Saturday, October 14, 2006

Becoming "The Man"

Last night I caught up with a former student, now working hard on a fascinating doctoral project in sociology. She is a feisty black woman who has succeeded in elite white schools because she is smart and funny. I always enjoy talking to her. She was recounting her difficulties with her department chair, who she critically resists. The difficulty is not that she critically resists – she does that to everyone in authority; it is what sociologists call a structural critique, as opposed to a personal critique. The difficulty is that he does take it personally. She is not criticizing him. She is criticizing The Man. That is how she got to be a good critical thinker.

She keeps rising in all these institutions because she is a good critical thinker. Teachers in every school she has ever attended have asked her to teach, and I am no exception. So it is inevitable that someday she will be The Man. And then I will laugh.

No, said she, "then you will point and laugh."

True. I look forward to that day. Secretly, so does she.

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