Thursday, June 19, 2014

21 Signs That Reverse Sexism is Still Alive and Well

While we live in an age of so called gender equality, there are some things that no one wants to see a man do. Is this reverse sexism? Is this a double standard? It depends on how you define it. At any rate, some of the examples I have chosen might be regarded as unacceptable whichever way you look at it, but in this instance I would argue that they are particularly egregious when they come from a man. Some women do not like the idea of chivalry because they feel that it is patronizing to them. I, as a man, do not like chivalry because I feel that it discriminates against men, and puts an undue burden on them. Sure, women have encountered their fair share of hardships in history on account of certain prejudices, but what about all of the stereotypes and unfair expectations that have been placed on men? Here are just as few of them.

1. If a man encounters a spider, and happens to scream like a little girl, he will be roundly mocked.     

Add to that his possible inclination to do some sort of hysterical spider dance, with hands flapping and legs hurdling around the room, and he will never live it down. Frankly, I do not know who should be more offended by this mockery, the man who is being ridiculed for sounding like a woman, or the woman whose scream is being mocked for being exactly what it should be… a woman's scream. What's wrong with a little girl's scream, huh? It's beautiful, that what's wrong. Personally, I think that everyone should be offended on this one. No winners here. Perhaps as a means of protest we should all agree to let out a high pitched ear bleeding scream in solidarity with all women, and in solidarity with every man who feels the need to express himself in this fashion.

2. You hide under the bed while your wife checks for intruders… and you are called a coward for it.

Full disclosure: the thought of intruders in my house in the middle of the night (or whenever) does not thrill me very much, nor does the prospect of confronting them really bring me a sense of exhilaration. However, the idea of using my wife as a human shield (while I hide under the bed), does give me some pause. What should you do in this case in order to promote equity among the sexes? Set booby traps? Take turns checking for intruders? Draw Straws? Rock, Paper, Scissors? What? It really doesn't matter as long as men and women take care not to shame one another, whatever their preference may be. We must also stop this ridiculous stereotype about men protecting women, as if he had some God given mandate to do so. As it stands, a woman is not frowned upon for using men as a human shield, but if a man should dare return the favor, he is called a coward. We need to teach our young men that it's OK to be afraid, and more importantly, that it's OK to send a woman out to confront an intruder and not feel guilty about it, so long as the parties alternate.  

3. If you tell somebody that you think it's a woman's job to propose, you will be looked at as if you have two heads.      

Honestly, I don't think it matters who proposes to who, but let's be honest here, men have been bearing the brunt of the responsibility for romance for some time now; from chocolate, to poetry, to serenading, to single engine planes proposing marriage with giant banners. Would it kill a woman to reciprocate a little on this front? I want to be romanced as well. I want to have high expectations about what my wife or my girlfriend will do on our anniversary. I want rose petals placed on a heart shaped bed in our honeymoon sweet, without having to be the one who plans it. I want to be proposed to on a giant neon screen at a Chicago Cubs game with my girlfriend on one knee. Is that so unreasonable to ask? It would be nice- for a change- to see a woman experience that feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability that every man must inevitably endure when he submits himself to her whims as he waits in agony, like some Roman gladiator, for the empress to give him a "thumbs up or a thumbs down."

4. You expect your date to open the door for you… and apparently she thinks that you have it backwards.

Some women today are uncomfortable with a man opening the door for them because they believe it highlights a certain inequality among the sexes. Some may even call it a form of paternalism, and suggest that it implies that a lady is too weak to turn the door handle. I say- if they have a problem with it, they should repudiate it immediately and make it very clear to every man how much they detest such deferential treatment. As for me, I have no problem with it whatsoever. To me, refusing to have the door opened for you is a little like refusing to be treated like royalty. Why would I not want to be treated like a king? Consequently, if a woman refuses to be treated like a queen, then why should I subsequently be stripped of my crown? Chivalry is alive, baby, and since you are not capitalizing on it, I will! Have you ever received something free because the rightful heir failed to show up to get it? Well, the car door thing feels a little like that for me. You find it insulting? Good for you! I don't, so open the car door for me, and stop treating me like I am unworthy of the luxury you decided to forego.

