For the longest time, I thought The Moody Blues were singing about knights in white satin. As a girl, but also well into adulthood too I understood the 1967 hit single as a tribute to Arthurian legend. Why, after all, such impressive crescendo if not for the likes of Lancelot riding into battle?
A few days ago one of my students announced in class,
I hate Catholics.
Me: Do you perhaps mean you’re opposed to Catholicism?
Student: To what?
Me: Catholicism. Stating that you’re opposed to all people who identify as Catholic might not be what you mean. Catholicism is the religious practice. Some aspect of Catholicism might be easier to critique than all of the individuals who practice it.
Student: Catha . . . catha what?
Me, slowly: Catholicism.
Student: Catha . . . yeah, I can’t say that word. I’m against it.
Of course not all exchanges on a university campus go like this. Admittedly, this student is underprepared for college. It happens often enough in a state that doesn’t champion quality education: Tennessee ranks in the bottom 10 states in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and second to last in ACT scores.
If these dismal assessments aren’t convincing, it’s easy enough to characterize the state’s disregard for education and equality via some of our representatives, like Sen. Todd Gardenhire who voted against health care coverage for Tennesseans but when asked if he’d give up his own state-sponsored insurance, called his questioner an asshole. Or Rep. Rick Womick who justifies his proposal to limit women’s access to legal abortions: “Is it my responsibility to keep your britches up?”
Characters like Gardenhire and Womick are not unlike my student in that they go for simplistic one-liners rather than logical argument, and tend to shut down rather than encourage dialogue. While I doubt many students carefully monitor state politics and politicians, the sound bites trickle down Continue reading