Author Topic: Teacher gets political in crafts class UPDATE #34  (Read 8947 times)

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CrazyDaffodilLady

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Teacher gets political in crafts class UPDATE #34
« on: September 29, 2012, 07:28:55 PM »
The letter below describes an incident that occurred during a free crafts class at the local library.  The incident led to me walking out of the class and deciding not to go back. More details and questions follow the letter.

To: Head Librarian
From:  CrazyDaffodilLady
Re: class policy

Iíve been taking a crafts class offered by the library.  The teacher is "Wilma LastName", who is an excellent teacher, and there have been no previous problems.  However, on <date>, Wilma began discussing political issues that offend me during the class session.  She mentioned a political candidate by name in a disparaging tone and was very obviously about to state a negative opinion of a controversial political topic involving this candidate.  I quickly interrupted and requested that political issues not be discussed in class.  This seemed to anger Wilma, and she said in a loud hostile voice, ďItís not political. Itís the truth, and people need to know it!Ē  I replied that it was political and was inappropriate for class.  She repeated her previous statement, more angrily.  I left the class and do not intend to return.

I donít believe that controversial political opinions belong in crafts classes being offered by the library.  Students should not have to make a choice between listening to an opinion they find offensive or leaving the class. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. 


More details: The teacher is a rather crass, crude, rude woman.  It is not unusual for her to relate personal stories of questionable taste during class.  I do not expect her to apologize or to admit any wrong doing. 

Although I cut her off before she had a chance to state a definite opinion, it was clear to me that she was going to say things that I consider to be ďhate speechĒ.  Unfortunately, her opinions are shared by many in this area.  I donít expect any of the other students to support me.  Whatever their political opinions, most are very meek and would not be willing to rock the boat. 

Prior to the incident described in the letter, Wilma had been complaining for several minutes about a government policy that affects her family.  While I sympathize with her situation, the bottom line is that sheís angry that the government wonít pay for services that her family has the assets to pay for, but doesnít want to.  I didnít mention this in the letter because although the subject was inappropriate for class, it didnít bother me much. 

Was I wrong to speak up or to walk out of class?  How could I have better handled the situation?  I need to know if Iím being unreasonable, or a Special Snowflake, or if I come off sounding like a nut job.  If my concern is justified, does the letter have the right tone and the right amount of detail?

I could add how a student is powerless to express an opposing opinion without turning the class into a political battle.  I could request that if the library policy allows teachers to express controversial opinions, prospective students should be made aware of the teacherís political leanings.  I could note that itís unlikely I will ever sign up for another class at the library and will probably steer my friends away as well.

I'm very upset about the incident.




« Last Edit: October 04, 2012, 06:09:50 PM by CrazyDaffodilLady »
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SamiHami

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2012, 07:53:03 PM »
I think your wording is good. I would definitely send that email and would be interested in knowing what kind of response you receive.

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JenJay

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2012, 07:57:36 PM »
I think you handled yourself beautifully and your letter is great. The only thing I'm wondering about is where you say there has never been a problem with Wilma before because it sounds like there have been other issues, just not as severe as this time. I might consider editing the letter to reflect that. The powers-that-be need to know that Wilma has turned craft class into "uncomfortable, captive audience for my political rants" class.

CrochetFanatic

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2012, 08:08:10 PM »
I agree, you were fine.  I assume the class was meant to be fun, right?  Political things aren't fun for everyone, and are a source of discomfort and anxiety for some.  Unlike high school, you're allowed to walk out of a voluntary class.

buvezdevin

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2012, 09:07:53 PM »
I agree, it sounds as though you handled the situation well.

I think your letter is well written though I have a slight editing suggestion: in the third sentence, rather than say "political issues that offend me" say "hotly debated political issues" (not suggesting "controversial" as you use that in following sentence).

The issue, objectively, is not which view Wilma may have, nor that you were offended - the issue/question is whether it is appropriate and within library policy to have a library instructor speak about their personal views on any political matter which is unrelated to the class being taught and would be likely to contain views reasonably expected to offend some.
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WillyNilly

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2012, 09:12:44 PM »
I think you handled yourself beautifully and your letter is great. The only thing I'm wondering about is where you say there has never been a problem with Wilma before because it sounds like there have been other issues, just not as severe as this time. I might consider editing the letter to reflect that. The powers-that-be need to know that Wilma has turned craft class into "uncomfortable, captive audience for my political rants" class.

I agree.  You don't have to say thee were previous incidents or you can allude they were minor but don't say there were none. 


Iíve been taking a crafts class offered by the library.  The teacher is "Wilma LastName", who is an excellent teacher.  However, on <date>, Wilma began discussing political issues that offend me during the class session.


or

Iíve been taking a crafts class offered by the library.  The teacher is "Wilma LastName", who is an excellent teacher, and there have been no previous issues with this topic.  However, on <date>, Wilma began discussing political issues that offend me during the class session.