5. If you take a lady out on a date, God forbid she should actually offer to pay for it. 

The way it should go down

Imagine you are out on a date, and at the end of the meal the waiter presumptuously places the check in front of you- basically assuming that you intend to pay for everyone. What should you do? Well, what you could do (especially if you are sick of this type of sexism) is to calmly, yet confidently, slide the bill in her general direction, with a slight nod of the head as if to communicate; "We all know that this has been a looooong time coming." That said, most people are OK with the idea of going Dutch under certain circumstances, and that would seem to be a reasonable enough solution to the dilemma. But what about the idea of a woman actually volunteering to pay the check for once? I think this could go a long way to righting some of the  wrongs of the past, a kind of reparation (if you will) for all the decades in which men had no choice in the matter. Some women complain that when a man pays the check he expects something in return. I'll tell you what I expect. I expect a woman not to presume that I, a man, should have to pay the check every time- as if I have to pay admission simply to be in her presence.

6. If you happen to request to borrow your girlfriends fuzzy cardigan on a chilly night, she will probably lose all respect for you.

Look, I know there are ways to get warm without borrowing your date's fuzzy cardigan. But what if you're genuinely cold, and she seems to be faring all right? What about all this talk about a wife/mother/women being nurturing? How nurturing is it to let a man sit there all miserable, while you are all warm and toasty? So because he didn't bring enough clothing, you look at him with indifference? You're saying he's out of luck because he's a guy, and guys are supposed to be miserable while their girlfriends are allowed to be perfectly content? Is this the kind of crap what we teach our children. Either they both have a fuzzy cardigan, they share it, or no one has one. Tell me, what sort of compassionate person could endure being happy while their beloved is sad? A masochist, that's who. Remember in first grade when you had a couple of cupcakes and the teacher wouldn't let you enjoy it because she said that in order for it to be fair everyone in the class had to have one? Well, I think it's pretty clear how that principle applies here.

7. You are not allowed to even mention how difficult your wife's pregnancy has been on you.

I observed the other day where the lovely actress Mila Kunis informed all men (rather paternalistically I thought) that they must never declare that "they" are pregnant, when in truth it is the mother of their child who is carrying the baby, and thus only she who is permitted to express her frustration. And of course when she says this everyone out there applauds and celebrates her bravery. In fact, there is almost the implication here that while she is obviously the hero in all this, he is essentially the villain- the one who caused her all of this unpleasantness. Look, no one doubts that the women bares the brunt of the responsibility in giving birth, but what about how difficult it is for a man, especially considering all of her hormonal mood swings? Does anyone care about the kind of pain that we must endure in dealing with all of this "get out jail free" nonsense? Listen, St. Mila of Kunis, I am not interested in hearing what a martyr you are for bringing a baby into this world. Rather, take a cue from the saintly Ashton Kutcher and endure this difficulty in quiet humility.

8. As a young boy you were never allowed to dream of the type of woman who was big and strong, and who would sweep you off your feet and carry you away into the night.

Right from the beginning of our lives we are taught to repress dreams like the one that I have suggested above. Men have to be the ones with a strong back. Men are expected to deliver those impossible dreams, those kind with giant lassos, wild horses, and tumbleweeds. What about our fantasy of being swept off our feet by some buxom and bold lady? What about our dream of a woman with fortress-like arms who makes us feel safe, and takes us far away from this God forsaken place? Granted, this does sound a little bit like kidnapping, but I too need a little danger in my life, and I don't think that it's fair that women in their 40's and 50's, the ones who dream of Fabio, and 50 Shades of S&M, should be the only ones who have that opportunity.      

9. You take naked "selfies" with your newborn child, and people think you're creepy.

Here we have a clear example of a double standard. If you are a woman and like taking pictures of yourself holding your newborn baby in your arms, naked, you receive praise. Do this as a male, and you may get arrested for it. Nakedness is natural, and what could be more natural and beautiful than a picture where everyone (perhaps even the cameraman) is naked? Nevertheless, if a man tries to duplicate this delightfully primitive idea, he is dismissed as some kind of wannabe women, or at worst, a creeper. No, we cannot breast feed our babies in front of the roving eyes of thousands, but we can present ourselves to the world "naked" in all of our weakness and milk-less vulnerability. Hence, no matter what accusations are hurled at us, no matter what derogatory comments are made, my body is beautiful in every single way, and I will not be deterred from witnessing to fatherhood in all its glory.

10. If you push women and children out of your way in order to flee a burning building... people will call you all sorts of names.

