The first day of the winter quarter is over and I am not too far from jumping around to celebrate. I know it sounds bizarre to want to celebrate after the first day of school as opposed to, let’s say, the day after finals. But when you finish a day like today and realize that your classes will be interesting, that you will have more work than what you hoped for- but it will still be worth it, and that the people in the classes seem intelligent enough, then maybe I have my reasons for calling it a win. However there was something that happened today that didn’t quite make me feel like a winner.
In case you haven’t read the “Mrs. and Mrs.” page of this blog where I sorta tell you a little bit more about myself and the mrs., I am student of Political Science at UCLA. I can assure that my major is way more fun than it sounds, but beware of my personal bias, because I am VERY passionate about my course of study. Anyhow, most students pick their classes based on how challenging they are and how much they can learn from it (my dream), and others pick them based on how “easy” the class may be to ensure the outcome of a higher grade (the sad reality). I, however, don’t follow this system; to the letter, at least. I pick my classes based on if it conflicts with my work schedule and the time I’d like to spend with the mrs. And if the class is challenging and I can learn a whole lot from it, then it’s a plus.
Because of the system that I follow, I enrolled in the following classes: The Development of Sociological Theory (because I get to take it with my wife and it seems interesting and informative); Introduction to Data Analysis (because it’s required for major and a very challenging course); and China’s Rice: Critical Issues and Global Implications (because of my growing political interest about this country and because it’s an honors class).
The first two classes went by smoothly today. Unlike most schools and because UCLA is in the quarter system (and everything we do is 1.5 times faster than the semester system), professors start lecturing from the first day of the quarter. As I hinted earlier, the classes seemed very interesting. I get to study Marx and Engels for the next couple of weeks; and a lot of Statistics stuff. Also, I will be able to start reading Freakonomics, which I’ve been wanting to read for a few years now.
But for my honors class, things worked out a bit different. Although I am super interested in the subject, my background of China is, well, pretty embarrassing. Even those things that you’d consider to be common knowledge, are widely unknown to me. But that won’t keep me from trying to learn more about what I do not know now; which is why I enrolled in the class to begin with. However, there’s one little problem that I will struggle with in this class. Unlike most people in Los Angeles (and in other places in the world, I’m sure), in the South, and we’re talking about Montgomery, Alabama South (where I come from), I never had to worry about being “politically incorrect.” If you had an opinion, you said it. Just don’t be mean, or hurtful. Simple rules I used to abide by to avoid any kind of unwanted situations. Since I’ve been in Los Angeles though (about three years now, and counting), I’ve had to learn the hard way what it meant to think before I speak. And clearly, after today, I haven’t learned a thing!
One of the first things that we did in that class was to discuss the “comic relief” videos that were assigned for today (mentioned in my previous post). These videos showed very stereotypical views that the US has of China and Chinese people in general. The professor then asked us to mention what stereotypes we found when watching the videos. I went first and said “appearance.” So she asked me to elaborate. Then to elaborate I said “well, the idea that all Chinese people dress with funny hats and clothing. But when you look at the Chinese family dining at the restaurant, they are wearing normal clothes.” And that’s when I caught myself! “I mean, not normal…” The class laughs. “like, you know…” Still laughing. “Yeah.”
I think this time around it came across as funny and not offensive, but what if it happens again?- and I assure you, it will happen again. I know the easiest and most obvious solution would be to just keep my mouth shut or to simply think before I say something. But what if I tell you that sometimes I think something and it may sound okay in my head, but after I say aloud, then I realize that it wasn’t that bright of a thing after all?
I wonder if I could even make a case of tolerance on this one. Like, “you can tell I ain’t trying to be hurtful, so please tolerate me”- would that work? Maybe not. But it’s worth the try.