Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
K has been my student for a year and a half so I should have known better than to take the bait. Most of her tuition is paid by a fund that sends “promising” students from public schools to independent/private schools in the state. We know this because she speaks about it constantly, to everyone. She’s generally cheerful, inarticulate, and uninformed (“Ok, so this Helen Keller person… I don’t really know who she was, but anyhoo, so… my sister said that she was blind and deaf. And she couldn’t talk either? But how… like I don’t wanna be mean or, like….well mean I guess but I mean how is that possible? Like at the same time?”)
However I said absentmindedly, “Give us an idea of the theme and we can tell you if we can address it briefly.” I will paraphrase: “So basically, I’m just coasting in school because I have certain advantages… I don’t have to work very hard to be able to, you know…” I cut her off here because I was shocked (and she was floundering). To use the term, “coasting”, I cut in, suggests that K is willing to accept advantages that she doesn’t deserve (I pointed out that K had stated that she does very little work) when others work harder and receive no recognition. That didn’t seem fair to me. There was a ripple in the classroom that I ignored because I was aware of how otherwise silent the room had become.
K was furious and hotly responded that her poor and unprivileged background (i.e. her ancestral background!), which I would never be expected to understand (it was implied that I probably would never think of trying either), entitled her to extra consideration and that colleges did not see the difference between the effort she put in and that of another peer who might be more “privileged”.
With the vivid image of a train shooting off the tracks, I decided to bring the heated exchange to a close. I said firmly that I understood her point but terms like “coasting” were a poor choice for such a sensitive topic because it implied carelessness and passivity. In conversations like these, I went on, it was important to pick one’s words more sensitively. K was very displeased with this conclusion and sulked in her chair. The exchange lasted 3-4 rapid-fire minutes. I felt my knees knocking together under my desk and I swear my stomach tied itself into knots. The room was silent for the rest of the period. I immediately emailed my principal to tell him exactly what happened so he would be looped in.
At the end of class, I asked K to stay for a few moments. I wanted to see if I could clarify how we had communicated at the very least. With a curtain of hair in her face, I explained that while students are free to discuss politics at school, I try to be as neutral as possible though challenging students is important- she sniffed. I understood her interest in today’s topic, but that our class was not the appropriate forum to have such a large-ranging discussion. Hopefully she would understand my intent, as I had understood hers and feel comfortable in my classroom still? She looked at me without blinking and then snapped, “I have to go to crew. Bye.”
I find aspects of this haunting. I know the principal said it would be alright and that K has been provocative with other teachers and administrators too. But I’m aware of the other students’ expressions, how students start to talk, how word spreads about an interaction. The horror of a confrontation with an angry mob of SJWs. K’s words today were offensive and prejudiced in the extreme. How many deserving students cannot come to our school because they are ineligible for financial aid or scholarship programs like K’s? How many would come with such programs and work hard to be deserving of such opportunities?
I feel disconcerted by the episode and there’s nothing to do about it. I couldn’t say more than I did, I didn’t want to say less than I did and I didn’t want to apologize for anything I did say.Published in