the dreamers (bernardo bertolucci, 2003)
by request/film fatales #30: wonder woman (patty jenkins, 2017)

the full blackboard

This is a story I think I've told many times, but I can't find any reference to it on this blog, where I've been writing since 2002, so maybe I haven't told the story as often as I thought. It also took place long enough ago that I can't really remember the context, i.e. where and when it took place. But I think it's worth telling, so I've dive in, even with the holes in my memory.

It took place in a classroom. I can't recall if I was a junior college student or if I was a university teacher, which means I can't remember if it was the 1970s or the 1990s or even later. And I can't remember if I had power in the classroom (teacher) or little power (student). And those things matter to the story, but again, not enough for me to shut up. I can say that I do think it happened when I was teaching at Cal, emphasis on "think".

The classroom discussion was about the participation of women in the classroom, or rather, the over-participation of men. This was a hot topic at one time ... sadly, I imagine it's still a topic, but it would be nice to think otherwise. As a teacher in a small, discussion-oriented class, we were taught to be inclusive when calling on students, and to beware of habits we might have that unconsciously tipped the balance of men and women speakers. In this case, at some point I realized that men (me included, of course) were dominating the discussion. So I had an idea (and this is one reason I suspect I was a teacher, because a student doesn't ordinarily get to make the kind of suggestion I'm going to describe). I decided all of the men should leave the classroom ... I forget how long, 10 minutes, 15 ... which would give the women a chance to discuss the topic without the men dominating everything. And so the men went outside for awhile while the women stayed in the room. I recall a couple of the male students were pissed off ... they didn't dominate discussions, the whole notion was ridiculous, and if women didn't want to speak up, you can't force them to do so.

After the allotted time, us guys returned to the classroom. One look at the blackboards (for there were more than one) told us everything we needed to know.

Every blackboard in the room was covered with writing.



I did this once with students of color and white students. No one left the room but we got into racial affinity groups. I'm not sure I would do it today. Not sure I have the balls to do it. Also not sure anyone in any circumstance could.

Steven Rubio

As I recall, I had the men leave the room because the issue was male domination/intimidation, even if unconscious. I figured if we just split into groups, us guys would still cast a spell. Whatever ... the thing I remember most was seeing those blackboards.

It's funny, on a single occurrence basis, the most dominant student in any class discussion I ever had was my daughter, who was a teenager, 14 or so. She came to class with me, and she's never been shy about expressing her opinion. Plus, when she was even younger than that, she used to come to parties with my fellow grad students and hold court, often about her specialty at the time, slasher movies. So, to quote Bernie Mac, she wasn't scared of us motherfuckers. You know how some class discussion go poorly because the teacher ends up doing half the talking? A student makes a comment, everyone waits for the teacher's response, then someone else talks and waits for the teacher? Well, this happened when my daughter came to class. We were discussing Thelma and Louise, and she had seen it like a billion times ... it was one of those we had on VHS and the kids watched it over and over. The first student offered an opinion, and out of the corner of my eye, I see someone waving their hand to talk. It was my daughter. No one else had their hand up, so I called on her. She proceeded to dispute the student's take. Another student spoke up, and once again, she replied. It was like those teacher-student-teacher-student discussions, except she was the teacher. My class was suitably impressed at her confidence.

Now I'm remembering a similar example. This was a big lecture class, 100+ students. I had seen Flossie Lewis before class, and told her if she got a chance, she should stop by. So the class was moving along ... this was more lecture than discussion ... and Flossie shows up. I don't know if you knew Flossie, but she was very tiny, and she was also the only grad student in the English department who was older than me. She took a seat at the front of the class ... and by front, I mean she sat right next to where I was standing. I briefly introduced her, and went back to my lecture. I didn't get more than two sentences out before Flossie interrupted to take issue with whatever I was saying. She was an instant hit with the class!


She was raised well!

Your Sister

I love this story, and I don't recall ever hearing it before. I've sometimes been accused (ok, one term in one class on probably one student evaluation) that I treated the men in the class differently than I treated the women. As a result, I am not sure I would conduct this experience, but heck, I'm getting close to retirement, so maybe I would if doing so was relevant to the topic. (BTW, an examination of the final grades in that class didn't reveal any bias!)

Steven Rubio

I think my main grading bias was called inflation :-).

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)