Save the males! Look, my life is just as precious to me as yours is to you. I take great offense at the notion that I'm supposed to have a high regard for the life of every single woman and child (some of whom I may not have even met), but apparently it's OK if I'm burnt to a crisp? I mean, why aren't the women and children fighting to save my life? If they were at all concerned about me, then maybe, just maybe, we could talk about what is expected of me. In some ways this is just a perpetuation of one of the oldest sexual stereotypes in the world: "ladies first". Why is it perfectly acceptable for a woman and child to glide happily down that giant inflatable slide, while I languish inside the building? Every once in a while I hear people say that if men were the ones to get breast cancer, there would already be a cure. I do not know if that is true. But if you look at it, that accusation seems pretty rich in light of the above example, for it seems in our day that men are truly damned either way. When it comes to putting women first, we are either scolded for it, or told that this is what we should have done in any case. Hence, we must either remain invisible and do as we are told (be seen and not heard), or like George Costanza, be mocked and ridiculed for failing to do what we should have done in the first place.

11. You are a pacifist (and bruise easily) which is why you never intervene when a woman is being assaulted… but apparently that explanation isn't good enough for some people.

Behold, the slavish and subservient manner of this chivalric knight!

A woman (of course) is not expected to intervene in a fight between two men... even if one of them is being pummeled. But can you imagine what people would say if that same woman were being pummeled by a man, and no man intervened? People would raise hell. In fact, any man who failed to protect her would be considered to be as vile as the man who was doing the violence. If this is not a double standard of the worst kind, then I don't know what is. OK, the example I used above is a bit ridiculous, but what difference does it make what the reason is? If a woman is not obliged to fight for me, then why should I fight for her? In the meantime, look at that poor sap kneeling at the feet of that lovely maiden, who even if he survives this treacherous battle, will probably be rejected by her anyway. But hey, what does it matter? She's a girl, go die for her and give every last drop of your blood on the battle field, while she prances around barefoot in the king's palace, dressing up in fine linens, and reclining on divans of gold!

12. Every time you go to the bathroom you say that you have to "powder your nose"... and people laugh at you like it's some kind of joke. 

Euphemisms are an important part of everyday life, especially for things that we really don't need to hear too much about. I suppose there are some women out there that are just about as vulgar as men when it comes to discussing their bodily duties, but I think most of us are happy that the majority of them keep that to a minimum. When I'm out to dinner and I mention "powdering my nose," I'm just trying to use the same gentle euphemistic language that women do. And so I do it and I get laughed at. Growing up, I remember hearing people say that girls were made of "sugar and spice and everything nice", while boys were made of "snakes and snails and puppy dog tails". I am willing to accept this offensive anti-male slur, if only it means that at least half of the human race speaks with civility. But the problem is even while I concede that women have it right on this account, many are abandoning these sweet references, in favor of things that should be regarded as "unmentionables." If this is the case, then maybe I, as well as those like myself (regardless of gender), should be the ones to receive a flowery title, while the Sarah Silverman's of the world, who feel the need to go into great detail about every bodily function, both seen and unseen, should be given a less glowing description (viz. puppy dog tails).

13. You weep every time you see a puppy… and people call you a coward for it. 

A man shouldn't be afraid to show his sensitive side, nor should he be called a baby even if he feels the need to curl up in the fetal position and cry his little eyes out. Is this not what getting in touch with your inner child is all about? How insulting to babies everywhere that someone should associate "crying like a baby" with something negative the adult men do? I think people should be able to cry at every moment of the day, if they feel like it. But what are boys taught as children? "Big boys don't cry!" This is flat out wrong. Crying is the most natural thing in the world, and no one should be discouraged from doing it for whatever reason. But here's the thing- if you're a man this kind of emotional vulnerability is generally discouraged. You might get away with it at the funeral of your best friend, but start tearing up at a song like Wind Beneath My Wings, and you'll immediately get a disapproving look. My wife even called me a "Weepy William" once because she said I cried too much around her and everyone else. I told her that the day women are also ridiculed for being emotional is the day that I will listen to her concern. However, until that day, I stand in solidarity, weeping with every women who herself feels the need to cry at anything and everything that might cause a rush of emotions. For those who do not allow themselves this freedom, such behavior is believed to be troubling and disproportionate, but for those who honor a natural surge of emotion, the behavior is simply referred to as "the gift of tears."

