Apr. 17th, 2015

Civility

Apr. 17th, 2015 11:32 am
dynamite_lady: (Default)
'Let's just keep it civil' - fair enough I guess, but it's often directed by someone who can afford to be civil and won't lose anything from it at someone else who is using their last weapon. Politeness and civility don't have to be heirarchical constructs, but oftentimes that's how they seem to be (over-)used.

I don't hate the concepts themselves. I call for civility in the classroom as a last resort, an attempt to get something constructive out of a discussion that could go haywire and remind students that their classmates are their equals. We are mandated to be in each other's company for that fifty minutes each week or fortnight for a semester, and if civility is the best we can do then we'll do it. But I find it takes a lot of care to ensure that 'civility' doesn't become a cover for 'let the arseholes be arseholes and shut up the objectors'. Even if you start out with the explicit intention of avoiding that, even if your aim is to make the arseholes be civil and the objectors voice their objections as constructive arguments rather than rants, it can easily slip into arseholes being arseholes in a calm tone of voice and saying 'I'M being civil, SHE'S the one with a raised voice'. So at the very least that needs an eye keeping on it, and some awareness of whose behaviour is the most problematic.

I struggle with this. And almost every time I've been called on to be polite or civil it has been when I am under threat in some way or having my chain pulled on to the point where I can't take any more, and usually by a person or people who have some advantage over me to the extent that they can behave as odiously and threateningly as they like without getting sanctioned for it and I know that I'm at risk of getting sanctioned if I even show the first sign of not taking it. Because civil here means putting down your last weapon, shutting up already with the nasty loud voice, and taking being slapped around yet again. And I still struggle to avoid it.

I'm not saying we all need to run around being rude to each other. But if you find yourself picking on someone's 'tone' rather than what they are saying, think about what you have invested in keeping them quiet and compliant.

August 2016

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