[Editor’s Note—I have kept this final letter of the 2016 fall semester to my students mostly intact as I sent it to them today, so my readers may taste a little of what it is like to teach college classes in this American climate, and specifically how I have handled it at the conclusion of this recent semester, in which we shared together the debacle of this American election.—SG]
Hello class. I have graded your final papers and posted the finished calculation of your final grades in BlackBoard, under My Grades. Use the following scale to determine your final grade this semester:
600 points and below—F
I was very pleased with the effort students placed in their Final Essays, and it was a genuine pleasure to read through this sample of papers from the class. I can say with confidence that my students have earned their passing grade by proving their writing proficiency. Thank you for your participation and effort during this difficult semester…
…and I call it a difficult semester because it should indeed be described by that very adjective. We experienced the most volatile Presidential election cycle of our lifetimes. I incorporated the election into the content of my pedagogy and curriculum this past year-and-a-half, and I have come to understand the ramifications and difficulties of bringing up politics in a college composition course regularly. It’s a tough stream to navigate, and there is quite a bit of risk involved, from a teaching perspective…
…So, I’d like students to write for me a short response about the class, and specifically whether you appreciated or devalued my political analysis this past semester. In Journal Ten, I’d like students to write me a short essay in which you evaluate the class. Please feel free to use criteria such as my lectures, the textbook, the major assignments, the journals, the discussion boards, the peer reviews, the multiple films watched in class, my policies, my professionalism, or more; however, I am genuinely curious about my students’ opinions about all the Trump/Clinton discussions I moderated during the semester. I’d like to know if I crossed any lines, from your perspective.
Journal Ten is available in Blackboard to write this class evaluation, and you’ll earn the final ten points (which may move some of you up one grade level). Submissions for Journal Ten (or any previous journal) must be in to me before Sunday night, as I will be submitting grades on Monday morning.
Regarding this past election, you may have noticed that I mostly avoided the topic of Trump as President after the Library Excursion and Thanksgiving. This was partly out of necessity for the curriculum, but also partly out of uncertainty of what to say. There’s a lot to break down about the results of this past election. My plan was to write a grandiose letter to my students encapsulating my reaction to the election, but there’s just too much to say…
…So, I’d like to share a compilation of lyrics from the choruses of three songs that express fully my feelings about the election of Donald Trump…and ultimately therein, the last lesson I’d like to communicate to my students. The first stanza comes from Metallica’s new album’s title song, “HardWired…to Self-Destruct;” the second comes from the immortal David Bowie’s “Hang on to Yourself;” and the third is from MUSE’s “Revolt”:
We’re so fucked
Shit outta luck
Hardwired to self-destruct
So come on, come on
We’ve really got a good thing going
Come on, come on, if you think we’re gonna make it
You better hang on to yourself
You’ve got strength
You’ve got soul
You’ve felt pain
You’ve felt love
You can grow, you can grow
You can make this world what you want
You can revolt
You can revolt
You can revolt
One final bit of commentary regarding the aforementioned concept of revolt. I’d suggest examining Trump’s recent Tweet aimed at an Indiana union representative, who made the mistake of correcting Trump’s numbers: Spend more time working-less time talking.
Trump’s dead wrong here. It’s a lot harder to talk or write than it is to go back to doing what you’re told to do by foolish authoritarians looking to make riches off the backs of the working class.
To my students, I offer the most important lesson from this composition course: Please talk more…and talk back frequently at those who presume to claim authority because they very simply found their positions of authority by manipulation, happenstance, or fallacy. It’s just as difficult a job to speak up in American society as it is to work in a factory, serve in the military, or raise a family.
Talking back to authority is the American way, not whatever-the-hell Trump suggests to the American People. He’s bamboozled some of the electorate, but I’d gamble that it will not be long before he messes up big time, to the point where even his supporters cannot deny his ineptitude. (I may be wrong on this last point, only because his voters have been surprisingly stubborn and willfully petulant about ignoring Trump’s obvious flaws.)
There are too many fools in positions of authority in this country to risk not speaking up or talking back.
So, talk and write more. Never be silent, cowered, or complacent…
…especially with this incoming President…
…especially in this country, your country, America.
Scott C. Guffey, M.A.