So I’m now into the second monthof the semester, and the Lit class is going well. The Civil Rights class, however, is another matter.
Let me be clear here, because I’ve been consistently referring to this class as “Civil Rights.” It’s actually called “American Civil Rights Movement,” and the college course bulletin description reads thusly:
Examines the impact of the civil rights movement of the 20th century on American society. Offers a comprehensive history of the people, stories, events and issues in the struggle for social justice in the United States.
Let me just say, too, that I was totally. freaking. stoked. for this class. When I was younger, I went through phases of being passionate about politics and social justice. In the past four or five years, though, I’ve spent a lot more time reading about and researching the concept of social justice, and I’ve come to realize it’s NOT something that I can care about only when it’s convenient for me. And though I’d read about some of the major events and players in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, I was thrilled to find an opportunity to study it in detail.
The texts that we are using are fantastic, full of first hand accounts and great history on important people, cases and events. The papers and discussion questions created by the professor seemed exciting, too (only a true nerd can say that), and I was really looking forward to some intellectual discussion about the movement and its impact on the way social justice is shaped in America.
What I’m finding instead, though, is a class with several fundamentally conservative individuals who, though not the most educated or eloquent, are definitely the loudest. Two members of the class in particular have been posting right-wing rhetoric, using Bible verse to “back up” their arguments, and calling foul any time they don’t like the way a disagreement is posed. Instead of discussions on youth and the possibility of social change, or the philosophy of non-violence, we have discussions around the morality of abortion and homosexuality. We have racism masquerading as victimology.
I am trying to respond to each posting with integrity, using factual arguments and logical, reasoned language. I am trying to refrain from reacting with emotion, although it’s difficult. I have posted a number of times that a) this is not a class about anyone’s personal moral compass, b) this is not the appropriate forum for debating the morality of a single action or behavior, and c) it’s not effective to use biblical arguments in a class such as this, because not everyone views the same scriptures as authoritative.
Mostly my points have gone ignored, excepting my one (one!) liberal ally in the class.
Since the most recent explosion of posts (which started just after Thanksgiving), the professor monitoring the discussion board has yet to step in and redirect the conversation. He made it clear at the beginning of class that his method is to allow conversations to take place without his interference, though he stated that he would redirect if he felt the discussions were moving off track. I hope he does.
In the meantime, I’m stepping out of the current conversation. Next week’s should be decidedly less controversial: the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. The one after that, though, I’m not looking forward to: Affirmative Action, yay or nay?