The Classroom Became a War Zone!
Final Exam Jihad. An Opportunity for Loneliness.
“You and Me”
We started together, you and me. We were new on campus. We found new friends and faced new challenges. Some of us were away from our family for the first time. We struggled together. We listened to each other. We even shouted at each other. Somehow we managed to say “Good Morning” to each other. Each day we met to discuss a new way of looking at religions. You and me, we even grew up a little. You and me, we made it through dull days, high days, lonely days, low days, snow days, test days, homework days, think days, and project days. You and me…I’m so glad that we made it to the end together!
This poem was composed following my first semester of teaching at a very small college. (In fact, it is the college where I met Tom!) Life and teaching was very different in 1980 than it is today. In the beginning, students were more respectful and generally eager to learn. In the beginning students were dedicated. Those years were spent teaching in private colleges or universities. As the years wore on, the students wore out. They did not necessarily enroll in college to learn.
At one college, I experienced a hostile breed of students who feared other religions. They were shocked at each world religion we studied so they began an assault. Besides the notes and hideous cartoons placed under my door, students also taped my lectures and brought them to the president to prove that I was teaching “heresy,” whatever that meant to those students. There were flyers taped on my door and letters to the editor in the school newspaper. (I wish I had saved more of these.)
Here are a few of the notes that were placed under my door:
“Dear Dr. Selvidge, My Sunday School class decided to tell you about the Bible. They said, “Believe in the Bible.” The reason why you need to believe in the Bible is because, “It’s True!” You need to believe in God. You love him. We are going to pray that you will believe in the Bible.”
Eight students signed this note. I suppose I received it because I was teaching the history and development of the New Testament rather than using the bible as a rulebook or spiritual book by which to live. Another note came with an invitation to meet with “Spirit-filled Christians.”
“Come and join us if you can stand being that close to the Holy Spirit.”
Another student seemed to think that I was making fun of Christians and invited me to her Baptist church so that I would learn about “real” Christianity. I was teaching about the history of Christianity about which she had never been exposed!
Misguided students haunted my office often waving their arms in the air as they walked back and forth in the hallway. One wanted to bring his denomination on campus and teach classes in his faith. He argued that other colleges did it. But I argued that as a state university we have to be neutral with regard to religions. We cannot teach faith. We can teach about the religions but not teach people to be religious. He was very upset and complained to everyone he knew that I was discriminating against his faith.
A Muslim student did not like a cartoon that he said was posted on one of the bulletin boards outside my office. He complained to a professor in another department and they came down to reprimand me. Their ammunition was verbal abuse. But, they could not find the cartoon? Maybe the student had seen it on another bulletin board? They were so irate I had to call security. And the professor sent an apology to me after being counseled by security and his chair.
I received many letters from one student who claimed he was the Messiah.
“I still believe that I am the Messiah, especially the David of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the Psalms. And I also believe that am “The faithful and True Witness, the First-begotten From the Dead, and The Root and Stock of David….”
Well, Marla, what I am trying to say throughout this whole letter is that I am lonely for intellectual stimulation, and I would like to hear from you. I would be glad to answer all of your questions.” What?
I have shared only the tip of the iceberg with you in this excerpt. Soon students would bring a gun to my office, place a fist in my face, (as a faculty member had done), hit and kick students as they left class, stand up and shout at me in class, and stalk me for years. And the local radio station would call me “The Whore of Babylon.”
One student stood up in class and told my guest speaker, “We would kill you in my country!” And other shouted, “Who the hell are you to grade my paper?” And another student thought that I had a sub-machine gun behind the desk! Huh?
Thanks for reading the blog. I hope you will have the time and interest to read the book. It will be a real eye-opener as to what a professor experiences in her lofty (?) job in higher education.
You can purchase the book on Amazon.
As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge