Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Y'all Git Ready for the Multicultural Ho-Down

Oy. I'm taking a brief break from my ranting on trans-racial adoption (although, I have to say, the more I read, the more I have to say--typical academic disease). I think I've got one more post on that topic, but I've got to mull it a bit more.

Instead of that, here, for your viewing pleasure, is a combination; a right jab then upper cut; two great tastes that taste great together (and for the record, I said this to my students last semester and they had no idea what I was talking about. sigh.). The academic world and well-intentioned cultural ignorance--one of my very favorite pairs.

Here's how this particular synergistic combo plays out. Let's say that I've got this little academic unit that I run. Nothing so large as a department or anything, but a baliwick with a set of students and the courses that keep them busy. [Fluff, you may ask, what the hell are you doing, as a junior person, running an academic unit? Bitch, please. You think I understand how I get myself into this crap?] One of the ever-more tricky parts of my job is to beg, borrow and steal full-time faculty away from their home departments in order to teach some of these classes. Not an easy task, for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because said academic unit--ACUN, let's call it--calls for some specialized knowledge in issues about race and ethnicity. Now, despite the phlegm and vitriol I spewed below, in general, I tend to believe that university campuses (Bible Colleges excepted) are bastions of left-leaning professors. I'm no David Horowitz, you understand, but come on--these are my people! This should be the last place in America that we can go and not have to defend some of the most basic ideas of equality and justice!

I hope you're reading this, shaking your heads at my naivete. So, in the course of my travels on campus, I have a tendency to keep my eyes open for folks that might fit the bill for ACUN in terms of their expertise, as well as be interesting and engaging teachers for the students. I met Professor Tex through work on a campus initiative. He was personable, had good student evals, in our discussions he mentioned that he spent time as a master's student working on a prominent African American author and cultural figure. When I had an adjunct drop out, I thought of him immediately. He agreed to teach the course, I signed him up, it's full of students eagerly awaiting his wisdom in the fall.

In a nutshell, here's what Tex sends me as a proposal for the course. Students will work on essays out of a diversity reader, they'll examine the local paper, and, wait for it: they'll cook meals from different cultures for each class. Seriously. No lie. I couldn't make this up if I wanted to.

So, gentle readers, what to do? Do I write Prof. Tex back and very gently suggest that these students don't really need any more instruction in aesthetic multiculturalism? Do I instead try to push it over the edge, and insist that if they're going to cook, that they should also wear the native dress--even experiment with black or yellowface? Better yet, could I just get all kung-fu on his ass? Oh, excuse me, that's better delivered with a side of kimchi.

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