Thursday, November 30, 2006

What the F***!

So, my WS class is having a nice little discussion of Ken Burn's documentary, Not For Ourselves Alone. In case you haven't seen this documentary, it features Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and their heroic struggle to get women the vote.

Anyway, I got to tell ya, I need to vent. And, let me just say that I know my venting will piss off some people, who will see me as a pious moralizer, but I am venting to the sympathetic ones. I ask the students what they think of the film? Luckily, I get a lot of wonderful responses. And, then, it happens, a student raises her hand and says: I think the point of this film is that Stanton and Anthony gave me the right to not vote.

Look. I am sure many people feel this way. But. Please. Don't. Say. That. Outloud.

Another student raises her hand and says: "I am 19 and I haven't even registered yet."

Then, like a flood, they confess. They confess that they don't really care. They confess that it is nice to have the right, but they don't need to exercise it. And, just when I thought I have heard more than enough, they start letting it all come out . . . "You know, when I watch films like this it just makes me feel guilty. I feel like I am supposed to do something like them. But, what if I want to stay home with my children." I respond, as I have all semester, "raising children is important work. Feminists value motherhood as much as you do. The point is that the fact you have to either make heroic struggles to juggle them both, or feel guilted into one or the other is something we need to change."

The conversation moves onto the ERA. Students start asking about the history of the ERA and what happened. A young man in the back row of my class raises his hand and says: "You know, in principle, the ERA sounds great. But, I looked into this and if we had the ERA, we would have to get rid of Sororities and Fraternities and single-sex schools." Upon hearing this, many were convinced that the ERA would not be a good idea. I held my tongue. I had to hold my tongue. I am not campaigning in the classroom.

I started thinking about these sorts of reactions we get from students, the heightened apathy. Or, the "well, that sounds like a good idea, but it just isn't 'practical'" variety. What the fuck? I can't figure out if they are just too privileged to care about inequality, or that they are overwhelmed with the sorts of demands caring would make on their lifestyle. In either case, there is not point obsessing on this. After all, this is how students are here and it is how they will continue to be.

So, how do I console myself now. Simple. After a long faculty meeting wherein it was made plain that a great deal of our operating budget comes from overenrolling students who can pay their way, a lightening bolt hit. 2 students--2 glorious, curious, hard-working and ambitious students--get their way paid for by 30 apathetic, eye-rolling, "do I have to do something?" students. If you can just keep that algorithm in mind, you can sleep better at night.

(Can you tell it's the end of the semester?)