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  • Transgeneration2By Cortney O'Brien 

    I signed up for Communication Arts 255: Topics in Rhetoric at Allegheny College in the spring of 2010 not knowing what to expect. I took it to fill my credits for a major in journalism. The course description was vague at best and seemed harmless. It didn't take me long to realize, however, that these 50 minutes were going to be less about learning useful information and more about embracing alternative lifestyles. 

    Our "learning" in Topics in Rhetoric consisted of watching Transgeneration, a documentary that follows four students as they undergo gender transitions and how they cope with it on their college campuses. Our professor dedicated at least three class periods to watching segments from this documentary. The film followed people such as Gabbie, formerly Andrew, a male-to-female student, who wore a blonde wig and flaunted tight womens' clothing. As we watched this documentary, I couldn't help thinking: Why? Why am I being forced to sit through this? Is this what my education has come to?  

    Our third paper of the semester really stretched my comfort zone. The prompt? We had to choose a gender ambiguous character from the media to study and present our research to the class. I tried to pick a character that would make me feel least uncomfortable. But, I still found myself talking about the transformation of Alex to Alexis Meade on ABC's Ugly Betty

    Other memorable lessons from Topics in Rhetoric included listening to Liz Phair's song "Flower," which features charming lyrics such as, "I want to **** you like a dog/I'll take you home and make you like it/Everything you ever wanted/Everything you ever thought of/Is everything I'll do to you/I'll **** you till your **** is blue." This, I gathered, was to challenge gender norms and to glorify women having the power over men, essentially taking away their masculinity. I came to this conclusion, because in another class one of our readings suggested men shouldn't be pressured to act masculine and challenged the heroism of the old rustic lifestyles of American cowboys. Since when is it wrong for a male to want to be strong and hardworking? Suffice it to say, I did not see much academic merit in this class and each minute made me feel awkward.

    Although I wish I could say these uncomfortable moments were limited to my Topics in Rhetoric course, I found myself in another falsely advertised Comm Arts class as well. Communication Arts 201: Intro to Popular Culture consisted of little more than watching porn on a weekly basis. The professor dedicated most of our class time to showing sex scenes from famous films such as Basic Instinct and Unfaithful. He hoped the clips would encourage discussion about the sexual power play between men and women, but most of the time we students just sat there uneasily. 

    Witnessing firsthand the radical nature of college courses, I can see how it is affecting today's youth. They are taught that alternative lifestyles are the norm and that traditional gender roles should be challenged. Essentially, that males don't have to be masculine and young women should wield a "no-man-can-tell-me-what-to-do-attitude." 

    Plenty of my classes spewed the same message. If courses rooting for alternative behavior such as these are offered, why did I not see any emphasizing the importance of the nuclear family? This is harmful to today's youngest generation and is hurting the foundation of America.

    Perhaps a good way to avoid my mistake is to find out the required readings for classes before you make a decision. Go online to look at the class syllabus and research the books or articles on the list, or visit your campus bookstore to find them and actually skim through the readings. If the material isn't yet available, it can't hurt to email the professor and ask. 

    One lesson I did learn - if a class description seems ambiguous, the material will be as well. For all you current students who appreciate the God-made differences between men and women and don't wish to challenge any norms, make sure to read between the lines.

    Cortney O'Brien is currently an intern with the National Journalism Center



    • Readers' Comments

    • Having read Ms. O'Brien's essay, I can say that I can entirely understand what she is speaking about. As an English major attending a public university, I am regularly faced with propoganda woven throughout poetry, prose, and "educational" reading materials. To me, it does seem that social norms and masterful prose and poetry are being cast aside and trodden upon. Instead, we are reduced to reading little less than garbage and travesties so debase that the great writers of old would turn away in shame. Indeed, much of what I have read as an English major has been filled with f words, sexual content, and Feminist and Marxist theories. Indeed, God must long for those who will resist the winds of conformity and will fight for truth and beauty that is not found in deviant behavior or debase ideologies.
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