This was composed, and quoted here with modifications, in response to a peer’s disappointment with the course and professor:
Quite frankly? I’m disgusted, terrified, and angered.
To use the Allegory of Plato’s Cave: In a bachelor’s degree, we huddle in the cave swapping stories and ideas of what the shadows dancing on the walls mean. In a master’s degree, we step out of the cave and venture into light where we are both confronted and comforted. In a doctoral degree, we are to explore further, perhaps bring back a stick, return to the cave, and show the inhabitants how the stick can be used for making fire to create heat and light to warm those still huddled in the cave and reveal the shadows for what they may be when the firelight casts them aside.
I’ll let you consider that interpretation of the Cave. To spell it out is against my nature. The point is, and I’m speaking to a general audience, do examine yourselves if you so choose. Why are you having such reactions, why the discomfort, why the need to band voices in this gang mentality?
While yes you are consumers in this business model of the educational system, you are also bound to the role of graduate student. The faculty aren’t required to hold your hands and/or continue to guide you the way they did in your undergraduate experience.
If you want to make the argument for the need of safe space, then consider this: You do have this safe space. Institutional policy demands this. However, there is a limit. As graduate students, the safe spaces are always there, but you are to engage yourselves and others in a respectful manner to actively contribute to productive learning.
This isn’t respect. Respect, may I remind you, is a two-way street. Otherwise, it’s based on fear.
I love my program, love the way the material and content continuously challenge my biases and viewpoints.
Fortify your foundations, yes, as a person in relationship or not with divinity. Yet fortification requires knowledge of the outside. Do you honestly think when in more realistic dialogue with the world beyond our ivory tower, you’ll be able to rely on the same methods for comforting yourselves? There is a moment when true experience can’t be constrained by structure and order. There you will grapple with the unknown, and what will you do? If Jacob could supposedly wrestle with God or an angel (apparently the jury’s still debating that one), if Abraham could challenge God, if Job could call God into question, if Jesus could be outspoken against the rulers and people of his day, then …
Who are you? Who am I? Who are we?
Discomfort implies that your foundations are being called into question. Don’t retreat further into the stronghold, into smaller and tighter spaces. Look outside. See and perceive the seeming threat, and use the consolidation of your interactions to be on firmer ground. The banner waving at your gate may be open to negotiation and diplomacy, to compromise, all of which requires the consent and consideration of both, perhaps several, parties. If it is a cry of war, then you must ask yourselves, what have you done or been to incite such antagonism? You’re not in seclusion or isolation. You are in and of this world like everyone else.
So I close with the compounded question I indirectly proposed already: What is your reasoning, and the reasoning behind your reasoning?
I spent an hour writing that email. So much for getting more studying in this morning.