The Miseducation of Seattle University

Seattle University prides itself on being the most progressive and even liberal of the Jesuit schools in the US. One would think that an institute of higher education in one of the most progressive cities in the country, even a Catholic one, would be taking in the massive amount of change that our society is undergoing in relation to pronouns, gender, sexuality, etc. That seems, however, to not be the case. I have, on multiple occasions, experienced interactions and conversations with people in this school whose ignorance on such subjects has deeply disturbed me. What makes it worse is that it appears that professors here, who experience it in the classrooms, have no intention of correcting that ignorance. One especially upsetting incident took place in my intro to international studies class. The teacher asked the question, “If I were to come into class tomorrow in a dress and tell all of you that I am a woman would you accept that?” A simple question with an obvious answer, or so I thought. I made the rather naive error of assuming that everyone in the class understood that gender is not sex in the same way that ethnicity is not race, but boy, was I wrong.

 

I know that the teacher was simply trying to make a point about the variation of cultural classifications even within a seemingly homogenized classroom, but I honestly I no longer felt safe in the classroom with the kind of reaction it prompted. Students made comments about how “gender depends on genitalia” or “one’s chromosomes” and how “you cannot just change your gender after one day, you have to show commitment.” Their ignorance and blatant disregard for their fellow students’ identities went completely unchecked by the teacher. A key learning opportunity was disregarded, which is disappointing because gender politics, education on the difference between gender and sex, are highly important in this day and age.

 

At SU most of our classes are run like Socratic seminars where conversation and debate are encouraged. Our academically advanced environment led me to assume that the student population was all starting at the same basic level of understanding about things like ethnicity, gender, class, etc. The way we understand a conversation changes when not everyone is on the same page, and the professor neglected his duty to make sure that everyone starts at the same level and understanding.

 

Our teacher made it almost like a game, like he was engineering all of our reactions so that in the next class when we finished our reading everyone would have this major “Aha” moment, like a mic drop, and our teacher would be this great champion of widening his students’ worldviews. I think I was most upset by the fact that the teacher did nothing; he didn’t bother to correct or inform or educate anyone in the classroom. He just let our wrongful assumptions lie, and those students left the classroom just as ignorant as they entered. If these things are not being taught here where will they ever be learned? What is school for if not to educate us?

 

I claim no perfection of knowledge in this matter. I credit most of my education on the racial equity trainings I have attended for the Seattle Public Schools, and I fully admit that I am still being educated every day. For example, a few months ago, the Seattle U Her Campus team attended a training on micro-aggression which provided a phenomenal toolbox of techniques and systems to work on our reeducation of self to build a safer environment for all people. I can’t help but wonder why a university with so much talk about progress and acceptance and so many resources at their disposal does nothing to push all of their faculty and students to further their education on such vitally important topics in this day and age? College campuses are at the forefront of social change yet our miseducation at the hands of teachers who avoid lessons on contemporarily relevant things is to the detriment of our entire society.