Saturday, August 28, 2010

Following Calico's Lead..

I took an interdisciplinary Honors class my last year of college, and oh my god, how I wish everyone could have an experience like that. Fuck a Capstone, this was practically beatnik! 12 senior Enlish Lit majors. Minial reading requirements. LOTS of discussion. And a required group project. Topic of the class? "Witches" - from Salem and the burning times to modern Wicca to Elphaba's green nose - abnd the marginlization of intelligent women through their demonization. Seriously heady, geeky shite.

My group decided to go with a project on the "socialized schizophrenia" of the 1950's housewife - you know, Berry Crocker in the kitchen, total sexpot in the bedroom, and June Cleaver when dealing with the kids. My group was 3 girls and 1 (gay) guy. So, the girls donned the pearls and aprons and serves a tradtional meat-and-three meal to the whole class, while talking about the disparate expectations of women at tis time. Our "husband," "the man of the house," fake-smoked a pipe in a red smocking jacket. He also would inerrupt our presentation of what was expected of a housewife and good mother with TV snippets showing the true misogyny of the time period. By the end of the presentation, EVERYONE was lost - and that was our point - how can you find out who you are if you never are allowed to figure it out for yourself?

Can you imagine doing that in a classroom today??? Hells to the no!!
(And yeah, it was 1996)


  1. What are you talking about? I go to a small liberal arts college, and we're required to take classes like this, both for certain majors and for gen ed requirements. And the project description doesn't seem too far off, either.

  2. I gotta say, I survived a lot of "let me explain deconstruction through interpretive dance" presentations at my crunchy-granola SLAC in the 1980s and then again when I taught at an artsy-fartsy SLAC in the 1990s (maybe you went there, Beth? It certainly sounds like the curriculum I remember there). I would have required you guys to write a narrative explanation of just what the hell you thought you were up to and how it related to the readings. Because it didn't take me long to learn that a lot of free-form presentations were a cover for not getting the concepts. No aspersions on yours of course: I love me a meat-and-three meal.

  3. There are places with this kind of class still thrives, but you're talking about top tier lib arts places where there's a whole different kind of student body.

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  5. Mike - my point exactly - only at certain "elite" colleges are we allowed and encouraged to let our students expore topics creatively.

    Marcia - We definitely had to do a write up, it just wasn't due for 2 more days, do we used the confusion to spark the debate. Then we all talked some more after everyone had read the write-up. (And I was at the artsiest-fartsiest, crunchiest-granola-lovin, New England SLAC - hell, it was all that PLUS a women's college! I miss those days.

    Laura - You mademy point without even realizing you did. Only at an SLAC, where "personal exploration" is encouraged and even part of the curriculum, would you find a course like this. And I was shocked to take it at the large, urban Uni I transferred to my junior year. And there is NO way I could get away with assigning something like this is any class I teach at Big Urban Uni or Local Community College.

  6. "Can you imagine doing that in a classroom today?"

    No, because we moved past such banality?

    If you think you are being interesting or daring, then you are not.

  7. Wait, if it was a women's college, what was the gay guy doing there?

    If it was co-ed, I'm guessing Bennington. If a women's college, maybe Pine Manor?

  8. lol sorry - Spent my first 2 years at a women's college. transferred to a co-ed uni closer to home due to financial reasons...

  9. okay I just reread my post about 3 up from here - I went to a SLAC my first 2 years, transferred to a big urban Uni, and the Witches class was at the Uni - but in the honors program - so the class didn't "count" for anything (core, major, etc.) - sorry for the confusion

    texpat76 - I'm confused as to what banality you are referring. Honestly. The kind of presentation we did? The kind of "exploratory, open-ended" class I was taking? And I'm not quite sure why you think I think I'm being "interesting or daring." If it's about that class - I took it in 1996 at the age of 20, so yes I was banal and self-involved and probably thought I was extraordinarily daring. If you're talking about my post *about* that class, I don't think I'm being daring at all. I hope I'm being interesting, but we all hope that. Seriously - I'm curious where your vitriol come from (and if you aren't being vitriolic, I apologize for miscontruing your remarks). Truly, I am interested in hearing you elaborate...


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