Sunday, June 07, 2015

I Am A Snob

   There...I've stated it out loud, for everyone to see. I am A Snob. No, not that definition of "snob"
"...a person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and dislikes people or activities regarded as lower-class..."
but this definition of "snob"
"...a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people..."
   Many years ago, when I was a newly-minted teenager, I had, for eighth-grade English, a newly-minted English teacher. She was probably about 23, fresh out of college, and full of lovely ideas on how she was going to bring Literature to all these poor junior high school kids who had probably never cracked a book. Eighth grade English is where students learn about journals and diaries as literature: a common book to assign is The Diary of Anne Frank, and a common assignment is for students to keep their own journals for a period of days or weeks. However, this new teacher wanted nothing so pedestrian as a diary by a 14-year-old girl hiding from the Nazis for her students. No! They should be exposed to the great minds of...the 17th century. She subjected us to the diaries of Samuel Pepys, an English bureaucrat who kept a detailed diary from January 1, 1660 to May 31, 1669. While some of the entries is Pepys' diaries are fascinating (the coronation of Charles II; the Great Fire), a fair amount is not really suitable for an 8th-grade classroom (Pepys was a philanderer and chronicled his sexual exploits) and the rest can be mind-numbingly dull. However, she was out to prove something, and our assignment for several weeks was to keep a journal of our own lives, the way Pepys did. Since this was the late 1960s, we were encouraged to write how we really felt, and the teacher would collect our journals periodically to give us a grade (remember, this was a homework assignment). Being the good little student I was, I did as I was told, and wrote in my journal nearly every day. Also, being the independent thinker I am, I wrote down my feelings, on journal-keeping in general, and on what I thought of Mr. Pepys and his very dull diary.
   On the appointed day, I turned in my journal, and received the two worst things that could happen to a young scholar: a "D" on my journal, and a telephone call to my mother. Of the two, the "D" was the lesser of the punishments--I had gotten bad grades on assignments before, so I was disappointed but not overly concerned. However, a telephone call home? That was worse than being sent up to "talk to the principal." Whatever had I done to merit that?
   I dragged myself home that afternoon, expecting to be grounded until I graduated high school. Nothing. When I mentioned to my mother that my teacher had told me that she had called, my mom said, "Oh, yes. I talked to her and set her straight." That was it. Weird, but I was willing to let it go. Later on, I got the full story of that call. My teacher was upset by I had written in my journal (I believe I had written that I thought Pepys was boring, and that it was stupid that we had to learn about him instead of Anne Frank), so she called my mother and informed her that I was "an intellectual snob." My mother--bless her--told the teacher that I was brought up to be proud of my intellectual abilities and accomplishments, and, by the way, what was that teacher thinking, in assigning the writings of a 17th century bureaucrat to a bunch of 13-year-olds, then penalizing them for expressing their opinions in their journals?
   I relate this tale because I had a similar experience this week. No, I'm not reading Pepys for an assignment: this time, it was in connection with weaving and the teaching of weaving. I am what some people consider a Traditionalist fiber and textile artist--I got interested in the historical aspects of cloth more than twenty years ago, and continue to be fascinated by it. I am also a traditionally trained educator: I went to graduate school, got California-issued teaching credentials, and spent a lot of years in the K-12 education system. I can write a lesson plan in my sleep, and I know how to deliver content effectively. In a discussion on weaving instruction, I mentioned that there are a couple things I am clear about in my classes, specifically that I don't care for a popular form of weaving known as "Saori," and that I don't rent studio time nor equipment for people to play around. If someone is interested in the former, I can recommend several good teachers; if it's the latter, I used to know of a studio where loom rentals and studio space rentals were possible.
   It seems having an opinion is enough to get people riled up, to the point that I (and some others) were referred to as "elitist snobs." I am a snob because I don't care for the loosey-goosey, do-your-own-thing nature of Saori weaving. I am a snob because I want to be respectful of students' and my time, so I am careful to detail what we will learn before we learn it, then check for knowledge throughout the lesson(s). I am a snob because I expect students to be respectful of each other's time and to be there because they want to learn what I've described. I am a snob because I will expect my students to gain some knowledge. As I stated at the beginning, I am A Snob.
   I'm OK with that. I have more than a decade of high school students calling me shockingly vile names (and getting kicked out of class for doing it), so "snob," is pretty mild. I don't even look at is as something bad: I've worn the "snob" label most of my life, and am, frankly, a little proud of it. I'm still proud of my intellectual abilities and accomplishments, and I'm proud of my skills as a weaver, spinner, dyer, and all-around fiber and textile artist. I have the luxury of not needing to teach to make my bread, so I can smile and send those who attempt to insult me on their way.