Saturday, November 21, 2015

David Kung

In my capstone class one of our “dailys” (or homework that we could do for that day) was to watch a lecture by David Kung. I watched this video over a week ago but it is still on my mind. Deciding what to cover for this blog post I decided that it should be something that was relevant to me. Since this lecture was so fascinating, I decided to focus on that. I would label this as studying the history of mathematics since it is looking at the contributions of this mathematician to his field. I will give a summary of the lecture, my reactions to it, and end on how I think Kung could change his lecture.
To start the post I will simply give a brief summary of the lecture. The lecture was on diversifying the mathematical community. He began by presenting the audience with a series of statistics on the lack of diversity in all STEM education. He would start with other subjects represented in a line graph that would show something like, the number of women with a doctorate in that subject over time. He would then ask the audience to draw their best guess as to where mathematics lay. Every type of diversity had a dismal report in the field of mathematics. Women, Blacks, Hispanics, etc, were all underrepresented in every part of the mathematics field. From here, Kung laid a framework of how he would change the type of mathematics education to be more conducive to fostering those minorities who aren’t typically part of math education. He finally ended with a story that told the story of one student who was able to succeed in a mathematics degree despite the social and institutional hurdles in her way.  
The suggested method of closing this achievement gap was through pedagogy, though there is an acknowledgment that pedagogy alone will not solve the problem. Passive teaching in STEM subjects, especially at the colligate level, is keeping students away from these degrees. Passive lecturing is becoming available in more and more forms and has the added benefit of being “pauseable.” Kung calls passive lecturing “professional misconduct.” There is a shift to more interactive pedagogies in earlier grades, but the colligate level is not following suite. Kung sites studies that find that interactive pedagogies, which focus on a growth-mindset opposed to a fixed-mindset, are able to help close the achievement gap by being more accessible to a wide variety of students.
Another method for closing this achievement gap is through recognizing the inherent bias that exists in classrooms already. In order to recognize this Kung wants to look at questioning patterns in the classroom. It has been shown that more time is spent with males than females. A teacher is more likely to call on a male student and is more likely to ask deeper, more thought-provoking- questions to said students. This is also true for minority students as well. By recognizing our bias and understanding our prejudices, teachers will better be able to approach all students fairly.
The reason that this video has stuck with me so long is the inherent and unrecognized bias that David Kung brings to the table. Taking a step back, I need to be careful about how I phrase this since I will be publishing this online. I want to affirm that my opinion is not backed up by research and that it is only my opinion based on my experiences as a white male. That being said, I feel that Kung’s attempt at being diverse and accepting, purposely ignores the views of an entire group based on their skin and sex--i.e. white males. If his goal is to be tolerant and accepting of others in education he can’t ignore this entire group. The most telling part of this is during a story about how women will do poorer on a test if there is a question about their sex before the test begins. After his point is made he tells how this research is backed up because they tested male’s golf skills with a similar question about if it was testing athletic ability or just for fun. His first story gets a bunch of quiet and sad nods from the crowd but his second story draws a laugh. I’m not doing the story justice, but this story is marginalizing a group. And everyone laughs. If one wants equality, there cannot be jokes on others behalf either.
There is so much talk about prejudice and how we need to draw out our inherent bias, but bias is bias. One can’t have it both ways. There seems to be a culture of blame in this lecture and one that I have seen in many other situations. Blaming the majority is an easy thing to do, but it doesn’t establish the culture of respect and authority that one is so desperately seeking. The argument that the majority can take it since they are “ahead” is not accurate though; it is simply using a system that one wants to unravel. At one point Kung talks about a picture of a selection of excellent professors at his university. He jokes that he is the diversity factor in the picture of fifty or so white men. But isn’t this marginalizing their accomplishments? Why is it their fault that they succeeded? I struggle to understand his lack of equality while operating under its guise.
I am all for diversity in every facet of life. I understand the lack of diversity that is in higher academia. But whose “fault” it is that diversity isn’t as prevalent as it should be is up in the air.  According to Kung, Berkley professors in the 1970’s blamed students not working hard enough for the lack of diversity. Today that blame has shifted to society. But it seems that society has become synonymous with white males. It won’t be until this mentality of blame has shifted to encompass all that actual change can happen.

I don’t want to affirm the Berkley professors of the 1970’s but I want the burden to go back to the students. I want to create a society in academia that is supportive of all groups so that success is based on the student. If this culture is created, and all black females are the ones who succeed, I don’t want there to be a culture of blaming them for marginalizing others. Those who try the hardest and perform the best are the ones who should succeed in a true democratic society. There needs to be equal opportunity and no judgment of those who succeed. Kung needs to follow his own practices and recognize his bias. By removing that and his inability to not blame others for society's problems he could accurately address the problems. 


  1. This might be the Dave Kung talk to which Schmitty is referring: He's the current director of Project NExT. Your writing is clearly 5Cs: +, so what follows is just my opinion.

    Burden/blame is not always constructive moving forward. Who can do things moving forward is more important. The big thing is that removing barriers tends to be good for everyone.

    Pedagogy is important, but not the only thing. Implicit bias (which is significantly different from prejudice with different remedies) is important, stereotype threat is important, and accumulated privilege (real racism/sexism) is important. There's no quick fix, but it's important because mathematics is such a gateway requirement for all the sciences.

  2. Schmitty - thanks for taking the time to type your thoughts down. A few thoughts:

    I think you've misunderstood the main point of my talk: We are all to blame. When I talked about teachers calling on men more then women - that's true of both male and female teachers. Both white and minority professors were more likely to respond to emails from interested senders with Anglo names.

    The reference to stereotype threat research showing that white men play miniature golf worse when told it's a test of their athletic ability also has a point that I fear you missed: The fear of confirming a negative stereotype is something everyone is susceptible to - but because our culture has more negative stereotypes about certain groups, this "stereotype effect" affects those groups more frequently.

    Finally, I just don't see where in my talk you saw me blaming white men. (Help me out - what exactly did I say along those lines?) Rather, there's a defensiveness in your piece that drips with privilege. I'd encourage you to read up on such issues (google "what my bike has taught me about white privilege"), talk with friends from different racial & economic backgrounds, and take courses that push you to understand the world from a different perspective.

    Let me put it a different way. In my talk I pointed out that in many ways (some obvious, some not), the world (especially STEM academics) is stacked against some groups. My hope in giving the talk was that more people would do the difficult work of questioning their own assumptions about the world, carefully examining how their unconscious biases affect their interactions with others, and rolling up their sleeves to make the world a more just one. It's saddening (but not surprising) that some just want to say "Hey, it's not my fault."

    Oh, and the picture featuring so many white men is of a gathering of Great Courses professors who work for the Teaching Company. Part of the screening process to get such a gig is to do an audition lecture and have their customers rate it. The lack of diversity in that group is a reflection of the lack of diversity in higher ed - and the prejudices (or biases) of the general public (or at least the Great Courses customers).

  3. Dr. Kung – I first want to point out how much I appreciate your response to my blog. It speaks well of your position that you would take the time to respond to an absolute stranger on the internet. It also suggests that you are interested in a dialogue that is open and honest. So again, thank you.

    I did affirm in my blog post that I was coming from an uniformed place. Thus, your urging to talk with friends and take courses that pushed my worldview was well meaning. But that act in itself also suggests that I haven’t done so already. I’ve had these conversations and I have pushed myself in a more social way, though not as academically as you are asking me. Through those conversations and through my studies I have arrived at a worldview that disagrees with yours. I’ve heard before that if I read more, study more, talk more, and expand my mind more I will eventually understand and agree with someone else’s viewpoint. I’m not suggesting that you hold this view, but it comes across as such. Expanding my worldview is always a goal of mine (I will read “what my bike taught me about white privilege”), but perhaps there is the possibility that I will still fundamentally disagree with you. And that’s okay.