Honestly, you might want to consider CC'ing some folks on the letter: local politicians, the head district/county/state liberarian, local news outlets.  Regardless of the popular opinion of topic Wilma brought up, a public library shouldn't be a political area and I think a lot of people would get behind that moral.

Winterlight

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2012, 09:19:44 PM »
I think you handled it fine. If Wilma wants to lecture on politics, that's what Facebook is for. (I kid, I kid.)
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doodlemor

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2012, 09:48:36 PM »
I think you handled yourself beautifully and your letter is great. The only thing I'm wondering about is where you say there has never been a problem with Wilma before because it sounds like there have been other issues, just not as severe as this time. I might consider editing the letter to reflect that. The powers-that-be need to know that Wilma has turned craft class into "uncomfortable, captive audience for my political rants" class.

I assume that this is a public library, and that it is wholly or partially supported by public funding.  No one should be permitted to propagandize for any political or religious cause.  The individuals in charge should be informed as to what is being said in classes in the library.  I don't blame you for being affronted - she was way out of line.

CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2012, 10:45:38 PM »
O.P. here.  Wilma is quite a character.  The class is pretty loose and is supposed to be fun.  This is the first time sheís gone political Ė probably due to the upcoming elections, which I think makes her rants even more inappropriate.  Past transgressions have been more scrabble oriented.  She belongs to a hard drinking group of older women who like to do shocking things in public.  She once brought in some photos of the group at a city-sponsored Halloween festival.  Wilma was dressed as a bloody tampon.  Another woman was dressed as a used condom. 

I find this kind of thing tasteless, but it doesnít really affect me, so I let it go.  I realize that not everyone agrees with my views, but her political remarks disturbed me at a deep moral level Ė enough so that I felt I had to do something.   

doodlemor, the class is held at a tax-funded public library.
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zyrs

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2012, 01:19:17 AM »
I think you handled it correctly.  You are taking the classes to have fun, not to be subjected to the instructors political views.

nolechica

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2012, 02:43:03 AM »
That note is fine, but I'd be conscious of the fact that whomever hired/selected her may already know her views and not care. Are these classes free? I'd think that would determine how this will be handled.

kglory

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2012, 04:03:50 AM »
I really like the fact that in the letter, you specifically don't mention WHAT Wilma's political view is.  Not sure if that was done for E-hell specifically, but it's a powerful tactic overall, because it will make the reader think, "Wow, that's pretty bad -- bringing up controversial topics in crafts class is a bad idea," rather than, "But X is true!  This writer is just a bitter Y party member!"

In other words, it's focusing more on the general inappropriateness rather than leaving room for debate on the merits of the ssue itself.  This makes it much stronger.

25wishes

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2012, 09:20:57 AM »
"She belongs to a hard drinking group of older women who like to do shocking things in public.  She once brought in some photos of the group at a city-sponsored Halloween festival.  Wilma was dressed as a bloody tampon.  Another woman was dressed as a used condom.  "

OK, now I need a drink. And some mind bleach.

Margo

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2012, 01:10:10 PM »
I don't think you were rude to challenge her, nor to leave the class, however, I think that there are potential problems with the proposed e-mail as it doesn't make it clear what, specifically, you want or expect the library to do.
I think it also makes a big difference whether Wilma is employed to teach these classes by the library, Or by a third party/organisation, or whether she is running the class in a private capacity and simply using the library as a venue.

I think setting out what happened is fine, and I like your wording (especially the fact that you don't specify what Wilma's views were, but I think it would be sensible to add in a paragraph to ask whether the library (or council, if relevant) has a policy about this, and if so, what it is.
If they don't, perhaps you could suggest that they formulate one.
I would think that of she was booked or employed or subsidised by the library / council they may be able to raise the issue with her.
However, if the space is available generally to local groups then unless her views were enough to count as hate speech/incitement then I would be surprised if the library could, or would, do anything about what she happened to say during a class.

CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: Teacher gets political in crafts class
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2012, 01:11:03 PM »
O.P. here.  The class is free, and Wilma does not get paid.  As I mentioned, Wilma is an excellent teacher.  Her classes are very popular, and there is always a waiting list.

My issue isnít with Wilma specifically, although her behavior is what brought it up.  My issue certainly isnít with X versus Y.  What Iím trying to communicate to the library is that I object to any teacher using their class for political proselytizing, no matter what their views.  It wastes class time, and it puts students in an awkward position. 

One big problem is that Wilma clearly doesnít feel she was discussing politics.  ďItís the truth, and people need to know it!Ē  I hope that my letter conveys that her statements were indeed political.  Iím not out to punish Wilma.  What I want is for the library to be aware that at least one teacher has used her position of authority in an inappropriate way (in my opinion anyway) and that they might want to ensure that teachers know the libraryís policy (if there is one). 

Would it be better if I didn't mention Wilma by name in the letter and simply described the incident and my concerns?
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