14. If you spend all day long at the spa getting a facial, a mani-pedi, and musing (with your boyfriends) about how much you deserve to be pampered, you WILL be called a narcissist.

Such behavior is perfectly acceptable for women, but if a man needs a little pampering, he is told to "be a man", or that he is already pampered enough by his woman and/or mothers. Well, what if I want to be the type of guy that goes to a spa, complains about the people in my life, and puts cucumbers on my eyes? Should I be judged for that? I am not asking anything that a woman wouldn't ask/demand for herself.

15.  You wear a speedo and a bikini top to the beach, and people look askance at you.

As you can see in the above photo, there is no substantial difference between a man and a women's natural physique. Therefore, why go on with this ridiculous charade that woman should wear one type of clothing (or bathing suit), and men should wear another. Indeed, if we really want to emphasize the fact that there is no significant physiological difference between men and women (other than a few vestigial abnormalities), then why not have men walk in the same shoes as women quite literally? Would this not send a far more powerful message, rather than having everyone go the same predictable route of either covering themselves up completely (burqa style), or deciding to bare it all? This way the message is sent loud and clear just how stupid and arbitrary these binary categories are.

16. It is verboten to ask a woman her age, but for some reason it is perfectly acceptable to ask a man his.

As a general rule in our culture you do not ask a woman about her age after a certain point. This (I guess) explains the existence of all those "hilarious" birthday cards about a woman being perpetually twenty-nine. As a man, I too do not like to think about mortality, and I too would greatly appreciate it if someone would consider my feelings when it comes to asking me my age. I just turned forty recently, and I can tell you, not only is ageism rampant in our society, but so is the presumption that "men of a certain age" don't mind being told that (ha ha) they are going to be wearing diapers soon. I don't mind respecting a woman's desire to be "29 forever", but is it unreasonable that I too might want to share in that state of perpetual youth?

17. You are strictly prohibited from participating in women's athletics… unless you are a transsexual.

I mean no offense against the transsexual community, but I genuinely believe that they are party to a double (maybe even triple) standard here. Women are constantly telling men that they are sexist, especially if they attempt to prevent a woman from being a part of their club or sports team. I suppose this would be fine if the pendulum swung both ways. You want to play on my team? Fine. Well, I want to play on yours! Sadly, this hasn't really happened. And so men continue to be denied the opportunity to participate on teams which are "exclusively" female. However, some men have found a third way to create equal footing. And while I think the methodology is dishonest, I will say this: if that's what it takes to end the scourge of reverse sexism, I will join the fight myself. I will declare- in front of everyone- that I myself am a transsexual woman.

18. You wear a low cut shirt to a party and people don't seem to take you seriously.

It has become popular lately for women to declare that it shouldn't matter how they dress, and that in any case men should treat them with respect. The slogan goes something like this; "Don't tell me how to dress. Tell them not to rape." Don't get me wrong- I agree that if anything bad happens between a man and a women, it is definitely the man's fault. But here's my question: if what a woman wears has no power to effect men at all, what is the purpose of fashion today, and why do women go out of their way (often making themselves noticeably uncomfortable) in order to dress "provocatively" if it serves no purpose? And furthermore, why does a woman get ogled when she dresses in a revealing way, but if a man dresses like Fabio, or a pirate, he gets laughed at? Yet whatever someone wears, no matter how little or how much, this should never be an occasion to treat them any differently. It's all the same. More skin, less skin, irrelevant. Attraction is purely an intellectual affair, it has nothing to do with physicality. What is relevant is the fact that I should be able to do what I want to, and dress how I feel, and the outside world should simply respond to me in a way that corresponds to my wishes. Isn't that what life is really all about?

19. People think you are weird because you will not go to the bathroom unless accompanied by at least one other male companion.                    

Talk about a double standard! I can hardly imagine traveling to the restroom, and not using it as an opportunity to invite some friends along to chat. We won't even get into the question of the evils of bathroom segregation here (which I would consider a pressing civil rights issue). Let's just talk about how men are discouraged from communal bathroom visits because apparently only women need bathroom camaraderie. Nope, sorry men, you are destined to be isolated and alone, and if you don't go to the bathroom solo, then there's something wrong with you. Consider how men look around in the bathroom, not really comfortable looking into each others eye, but standing around awkwardly, waiting for the whole ordeal to end. Friends, this behavior is not inborn, but rather it is taught. For women, a visit to the bathroom is practically a cause for celebration. If reverse sexism is to end, and gender equality is to be achieved, this would be a good place to start. It is like a little pilgrimage, a meeting place for the human race. Yes, there is a wall there, a partition, but one day we shall all say, as Ronald Reagan once did; "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" let men as well as women share those intimate  moments with one another that are too special to share at the table.

