Question of Atheist Scruples – Teach your children well

You are an English teacher. A student who is failing your subject needs the credit to get into nursing. Do you pass the student?

Of course not. I’d remind said student that if s/he approached the nursing courses with the same half-assed approach used in this English class, people will die. Knowledge of English – or any other language required/desired – is important. Being able to explain yourself in writing and understand what others have explained in writing is a necessity for a lot of jobs, certainly for nursing. They don’t need to finish the class as an expert in grammar or poetry or whatever the course happens to cover, but they can’t fail it and think it doesn’t matter in the long run. It will and it does.

I’m reminded now of a story coming out of Yale this month about some students having a fit mandatory starting a petition to spread concern over the mandatory English poetry courses focused solely on the old white CIS men of European history. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, various other dudes.

They’re complaining that the English course isn’t diverse enough — except it is. Beyond the mandatory English courses that form the core of the degree, students are welcome to take classes on lesbian literature, black women writers, and whatever other options are available that will fill their credit requirements.

They still have to take and pass the courses about the straight white men of literary history because where we are now has everything to do with what they started and why they wrote what they did. They had the money and the power and the privilege to get their ideas out into the world at a time when the gays, the women, people of colour did not.

Maybe the university could make a couple diversity courses mandatory if they haven’t already, but otherwise a student’s education is completely up to the student. Be well rounded, or focus energy on something/someone weirdly specific. Take it up with a course advisor if you need help picking a direction for your degree, or spend your money/loan however you see fit and decide later if you wasted your dollars and sense on it all. Only you can know that.

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