuss and debate without the worry that sentimental opinions and feelings will hinder the intellectual pursuit. Phrases and thoughts like “Leave your baggage at the door, otherwise, you won’t contribute to the classroom appropriately” or “Don’t speak about how you’re sad or about your personal life, that has nothing to do with our readings”, to the “Well, shit, now I definitely can’t say anything; I’m just going to hurt your feelings” all hopefully elucidate what I mean. Academia believes that emotions and our personal self get in the way of intellectual pursuit.
I won’t deny that I, myself, am embedded into this mentality, but I also see major problems within it. For one, reinforcing the space to value more “male” characteristics (i.e. reason) over female (emotions) merely perpetuates patriarchy. Aside from feminist reasons, emphasizing reason over emotion is also “…steeped in classical rhetorical dualisms…” (Price, 30). In other words, understanding the classroom to be a space for more objective discussion over simplifies the interactions that happen within them. One can’t neatly sequester some classroom discussions as rational or emotional. An “objective” discussion can get heated, and people’s feelings do get hurt even if they choose to remain silent about it. All of this is to say that merely emphasizing reason or objectivity within the classroom does not take away the personal self from the equation. As such, we should take advantage of it and utilize it within our discussions. Certain baggage should not be left at the door, but instead, should be cherished.
But the above is part of the answer I would give two weeks ago. The answer above understands how we should problematize the objectivity that is praised in classrooms and would go into the very same rhetoric that Price uses to explain stuff like eudaimonia and Platonic and Aristotelian muthos. It would give examples and anecdotes of what would be appropriate within the class while exploring all different aspects of what it means to be human. The only problem with the above answer is that it wouldn’t have fully practiced what it preached in a lot of ways. It wouldn’t know the experience of a classroom where people’s personal lives and histories were deeply embedded within the dialogue. It wouldn’t have gone through coming out of a classroom completely exhausted emotionally. It wouldn’t have known what it is like to priority on a classmate’s well-being over coming to an understanding over the texts we were assigned to read.
I know I’m speaking remarkable abstractly, but for confidentiality reasons, I don’t feel right going more into depth. For now, I feel as if the only thing I can say is that I’ve come to realize this past week is you often never choose what came in with you after all. I didn’t expect to discuss how much I wrestle with my Asian-American identity when I came to class that day. I doubt that people predicted to become so raw and exposed in front of all of us when they did. Discussions in an intimate space like a classroom can develop awesome energies and can move directions that no one could have predicted. To say that some things must be left as the door may help to maintain some decorum at times, but to attempt to enforce at all times does not give credit to what can happen in that 1 ½ hour time frame.
But at the same time, I’ve also now brought a lot more in with me and do not feel the ability to speak about it. There have been multiple occasions this past week where there have been things on topic that directly affect my life in deep ways. To hear people discuss and share anecdotes about there lives and opinions on such topics is hard. It remains right in front of you and must remain silent about it for the protection of others.
I’m not doing a good job with this latter half. I’ll try and come back to it later.