Saturday, March 12, 2005

Days Long Gone

The days where I looked up to my teachers with respect, trusting that they knew more than me and were going to present the material in as much of an un-biased way as possible is evidently long long past. It's possible that it never even existed at all - okay, well, maybe it was true for a few months back in kindergarten.

This semester has already been fruitful in dispelling the myth of professors being objective - i.e. History of Psych prof who thinks natural science psychology represents the Armageddon of the world of science. Unfortunately, I now have another psych prof to add to this every growing list.

My psych of gender prof has never been the sharpest tool in the shed, to use a clichéd cliché. She's a perfect candidate for What Not To Wear and frequently loses track of what she's talking about. I don't particularly enjoy the class either, because the majority of what we talk about it entirely based on stereotypes between men and women. It gets old very quickly, and doesn't provide any particle ways for us to escape the self perpetuation system of these stereotypes.

I don't normally make it habit of challenging professors, because unlike some students I do have respect for them and their position. However, this time my prof's bias was so utterly blatant and it was steering the conversation in a completely unnecessary and useless direction.

She was talking about women in the work force, and how the glass ceiling can sometimes prevent women from attaining higher status positions. Women are grossly outnumbered in executive positions, this is well documented. The prof then asked the class what, if anything, is currently being done to make the work-force a more equitable place. One class member mentioned that some companies are implementing more flexible work schedules in order for women with children to have more flexibility in when they can come in and when they can leave - instead of the strict 9-5.

This was the only potential helpful strategy that we were allowed to discuss. Following this comment, the prof went on a 15 minute schpeil (this is a 50 minute class, so that's a large chunk of the entire class) on how detrimental flexible schedules can be. She started talking about how other people to have to pick up this slack, how much more money it is going to cost the tax-payers. When she was working at a job, she was job-sharing with a lady who always came in late so the prof always had to stay longer and ended up doing the majority of the work. (Sarcasm doesn't generally translate well in text, so read those last few sentences with dripping disdain and sarcasm).

I couldn't believe it. I thought I was going to blow a gasket. I stuck my hand into the hair, and when called upon, said: "I think a main reason that the glass ceiling still exists and that programs to implement things like more flexible work schedules tend to fail in the work-place is due to the exact attitude of fear. Fear of what's going to happen to everyone else, fear of how the non-married women without children are going to be effected, fear of how much more taxes we'll have to pay. Those attitudes are a fundamental problem which needs to be addressed in order to make sure that these programs work out fairly."

I can tell the prof was so pissed, she had this defiant look on her face. She barely waited for me to finish my last syllable when she interjected with: "So you think that attitudes are the only problem and that there are no practical problems with these programs?"

I said: "I never said that at all, and that was far beyond my point. What I said was that fear and such attitudes as you were displaying are a fundamental problem that also needs to be addressed in conjunction with practical problems".

She just looked at me and said: "Well, okay, we have to move on now". Pfft. That's what I thought. She just didn't like hearing that she's afraid and biased.

I was so pissed off for the rest of the day. It's incredible that she was so blatantly biased, trying to pass those biases off on us, denying the issue, trying to put words into my mouth, and completely foregoing an opportunity to talk about how we could work towards ameliorating the work-force.

Days long gone, indeed.

Listening to: Golden Touch - Razorlig

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At 8:55 PM , Blogger Owen said...

I'll tell you the big problem with flex scheduling: People don't work in a vacuum.

I used to work at a company where the salaried employees work from 8-5,M-F, and the hourly employees work 6-4:30, M-Th. It was absolutely impossible to get anything done on Fridays, because none of the support people were in. Want to ship something for a Monday delivery on a Friday afternoon? Forget it. Break a tool, and need to get it fixed? Not on a Friday.

In the workplace, employees rely on other employees to get things done. When some of those employees are not available, the work of other people suffers. When those people are not available on a predictiable schedule, the problem becomes much worse.

The fact is, in most corporations, if your presence doesn't make an impact on the effectiveness of other employees, you probably aren't important enough to bother employing.

At 5:56 PM , Blogger JT said...

