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being nessasary

a quirky look into being

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I have been attending a community college the past twoish months to obtain a certification in massage therapy.  During these months, I have been taking an online course called “Strategies for Success.”  I was originally enrolled to take it on campus, but after reading the course description and receiving my used book in the mail, I tried my hardest to get out of it because it was pretty obvious I would not benefit much from the material it had to offer.  To summarize, the 10-week course focuses on goal making and keeping, self confidence, and how to create healthy life changes.  I believe this course can do wonders for many of my classmates, however for a dominant, brain cancer survivor and holder of a college degree, it seems a bit silly.  If you know me in real life or just through my blog voice, I am sure you know I am a bit of a force, especially when I am committed to doing something or validating myself.

You have probably figured by now that I did not get out of the class.  So, I entered the course with the expectation that I would get an easy A (and I am), and perhaps  learn a bit about other people’s lives (which I have).  I have followed all the rules, doing the very redundant assignments that require me to write a feeble 200-300 words about the goals I have for myself, how I will achieve them and/or my daily affirmations.  Who is my hero?  How do I cite a book in APA format?  Who is an influential person in my life? You get the idea.  It has been fun visiting my 8th grade English classroom – I have even learned a new definition of the word scotoma via Lou Tice.  I will reiterate that I think this course could be beneficial to so many people, and does explain certain psychological behaviors in a casual and straightforward manner.

The online course requires us (the students) to answer a question on a discussion board each week and reply to two of our classmates’ posts.  I have been open and honest from the first day of class with the hope of sparking an interesting discussion.  I decided I could take this as an opportunity to be a teacher in optimism and happiness when facing adversity.  So I have told the class about my brain cancer (and written about it in nearly every writing assignment because there have been very few thorns as sharp as my medical issues these past 4 years).  Not that I wasn’t blunt before my diagnosis in June of 2007, my truthful talk has just developed into something that makes nervous friends, family and doctors laugh.  I like seeing people smile.  The thing is, once you almost die, and have had pieces of your brain removed, your reservations are saved for the rare times you are in a cute dress at a fancy dinner party.  Ask any cancer patient how many people have seen their boobies, lady-parts, or wedding tackle, and they couldn’t tell you.  We have lost a bit of our humanity  (which appropriately rhymes with sanity).  That being said, not much phases me now-a-days.  I suppose I get lost in my world of blunt behavior at times, but usually have a sense of when to set the dial to low or simmer.

I have made it to week 10 of this course without offending anyone on the discussion board.  I have shared experiences and given advice.  My teacher has applauded my weekly writing assignments  (the dial was set on medium-high in many of them).

Week 10’s question was along the lines of, “How can using what you have learned about yourself in this class to allow you to set new educational goals for yourself?  What is your new plan for reaching these goals?”

This question turned me for a loop.  However, it took little time for me to refer to the old adage that honesty is the best policy.  So, I politely started, “Honestly, I have not learned much that I did not already know from this course…”  and went on to explain my position.  But I did something terribly wrong and inappropriate for a college level course: in explaining my character and integrity, I called myself a “stubborn ass.”  You know me, you know I am.  Most people do not think a second thought about usage of the word ass.  After all, it is a certified word in the English language; I am sure I do not need to copy and paste/get APA or MLA citations to prove this.

I sign into the classroom today to complete this week’s allotment of work, and see an e-mail in my inbox from my instructor:

“Your posts need to be PG.  I have deleted due to the language that was used.”

I felt a smile creep across my face, then came the ironic laugh.  Really?

[side note: allow me to get a bit nerdy, but the first thing that I noticed that was wrong with this e-mail (ignore if you aren’t an English fan/grammar Nazi/interested) was that  the second statement in the e-mail is an incomplete sentence.  There is NO subject.  NO SUBJECT! AH!  You learn this in grade school!  It is that my instructor finds correct English to be negligible, or she was so infuriated by my use of the word “ass” to be so completely offensive that she did not want to even refer to my discussion post as a thing that actually existed.  I am pretty set on the latter as my instructor uses the past tense of the verb of “being.”  She killed my discussion post!  Destroyed my crafted words! Oh, the demonic power of modern word processing!]

I am going to give you the brief, then the long definition of the MPAA PG rating.  Briefly, PG (Parental Guidance Suggested), means that some material may not be suitable for children.  To be official, you may read the official jargon, which enhances the hilarity of the situation (highlights added for emphasis):

“This is a film which clearly needs to be examined or inquired into by parents before they let their children attend. The label PG plainly states that parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, but the parent must make the decision. Parents are warned against sending their children, unseen and without inquiry, to PG-rated movies. The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity in these films. There may be some violence or brief nudity. But these elements are not deemed so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance. There is no drug use content in a PG-rated film. The PG rating, suggesting parental guidance, is thus an alert for examination of a film by parents before deciding on its viewing by their children. Obviously such a line is difficult to draw. In our pluralistic society it is not easy to make judgments without incurring some disagreement. So long as parents know they must exercise parental responsibility, the rating serves as a meaningful guide and as a warning.” (MPAA Ratings)

Whew.  The fine print. Profanity, which MAY appear in PG rated in films.  I am sure the word ass offends my classmates, most of which are parents themselves.  I bet many of my classmates’ parents read their 20/30 year old childrens’ college homework to make sure it is appropriate before allowing their babies to sit down with their jumbo sippy cups of coffee and cheerios after their grandchildren have been tucked into bed.  The word ass, most these parents decide, is a complete desecration to the innocence of their children and their children’s children (I hope you are reciting the latter part of that sentence as Captain Hook does in Hook).

The point is, college is for adults.  We can buy porn, have the shit beaten out of us by drill instructors, and kill ourselves with cigarettes.  But, seeing a word with dual identities is a huge issue and must be eliminated before our delicate eyes can read it.  This is what I take from my instructor’s brief and grammatically incorrect sentence.  I can see that she may have been turned off by my polite dismissal of the class, but a disagreement is no reason use a poor three-lettered word as a scapegoat to delete a negative view her class.

She could say it was unprofessional and perhaps I could take that somewhat seriously.  But, she did not.  She is punishing me for saying something that is widely accepted in our society.  Plus, she has read my writing that is not at all PG, sometimes barley in PG-13 boundaries, and has given me perfect scores.  There is a bit of an imbalance.

My reaction:

  1. I wrote her a polite and brief e-mail, both apologizing for what I did and asking what part of my post was offensive? (obviously I know what it was).
  2. I re-wrote my post, starting it with a brief apology to the class for using offensive language.  I said most everything in the same manner except I replaced ass with “donkey“.
  3. I will do the rest of my work using words to combat her lack of tact and respect.  I hope that my instructor sees how offensive writing “stubborn-‘donkey'” is to a bunch of adults.

I will leave this post thanking my English teachers for thoroughly discussing grammar rules and word choice, and with the words of one of greatest stubborn asses of them all (and a brilliant high school teacher):

“Words are important.” -Mr. Bruce Hitchcock



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