Sunday, January 30, 2011

Keep your students...I love mine.

After a bit of agonizing, I chose to bring this piece to a lecture on Maternal Morbidity. I wasn't sure whether it was the most appropriate choice, given that I teach at a large state university, and in general, I don't think my students have the same issues I do with trying to reconcile God, Justice, and the Church (let alone the apostolic succession). At one point I said "If I were teaching this class at [institution I have a B.S. from] I would absolutely use this, because I think it's something relevant, that needs to be discussed there.

Which suddenly made me realize, again, how awesome my students are and how much I love them. A realization that was accompanied by a flashback from a postaccredidation chapel, in which the college president said "All these visitors raved about our students, and asked what they could do to get you guys at their schools. And I said 'We're not giving our students away. Sorry."

I'd imagine that the typical student at said institution would be rather uncomfortable in my class. I started a lecture on sexual health with a blatantly misogynistic quotation from a Focus on the Family publication: "Many, perhaps even most, men in earlier times avidly sought sexual pleasure prior to and outside of marriage. But they usually distinguished, as did the culture generally, between women one fooled around with and women one married, between a woman of easy virtue and a woman of virtue simply. Only respectable women were respected; one no more wanted a loose woman for one’s partner than for one’s mother....Once female modesty became a first casualty of the sexual revolution, even women eager for marriage lost their greatest power to hold and to discipline their prospective mates. For it is a woman’s refusal of sexual importunings, coupled with hints or promises of later gratification, that is generally a necessary condition of transforming a man’s lust into love.”-Leon Kass, 2006

In a matter of minutes they pinned down that beyond endorsing a double standard for men and women's behavior, and validating gender stereotypes, this quote objectifies women and reduces the value of women to their sexual status. I was well out of college before I sorted that out.

In the same lecture I had students mention their single mothers, and how these women who had become pregnant in their teens went to great lengths to ensure that their daughters did not. My kids told me how uncomfortable they feel buying condoms, and how they frequently feel judged by people who witness this...And I encouraged them to take pride in the fact that they were choosing to protect themselves and their partners.

A friend of mine who works for a nonprofit focused on preventing teen pregnancy guest lectured...a part of her job includes helping make clinicians' offices more friendly to youth. My students told her about awkward first gynecologist visits and how some medical professionals assume that they have STIs just because they're college students.

I spent a healthy chunk of this weekend grading response journals, and I'm so impressed with how they put things together, how they can put things together and describe why a topic covered in class matters, and what should be done about it. They're amazing.

And I can't help being rather awed and proud that somehow, I've managed to help give them an environment in which they can both think critically and feel safe.

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