Miss Anonymous has gotten me reminiscing about my days as an Education student, and it's kind of fun. She brought up a small incident in class where we made "concept charts", and I went off on my own instead of sticking with the group. It's funny that people talked about that afterwards. It was a very small incident, not something involving any conflict, but its something Miss Anonymous remembers coming up in discussions after my classmates found out I "wouldn't be returning".
Although we tell the story from very different perspectives, her version backs up mine its most important aspects. In my version, I say that the thing I found most disturbing was the way the whole excercise, whether by overt design or merely by subliminal groupthink, was directed towards fostering uniformity of thought. Miss Anonymous confirms this in several subtle ways. She recalls that many of the maps produced by the various groups were "...similar." (emphasis on the three dots.) And she confirms by omission that Professor Bush pointedly removed my map from the discussion. And she validates my observation about the huge social forces tending to enforce uniformity of thought within the program when she expressing genuine shock that in second year, some students actually managed to "find their own direction" without being penalized for it!
And yet she still clings to the conclusion that I simply misunderstood the good intentions of my classmates towards me, thereby (by implication) ultimately being responsible for my own alienation from the group. She gives no overt examples of hostility on my part towards my classmates; quite the contrary. But her overriding perspective is that my removal from the program was ultimately justified because of my "apparent discomfort in being subordinate to other teachers or to the administration". (She even quotes herself twice on this.) In other words, the social tendencies I displayed in this little in-class excercise, where I was uncomfortable being pressured (by Moonface) to go along with the ideas being pushed by my "superiors" (Professor Bush!)...those are the things that ultimately made me unsuitable for the teaching profession. She further professes bafflement as to why I identified this little incident as a "microcosm" of the things wrong with the Education program.
By the way, I don't really have anything against Moonface. I said the other day that he didn't like me very much...I think this is fair comment. It wasn't so much a matter of dislike as a total mismatch of worldviews. It's like I said...after I presented my ideas on what I though about the concept map, he just looked at me with slack-jawed bafflement, and then proceeded to do what he was going to do as though I didn't even register on him. What I didn't know then, and only learned yesterday from Miss Anonymous, was that Moonface privately thought the whole assignment was a pointless waste of time. But that wasn't going to stop him from taking charge of the group and making sure the prof got exactly what he wanted!
Anyhow, this wasn't the only occasion where Moonface took it upon himself to side with Professor Bush against me. I wonder if Miss Anonymous remember the day we spent a whole class analyzing a Calvin and Hobbes strip. This was another one where people probably thought it was a waste of time, although no one would stand up and say so. In fact, I thought it was a very good educational exercise (as was the concept chart)...except like the concept chart, it too was turned into something pointless by the pedagogical incompetence of Professor Bush.
The theme of the exercise was "put-downs". The idea was that this particular strip was supposed to teach us something about the deleterious effect of put-downs on personal interactions. It starts with Calvin all upset because the teacher has assigned him to work on a group project with Suzy, his goody-goody arch-nemesis. Suzy retorts something to the effect of "how do you think I feel, having to work with a useless good-for-nothing like you?" And then they try to work together, but everything deteriorates into mutual recriminations as Calvin does everything he can to make a mockery of the project.
Professor Bush asked us to start off by counting how may "put-downs" we could identify in the whole comic strip. We broke up into groups, and everyone started...counting. That's all we did! I tried to get a discussion going about what was the point of the strip, but as usual, I got nothing but blank stares.
Then Professor Bush went around from group to group, asking how many putdowns we had found. This group found 17, that group found 23, and so forth. Moonface proudly reported that his group had found fifty-seven! I couldn't help thinking he would have been great on one of Stalin's five-year plans. A real hero of the proletariat. But now I'm being petty...back to the story.
It was near the end of the class, and the prof finally got around to asking what we thought of the story: in particular, who was responsible...Calvin of Suzy...for the collapse of the joint enterprise, the history project. Of course, the obvious answer was Calvin; but with a little guidance from Professor Bush, the class came to the conclusion that both Calvin and Suzy were responsible...Calvin for his obvious craziness, but also Suzy for her unwillingness to harness Calvin's creative energy in positive ways. A happy conclusion.
I had kept my mouth shut until the very end of class because I wanted to see if anyone else had seen what I saw, but in the end no one had. So I spoke up. First I asked how many people thought Calvin was to blame. A few hand went up. Then I asked how many blamed both of them. The great majority of the class. And then I asked...who thinks Suzy was to blame? No one. And then I pointed out: who made the first put-down? It was Suzy!
I was immediately drowned out by voices telling me I was obviously wrong, that it was Calvin who came in all upset at being assigned to work with Suzy. Yes, I managed to make myself heard, Calvin didn't want to work with Suzy. But his rant to that effect contained no specific put-down...just a sense of exasperation that the two of them were incompatible. (Calvin's words were of course more colorful than that, but a careful reading showed that I was right. It was Suzy who started with the put-downs, after which Calvin enthusiastically joined in.)
"It doesn't matter! It's exactly the same as a put-down because he was upset at working with her!" Moonface had suddenly taken control of the floor and declared my position to be invalid. Professor Bush abruptly declared the debate to be over and class broke up.
In retrospect, I have to believe that Professor Bush had completely botched the lesson, just as he botched the concept map lesson by turning it into an exercise in groupthink. I found out later that using Calvin and Hobbes wasn't his idea...that cartoonist Bill Watterson had actually published a book of cartoons to be used for pedagogical exercises, and this was one of them. Surely then, the them of "put-downs" was not something that Professor Bush came up with on his own, but something that he had gotten from the book. That being the case, my interpretation was surely the right one...that despite Calvin's obvious misbehavior in sabotaging the project, we really should have looked at who made the first put-down...namely, Suzy. And yet this seems to have gone right over everyone's head.
It's too bad my classmates, including Anonymous, didn't pick up on this not-so-subtle point. Because on numerous occasions, they accused me of disrespectful behavior towards Professor Bush (and other profs) when I was simply responding (and quite reasonably, I should stipulate) to a completely unjustified put-downs on their part. What else was Miss Anonymous was talking about when she criticized me for being unwilling to show deference to my superiors, and cited that characteristic as justification for me being kicked out of school.
I wonder if she remembers this story differently than I do. In other words, was there one single incident or unpleasant confrontation where she can honestly say that I was the one who "started it"?