School started last week, as you know. Buster is now a Junior in High School, preparing for SAT’s and thinking about colleges.
In the springtime, when Buster had selected his courses for the year, he chose one he thought would be interesting: Social Issues in America. Buster likes current events and critical thinking, and he enjoys debate. He hadn’t realized that “Social Issues” usually meant something more than critical thinking.
First day of school he came home and shook his head. “I love all my classes but that last one – Social Issues – not gonna last in that class,” he said. “We spent the whole time listening to how awful the world is because women body-builders earn less than men body builders. I told the teacher women body-builders make less because men don’t especially like to look at them and most women think they’re kinda off-putting too, and that the market sets the rate for their endorsements. He didn’t want to hear it.”
“Oh, the teacher is a man?” I asked.
Buster thought a moment and nodded.
“He started preaching about how women have been historically oppressed in every sector of life, in the home, in the workplace, in the military and in the church, and that they hadn’t yet acheived equality.”
“Really,” I said. “He was really championing the women, today, eh? What did you think of all of that?”
“I told him you and grandma and Aunt R are the least-oppressed women I’d ever heard of and you’d all spent time at home raising kids, that the General running Abu Ghraib had been a woman, so she had an equal-opportunity screw-up experience, that the Governor of Louisiana was a woman who messed things up as badly as any man could hope to, so it seemed to me women were being treated equally – since they were being given chances to succeed or fail. And then I told him that if he was going to talk about oppression of women in the church, I hoped he would also talk about how the Christian church was the first and oldest institution which ever encouraged women to be something besides someone’s wife or mother.”
Keeping my eyes on the button I was sewing, I tried not to let Buster see me smile. “What was the teacher’s response to that?”
“Well,” Buster said, “at first he looked like his head was going to explode. He made this long sighing noise and asked the class what they thought of my ideas.”
“What did they think of your ideas,” I asked. “Were the girls offended?”
He shook his head, sipping an ice tea. “No, not really. They mostly nodded, although one girl said she thought women should be allowed to be priests.”
I looked up. “So…you told the teacher that his whole premise, that women are still living as if it were 1958, was erroneous.”
“I told him that I’ve been listening to this ‘women can do anything men can do’ line since I was two years old and watching Sesame Street, that I GOT it, and that all the girls GOT IT, TOO, so it seemed pretty useless to me to rehash these old, irrelevent complaints in 2005.”
“Did you point out to him that women are the majority of students in Law and Medical Schools?” I asked him.
“Are they?” He laughed. “I know that female students who do well academically are cheered on the way we cheer on a two-year-old when she does something like, you know, singing her ABC’s. ‘Hooray! Hooray for Emily! You go, girl!’ It’s creepy. ”
“Condescending, too,” I agreed. “I wouldn’t like to be treated that way were I still in school. What did the teacher say when the girls agreed with you.”
“He looked surprised, but he stayed on script,” he said. “Spent the rest of the class discussing how we would be looking at how racist America was, and intolerant America is – you know – the usual. I’m not going to have the patience for it, and I’ve made an appointment to drop the class and add another.”
“That’s a shame,” I said, “is this a required course? If you slip out this year will you just have to take it next year?”
“No,” Buster said, picking up the course catalogue. “There has to be something I can change into…”
“Well,” I ruminated, “you’ll be required to take at least one such course in college, so you’d better prepare yourself for it. Indoctrination is at least 3 credits of your degree.”
He gave me a winning smile. “Buster will not be indoctrinated,” he said.
Earlier today I got a call from his counsellor, asking me if I would mind if Buster became a Bass in another performing group. “The teacher says she really needs him,” he said, “and Buster seems amenable to the change and says he would not mind helping her out by leaving his Social Issues class…”
Clearly, Buster had done a bit of fast footwork and found a way out. Hmmmm. Maybe Buster will not be indoctrinated.
Then, today…I read this and thought, “kid, I hope you’re right!”