I Was a Willing Participant

I Was a Willing Participant

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I Was a Willing Participant

Toward the end of last semester, I registered for this class mainly for one reason: I had had Emily as a professor before, I liked her class and her teaching style very much, and I wanted to again take a class she was teaching. This was my first opportunity to do so, and I jumped on it. In the bulletin, the class was described as the Graduate Writing Seminar, and through the grapevine, I found out it was not a creative writing class, but instead, a study in critical feminist pedagogies.What the hell, I thought. Iíll take it anyway. After all, I really just wanted to take another class with Emily, whatever the topic might be.

Over winter break, I started thinking about who else would be in the class. I am sure some of the usual suspects would be in Dixon 432 on that first day. Sure enough, when I walked, in I saw Alicia, Megan, Kate, and Kelly, just as I had expected. Before that first day, however, the number one thought going through my mind about this class and the makeup of my classmates was, of course, just how many males would be in that room. For a while, I thought I may be the only one, but I shook that thought out of my mind pretty quickly when I reminded myself that, after all, this was grad school, and the guys here were actually open minded and weren't afraid to take a class containing the prefix fem. I was right. In walked to see Gary and Leon. I had had classes with both of them before, and I knew their ways of thinking, so I felt ìsafe.î (Though I must admit that when Gary first proclaimed himself a ìfeministî in Sharon Lewis' class last semester, my initial thought was ìthis guy just wants to get laid.î That was stupid and wrong.)

So here I was, one-third of a population of a class that was certainly not going to be the topic of discussion for the next 5 or so months. I was ready to accept that. The program here at MSU had given me many chances to expand my thinking in ways that I had not previously been exposed to, and this class was yet another in that long line.

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I knew and enjoyed Emilyís teaching style, I respected the opinions of my classmates (yes, even, and possibly especially, Garyís), and I was prepared for a stimulating semester of ìcritical feminist pedagogyî stuff.

And I got what I expected. But I got more as well. Iím at the point in this class where what I have ìlearnedî canít really be spelled out in very clear terms. I canít say this class has taught me any tangible fact, at least not in the way the Research or Theory classes did. I wonít look back on this class and say to myself, ìthank God I took critical feminist pedagogies because now I will have no problem finishing grad school and going on to bigger and better things in my professional life.î Thatís not what this class was about. Yes, I learned theories. Yes, I learned concepts. And yes, those theories and concepts will, in the long run, help me along the rest of the M.A. path, but that wasnít the point. Not at all.

When I look back on this class, I will look at it in two ways. Before taking this class, I had the utmost respect for women. That certainly did not change, nor did I expect it to. But then again, this class was not about women. It did not male-bash, nor did it female-praise. Going into this semester, I half-expected it to do one or the other, or even a combination of both. I donít know why, really, because my grad school experience to that point had been nothing but freeing and open-minded. Yet, nonetheless, I expected this class to be the most volatile one I would have taken to date, at least for me. It wasnít.

I will also look back on this class for what it was, and for what it did do for me. It opened my mind, as all my classes here have done to some degree. While I am not currently a teacher, and frankly, I am not even sure if I ever will be, this class has showed me that the methods and pedagogies that we examined can be applied to everyday life, and do not (should not) be relegated to only the classroom. The readings in class, my research for the final paper, and the style in which the class was taught all helped me greatly in my approach to writing, both for myself and for how I see others. It has shown me that there is more than one way to do something, and there is especially more than one way to teach.

I went to good schools all my life, from kindergarten on through college. I had female teachers from day one, probably more females than males in fact. Looking back, there was a glaring lack of minority teachers in the schools I went to, having only white teachers for every class (except Spanish) for every year until I hit college (and even there, I had only one black professor in 4 years). That is not to say that only females or minorities can teach in the tradition of the feminist pedagogies we have discussed all semester, but it is to say that I had never been exposed to them before grad school. This class has done what I expected it to do by continuing the positive aspects of the grad school experience for me.

Now what? Will I run out and change the world? Will I convince writing teachers all across America to use creative writing as an effective composition tool, or to allow their students to help in the development of their syllabi? Or maybe I can start a lecture series on WAC, or preach about the teachings of Susan Jarrat and Adrienne Rich? I donít think so. I donít have time. What I can do is be myself. I can use what I have learned here and take it out to whoever wants to listen. I am not about to tell educated, well-read, learned people that they have been thinking incorrectly all their lives. But I can change my own ways of thinking. And you know what? Iím getting married less than 6 months. Iím a part-time comic. I have a full-time ìregularî job. Iím a 25-year-old white male living what appears to be a full, interesting, yet relatively normal life. And just maybe I can show people how Iíve changed my ways of thinking along those avenues of my normal life. I will have children someday, and rest assured they will respect people for who they are and not treat them differently for who they arenít. I can instill in them the values and ideals that were passed on to me by my parents, but altered in my own experiences. And those experiences certainly include this class, as well as all my classes here at MSU.

So, in short, this class hasnít taught me a thing. But it wasnít supposed to teach. It wasnít about that. (Okay, it was about teaching, but the class itself wasnít trying to teach.) It was about sharing, and about letting others know that there are different ways of doing things, different ways of thinking, different ways of acting. And I donít think those things can be ìlearnedî as much as they need to be shared. You canít teach thinking unless the student is a willing participant. And looking back, I can certainly say I was.
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