Havoc successfully wreaked

About a month ago, I posted about how I felt the urge to wreak havoc at school once I learned that we were to watch Motorcycle Diaries in class. The dozen or so comments you all gave were incredible in helping me shape my plan of attack. Thanks!
I decided to take a somewhat passive aggressive approach. Instead of vocally criticizing the professor in class, I submitted many “addendums” to our Cuba-related assignments where I expressed my views. I wanted to avoid undermining her authority. This approach proved to be extremely effective. Surprisingly, she thoroughly appreciated everything I had to say and genuinely mentioned that I should have been the one to teach the Cuba portion of the class. Not bad, huh?
So here’s the more detailed recap:
The Cuba portion of my Contemporary Hispanic Literature class consisted of The Motorcycle Diaries and Zoe Valdes’ La Nada Cotidiana. Our assignment for The Motorcycle Diaries was to list all the moments in the film that showed the shaping of Che’s revolutionary spirit. I completed the assignment as any naive student would, and then attached an extra two pages detailing what I learned about Che’s “revolutionary spirit” from Humberto Fontova’s book and Che Guevara: Anatomia de un Mito.
Result: 10/10 plus personal comments on my Che piece.
Then, con tremenda punteria, Castro resigns. Our next assignment was to read two articles (NYTimes and El Pais) and submit a list of three things we learned about Castro after reading them. In this case, I decided to ditch the assignment altogether, told her I hadn’t learned anything from those two articles and instead submitted two pages (with references to The Real Cuba and various articles) of what I’ve learned about Castro over the past two years. I specifically covered the realities of Cuba’s highly touted education and health care.
Result: 10/10, an acknowledgment of the truth of my statements, and a small discussion over the extent to which the US is to blame for the state Cuba is in. Again, I was as respectful as possible and didn’t let myself get hotheaded over anything.
Lastly, we read Zoe Valdes’ La Nada Cotidiana. I had never heard of Zoe Valdes before this. The novel intensely criticizes the communist regime, especially through its vulgar sex scenes. The more you know about the brutalities and ineptness of the regime, the easier it is to see the constant criticism. Without any prior knowledge about Cuba, the criticism is much more subtle… to the point that the novel may be seen as an erotic romantic comedy. I didn’t hold back in these class discussions — I brought all the subtle criticisms to everyone’s attention. For our first paper I chose to write formally about how Valdes used romantic imagery to illustrate the plight of the Cuban people.
Result: A+ on the paper and personal congratulations on submitting a fantastic read.
And that’s a wrap! This experience has been amazing for me. I learned firsthand that as long as I’m respectful, intelligent, and can take liberal criticisms in stride without getting overly offended or hotheaded, I can have an effect on people, including extremely liberal professors. Now that I am no longer consumed with this personal battle, I’ll have more time to keep posting here at Babalu and La Primera Generacion. Keep an eye out for more of my classroom adventures at MIT — I’ll be posting about them at La Primera Generacion. Thanks again for all the support!

20 thoughts on “Havoc successfully wreaked”

  1. Way to go Monica!
    Just in case you have not checked her blog out, Zoe Valdez has an excellent blog from her exile home,in Paris, France. I really enjoy it! Check it out … and she’s an outspoken critic of the communist system in Cuba … she has no qualms about condemning the castro regime …
    I wish you well 🙂 Melek
    “You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.” ~ Chesterton

  2. Felicidades, Monica. Outstanding academic research for which you deserve an A, no matter what your viewpoint.
    You are fortunate that your professor is not a hardcore Marxist like the late E. Bradford Burns, who used the classroom as a bully pulpit. Ronald Reagan once said of Professor Burns: “I am praying for his students.”

  3. Monica,
    Congratulations, you do yourself proud. But, with your permission I would suggest a change in the title of your post to “Important Lessons Successfully Imparted.” It sounds like you not only taught others a thing or two, but you also learned much from your teacher’s lessons.

  4. Monica…..great job! Unfortunately, I was in a similar situation at DePaul university with a commie professor who was teaching a class on the Cuban revolution. The most disgusting part is the professor is Cuban and supports the revolution! Anyways, I spoke my mind respectfully and knew more than anybody in the class and I still didn’t get the grade I wanted. But I couldn’t go to a higher authority about the grade because he was the head of the department. However, the grade was worth letting the professor know I wasn’t going to be a brainless sheep like the rest of the class who knew nothing on Cuba.

  5. Fielding,
    Monica didnt have her own bias going in, she went in armed with the plain and simple truth.
    With all dude respect to your folks, I feel like a proud papa. Congrats on the ass whuppin.

  6. Monica,
    Classic example of how “fighting back” respectfully but firmly with facts and reason trumps overheated rhetoric every single time.

  7. Val,
    Everyone has biases. In this case I’m talking about towards the education system.
    “I’ve been told stories by several Cuban-Americans of their tumultuous experiences with liberal professors.”
    Monica was armed and ready to be confrontational. It doesn’t help when Dr. Delacova weighs in with worst-case examples. And what happened when she engaged instead of isolated herself? Straight A’s. So much for the “tumultuous experience with a liberal professor”.
    I agree there are a lot of biased professors, but there are also SO MANY that aren’t.

  8. Monica:
    My interpretation of the scene when he mistakes a friend’s dog for a cougar and kills it as a summary of the Guevara’s cruel life.
    take care and be well

  9. Fielding,
    I wasn’t biased going into this class. My last Spanish professor was NOT sympathetic toward the castro regime. After my first class was this specific professor, I could tell that she was quite liberal… how does Motorcycle Diaries teach us anything about Cuba? I posted about the class after the first lecture, not before.
    I’m extremely grateful for ALL the past experiences that were conveyed to me. As Churchill said, “The further back you look, the further forward you can see.” What you call “extreme experiences” that happened years ago were very relevant in shaping my approach. I knew the full spectrum of what could happen and so I chose not to undermine her authority IN the classroom. That would, understandably, just cause her to be defensive and NOT open-minded.

  10. Monica,
    Why were you studying The Motorcycle Diaries? Just curious what the context was….
    And I agree, if it was in the context of learning about Cuba, I don’t see a connection.
    Are you a Latin American Studies student?

  11. It’s a Contemporary Hispanic Literature class that covers Argentina, Cuba, Spain and Colombia. The Cuba portion consisted of The Motorcycle Diaries and La Nada Cotidiana.

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