20. Women in a married relationship are referred to as the "better half"…  often at the expense of the "male half." 

And last but not least, this one. I mean if sexism is about being offended all the time, then phrases like the one above assures everyone they will remain so. "Better half"? What the hell is that supposed to mean? "You really married above yourself!" Is that so? Why thank you for pointing that out because I am a man, or rather a piece of crap, I am at a deficit by nature. Imagine if I said that about my wife. "I don't know where my useless half is? Let me take a look around." Oh well, I guess it's better that that worthless woman isn't here after all! Ha Ha Ha! I suppose my "worser half" would simply be dragging us all down anyway! Guess what, I know it's shocking, but I too bring something to this relationship. She married me because she wanted to, and I her. But guess what, there are times when I more than compensate for her mistakes. She may appear to be superior in every way because she is a woman. Let me tell you something, my "better half" is able to give you her better side, only because I'm here to love her when she's at her worst.    

21. You express your reservations about your daughter dating at age fifteen, and everyone thinks you're opinion is invalid simply because you happened to be her father    

As much as I am a huge fan of magazines like Seventeen and Cosmo (especially as it relates to the excellent advice they give young girls), if you press me I would have to say that I wish (at times) that they didn't give so much information about birth control, and how to become more experienced in bed. I think that such advice can certainly be helpful up to a point, but I do wonder if our children are being sexualized at too young of an age. Does this sound familiar? Does this weak mealy-mouthed creature remind you of anyone. "Uh, I wonder if my daughter, uh, should go out with that guy. I mean he is twenty-five and all, and she's only fifteen, but uh, I better not do anything to make she or her mother angry at me (I don't want to put Baby in a corner, you know). They might send me to bed early without supper for that. In spite of all this bullying, something deep inside of me is screaming at me, telling me that I am supposed to be a father or something, and actually give my daughter a curfew, and perhaps even some guidance. However, I'm afraid of being called stupid and old fashioned. So what can I possibly do? And why does it seem that every time I express my thoughts on raising my daughter (unless I simply echo my wife's opinion) people either ignore me altogether and pat me on my head, or become hostile to me." Hello, nice to meet you, can you guess my name? I am what reverse sexism has done to men? I am the spineless mindless byproduct of an age wherein my entire identity has been stripped from me. Free the males!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to Be the Teacher's Pet: 23 Phrases To Avoid If You Want to Stay on the Teacher's Good Side

I love teaching, and more importantly, I love my students (I really do). But by the end of the school year there are some things that tend to wear a little thin. The students feel the same way. Indeed, after a certain point, there is a feeling among them that the teacher really has no more to teach them. Admittedly, it is a weird relationship. You're there with your particular agenda for them (one that they themselves haven't necessarily chosen), so why should they have to look particularly pleased- no matter how pleased you may be- about what you have in store for them. In any case, I myself am not immune to annoyances either, and therefore would like to offer this opportunity for students to obtain certain brownie points. I know it's a cheap ploy, but I figure if I send up this smoke signal, this "message in a bottle", someone out there is bound to hear me and maybe even start a new trend. If you want to get in good with the teacher, you need not say or do anything at all (though I suppose it couldn't hurt to be overheard commenting about how wonderful the class is, or how much you love the teacher), but there are certain phrases and statements that I would certainly recommend that you avoid. Below I offer a definitive list of them:

1. Are we watching a movie today?

This popular default question is never out of season for students, and it is quite possible to hear it on just about every occasion... including the day after you just finished watching a movie. The only way to combat it (because, like kudzu, you cannot destroy it) is by threatening that you will never show another movie again in class… ever! But I must admit, I rarely have the resolve to follow through on such threats because you know sometimes teachers need a movie too...

2. Is it OK if I use my glitter pen?

I am all for bright and happy colors, combined with students who have an equally sunny disposition, but a teacher's got to draw the line somewhere.

