Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Tale of the Terrified Teacher (Another Censorship Story)

Since I've taken on the role of "educational censorship town crier," I'll call to your attention this article from Inside Higher Ed.

Some background: We're at San Jose State's Center for Literary Arts. After Virginia Tech, faculty member Mitch Berman remembered that one of the students in his class turned in a disturbing piece of fiction as well.

The work in question is a story about a student who convinces a vampire lover to kill a hated English faculty member.

The student, thankfully, was not punished -- at least not yet. Berman received permission from the provost to teach the remainder of his creative writing course online, as both agreed that Berman's physical safety could be in danger.

To get the rest of the story, one has to dig a little deeper. From the San Jose student newspaper, we learn that Berman didn't follow through on his plan to teach online; and students, stuck in a course which had stopped meeting (either online or IRL) had to go to the department to beg for another instructor.

Which they received.

And then we reach the most telling part of the article: how Berman knew that the English teacher murdered by the vampire lover was supposed to be him.

In the body of the story (which I cannot find online... grrr...), the fictional professor tells the fictional student "You don't know jack shit about movies if you don't know Kurosawa."

Students in the course confirmed that Berman actually said this, expletives included, to the story's author earlier in the semester and had no problem addressing equally "blunt" comments to the rest of his classroom.

So here we have a faculty member who demeans his students in class, gets a story about a vampire who kills an English professor by eating his feces (did I mention that the vampire kills people by eating feces?), demands to be removed from his classroom and be allowed to teach online, and then fails to hold the online classes he is responsible to teach.

Yeah. Um... yeah. Blame the student!

Actually, though...

I do blame the student, a little. Not for putting the fear of death into Prof. Berman, but for writing a story about feces-eating vampires.

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