Sunday, September 13, 2009

Feel Schizophrenic?

It's the first day of my Global Perspectives in Art class and I'm sitting in the back of a room full of half-asleep hipsters who are glancing wistfully out of the windows or text messaging, already disillusioned. The teacher is short, female, and has the appearance of Harry Potter were he to stick his finger in an electrical outlet. She's droning on and on about how many years she's taught, and where, and her personal politics. She states very strongly that "We are all Christians in Canada"- a sweeping statement intended, no doubt, to shock us into paying attention. She goes on to talk about our Christian laws and Western hegemony and how disgustingly racist Canada is, speaking with intense enthusiasm to show how legitimate she is. I'm day-dreaming but am harshly awakened by this perturbing statement: reclined against the whiteboard, arms crossed non-chalantly, Lynn lets it slip. "Now," she says, articulating carefully, "some of my students have expressed that they feel kind of- schizophrenic- in this class." She rolls "schizophrenic" out slowly and smoothly, with great relish.

And I start paying attention. There's been some scattered laughter in the room but I'm waiting for an explanation.

"You know...." she sighs and widens her arms to demonstrate that she is imploring us with her speech, "because it's both a lecture and a discussion class. Not one, or the other, you see? People get confused."

Looking back on this now, the only way I manage to respond is to let my face fall into my hands and mutter "are you kiiidding me?" It doesn't seem right to lecture about the ugliness of racism, hegemony, and discrimination and then utter such a negligent statement to provoke a laugh or two. It's not so much that her statement describes the symptoms of bipolar more accurately than those of schizophrenia- mood swings split between elation and depression, unsure of how to define yourself- but that she preaches tolerance for how people look but not how they think and see the world.

I'm tempted to speak up but remain silent. I don't want to be that pain in the ass at the back of the class that stands up and yells "People with schizophrenia might get confused because they're seeing and hearing things that other people tell them don't exist, that the way they perceive the world has shifted into something they've been taught isn't right, that they're questionning their own reality. Do you intend to imply that the experience of students confused about non-traditional learning environments mirrors the aloneness in perception and confusion that those with schizophrenia endure in any way?" but I am also deeply offended by what she has said.

What do you think? Are any of your classes making you feel schizophrenic? How have you remedied it? Are you at peace with your schizophrenia? Is our schizophrenia something we should strive to accept, to ignore, to share, to celebrate? Is it a way of learning, as Lynn describes?

I think I know what I'm going to do with my schizophrenia: drop this class.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of using the word "depressed" instead of sad, as in, "Lynn's class made me so depressed." It's easy to toss around these terms casually, without really considering the implications. But, like you mentioned in your post, it's always difficult calling people out on it without coming across as "that person in the back of the class." I guess we need to raise a lot more awareness about mental health before everyone can realize the impact of their words.