    I did miss your point about stereotype effect. I’ll admit that. But I think what was important in that part of the talk is that there was laughter (if memory serves). It was amusing that stereotype effect affected men playing golf but not women taking a test. Isn’t this bias? I now understand that you were driving at this effect being more prevalent with minorities and women and that this contributed to the hurdles that they have to jump in order to succeed. But in that piece there was a marginalization of a group aimed at humor. Is that okay?

    The idea of blame is a tricky one, and perhaps one that I didn’t speak of with enough tact. As my professor suggested, it is not always constructive. You never explicitly said in your talk that white males are to blame for this. To suggest that was perhaps unfair, and I apologize that I said that. It is my own defensiveness coming into play because I feel marginalized. Your talk suggested that we recognize our own bias, and in that way it is important that I recognize my own. So thank you. I wonder if it is possible in your worldview to accept that white males are, at times, marginalized. I think the goal of my paper was to point out my perceived bias in you. The bias that was against groups that you didn’t see as marginalized that I did.

    I’m glad that you read this blog and responded so kindly. Your hope that people question their own assumptions is one that I wholeheartedly agree with. In my own classroom I am asking myself important questions about my own bias so that I can give equal opportunity to all my students. I ask that you continue to expand your worldview as you asked that I continue to expand mine. I doubt we will ever agree at a fundamental level on this issue but recognizing our own bias is important. I thank you for pointing out my bias, and I hope that you can recognize, per your advice, that I was asking you to look at your own as well.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to expand on your post. And I'm always looking for things I can change my mind about. In fact, one assignment I've given this term is for students to change their minds about something important to them - and I'm doing the assignment alongside them.

    Back to the discussion...

    Years ago a friend and I were tasked with updating the curriculum in a math class for future teachers. We were supposed to take direction from a committee - one that included two people on opposite sides of what were then termed "the math wars". The two of them argued incessantly, talking past each other repeatedly. One particularly contentious episode ended with one (Tom Carpenter) turning to the other (Dick Askey) saying, "I think when you use the word 'understand' you don't mean the same thing as when I use it."

    For me that moment was an epiphany.

    I think when you use the word "marginalized" you don't mean the same thing as when I use it.

    The student I talked about in my lecture (I called her "D") is marginalized in her math classes. She comes from a group that was stolen from their homes, dragged across the ocean in abysmal conditions, and sold from one "owner" to another (splitting families along the way). Once slavery was outlawed they were systematically prevented moving freely, getting an education, and voting. They were regularly lynched for speaking out. Once LBJ got the Voting Rights Act through Congress, they were still systematically kept out of the political process, denied the same access to federal programs granted to other groups, and prevented (both by formal and informal means) from living in certain areas. Now, 50 years later, African-Americans continue to be more likely to be stopped by police, more likely to be searched (and less likely to have anything found!), more likely to be arrested for drug possession (despite having the same rates of drug usage), and more likely to be beaten (and killed) by the police.

    This history matters; as I noted in the lecture, in addition to huge gaps in education, the gap in wealth between white families (median: $111k) and black families ($7k) is a direct result of that history.

    So when I first encountered D in my Calculus class, she had already overcome a deck stacked against her in myriad unjust, unfair ways. In college - even in a liberal arts school like St. Mary's - she was less likely to get good advising, less likely to be encouraged to continue in any STEM field, more likely to be described as "hard-working" instead of "brilliant". Even in my own classroom, in which I work tirelessly to give every student a fair shot, she was less likely to be chosen as a partner, included in a study session, and believed when she gave a (usually correct) answer.

    By the simple fact of her race, her gender, her economic status, D. was "marginalized".

    You watched a lecture on Youtube in which I described how white men do worse playing putt-putt golf if they're told it's a test of their athletic ability than if it's pitched as a game. Many in the audience laughed along with me - presumably because the finding (and the setting) feels a little absurd.

