I am teaching Psychology of Gender this semester. In my program at D.U., graduate students get full teaching responsibilities after a year of school. We design our courses, write our syllabi, teach our classes alone and unaided, and assign grades. We are queens and kings of pedagogy. Our stipend amount implies that we must take our jobs seriously but also find a non-monetary reward in teaching, generally, the opportunity to corrupt the “youth” (plus or minus eight years my age, generally) as we see fit. My corruption, which I’m afraid has only been marginally successful thus far, consists in urging my students to accept the midwife model of learning, see themselves as produces rather than consumers of knowledge and that seeming-substance we term “society”, take seriously and as valid objects of contemplation their own opinions and the pop-culture they live amidst and continuously reproduce, feel capable of reading primary sources and recognize that all secondary sources (including textbooks and their professor’s rhetoric, even and especially my rhetoric) are interpretations, and generally to think about what they’re doing in the world. I really like it when they express a sense that a lot of things about their educations haven’t served them well, because it’s true and shows some emerging enlightenment to be able to say so. Giving my students as much practice as I can with articulating things in speech and writing is the major way I try to get all of this to come about.
After inadvertently (but unabashedly) revealing my pro-choice leanings to my class at this Catholic institution in the second week of the semester, I’ve posted the following note for my students.
“Over the semester, you will get an idea about my various opinions, biases, theoretical orientations, political leanings, etc. (not necessarily because these are things I want to share with you, but because they’re very difficult to hide, particularly in a class like ours that involves so much discussion and includes content that tends to have personal relevance for many people).
The goal of the class, however, is not for you to figure out what I believe and then agree with me (or pretend to agree with me)! This class is meant to provide means for you to think about your own ideas and opinions. Therefore, please know that I will never punish you for disagreeing with me. Your grades, my expectations for your class participation, my general interest in your development as a student and scholar, etc. will not be affected by whether our opinions about whatever are the same or whether they differ.”
I hope they believe me!