Forcing people to do something won’t make them like it.
Think about speed limits. Even though they help prevent happy little motorists from killing themselves on their way to class, most people would rather ignore speed limits. Sure, they’ll tell the officer they were in a hurry, but I suspect they break the law in part because they resent being forced to drive a certain way.
“You say I can only go 65 miles per hour? Screw that. I do what I want.”
I feel similarly about the notion of a queer G.E. requirement, which various candidates have mentioned as part of both the 2005 and 2004 A.S. election platforms. Much in the manner of the ethnicity requirement, which obligates students on our diversity-impoverished campus to learn about minority cultures, the queer G.E. would require students to take a class concerning the things that matter to gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people. Superficially, the plan makes sense. But let’s remember that people hate being told what to do.
A queer G.E. would be saying, essentially, “Hey, go read about some gay stuff. I don’t care if you’re a mechanical engineer.” Beyond that, such a requirement would add to students’ course loads — either by packing another class into the brief four years students have here, or by adding a copy of E.M. Forster’s Maurice onto an already expensive stack of books.
Ask the students proposing the queer G.E. about the requirement, and they’ll explain that it wouldn’t necessarily result in another class or an extra book, because professors could merely modify their existing curriculums to include topics of queer interest. I feel that this would be unfair to professors, as these educators spend a lot of time developing syllabi that represent their academic goals, not necessarily those others impose on them. I would hate for my beloved Southern lit professor to rearrange her lesson plan and drop a point she thought was important, solely to cram an obligatory queer-related discussion into the 10 brief weeks of the quarter.
Also, I’m not sure how effective general education requirements are in actually teaching students. I, for example, am an English major. I suck at math. I fulfilled my quantitative relationship requirement just like I was supposed to, but does that mean I can calculate a tip at a restaurant without scratch paper? No.
Likewise, every UCSB student must take classes to fulfill the writing requirement, but believe me: I’ve seen what passes for writing from some of you. You don’t know your subjects from your predicates. Just passing a class doesn’t mean students are any more adept at expressing themselves. Similarly, I’m not sure being lectured on queer issues would make students any more keen on supporting their gay and lesbian peers, especially those already in a homophobic mind-set.
Since today marks the midway point of Queer Pride Week, it’s important to think about what would best help the average student understand the issues facing our campus’ queer community. Instead of imposing another academic requirement on every student, queer advocates could promote existing queer-related classes and push to create new, interesting ones that draw students toward the subject in a less obtrusive way.
The average UCSB student knows fairly little about the queer studies minor or the associated classes, but they might sign up anyway, if they overhear their friends talking up some queer-related class they’re taking — “Oh my god, my history of Canadian lesbian kickboxers class kicks ass” or “I learned the most interesting thing in my transgender police officers class.” That’s the loophole to the rule of people hating to do what they’re forced to; if you can trick them into thinking it was their idea, they won’t shut up about it.
Daily Nexus training editor Drew Mackie does not, however, mind being forced to take another shot.