Monday, May 24, 2010
Asperger Discrimination: Some Self Evaluation
One of my recent posts dealt with some of my reactions to being let go by the high school I was teaching at. I used an email sent by a member of the administration, which praised the job that I did for them even if I they would not be able to have me back as a launching pad to muse about the nature of discrimination and where one draws the line between saying that those with certain character traits are ineligible for a job and saying that members of certain minority groups are ineligible when the characteristic in question is closely related to a specific minority group. The example I gave was that of a black teacher. We need to be honest that integrating society and creating a more tolerant one is not a simple or painless task. Having a black teacher teach a white class is likely to create friction. A world in which blacks carry the burden of integration, of making sure that there is no friction and of having the right "touch" in dealing with students civil rights is one in which civil rights would never get off the ground. Every act of bigotry can be hid behind a smile and the claim that unfortunately the person fails to socially integrate himself. As an Asperger, I see myself as a member of a minority group and feel we should receive everything that society grants to other minority groups such as blacks and gays. Looking back at the post I can see how it could have been misread by people, not familiar with my thought processes, casually glancing at.
To be clear, I was not arguing that I had been discriminated against. I specially pointed out that, even in my black teacher scenario, it is not clear to me that our black teacher would or should win. It would be touch and go. I practice, I suspect, it would come down to the school being able to demonstrate that they are acting in good faith in dealing with blacks and the struggle with students was not simply an excuse or a more politically correct way of framing discrimination. This piece was also not meant as an attack on the school for daring to fire a teacher as "talented" as me. I specially said that I was very grateful to the administration for the opportunity. My whole argument is dependent on the fact that it was very kind of them to write me this letter. A person is never truly in a position to evaluate himself so I have no desire to argue one way or another as to whether I am a "good" teacher or not. I took the stance that overall I did a good job on all things subject to empirical evaluation since that was the school's stance and because it sets up the whole theoretical issue, which I wished to discuss.
My evaluation of myself is pretty much in keeping with how I think the administration saw me. I have a very strong background in the material and I am a good lecturer. I still need to work on my back and forths with students and my tendency to just wind myself up and speak for forty-five minutes straight. My ability to control a classroom is a major problem. I may love teaching and honestly care about the students in my classroom, but I certainly do not have an easy time relating to them. I am brash, loud, and students often find me intimidating. This leads to situations where issues that should have been easily defused blow up into major issues and reach the attention of administrators, by definition a losing situation for me. If I were an administrator, I would have questions about rehiring me since I am one more thing to worry about and a parent brought lawsuit waiting to happen. In the end I think I am a very good teacher for certain types of students. My ideal teaching job would be what Dr. Louis Feldman has at Yeshiva University teaching Classics to two students. I could be the quirky teacher at some college off to the side with his pack of students. This sort of job, of course, is rare in this day and age and is unlikely to come my way.
Any final judgment of my teaching comes down to a question of values. What is the most important part of teaching, being a fountain of knowledge for students to tap or someone that students like and avoids trouble?