February 26, 2016 by gregrabidoux2013
Race. Politics. Ethnicity. Gender Relations. Sexism. Campus Assaults. Exams. Grades.
Even “The Donald.”
All sensitive subjects and all are apparently taboo, off-limits for professors at the University of Houston to bring up in their classrooms.
Well, now that students can carry guns to their classes it seems faculty members are admittedly and openly nervous about um, triggering any intense feelings that could ostensibly lead to gunfire. Okay, “The Donald” I get but the other topics, really, isn’t stirring emotions and fostering questioning one’s beliefs and convictions at least in part, what learning is all about?
No, many say at The University of Houston. Emphatically, No.
In fact, faculty and even some administrators are advising colleagues to simply try and avoid doing or saying anything that could spark the type of feelings or reactions that could lead to armed violence.
You mean like giving a student a bad grade, however deserved it may be?
Well, a number of universities and faculty members across our country are applauding this type of admonishment as a means to avoid anything that could create the kind of in-class controversy that could end in bloodshed.
On the one hand, this type of presumptive thinking and fear at the UH is preposterous, right?
Just because students can and admittedly will mosey on into their class packing pistols doesn’t necessarily mean any bad will come of it supporters argue. Besides, the main point here they assert is that if some lone gunman (or, woman, I suppose) or would-be terrorist with bad intentions shows up then any number of students, even a gun-toting faculty member can quickly and lethally “take them out.”
And, of course, by “out” we don’t mean to the campus quadrangle to get a stern scolding.
On the other hand (the one not inches away from the trigger), what could possibly go wrong when you mix young adults with racing hormones, less than fully developed frontal lobes, drugs, alcohol and the pressure of getting good grades with lethal firearms and then force them all to sit together in a confined room? Which, if it’s anything like those I’ve taught in over the years is incredibly cold when it’s hot outside, incredibly hot when it’s cold outside and never seems to have enough oxygen. (I know, I know, I gotta upgrade my teaching facilities, but I digress).
In my 15 or so years of teaching college and graduate students I have seen students verbally insult one another, get into altercations either in or just outside of the classroom, get moved to tears either over the discussion in class or by comments made to them by a classmate and have had several make threats to other students, once over who would sit nearest the window (see, dang thermostat issues again!).
And that doesn’t include the various bomb threats, fire alarms, and lock-downs due to weapon notices received nor two shootings I knew of at fraternity parties gone bad.
Now, I have been fortunate in that I have had very few if at all instances in my own classroom that I describe above. But all the above and more certainly occurred at various campuses and classrooms over the years (Well, the thermostat issue was in one of my classes but that was resolved by some creative seating arrangements. Thankfully).
Stuff happens. And it doesn’t all happen and get all resolved at the high school level before these students descend on campuses of higher education. But you and I and everyone else knew that. How could you not with the number of campus assaults and shooting we endure annually and tragically between grades K-16.
And, because so much stuff happens, will mixing in lethal firearms be good or bad for campuses across the country?
Similarly, though not exactly, these are the type of questions we as a nation ask when states pass laws allowing firearms in places where alcohol is legally served, like bars and restaurants with bars.
But, institutions of higher learning somehow were historically thought to be different. More innocent. More pure. More civil. Less like anywhere else with people who so often act like they never quite graduated from adolescence.
It’s been my experience though, that campuses are a microcosm of society, just with much bigger ratios of 18-25 year olds playing beer pong than in mainstream society. I think.
Lawmakers tout the need to do something to thwart would-be gunmen and armed terrorists attacking our schools. And who could argue with needing to do more? And arming our students and allowing them to be gunmen and gunwomen as a deterrent continues to gain support.
As for me? Well, I teach politics, public policy and law. Geez, no room for possible controversy and hard feelings there, right?
Maybe that’s why for the last couple of years now I teach on-line. Full-time.
Do I miss the in-classroom experience?
Well, at least I know what hot-buttons to avoid pushing on myself.