A professor wanted a student’s “fingers to curl up with shame” after he used the word “retard” in his poem, according to a Monday report.
Iowa State University communications and poetry writing professor Jennifer Knox said that though she had heard “horror stories” from fellow professors, she had “never stumbled across a racial, sexual, homophobic, religious or other type of slur in a student poem,” according to her column in The Washington Post.
Knox claimed that one of her students, “a strong writer with strong politics — chose to spice up a rant with the R-word, mocking people with Down syndrome. It appeared like a glowing toxic weed in the middle of a pile of F-bombs.”
“When I read it — hoo boy — I really wanted that student to feel censored,” the professor continued. “I wanted his fingers to curl up with shame and his hands to crawl backward up his shirt sleeves like tapped turtle heads the next time he even thought about writing a poem.”
Instead of silencing and shaming the student in-class, Knox said she and her students advised the student who used “retard” on revisions. “[T]he class had a very productive conversation about the poem,” she wrote.
Another student was not satisfied with the teacher’s response and criticized the teacher not letting students most fully express their feelings.
“Poets feel strong feelings, but how we communicate those feelings determines whether people will listen to us,” Knox responded. “Readers’ feelings and reactions to words are automatic, especially feelings that stem from trauma and cruelty, like slurs against races, religions, ability levels, gender and sexual orientation.”
The Iowa State University professor titles a section of her syllabus “Word Choice,” in which she explains that “words that hurt people … can stop all forward momentum in a poem.”
“Writing a poem is like cooking a dish, and words are your ingredients,” Knox insists in the syllabus. “Some words will render your dish sickening — even inedible.”
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Knox for comment regarding the precise usage of “retard” in the poem, as well as the “Word Choice” section of her syllabus but received none in time for press.
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