Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd"

~ Voltaire

In preparation for today's midterm, I asked my students to read a short essay by Shoba Narayan called, "In This Arranged Marriage, Love Came Later." Narayan, a young woman who grew up in India but was educated in America, describes how she married a man selected by her family and only grew to love him later:
Stupid and dangerous as it seems in retrospect, I went into my marriage at twenty-five without being in love. Three years later, I find myself relishing my relationship with this brilliant, prickly man who talks about the yield curve and derivatives, who prays when I drive, and who tries valiantly to remember names like Giacometti, Munch, Kandinsky.
Narayan concludes by explaining how her friends are "appalled" but "intrigued" that she let her parents choose her husband, quoting her friend: "How can I get my parents to pick out my spouse when they don't even talk to each other?"

On the midterm, I asked students to argue their opinion about arranged marriage: Could it work in the States, why or why not? My hope is that they see the gray area, that it isn't really a yes or no question.  But I keep going back to this idea in my head that I want them to take risks but also conform to a certain set of rules. (I posted my sample response a couple months ago).

Part of me feels like I'm playing a subversive game of politics. While I try to stay neutral in the classroom (this was especially tough last fall!), I don't share the conservatism that most of my students possess. My worldview tells me to break things apart, see things from different perspectives, and that these varied perspectives should be held in high regard. I won't try to define the conservative point of view, but "varied perspectives" are not as important; my ideas of "right" and "wrong" aren't as solid as those of my students. When I challenge them to seek out those different ways of looking at things, perhaps I'm also challenging their worldview, just as they continually challenge mine.  

I want them to use writing to explore and to dance around. My job is to teach them to use basic writing skills to communicate. But maybe I should liken it to learning how to drive when I was 15 or 16 on my mom's little Honda Civic with manual transmission. It took a while because I had to pay attention to so many things in addition to the clutch and the gears. But today, while I can easily drive an automatic, I love driving my little Toyota with the stick. I hope to teach them how to write with a manual transmission where they know how to select their own gears.

Ha. I sat down thinking I had nothing to say. 

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