Wednesday, June 29, 2011

'Telling the Truth About the World'

I’ve begun teaching! Monday was my first class and I really enjoyed it. Our first lesson was simply ‘what is journalism?’ I used the definition I had learned at the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program in the summer of 2008. “Journalism is telling the truth about the world,” said Richard Just, one of the directors of the program and now, the Executive Editor of The New Republic.

I teach the girls in the morning from 9 to 11 a.m. and boys in the afternoon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. I had requested the principals to allow me to teach in a co-educational environment, but they objected given the Pakistani traditional culture of separating genders so as to avoid misconduct. I find this arrangement very interesting.

I had expected the girls to be more social with me given that I, too, am a female. But to my surprise, they are all reserved. They are very obedient and always follow directions. They are also very quiet, and it is a challenge for me to get them to talk and speak up. Even last year when I taught blogging, I found the girls to be far more conservative. It bugged me that this was so. I wanted them to be more interactive.

The boys, on the other hand, are not shy. They talk often—it’s actually a challenge to keep them quiet! They do not hesitate to voice their opinions and speak their mind. All of them enjoy participating in discussions and that makes me happy and excited to teach. But I still couldn’t figure out why there was such a role reversal: why were the girls more shy than the boys? Something was wrong. There has to be an explanation—and as it turns out, there is.

Women are expected to be submissive. But this was not a new fact to me. I know very well that women are held to a double standard—that’s true everywhere. I suppose I can somewhat see how submissiveness is related to shyness—conforming to another’s authority means being obedient and unwilling to challenge that authority, therefore being reserved. Maybe I’m just used to men and women being “equal” in every aspect of life? Maybe America really has changed me in more ways than I can imagine. Or maybe, my concept of gender equality is skewed. Maybe both?

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