Thursday, 26 May 2016

A poem by Leila K. Norako

Teaching on a Gun-Friendly Campus: A Brief Guide*

Be guarded and careful
when tempted to speak
of guns.

Refrain from posting cute
signs that read:
“Gun-free classroom.”

Ask none of your students
if they are armed.

Avoid meeting with students
outside of posted office hours, but

            you cannot refuse to hold them altogether
            a $10k fine awaits you if you do
            students must be allowed to bring their guns, but
            you can probably opt to meet in public spaces.

Take care as well when
you attempt to speak
of hard things.
It actually might be best—
since you no longer can afford
to risk outrage or anger—
simply to strike
controversial topics
like the following
from the syllabus:

Huckleberry Finn
bell hooks
Ferguson and Flint
the torture of detainees
Queer Theory
embryonic screening
Confederate flags
Joan of Arc
dystopian fiction
global warming
the fabliaux
voting rights
Kent State
a living wage
organic farming
the Rwandan Genocide
physician-assisted suicide
the war in Iraq
stem cell research
universal health care
young millennials
and zoos.

Try as well to avoid
in class assignments
that risk chafing those
already irritable.
For instance,
Stage no debates,
and do not ask
students to write sestinas
or diagram sentences.
Require no timed
math tests,
and certainly refrain
from any titrations
or dissections
in the lab.

If you must speak
of Darwin,
postcolonial theory,
or Margaret Atwood
you might consider
wearing Kevlar.
And if you must lecture
on the speech of Aristophanes,
do so from the confines
of your personal tank.

You just can’t be too careful. 

And before we forget:
try as best you can
to ignore
that swelling sound
in the distance.
It’s merely the death rattle
of education
as you know it.

*Some of the phrases in the first few stanzas are paraphrased versions of ones found in a PowerPoint presentation recently delivered to the University of Houston’s Faculty Senate.

I would like to thank Asa Mittman for helping to inspire the final stanza of the poem, and David Perry for discovering the PowerPoint and bringing it to the attention of the general public.

Leila K. Norako is a scholar of medieval English literature and a poet who currently calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. She is fast at work on two poetry projects at present: a chapbook of poems about Iceland, and a series of poems that meditate on loss and its aftershocks. She currently serves as a postdoctoral fellow in Stanford's Thinking Matters Program, and starting this Fall she will be an Assistant Professor of English at The University of Washington. She writes about the intersections of medieval and modern cultures on her blog, In Romaunce as We Rede, and also makes occasional appearances on Twitter (@Na_Pomaikai). 

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