    I don't know your background, your gender, your race, your (or your family's) economic status. I don't want to presume.

    What did you mean when you wrote that you felt "marginalized"?

    1. Dr. Kung – Again I’m so thankful that you are continuing to engage in this debate. I know it must be frustrating to discuss issues that you find so self-evident. This speaks well of you to continue this dialogue in a respectful way. So truly, thank you.

      This discussion has slightly moved away from my main points, but in a way that I want to pursue. I briefly want to mention again that I do agree with most of your lecture but thought that there was bias in your words that went unrecognized. By your own urgings my goal was to draw out this bias so that it can be addressed.

      You bring up a hugely significant point that we are, perhaps, using the word marginalization differently. The very act of how you framed your question provided the perfect definition of marginalization. You used the history to, not inform, but to juxtapose with suffering that you deemed lesser. I agree that there is a lesser suffering in my life, but does that mean it doesn’t exist? The distinction I will make differentiates the word marginalization between voice and opportunity. I am using it in terms of voice, where I think you are, and correct me if I am wrong, using it in terms of opportunity. This fundamental difference in terminology might be leading to some of our disagreement.

      Marginalization as voice is when someone’s opinion isn’t being respected because of who they are. Their voice is treated as insignificant because of their background. Marginalization is being part of a group where one’s voice is lesser for reasons one can’t control. To give you examples of marginalization that I feel…

      “Let’s debate racism—you don’t understand because you are white.”

      “Let’s debate sexism—you don’t understand because you are male.”

      “Let’s debate sexuality—you don’t understand because you are straight.”

      “Let’s debate economics—you don’t understand because you are upper-middle class.”

      “Let’s debate politics—you don’t understand because you are republican.”

      “Let’s debate religion—you don’t understand because you are Christian.”

      “Let’s debate social issues—you don’t understand because you are conservative.”

      This is the marginalization that I experience. Is this marginalization dismissible? If my views are lesser because of my “privilege” I would equate this to marginalization. In your lecture and continued conversation you make me feel that my voice is less valued because of my background. It also isn’t your right to choose when I feel marginalized and when I don’t. It isn’t your right to tell me what I am, and am not, offended by. Similarly, I cannot demand that you respect my opinion, only hope for it.

      Your history lesson spoke to a view of marginalization as opportunity. Again, correct me if this is wrong. Marginalization seems to be the lack of opportunity in someone’s life that they cannot control. This seems to cover the inherent bias that you talked about in much of your lecture. This lack of opportunity in minorities and women is undeniable. I would lose credibility to say otherwise and the conversation would become a mute point. Women and minorities have been marginalized in a way that creates certain barriers that white men do not have to jump.

    2. The clarification of these two ideas hopefully explains where we differ. I don’t feel that there are hurdles in my way in terms of opportunities. I don’t feel that I have been denied opportunities because of my background. I can recognize the marginalization of others in our world and will hopefully be an agent of change on that front. In terms of voice I do feel marginalized. There are hurdles in my way when it comes to my opinion having credibility because of things I cannot control. Your lecture added to this idea and is what I hope you can recognize in your own views.
      There are problems in this world that need to be fixed. The marginalization (opportunity definition) of minorities and women needs to be addressed in academia. Your views on this are wise and thought through. The marginalization (voice definition) also needs to be addressed though. I hope this definition makes sense to you. I do not mean to cause consternation and deny that there is greater suffering in the world than a 26 year old college student getting upset about how he perceives a YouTube video. But I hope I’m bringing new light to this issue.

      (had to post as two comments because of length)

  5. Hi David,

    I know Prof. Kung through Project NExT (and the small world of mathematics in general). I want to chime in on this conversation because I'm a female mathematics professor who is also an active research mathematician.