3. Really?!? We have a test today?!?!?!?

When a teacher puts an assignment on the board a week in advance, and a student expresses shock and horror on the day in which the aforementioned assignment is due, this can create a certain level of consternation on the part of the teacher. After all, in the teacher's mind, he has gone out of his way to prepare the student for success, and the student seems to have gone out of his way to remain oblivious. Obviously this annoys the teacher to no end because he wants his students to do well, but it also annoys him because it feels a little like a personal snub. In other words, this is how little I listen to you Mr. Whatever You Name Is I Don't Care. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Yes, he or she wants you to know just how casually they take your class (and/or classes in general), but in all likelihood, they probably did know there was a test, and may in fact be doing this for dramatic purposes alone. On the other hand, maybe they are just as shocked as the koala bear in the above picture.

4. Inquiring when an assignment is due immediately after the teacher has just announced WHEN THE ASSIGNMENT IS DUE!

In fairness to most students, there is usually a collective groan whenever one of their classmates says something like this. However, as a teacher you do wonder at these moments how much of what you're saying is getting through, and how much actually sounds a little something like this; "Meow Meow Meow, Bar Bar Bar Bar, Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah" (insert melody from the famous Meow Mix commercial).

5. Are we going to do anything fun in class today?

Why is it that students can't ask me this question on the day in which we celebrate Magical Cupcake with Sprinkles Day, or Free Giant Bag of Candy For No Reason Day, or better still, Nerf Wars in the Hallway Day? My sense is, just as teachers have eyes in the back of their heads, so also students have a  keen sense when the teacher is about to impose upon them some onerous form of note-taking. This last ditch effort to forestall the teacher's game plan rarely accomplishes its aim, but on the bright side, at least it starts off class on a particularly irritating note.

6. Can I go to the Bathroom/Nurse?

Obviously I have no problem with a student requesting a visit to the bathroom/nurse when necessary. However, there are certain times when a request can be particularly cloying. For example, when students have just returned from an hour long lunch break (which would seem to be a more than adequate time to fulfill that need), or when there is three minutes left until the end of the day, I have a little more difficulty restraining my naturally sarcastic tongue. Perhaps my classes serve as a natural diuretic- and just being in my presence inspires students to have to rush to the facilities, I do not know. But whatever the provocation, there does seem to be some strange correlation between arriving at my classroom and the need to visit the restroom. On a similar note, some students seem equally inclined to visit the school nurse, but not upon entering the room, rather they prefer to wait until the exact moment the bell rings- as if attempting to synchronize their request with the worst possible moment.

7. But I didn't know that I was responsible for getting that assignment…

There is nothing like the look of a high school student who- after missing a week or so of school- is completely dumbfounded that I would expect that they might have made some effort to get the assignment. I mean it's not like the teacher would have put this in the syllabus, or emphasized it at the beginning of the semester. Moreover, it's not like there's such a thing as social media, I Phones, Twitter, e-mail, Renweb, and everything else under the sun by which they could have gotten this information. I know, it wasn't possible for you to get it, you were meditating on the divine mysteries in some mud hut in the outer reaches of Mongolia, with no internet connection, electricity, or any other contact with the outside world. Fair enough. But perhaps the next time you plan a visit to Mongolia, it would make sense that you discuss your assignments with the teacher beforehand.        

8. That doesn't make sense…

It may seem like a small matter, but sometimes the way a student phrases something makes all the difference in the world. Ordinarily, teachers pride themselves on trying to make complex issues simple and accessible to their students. So when a student flippantly uses the words "…that doesn't make sense", it sounds (at least from the teacher's perspective) like you are saying; "You are a bad teacher, and not only that, you don't know what the hell you're talking about it." Whenever I hear these words, I am generally inclined to offer a slight correction;"No, kind student, it makes perfect sense, you just don't happen to understand it."

 9. Thursday??? We already have seven tests and three papers due on that day?

OK, I am all for giving students a break, and more importantly, having flexibility when it comes to tests/assignments deadlines, but there is a limit to my sympathy. Note to students: if you declare that you have more tests coming up than actual classes you are taking, then your credibility level goes down considerably. Note also to students: homework does not usually qualify as a "test". Note also also to students: if your assignments begin to pile up, and you find yourself overwhelmed because you have three papers due on a particular day, you may want to blame yourself rather than the teacher who assigned the paper two months ago. I do understand that when you are stressed out the facts may tend to get a little muddy in your mind, and when emotions run high you are willing to say just about anything to get out of your particular predicament, but exaggerating to such a large extent may in fact have the reverse effect. By the way, speaking of credibility issues...

