As I do at the end of most 16-week-long college composition classes, I share my own writing with you. It’s only fair since I ask you to write so much for me during the semester; I tallied an approximate range of 25 to 40 full pages of writing for each student who has made it to this final session today.
I’ve written this letter to recap some of the lessons of this past semester and to review some items I have learned from various experiences these past few weeks. I enjoy writing in the form of a letter because it invites complexity and camaraderie. These are two conditions I hope students have been able to incorporate into their rhetoric, and hopefully, you can prove it to me in an evaluative letter written today in class. After my letter is concluded, please write me a letter detailing one lesson you have learned this semester. I would also like students to evaluate the class in this letter: for criteria, you might consider evaluating the class policies, major essay/paper assignments, the in-class writing activities, the textbook, my lectures, the writing workshops, the online BlackBoard Additional Readings, or how I did or did not fulfill the role of college instructor.
I’d also include the political discussions we have engaged in this semester as a potential criterion. I have found our class warm-up talks about politics to be quite enlightening, as 2016’s political rhetoric has been so caustic, fascinating, and, at times, inexpiable. This presidential election year is truly singular and relevant. However, I can understand how some students might feel we have bludgeoned the horse known as Donald Trump to death in this writing course. The problem with this horse, though, is he’s not going down; in fact, he’s winning the Republican race, as I predict Indiana will confirm this week.
If I were to properly explain my disdain for Donald Trump, then I’d have to attach it to my love for this country. His rhetoric is so antagonistic, fallacious, and misogynistic, and I continue to hope that his character does not represent America. He represents some American value that I just cannot get behind. It’s some type of tough guy facade. I love my country, and I just might weep if he is indeed the accepted depiction of the American white male. I openly admit that I attempt to be the complete opposite of Donald Trump. He’s not the type of American I want to be, even if he became rich and famous in America because of his character.
Donald Trump’s successful defense of his campaign manager after manhandling a female reporter was the low-point of this semester. We heard Trump dismiss the battery charge as insignificant, and he couldn’t reprimand such a “good man” who feels so at ease placing his hands on others. We then heard the local male Florida prosecutor give a long-winded legal description of how it’s okay for a man to grab and yank a woman violently. She’s just a pesky girl who annoyed Trump. She got what was coming to her, including humiliation and the loss of a good-paying job.
There is a belittling attitude towards women fostered in this country by men. I see how Trump unabashedly promotes this attitude, and I fear the things Trump will say when he debates Hilary Clinton for the Presidency later this year. I have attempted to share some rhetoric about women’s issues in our final synthesis assignment with purpose, because I do not find misogyny to be a valuable American ideal, even when traditionalists perpetuate it.
I shared arguments about how women are paid unequally, and how that’s just fine for all the men who happen to be in charge. I’ve shared rhetoric out of the mouths of males that paternalistically govern how women should regard their own physicality, place, and function in society. There were plenty of arguments about the efforts to shut down Planned Parenthood, as if ending an evil government program will end abortion altogether, ensuring all the good Christians who hate abortion will get God’s approval in Heaven, where no liberal savages will be allowed. I also showed the documentary Saving Face to illustrate how Pakistani women are disfigured horribly by males who think they own women, like a cheap piece of property.
Some students have asked me why and how I choose the topics of study in class, especially the videos I choose to show on the overhead. I admit that it often is softly inspired by things that happen in my personal life, if you will allow me to explain…
Especially for the last four weeks, I have thought long and hard about what it means to be a good man to the people in my life. On the day I write this letter, a good friend of my family’s, Dr. David Merrill, would have turned 59 years old, but we lost him to cancer barely a month ago. Dr. Merrill was a good man…scratch that, he was the best man. He was one of the greatest college professors with whom I had an opportunity to work. He handled a classroom of students like an artist, hypnotizing them with his wealth of knowledge and wit.
It wasn’t primarily the classroom where Dave showed me how to be a good man. It was at his beautiful home, where he proved that a good man, at his core, at his base, simply knows how to love. Dave loved his wife, Debbie, dearly and wholly. He loved with such generosity: his family, his friends, his students, his environment, and his beloved community of Michigan City. He was my wife’s office-mate, and I cannot adequately express the love he shared with my wife and me during his wonderful, impactful life. Dr. David Merrill left an indelible impression. He was the kind of good man I want to be.
Dave’s life has been on my mind, and I wanted to share a little about my friend so you understand some of why I make decisions in my process. For his sake and memory, I feel it is my duty and responsibility as a male college instructor to tell my students about the difficulties, hurdles, and limitations women have throughout the world, and to show my students how the best manner to treat each other is with love and respect.
This is the lesson I’d like to emphasize at the end of this semester. I want both men and women in my classes to understand that misogyny is not an American ideal we should commend. I’d like to end this class with an exclamation point on this lesson, by supporting my argumentative rhetoric with one final video for you. (Warning: you will feel some emotion, unless you are completely misogynistic.)
I congratulate my students on a successful college semester, and I wish you all a very happy summer. Thank you for your attention and efforts.
Scott C. Guffey, M.A.
May 1st, 2016