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On Fri, 18 Aug 2000 [log in to unmask] wrote:

> Several professors talked about how they worked with
> students to find an alternate which I think is not only fair but
> truest to a genuine spirit of education.

These professors are to be commended, certainly.  Kindness and sympathy
are traits I try to cultivate as a teacher.  But just so the students see
the other side, I'd like to remind them that sometimes, especially when
you're teaching a film course to ninety students and the preparation is
crushing and timing and organization are crucial, making exceptions to and
providing substitutes for sensitive students is hard to do.  I have had
students object to films with suicide depicted (because a family member or
a friend committed suicide).  And then there was the student, already
mentioned, who couldn't stomach "The Draughtsman's Contract" because she
had been raped.  The best you can do is listen sensitively to their story
and suggest they skip that film.  And to remember them and grade their
exams and papers accordingly.  But to try to anticipate every tragedy and
censor your material, or to have thought of substitutes ahead of time for
those who might have been raped, suffered a family death, been beaten up,
kidnapped, lost a child... then we become counselors and not professors,
and this is NOT true to the spirit of education.  We aren't trained
psychologists.  We are textual critics and teachers.  Literature and film
often depict the harsh realities of the world.  Nobody here is saying
"students should take what we give."  It has already been expressed that a
student has the freedom not to watch, not to take the class, and to alert
the professor to his or her distaste and ask for dispensation.  But to ask
for a substitute... I'd go nuts.  Perhaps if students knew how long it
takes to prepare a course and fit its texts into the course context, they
would be a little kinder in asking their professors to alter their plans
for their needs.  I'm all for one explaining bravely why one cannot watch
or deal with a film.  I'm less inclined to want to provide this student an
independent study, though.  I am usually pretty flexible and I give
independent studies all the time, but they would be easier to offer with
smaller and fewer classes and less pressing academic demands.  These
things differ, of course, from college to college.  Berkeley: big,
impersonal, professor often completely frazzled with duties and numbers.
Scripps: tiny, intimate, beautiful, professor has much more academic and
social contact with the students. Rochester, somewhere in the middle
trying to be both... <G>


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Sarah L. Higley                            [log in to unmask]
Associate Professor of English                office:  (716) 275-9261
The University of Rochester                   fax:     (716) 442-5769
Rochester NY, 14627
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Py dydwc glein / O erddygnawt vein?
"What brings a gem from a hard stone?"               Book of Taliesin
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