I think you're on the right track, and if your Psych. of Gender professor is that ignorant, she shouldn't be teaching.

People like you are the kind that make other people sit up and take notice. I think you're on the right track and I believe that you should always retain your beliefs.

I'm not sure where you are going in your life, or with your degree, but maybe someday, you can take your Pysch. of Gender professor's job.

At 8:22 PM , Blogger Joanna said...

Thank you, JT. That's a very nice to hear, and I greatly appreciate it :)

At 5:36 PM , Blogger Mike said...

Hi Jo,

just a few thoughts on this post.

It's always sad when you realize that your professors not only profess the facts, but they also do a substantial amount of horn-ttoing in the classroom. I have studied under serveral professors who chaff each other, and was fortunate enough to come away from it without any (I feel) bias on certain corner stones of philosophy. The best solution is to think for yourself, which unfortunately cannot be taught in class. Too many students still take everything offered to them as The Truth, not a truth, The Truth. That is why there are such large discrepancies in differing schools of thought. And if you're not careful, the stigma of whom you have studied under can follow you throught your academic career. If future-thesis supervisor X dislikes the theories of historically important source Y, and current prof Z is a huge fan of Y, there might be "issues". Sad but true.

For the first year that I was at Shell Canada, our CEO was a woman. Linda Cook was very highly regarded in her field, coming from various different positions in the corporate hierarchy. I cannot say that I noticed a difference when she left, but she should serve as at least a hammer in the destruction of the glass ceiling. Yes, men are (unfortunately) in the majority. Yes, men are (again, unfortunately) still making more than women for equal work loads. But change can, does, and has happened. I guess what I'm trying to say is, like jt said, keep rocking that boat. Keep voicing your opinions, keep pointing out the obvious biases around you, and make sure that your fellow students get the fairest education they are entitled to.


At 3:54 PM , Blogger Chorna said...

I'm beginning to wonder if there's something wrong with me. I mean.. could I say anything about how much I like my course and not offend you, Joanna?

Frankly, maybe it's the subjects we are learning. From a psychology perspective I feel it's a very Western Approach, whilst anthropology tries to take a "macro" approach (which in itself can be contested).

I'm sad to hear about your professors :( But, considering all the possibilities, could she then go on to develop these arguments in the course as you learn more and grasp a firmer understanding of these 'old fundemental' arguments?

One thing I've onticed in my course is we're introduced to ideas chronologically as they appeared in the field, and then learnt of critiques that appeared later.

Perhaps this is also the shape of your degree?

However, to have your own ideas to begin with is EXCELLENT, and I congratulate you on your firm front.

Be well :)

At 8:33 PM , Blogger SomeDude said...

whoo! you must really like that razorlight song.

I once corrected one of my teachers at high school. He made the mistake of saying 'Correct me if I'm wrong, but all I can see is talking going on.' I promptly raised my hand and corrected his ambiguously constructed sentence.

At 2:02 AM , Blogger Memphis Word Nerd said...

I had a professor in grad school who was very biased toward specific forms of therapy and considered other forms a "waste of time" and a "money making scheme". Considering that my agency happens to be based on the form of therapy which most annoyed him (systems theory), he would go on tirades about what an awful agency it is. Once he realized that I worked there in (gasp!) an administrative role, his "lectures" became even more vitriolic. One of my close friends runs our research department so I'm fairly familiar with outcome evals for our programs. Actually, our success rate is EXTREMELY high. One day in class, he stated that "there is no empirical evidence that blahblahblah interventions actually work." After two months of listening to his overwhelming bias I interrupted and quoted several well-respected studies to him. His only response: "People can make research support any hypothesis that they wish. Now, moving on to the next topic..." I agree with him about the ease of manipulating research but his response was childish and unprofessional. I would have been fine with debating specific principles/theories but he was determined to make a blanket statement that ALL systems therapies are crap. It was pretty much the final straw for me; my respect for the program deteriorated rapidly (I had already lost all respect for that professor).

I hope that things get better for you. I'm glad to hear that you're speaking out. Keep your chin up; you're doing an important thing.


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