Saturday, September 25

The teaching doctrine, moral panic and student mockery

Although I couldn’t help but watch the video, I almost completely skipped the high school teacher scandal and the “indoctrination” debate. It bothers me, and especially bores me, when what dominates a conversation is fear, the feeling of threat or danger: I suppose that at the base of the outrage is the idea that living well is protecting yourself (and protecting others). our children) of catastrophes, or of the wicked, or of the weak, or of the useless. I went to a private religious primary school, to a semi-private school dependent on the UBA, and to the UBA; In all these instances I have come across people who, because they are incapable or unbalanced, should never be in charge of a course, and I do not believe that the mission of the educational system is “to prevent these things from happening.” The moral panic on the matter seemed exaggerated to me, and almost any solution that I can think of to “prevent these things from happening” seem to me to be forms of surveillance, either directly unacceptable or too complicated to implement without compromising that situation of trust and freedom. I feel that I need as a student and as a teacher to live the learning experience with intensity and truth.

All this to say, in fact, that a few days after the video went viral (a little before the President decided that he did, unlike this humble servant, he had time to come out to comment on the matter) I began to see ‘The director’, and I understood what interested me in that debate. My friend Diego Tajer, with whom we went together to the Faculty, hit the key with this tweet: “In my time ‘indoctrination’ was called ‘lowering the line’ and we could talk about it more naturally without giving it a conspiratorial tinge”.

‘The director’ is a series about moral panic, but I feel that it is proposing precisely this: to lower the decibels to the debate on the way in which politics enters the educational system to see more clearly what are the checks and balances that they operate in every context. In this case it is a University (which is logical; in the United States, the campuses are one of the main stages of the cultural battle), more specifically a Department of Literature, and how the new director of said department ( woman, young and Asian in a world of white men with ditto hair) must deal not only with institutional and financial pressures but also with a rather absurd escrache made against a colleague of hers for a joke of dubious taste viralized on the internet. At first it seemed strange to me the decision that the student complaint came for such a fragile reason, that you have so little desire to agree with them. As the chapters progressed, on the other hand, I felt that it was a good idea, that it had to do with the strategy of reducing the drama a bit to everything, of removing questions of real danger from the table to talk only about what concerns us ; which is, finally, the power of speech, and above all, whose power of speech is.

The intelligence of the series lies in putting the focus on generational conflict, even before gender or racial issues; there are white male students who repeat the same demands as their twenty-something peers, and women twenty or forty years older (and even racialized, like the protagonist Sandra Oh) who cannot understand the language in which they are spoken, supposedly, their own vulnerabilities. But the great finding, without a doubt, is to show the crossfire that occurs between the three generations (twentysomethings, forties and sixties; or centennials, generation X and boomers, as dictated by the American classifications) found in the series; By crossfire I mean that there is not a single generation that has power over the other, but that each one of them has a different power and a different vulnerability, and that it is precisely this multiplicity that often makes it difficult to pose conflicts in terms of victims and perpetrators. The scheme of “indoctrination” that circulated so much these days in relation to the teacher’s video (and that returns to social networks from time to time: it had already appeared, for example, when some parents began to talk on the internet about a kind of teacher conspiracy to talk to students about the case of Santiago Maldonado), seems to think of powerless students and almighty teachers, docile little sheep who repeat what they hear without thinking and empowered superheroes capable of implanting any idea in the innocent heads before them; An image that, on the other hand, is not even consistent with the teacher’s video, in which the students clearly seem to be making fun of her. Unlike the enunciative voice of parents in panic, ‘La principal’ recognizes the enormous power that students have by the mere fact of having a cell phone in their hand; It also recognizes the enormous power that institutions give them, especially the private ones that depend on fees and donations, but also any institution that in the 21st century prefers, “when in doubt”, to throw out whoever has to be fired in order to avoid a scandal.

But the series is also not a millennial fantasy in which adults have lost power, or in which old forms of power have been broken; in ‘The Director’, as in life, white males in their sixties still dominate an important part of the world. They write letters of recommendation, approve tenures, regulate the criteria for entry into an academic discipline; At the same time, the 40-year-old director of the Department is the one who must decide who of them is retiring to be able to bring in an Afro-American woman in her thirties, and ultimately, so that the Department is not de-financed and closed permanently. It would be an exaggeration to say that the series does not choose a side: it clearly chooses that of the protagonist and her friends in their thirties and forties, strained between capricious centennials and right-wing old men. But even so, ‘The director’ gets to use the world of the North American academy to say something about the world: that generational struggle that can be seen so clearly at the University also plays in many other institutional contexts, and even in politics. partisan. Being a woman, young and attractive can be a vulnerability; It can also be a power, but it is not easy to talk about that. When they start looking for you to fill gender or ethnic quotas, doors open. Those doors, in general, come with conditions, and when you arrive it seems that those sixty gentlemen who had stayed outside were actually waiting for you inside, to tell you what to do. Hopefully we read and see more and more stories about that; more than about victims and perpetrators, about the search for a common language between generations that grew up in different worlds, and the need to open that conversation not in ideal conditions, but with those who finance our lives by blowing our heads.

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