Last week, I used GOP leadership skills to teach my Shakespeare class. I put myself in a Republican mindset and kicked out all but the male, white, Christian students. I thought I had really succeeded in making my class great again. Until this week, that is, when the students surprised me with some Republican tactics of their own.
I knew something was up when I walked into the classroom and discovered the students on their feet. Their right arms were hoisted high in the air. They were taking some sort of pledge or oath. I found it incomprehensible, but they were focused and brimming with excitement.
They finished their salute and sat down. One of the students, Mickey McDonald, turned to me and stated, "Professor, we have some demands."
"Um, OK," I sputtered, a bit thrown off by the insurrection.
"As you know," he continued, "there are six weeks left in the semester after Spring Break. We consider you a 'lame duck professor' during this last part of the school year."
"What are you saying?"
"We will refuse to take the final exam in this class," Mickey said boldly.
I tried to reason with him: "Giving that test is part of my job. The syllabus clearly states that I must administer a final exam."
There was a sarcastic tone in Mickey's response: "You can 'administer' the exam all you want. We will not look at it or write anything on it whatsoever, Little Prof." He pronounced "Prof" as if he were spitting on me.
Before I could react, Mickey continued, "And another thing, Little Prof. We have decided that we do not want you to be our Shakespeare professor next term. We are exploring other options."
This is a small college and I am one of the few people qualified to teach Shakespeare. But the students did not care much for qualifications or experience. They had narrowed down their search for a replacement to three choices: (1) the college chaplain who had read one Shakespeare play in high school, (2) the Assistant Dean of Admissions who wore nice suits, and (3) a crass used-car salesman. The car salesman is a minor celebrity because of his loud, popular commercials which play late at night on local cable access channels. He has lots of catchy slogans -- "Big Hands Big Cars!" and "I Don't Lie! My Cars Are Huge!" - and, even though he has no academic credentials whatsoever, he was the frontrunner.
Mickey was relentless with his list of demands. He went on: "We have a problem with our textbook ..."
"Wait ... what?! Our textbook is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare."
"Correct. We do not like that book. It's too hard. And some of the writing is controversial."
"The explicit sexuality of minors in Romeo and Juliet is offensive. The witchcraft in Macbeth is morally abhorrent. And there are rumors that at least one of the Two Gentlemen of Verona is homosexual."
"So ... you are not going to read any Shakespeare in your Shakespeare course?"
"Precisely. We are exploring other options."
"The Bible!" Mickey said, shocked that I had not thought of this myself.
Before I could respond, class was over. I shouted to them as they were exiting, "We must get back to business! In our next class, please prepare ..."
Mickey interrupted, "Oh, most of us won't be here next time. In fact, we will be largely absent for the remainder of the semester. We have other things to do. Some of us are trying to get jobs. We do not have time for learning."
I wanted to say that they would not fare well in the workforce without an education. But it dawned on me that there are, in fact, a number of jobs that they might find without knowing anything: reality TV star, Fox News correspondent, elected government official.
It all felt so crazy. Was sedition popping up in other classes across campus? I went to the faculty lounge to question my colleagues. It turns out that it is only happening in my class! The other professors were sympathetic to my dilemma, but do not know how to help. The best they could do was shake their heads in disbelief.
I regret having brought Republican tactics into my classroom in the first place. The students soaked up the GOP mindset like sponges. As a result, the educational process is a shambles. My class used to be one of the most popular and well-respected classes on campus, but no more.
In the future, I will think more carefully about how my actions affect and influence the next generation.