10. Everyone is failing that class…

Once again, I understand that exaggeration is in some ways the life blood (for good and ill) of the high school experience, and that as far as young people are concerned, what's going on in their circle of friends may as well be representative of the whole human race. However, numbers really can lie in this instance. Just because there are three people in your circle, and two of them happen to be failing the same class, does not mean that "everyone is failing". Your clique may represent everything to you, but as important as they are, they are not necessarily representative of everyone. Consequently, while you may want to direct a certain level of outrage towards your teacher (as well as obtain sympathy for yourself), it would be advisable to hold off on your mutiny for the time being, lest like the "pied piper" you find yourself leading a revolt with no more than an army of a couple soldiers behind you.

11. I hate/love that teacher; that teacher hates/loves me

The phrase moderation/middle ground does not exist in high school. For this reason I would describe a day in the life of a high schooler as something comparable to the Dow Jones. You can be the king of the world in the morning, and by the afternoon feel like the biggest loser. Been there, done that, and lived to the tell the tale. It is undoubtedly a difficult time for anyone. Yet part of the reason for all the drama, is well, all the "drama." It's all or nothing all the time. Everything is the best/worst, highest/lowest, most horrible/ most awesome, on and on. In part this is understandable, because who wants to be the boring young guy/girl who has nothing interesting to report. The only thing that really gets people's in this world attention is hyperbole, so the "drama" of high school requires a whole lot of "Hey over here, look at me, I have something incredible to say!" This is in part why it is almost unthinkable to hear someone say something like this about a teacher; "While Mr. Chapman and I have complex relationship, there is, in the end, I think, a kind of mutual respect between us…" Naaaa. I hate Mr. Chapman, and he hates me too!

12. This school is like a prison...

Uh yeah, not really. File this under the category of things that high schoolers complain about when they  really have nothing to complain about… but still want to complain. Look, I get it, I too went to a nice private high school as well, and I too had to manufacture outrage about following a set of stupid rules that I didn't think made any sense to me at the time either (and some I still don't understand). But let's be real here, this is what we call "first-world problems", and if you think about it,  complaining about such minor inconveniences only makes it all too apparent that perhaps you haven't experienced enough major inconveniences.

13. I totally didn't study for that test…

Much like its close cousin; "I'm totally going to fail this test", this phrase is generally uttered in vain. What I mean to say is that the phrase is spoken more or less to attract attention, not to state a fact. Thus, what can be particularly galling about this type of student is just how far from failing they actually come. As an average student myself in high school, I remember initially taking great comfort in the fact that some of the better students would say this, thinking that I wasn't the only one who was nervous about the test. Soon however my consolation was abruptly taken from me, for instead of those students struggling on the test, quite the contrary, they were the ones who "miraculously" received an "A". Strangely enough, they rarely seemed surprised by these results, which is particularly odd considering just how keen they were on telling everybody how little they "studied" for it.

14. Can we go outside today?

In truth I have nothing against going outside. In fact, it can be a wonderful change of pace, especially when those four walls of the classroom seem to be closing in on you. But as a teacher there is a never-ending tug-of-war that goes on between pupil and pedagogue, a nagging suspicion (fair or not) that everything that gets thrown at you from a student is nothing more than a cheap ploy to prevent you from reaching your goal; a rank paranoia that leads you to question your students even when they are genuinely seeking answers to questions; "So why do you want to know the answer to that question huh? Why are you so curious about what we're talking about today, when you haven't been all year? Huh!? Huh!? Tell me!!! LIES ALL OF THEM! And that paranoia alone is probably a good reason in itself for going outside, even if you're probably right about their intentions.

15. Can we have a study hall?


16. Can this test be 'open notes'?


17. Do we have to do anything today?


(Quick direct answers are the best way to stave off student delay tactics, especially like the ones presented in examples 15-17)

18. Is there any way I can do some extra credit to bring my grade up?

Don't get me wrong, I am all for this type of student initiative. However, the problem arises not with the idea of "extra credit", but with the student's foot dragging approach to it. If a student asked me mid-quarter for this kind of opportunity, we would have no problem. But does anyone (including the student who asks me) really think that an appropriate time for extra-credit is, let's say, after the semester exam study guide has been handed out? Yet, surprisingly enough, these types of requests are not all that uncommon. Another problem with such an approach is the belief that if one accomplishes their task, I should in turn wipe away everything done and undone by them prior to that. But even that I could countenance were the student truly willing to go to heroic lengths to impress me. Alas, they are not. No, rather they are under the bizarre impression that somehow they are doing me a favor by requesting it, and that whatever they turn in to me under that banner- however half-hearted or half-baked- requires from me nothing short of a summa cum laude.

