Query: dear joy,
i thought you might be interested in a recent article in the atlantic monthly in which "professor x" discusses how he needs to be the one who destroys the dreams of students, in this case a forty-something woman, who return to college or come to college through means other than the traditional route including high sats or excelling in numerous extra-curricular actiivities. he claims he works "at colleges of last resorts." he suggests these students don't belong in college at all.
i write in frustration, as i teach english at colleges in the northeast, but i am also one of the students who returned to college as did his case study ms l. i also faced professors like "x" as a student and as a teacher.
in seeking justice, i feel the need to widely discuss the attitudes of one like "x" and to cry out for ms l and the many others like her. i fell we need to hear her story and the stories of many who face the elitist attitudes of "x" and his ilk. as a teacher, i have been blessed to hear the many stories of struggle, of the need to have a chance. thanks for listening.
(reprinted by permission)
I haven't read the article yet. I have known many professor x's, through personal experience and through the experiences of others.
A prominent native woman poet and professor recently changed departments in a midwestern university, a university known for fostering the careers of many noted international scholars and writers, because a professor x there severely undermined her to students because she is native and female. For many, native people, especially native women have no place in the university.
And the non-traditional student, especially older women with children do not fit into an elite ideal. In the Euro-Christian mode, the university is a distinctly male space. Women belong in the house. There is no female power in the elite trinity of Father-Son-Holy Ghost. That assumption is still the root of most educational institutions, and the root has not been pulled up. Even women buy into this. A female professor in my department has been blogging her distaste for children and those who have them and teach. She has been bullying another female professor who has several children. I don't believe she is the progeny of a virgin birth.
The first day of my first tenure-track university of position in Colorado a professor x greeted me by attacking my poetry as simplistic. It was important for him to make the distinction of his refinement versus my dirty wildness. He circled me to let me know he was watching me, made sure that I knew that I had intruded into a space that didn't belong to me.
And recently I've had to deal directly with a professor x. That is a long, sad story that is still in the making. He's been a tool of great destruction. I imagine he feels that he has been a righteous warrior.
Many of these professor x's hold power no place else. They clench their hard won doctrine with bared teeth. They are born of a culture in which predominate images of the female are images of degradation. Aging women are disappeared women, and those who give birth and/or do any work involving children are paid less and given the least respect of any other position.
Those images don't work anymore, they never did. They create an illusion of a dysfunctional power. We need fresh images of power for both men and women, for all of us. We need images that embody the heavy with the light, joy with sadness, male with female, the Sun and the Moon. These fresh images will have natural roots in ancient images: Buffalo Calf Woman, the Peacemaker, the Virgin de Guadalupe...
It is up to us whether or not these professor x's have power holds in our collective and personal imaginations. This statement may seem on the surface, simplistic. It may not appear to hold the vast complexity of perceptual injustices. However one simple image, or song can revolutionize the thinking of nations. The NASA image of the Earth as a bright and beautiful being signaled the environmental movement. I'm sure you can think of others, or even imagine them.
Get to work!