Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 12:49:03 -0400
Random Thought: Class Rage

I am going to play pop-psychiatrist. I often wonder why people lose it on the highway. After talking once again with a colleague yesterday, I think I may have an idea. My colleague practices what I am going to call "class rage." Maybe in broader terms I should call it "campus rage." She doesn't think she is very effective and powerful in "the system." She thinks the system is too large and complicated for her to influence. She doesn't think she can make any difference. She thinks it is extraordinarily impersonal. She doesn't feel the system trusts, values, or respects her. And, she reciprocates the feelings with disbelief, deep suspicion, lack of faith, even a sense of forelorn hopelessness. She feels the system is running roughshod over her. She sees herself, maybe victimizes herself, as an unappreciated, tired, overworked victim. She thinks of herself as a voiceless and invisible and lifeless "unit" in the system. She let's every little setback in and outside the classroom get to her and drag her down. Her attitude is one of frustration and resignation. She's calm on the surface, but beneath she quietly stews and seethes. She is confident on the surface, but I get the feeling that is only a mask. She takes stands safely sitting down and out of sight and earshot. She is void of sincere bubbling enthusiasm, excitement, and energy. She feigns enjoyment. She doesn't have fun. Her eyes don't sparkle. Her steps don't dance. It's rare to see her smile. She goes through many a motion. She does just what she feels she has to do. She sees no reason to go beyond the proverbial call of duty. Her eyes are on retiring and "getting out of here." She goes into the classroom with a "let's get it over and done" feeling very much like many students. Every now and then, she throws a "how can you..." or a "don't you know..." at me. She buries herself in her research, in what she calls a "commitment to the discipline," to find solace and meaning. She thinks the world of academia is unfair. Her quiet anger is a powerful messenger of her sense of powerlessness that pushes aside all others and has a voice so loud and a light so bright it drowns out and blinds all others. And, in word and deed, she silently--and sometimes not so silently--bangs on the steering wheel, blowing her horn at the students to let off steam. In various ways, to various degrees, she is taking her frustration and anger out on the students. Her attitudes and actions toward the students are symbolic curses she is actually hurling at colleagues and administrators--and maybe herself. It's the students she is wildly honking at, cutting off, and running off the road. They are the only ones she feels she has control over and give her a sense of control. In the process, she is doing to them what she condemns the system for doing to her.

She dosn't admit to any of this. It's sad. It's painful to hear and watch her. It is something that is difficult to contend with. She is so talented. She is so caring. She has so much to offer. She can make so much of a positive difference in the lives of others. Don't judge her. There's a little bit, and sometimes more than a little bit, of her in each of us.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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