    Please stop asking for your suffering to be recognized. It trivializes what I have gone through to complete my PhD: this includes divorce, documented mental health struggles, being told I was "doing math wrong" despite producing results, and having to work hard not only at the math but at being given the chance to prove it to my advisor. All of this was in the pursuit of doing math, because I a) I'm pretty good at it, ovaries notwithstanding, and b) because I love it. When given the choice to quit or struggle, I struggled, knowing that the deck was stacked against me. This struggle continues in professional mathematics post-PhD. Math is hard enough without having to fight for the attention to do the math in the first place.

    As you may have inferred, I finished my PhD within the last decade, and I still have a fairly large chip on my shoulder from it. I would like to voice the unpopular opinion that you, as a white male, are overrepresented, over-advantaged, overprivileged in a mathematics classroom.

    There are two federal statutes on the books (Title VI and Title IX) that protect the educational rights of women and people of color. Unless you think that women and people of color are inherently less able to perform in the world of mathematics, you have to accept that both groups are underrepresented in mathematics.

    Without changing the number of mathematicians that the market can support, addressing this problem means choosing women and people of color over white men sometimes. There's nothing new about favoring a demographic: the status quo favors white men. Creating a new preference will make you uncomfortable -- but that doesn't make it wrong.

    Who's to blame for the problem? Well, the overly simplistic answer is: the people who have the professional power. If, as a body, mathematicians decided they were interested in having proportionately represented demographics in the field, this goal could achieved. But, aside from small groups of people working collectively, the most populous demographic -- white guys! -- doesn't buy in. It becomes the work of the marginalized to fight marginalization, and that's exhausting.

    As a pre-tenure faculty member, every commitment I make to talk to women and girls about mathematics is cutting into my time for other work. For example, I will participate on a panel at the national math meetings this year (aimed at helping women succeed in graduate school). The panel (and prep) comes at a cost to my teaching or research activities. It's important work -- so why aren't more white men involved in doing it?

    Finally, I will say that -- by any definition you choose to craft -- you aren't marginalized. The fact that Dave Kung is talking to you (his time is GOLD!) shows that your voice isn't going unheard. The difficult thing that you may have to grapple with is this: maybe you're not saying anything of substance. You feel uncomfortable; that doesn't mean anything is wrong. Discomfort is necessary for learning. Please continue to learn and, with respect, take a minute to shut up some times. Your voice, as a white male, sometimes drowns out other voices that deserve to be heard.

    I will refer you to an excellent piece to help you sharpen your thinking. It's called White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (googling it brings up several free PDFs).

    1. Dr. “Scooter McGee IV”--I appreciate your unique background on this issue and welcome it in this debate. I’m sorry I don’t know your name, but I will make sure to refer to you as Doctor since you worked hard for that title.

      I’ll begin this reply with a story. When I was in a high school forensics class (just 13 of us) we had debate every Friday. We would bring in articles and discuss them as a class. This was a great exercise in respectful dialogue. A classmate and I held more conservative views and the other eleven held more liberal views. Every week there would be a debate on an issue and I would bring up, what I thought in 12th grade, was a valid point. There would be a small amount of silence before my conservative classmate would reiterate my point with the inclusion of foolish conclusions or a reformulation of the argument with a number of flaws. My classmates would then pounce on that flawed reformulation of my argument and assert that my point had been effectively countered. I will always remember this because it taught me a valuable lesson about discourse. You have entered this conversation and reformulated Dr. Kung’s points in a way that no longer lends itself to that of respect or inclusions of others views. I will not make the mistake of thinking that I have countered Dr. Kung’s points but refuting a lesser argument, an argument filled with a lack of respect for my opinion. Through this entire exchange Dr. Kung and I have treated each other with respect. You say that his time is “gold” and I agree. I have stated as much on every single post to him. But what I ask is that if you want to continue in a discussion on this issue you must adapt that same level of respect in order for your voice to be heard.

      I think that my discourse needs another read on your part. There seems to be parts that you missed when you remarked on my point-of-view. I’ll correct these briefly.

