Friday, May 19, 2006

THIS is the problem with America

Nowhere have I seen such a crystalline example of what is wrong with this country as I saw yesterday in a post at delagar. Delagar, a university professor, describes her experience teaching Shaw's Major Barbara, and it is heartbreaking and maddening to read. Most of the students did not even bother to read the play. Many of them told her they were not interested in Shaw because he was a communist. Shaw was not a communist; he was a socialist, a distinction that is apparently lost on these university students. And even if he were a communist (though I imagine being a socialist is considered just as evil in this crowd), what could that possibly have to do with reading an assigned play?

Delagar gave the students back the essays she had assigned and told them to do revisions. She may as well have told them to take off their clothes and set fire to them, from the reaction she got. Most of them refused to revise their papers, and the few who did the revisions continued to attack the playwrite based on what they (incorrectly) perceived were his politics.

At this point, as you can see in the original post, the professor explained to the students that Shaw favored things like a minimum wage and social security, and they attacked that, too, because it sounded like--you guessed it--communism.

I cut my teeth on Shaw when I was a girl, delighting in his famous plays, like Major Barbara and Pygmalian, but also thoroughly enjoying his lesser known one-acts plays. Shaw, in addition to being a great wit and an astute observer of the socio-political scene, was also a vegetarian and a feminist. I imagine those things are communist, too, to the students in that classroom, though I doubt if any of them could present even a reasonable definition of communism.

Consider that these students do not know the difference between communism and socialism. Consider that they obviously have no idea what communism is. Consider that most of them did not read the assigned play, and that most of them refused to revise their essays, even though revision was an assignment. What in hell are they doing in a university? Talk about a waste of taxpayers' money, not to mention a waste of space and oxygen. How did they even get into a university?

These students represent the deep flaw in America. Not only do they refuse to do assigned work, but they have a revulsion to learning. A revulsion to learning is what is evil, not communism. Taking a twisted pride in one's ignorance is evil, not socialism. There is no doubt in my mind that the parents of these students have taught them to rail against the welfare system as a handout to people who are too lazy to work. If these students had a clue what the word "irony" means, they would be able to appreciate the irony that it is they who are lazy and refusing to work, and those of us who pay taxes are giving them a handout so they can resist any force that might remove their ignorance.


You've absolutely nailed the reaction I got in the freshman comp class. I intend to persist, however -- they won't pin me this easy! I might start the play earlier next semester, so I'll have more time to force them into revision, or more time to force them into doing research on Shaw's background/philosophy...partly I think I was just blindsided. Somehow I wasn't expecting (don't ask me why) this response. I think because I always loved reading Shaw, too. How can you *not* like reading Shaw, I think I was thinking....

His plays meet with better success in my Vic Lit class, btw. They're English majors in that class, mostly, though. I can get them to read the texts.

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