In more ways than one. First, traffic in Lincoln tunnel last week for some inexplicable reason was horrendously worse than usual. I think it was the weather. For some reason, when it is warm, more people like to go to Manhattan. I take a bus into the city to go to work. I give myself 40 minutes usually to get to Penn Station. Most days it only takes 20 minutes. Last Wednesday it took 45 minutes. I have to take a 9:24 LIRR train to get to my class by 11:20. If I miss that one, I will take the 9:31 to Babylon which isn't far enough. From there I have take a taxi that costs $50. I am loathe to pay that much since I am paid so little...but pay it I do.
Except last time I did not have $50 to take from the ATM so that wasn't an option. I decided to take the 10:24 train and called my colleague to have her give my class a writing assignment, that way I wouldn't have to cancel. We were in chapter 10 of the book so without even looking at it, I had them do the essay assignment in that chapter. It was due by the end of class, at which time I knew I'd be there. So, during lunch I read the essays. They were typically not good. The topic was, "Should public schools be allowed to post the 10 Commandments." They were to research the arguments then decide which they agreed with and write an argument.
One student got very creative in her example and in fact had one of the better essays. However, she slandered Mormons in the process. She said that if a Mormon child who had polygamous parents read the 10 Commandments at school he would realize his family did not follow them. His parents were adulterers for having multiple wives, so his feelings would be hurt and other children would make fun of him. In the margins I wrote that Mormons do follow the 10 Commandments and in fact, being married means that his parents are not adulterers.***
Then I had the students write critiques of their essays. On hers she wrote that she used an example that required interpretation and she should have interpreted it in her essay. That whether or not polygamers were adulterous was interpretive. She also said that her aunt attended 4 Mormon churches and they did not in fact follow the 10 Commandments. Groan. I didn't read this until after class when I checked their critiques. So I decided I should talk to her after the next class and clear up her misconceptions. That class was on Wednesdy.
But I wasn't really sure what to say to her. I had several variations. Mostly I wanted to tell her that she shouldn't assume that no one in the class was a Mormon, and that she should be more careful about repeating whatever, etc etc. I did not look forward to this chat. I knew it would make her uncomfortable and it would definitely make me uncomfortable. I felt I should tell her I was a practicing Mormon so whatever her aunt had told her, I could trump by actual expertise. Then class ended and I just didn't feel like stopping her, teaching that class is a real struggle, definite teeth-pulling involved. So I let her go.
An interesting coincidence happened the same day I gave them the essays. While I was reading them in fact. One of the other professors in my department told me his son was s teaching in Kansas and how terrible it was to have to be in 'tornado ally'. But that was certainly better than being in Utah with the Mormons. Then he went on a diatribe about what a ridiculous faith it is, how could anyone believe some guy saw God and etc etc....I actually interrupted him and told him I was Mormon. He was horribly embarrassed of course. I tried to assuage him by saying that I wasn't offended at all. I just wanted to stop him before I did get offended. In the past I wouldn't have said anything, just nodded uncomfortably. So I felt pleased with myself for this. Even though it caused him embarrassment and now he no longer respects my ability to reason, it was better than if he found out later on. So I kind of felt LDS-Defender exhausted and puzzled by the weird convergence.
Now it is probably too late. I'm kind of relieved. But I wonder if I have been disloyal to my church. Do I have a responsibility to clear up misconceptions whenever I come across them? I think I probably do. What do you think? What would you have done?
***For the record: Mormons do not practice polygamy and have not for over 100 years. Any member of the church caught in a polygamous marriage is excommunicated from the church and no longer a Mormon. There are some freaky groups calling themselves Mormon and practicing polygamy but they are not part of the real church.
**I happened to be more offended by the student's error in reasoning than I was in her factual errors. Which is why I didn't make a note of this on the paper.