      I have affirmed that both females and minorities are underrepresented in mathematics from the beginning of this. I don’t quite understand why you are once again making sure that I affirm that…it isn’t up for debate. It isn’t an “unpopular opinion” to state that white males are overrepresented…it seems that denying that fact would lead to a loss of credibility. I affirm this as well. I agree that more “white guys” should play an active role in changing this. Perhaps creating a discourse where they felt more comfortable might encourage them to chime in. Your hostility may be turning them away.

      When you ask that there be a shift to a new preference this does bother me. It bothers me because it is a continuation of the system that we both find so wrong. It is a continuation of preference instead of equality. It is a continuation of judging a person based on things that they cannot control, aka their sex or skin color. I have a preference for the person who suits the role best. I seek equality the same as you. I judge a person based on their credentials, not on the color of their skin. What you ask for is a perpetuation of looking at things a person cannot control, rather than what they have worked for.

    2. In the kindest way possible I must remark that you said surprisingly little in many words. Your personal struggles are real and I am in no way denying them. But you use these struggles as an emotional weapon to sway people to your viewpoint. Perhaps this isn’t the wisest move and explains why you might be hiding your identity. Logic and reason belong in this discussion; emotion is a fallback that doesn’t do justice to how far you have come.

      As I told Dr. Kung, it isn’t anyone’s right but my own to choose when I feel marginalized. It is my right. Though, it seems that you would deny me that right. It is a scary thing that a university professor could come so far yet lack the ability to have an open discourse. Would you tell a student to “take a minute to shut up some times”? I actually am scared to know the answer to that. Perhaps all the hurdles that stood in your way to gaining your position might have been contributed to by your lack of human empathy. Realize what you did there. You told a student, who is willing to openly discuss his unpopular ideas and is willing to learn, to “shut up”? How is that going to convince me of anything? You stand in your own way Dr. “Scooter McGee IV”. I hope that I never become jaded to that point that I’m so scared of someone’s opinion that I deem it necessary for them not to share it.

  6. [FWIW, I wrote this before seeing Scooter's response.]

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I, too, appreciate that we're engaged in this debate. This (2 part response) will be my last post here.

    I now understand better what you mean when you said that you were marginalized. Your distinction between marginalization "of opportunity" and "marginalization of voice" fails to capture the actual definition of marginalization - which deals with power and importance. What D. faces every day as an African-American woman in mathematics is marginalization. She has less power than others in her classes when her professors are dismissive and don't provide her with as much mentoring. When someone at a math conference mistakes her for the hotel staff and asks her to refill the water they are diminishing her importance at that conference.

    In that, the correct sense of the word "marginalization" (this isn't a he-said he-said issue, that's just the definition of the word), you weren't marginalized by my talking about how white men are subject to stereotype threat. You may have *felt* marginalized, but there was no actually taking of your power or importance.

    Back to the larger issue...

  7. Like everyone, you grew up in a bubble. In yours, people were safe and children reluctantly ate vegetables. Kids played on soccer teams. Scouts peddled Thin Mints and popcorn, raising money for a good cause. There was never any doubt that you would go to college - and you probably had some say in where you would go. You experienced uncomfortable times - sibling fights, bouts of flu, the awkward "talk" you got from your mom about sex, that time your friend got caught with a little weed - but life in your bubble was copacetic. Occasionally you got a glimpse of places that weren't so serene - the local news, a drive through a rundown neighborhood (your mom made sure the doors were locked, right?).

    Other people grew up in other bubbles, some more luxurious than yours, some decidedly less so. In some of those bubbles, people weren't very safe; vegetables were not sold. Kids didn't play outside. Scouts helped peddle weed and harder drugs, raising money in a way that was available to them. Kids dropped out of their poorly-funded, poorly staffed high schools at high rates; only a few went on to a four-year college. There are uncomfortable times - sibling fights, lack of access to good health care, the awkward "talk" moms gave about demurring to cops to avoid being the next Tamir Rice, Freddie Grey or Eric Garner, that time your friend was thrown in jail for being caught with a little weed. Despite these struggles, life in those bubbles went along fine for most people.

