A Horrific Adventure in Higher Education

An early lesson in why political correctness is all political and no correct

The worst teacher I ever had wasn't a "teacher" per se, because in college it's a "professor" (if you're lucky). His name was Dr. Douglas Larche, and he was our speech and theatre person.

Given that he had published a "politically correct" version of Mother Goose, called Father Gander, you'd think that he would have been enlightened. He wasn't. Much of what he was trying to convey in the class had to do with gender and racial stereotypes. Yet, I always felt attacked by him when I would go against the grain. Once he handed out names with the goal of making a "life story" for the person. I remember his telling us to tell him if we "knew the person." Mine was Jacqueline Onasis. I told him I knew who she was and he was shocked. He gave a female Asian name.

I turned my Asian female into a skate punk. Even though the class was about confronting stereotypes, he told me that this wasn't a realistic portrayal. Anticipating this, I read my other "bio" in which she was the straight-A daughter of immigrants who ran a grocery store. She was going to study computer science. That got better reviews. Of course, I preferred my skate punk version.

On another occasion, we were to take a newspaper and some magazine picture to create a collage of "who we were." Then he took one student's, put it out for us to see, and challenged us to know if it was male or female. I said female, so he challenged me (and encouraged others to do it as well) because it had a HUGE pick-up truck in the middle. I told him I knew a lot of "girls" who enjoyed being in the outdoors and going off-road in trucks. Of course, I was expected to concede that this might just be male. Sigh…

The whole damned class was like that. Time and again he had a reason to be on me. He actually had very little nice to say to me, seemed to actively dislike me, and worked to make sure the class didn't like me either. My worst experience was the "alien encounter". Basically aliens come to earth to destroy it due to mankind's lust for war. You have been chosen as a more enlightened member of the human race. You and all the other enlightened people have a choice, stay on earth and be destroyed or have your mind wiped clean and go with the aliens.

I opted to get blown up. Problem: it was a 100% participation. If anyone balked, the group would be left behind and blown up. I had so many people yelling at me that they wanted to live. They were not willing to accept that if your mind is wiped clean, you are no longer you. Therefore the "you" you think you are is gone. One other person agreed with me. He switched sides. There were two circles. The two of us — and everyone else.

It sucked. It was painful. It wasn't fun to be yelled at while the clock ticked down. During the final seconds…

We looked at each other and gave in. We recognized that death was death, and that it was important to everyone else. WE.GAVE.IN. We were applauded for finally seeing it the "right way". Dr. Larche was in the corner beaming.

I've never forgiven him for it. I compromised who I was as a person, and it felt dirty. More than 20 years later, it still does.

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2 thoughts on “A Horrific Adventure in Higher Education

  1. andrea says:

    That sounds like an awful teacher. I was lucky, in a way, because I had my terrible teachers in junior high and high school. The ones I got in junior college and university were a breath of fresh air in their encouragement and teaching ability.

    I don’t know what happened to my 6th grade core teacher, but I hated him. He looked like that claymation character ‘Mr. Bogus’. He said I was too stupid to read, and called me other names (which gave the rest of the class license to tease me further), and was generally a jackass. I got my revenge, however, because I took his lesson plan binder with all the keys and tests and threw it out. (Interesting coincidence, my sister had him also, and he made her life hell too.)

    • Suzanne says:

      Andrea,

      That is awful. What a jerk! Sometimes I find myself wanting to get snarky/mean with the kids. That’s when I step back and tell them that I LIKE them but I DON’T like their behavior.

      I learned this year that I’m not the mean teacher I think I am. Someone said that “So and so teacher had to be nicer than Mrs. Wynnell!” Wherein a kid, not one I was particularly close to –definitely one I had some trouble with — said, “No. Mrs. Wynnell isn’t mean and nasty. She doesn’t deliberately try to hurt or humiliate you. And at least she’s funny.”

      I’ve been spending a lot of time lately trying not to be a jerk, a-hole, humiliating teacher.

      That jerk deserved it. What an ass!

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