Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Writing’s on the Wall

by Roger West                                                                                                                 Faculty Opinion
If I ever become frustrated and wonder why I decided to devote my professional life to teaching, all I have to do is visit one of the men’s bathrooms on campus.  As I stand in front of the urinal, I am accosted by all of the writing and graffiti on the wall. It is then that I am reassured that my mission in life is to not only educate, but hopefully to enlighten the young men with whom I must share that facility.

I often wonder what possesses people to write on the bathroom walls. Is it a feeling of inadequacy or maybe the need for attention?  Or is it just that they weren’t, as my mother would say, “raised right”?  Maybe someone should write a grant proposal to get the funding to conduct a thorough study.  Or maybe we should just examine the writing on the wall.

One thought I have is that someone is trying to cheat on a test.  He plans to ask to be excused so that he can rush to the men’s room (and I use the term “men” loosely because I don’t think these people are mature enough to be considered men) to check out the mathematical formulas he has written on the wall.  Why else would someone want to write on the bathroom walls the formulas for sine and cosine, or tangent and cotangent?  What is wrong with studying the material for the test?  It would probably not take as long to do that as it did to scribble on the wall.

But then there is also the simple little attempt at subtraction that is puzzling.  Why would someone try to subtract 628 from 2734?  By the way, the answer is 2106. Why would that person want the rest of the world to know he got the wrong answer?  Examples like this, however, do make me realize the role that all the instructors teaching here have in providing these students with an education-- and maybe just a bit of tolerance.  After all, if they haven’t already, most of our male students will be reproducing the students who will be sitting in our classrooms in the future.

Even more puzzling are the religious scribblings such as “Jesus loves you.”  Yes, Jesus may love you, but I doubt He approves of you writing His name all over the wall in a bathroom.  And if I wanted to read Bible verses, I would prefer to do it from the original text and in a situation in which I am also not engaged in another activity.

I also wonder why I have to endure advertisements as I stand there.  Why does someone think it is cool or even okay to try to advertise products like Legal Shield?  Is he getting paid every time he writes their little jingle?  And I really think it would be better to take out a personal ad than advertise one’s sexual services on a bathroom wall.  If nothing else, he could recruit a classier clientele.

The most annoying, and disturbing, scrawls on the walls are the ones that reveal the extreme prejudices and bigotry of some of the students that I might possibly be trying to teach in my classes.  One young scholar has etched a swastika into the wall.  While that reveals a great deal about the character of this individual, even more is revealed in that he did it backwards.  I am also graced with reading  the “political” leanings of some of these informed citizens.  Based on the evidence (which I will not repeat), if any of these young males did vote in the recent Presidential election, which I doubt, I have to believe they voted for Mr. Romney, not because they agreed with his policies, but because they disagreed with President Obama’s race. 

I have a dream that, if the culprits are ever identified, they will have their pictures published on this blog as they sand and paint the walls they have defaced.  Maybe that would be the appropriate way to deal with people who think it is their First Amendment right to expose their racism or homophobia in a way that forces the rest of us to look at it. 

On second thought, I might want to consider writing on the wall as well, just a little thank you note that expresses my gratitude for the inspiration they provide every time I begin to question my career choice.


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