name calling

Sat, 31 Dec 1994 00:31:38 EST

Thank you, Mike; thank you, Ruby.
First class I ever taught anywhere was next month, twenty ago. In
that class I told my students I had certain quirks which I was
going to insist upon: all work would be in on time, all work would
be typed, sex-specific language would not be used unless you meant
to be talking about just one-half of the human race. But if you
wanted me to hear what you were saying you were going to have to
make sure I was permitted to be part of the audience.
And, since I was female and had learned early on how to find my
way to the door marked "Ladies," or "Women" or even "Cowgirls"
(or whatever the local establishment's variation on the theme
was), then you, my student had better write in a way that
invited female me to read what you wrote.

For a long, long time no one ever objected. What I said made
good sense to them once I'd explained myself. I told them by
getting their papers in on time, I would promise to get them
back within two class periods and to discuss the class's
work as a whole in class. I told them typing their papers
(or getting them typed) would make their papers better. They
would actually have to read what they wrote one more time.
That might catch a major problem in the nick of time.

And as for my insistence on the use of inclusive language,
again, this should not be a problem. They would have to
think before they wrote. Once they learned to do that,
accurate speech would become easier. And their audience
would be bigger. It would include me, and their mothers
too. This was obviously a good thing, a goal to be desired.

And no one complained. Not ever. Until recently.

I can't call it a "complaint," exactly. It's more a thick,
crude sludgey feeling I get when I lay out my rules to my
classes. I confess I feel that way, too, some days. After
all, I've been teaching (adjunct) for a long, long time--20
years next month. And, it's clear to me that my colleagues
do not commonly insist upon accurate (ie, inclusive) speech
in their students' papers as a matter of course and of good
form. You'd think some would after all this time, wouldn't

No, indeed, Mike is right. This list was quick to chasten
Ruby, quick to say it really doesn't matter. You all know
name calling does matter. Any act of aggression matters--and
those deliberately selected are the ones which matter most
and are not excusable. As I write this, I am punching the
keys down hard because I am remembering too 14 young women
murdered at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal five years
ago by a young man, who ordered all of the men out of the
room before he opened fire on the women remaining. Why
did he do that? They were engineering students. He wasn't.
As best as anyone knows, that's why.

There's a connexion here to the women's clinics in Massachusetts
to be made, but I'm wearied of doing it. That sludge is
getting pretty thick, pretty gruesome.

Please, my side of the human race cannot win this one alone.
We need some big guys on our side this round. Everyone of
us who is a teacher has a necessary role here.

Maureen Korp, PhD
University of Ottawa mkorp@uottawa