19. I didn't know we weren't supposed to... (insert anything that the student should already know)

When a student has no real alibi, this is perhaps his last resort; "How was I supposed to know that you wanted this paper typed? Well, I said it in class. But I don't remember you telling us that, and furthermore, I asked another student, and they don't remember it either. OK, listen, we haven't had one paper or project due this year that hasn't needed to be typed… Well, we did have that one project… Oh, for the love of Pete!!!" This is how it goes sometimes, and it can go on like this forever (which is why our society has become a bureaucratic nightmare); from dress codes, to honor codes, to I phones, to any and every rule. Thus, if ever you are lacking a clean escape route from anything, and the rules are clearly not in your favor, and a plea of insanity is off the table, a look of complete dismay and utter confusion, along with a sad but gentle tone, may be your ticket out (just as it may work with a police officer). But don't expect me, or anyone else for that matter, to like you for it.

20. Anything that involves Seniors complaining about 2nd semester work

Nothing else in life works this way, but for some reason there is this idea that when a Senior is sick to death of studying (which I am not denying is often the case), that means that they are practically absolved of the need to put forth any effort. Recently in the news I saw this story of a bicyclist (bless his heart), who thought he was coming to the finish line, so he slowed down and lifted his arms in victory. It turns out he had one more lap to go, and subsequently wound up coming in 45th place. All I'm saying is that I understand you're burnt out and want to be done yesterday, just as I imagine any marathon runner would feel the same way coming down the home stretch. But God forbid you (or any marathon runner) should make it all that way, and disgrace the rest of his performance, by giving nothing at the end. Part of the problem is that oftentimes we are not running the race for the right reason, and so instead of finishing strong in the name of God (or some other noble cause), we stop altogether because the world says there's nothing in it for us. Consequently, instead of going that extra mile for the right reason, we wind up going one too few for the wrong one.

21. Don't colleges remove the "religion" grade from your overall GPA?

I am well aware of the inevitable problem with teaching a subject that is at once above all other subjects, and below them at the same time, but this question nevertheless chafes me, and frankly turns my face sour in the same way that a whiff of Muenster kaese does. It may be true that there is some specially hired administrator (what could his salary be?) whose job it is to remove all frivolous "electives" from the student's application, but what he cannot "excise" is the deep and abiding need in every individual to see themselves as something more than a functionary and a bureaucrat. Yet what is most tragic about today's education is that while most students want more than anything to find purpose and meaning in their lives, the Kool-Aide of conformity and college admissions, has convinced them that wisdom and knowledge are ultimately "electives", while materialism and meaninglessness are "essential."  

22. Why did the school have to give us that particular day off?

This example is a very specific one, but it is meant as a kind of catchall for every time a student regards something good as if it were a punishment. Some time back, the head of our school gave us an extra day off in honor of a special occasion in the Church, and no sooner had the principal finished, then I heard a student complain about it. What could he or she have possibly been complaining about? They wanted the day off to be on a Monday and not a Tuesday. At that moment I knew that if someone could complain about that, then there was no gift on the face of the earth that is beyond our ability to complain about it. Geesh. I know it's easy sometimes to find fault with everything, and the truth is you wouldn't have to listen very long to hear the same thing among the faculty (see the above post), but generally speaking if you get something that is inarguably good (like a day off), even if it is not packaged in the exact way you would have preferred, the appropriate response is simple: Thank you.                          

23. Do you offer test corrections?

Test corrections, really? What is this sixth grade?

Honorable Mention: "I heard the other class got to…"; "Mrs. McGillicutty always used to let us…"; "They can't look through my car/phone! What about my privacy?"; What time is this class over (accompanied by incessant looking over at the clock)?; "If you could have your dream job Mr. Chapman what would it be?"; "Do you ever do anything during the summers?"

With gratitude to all my students past and present