    But there's an asymmetry between these bubbles. People in other bubbles know all about our bubble (I grew up there too!) - it's on TV, in movies, on billboards, in books and magazines. Our view of their neighborhoods is distorted by those same media outlets into The Wire, derogatory insults about welfare queens, live shots of "riots", and disparaging talk of ghettos. The truth is that people in our bubble know very little about the life of the poor.

    But the most important difference between our bubble and theirs is this: it's people in our bubble who run the world. Through our legislators, we decide to keep down the minimum wage making drug peddling more attractive than a job at McDonald's. We continue to fund schools with property taxes, ensuring that their run-down schools with poorly trained teachers will largely fail to educate the next generation of their kids. We institute higher sentences for cocaine when it's crack than when it's powdered. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars not on improving their bubble, but on invading other countries, bailing out big banks, building prisons, and giving tax breaks to the already-rich.

    I disagree with so much of what you wrote - but never more than when you said issues of race and class are "self-evident" to me. Instead of staying confined to our bubble, meekly crying out "I'm suffering too" whenever injustices were pointed out, I used my opportunities, my education to learn about others' bubbles. Barbara Ehrenreich's tales of trying to make it on minimum wage gave me a more accurate picture of the lives of the working poor. Uri Treisman's revolutionary work with students of color in Calculus changed my view of who "belonged" in mathematics; working with those students in Emerging Scholars programs only clarified those lessons. Paulo Freire opened my eyes to the realities - and possibilities - of education. My process of learning continues; Ta-Nehisi Coates' Atlantic essay taught me how racist housing policies largely created our modern, segregated society.

    And in discussions with an array of people from different backgrounds, what I did was this: I listened.

    [continued into a 3rd part...]

  8. When I got into a discussion about gender, class, or LBGT issues, and someone said "you don't understand because you're male/upper-middle class/straight" I stopped and listened. Because they're right. When it comes to issues of gender, class and sexuality, my bubble - our bubble - is the dominant one. Women see how gender differences play out in our society better than we do - they are marginalized not us. Gay men are forced to confront issues of sexuality from the moment they realize they're gay, in ways I couldn't imagine - until I talked to them and listened to their stories.

    However, you are right about this: you are not guilty for being born white, male, straight, and into an upper-middle class family. What you are guilty of is not learning about the perspectives of people who were born into other circumstances, not listening to how their experiences differ from yours, and not understanding how unfair some of those differences are.

    What makes you doubly guilty is that instead of using the good fortune of the circumstances of your birth to learn about those differences, you keep forcing others to explain them to you.

    I hope you start listening.

    Thanks for engaging in this debate. Happy Thanksgiving.

    - dave

    1. Dr Kung—Thank you for continuing to respond to me in a way that respects open discourse. I’ll speak briefly wrapping up my points with you since you are busy doing more important work than responding to one student. Trust that your words do not fall on deaf ears though, I appreciate your time. I wish I could engage in this discussion with you in a classroom setting, I doubt you would get the same enjoyment out of the time though.

      I guess I would equate power and voice differently than you. When someone’s voice is silenced I equate that with taking away their power. So perhaps instead of saying marginalized I should say that I felt my voice was (and is) being actively stifled. I’m not saying this is a greater sin than what others are going through…but perhaps it is still a sin. Shouldn’t we strive to correct this? Your descriptions of bubbles are accurate, as you knew it would be, and I’m not disagreeing with that. I’m saying that no one’s voice should be stifled; I’m not disagreeing with the problems that you have brought up in our society. Instead I ask only that all voices be heard. Equality.

      The last point that I really want to make is the simply idea that two people can look at a set of facts and reasonably disagree. As a man in a bar once told me while debating politics, “reasonable people can reasonably disagree.” You assume that I haven’t listened. I have listened to stories and I have researched (not as much as you but I am trying to catch up so thank you for the resources you have listed). This is the cause for our greatest misunderstanding; you assume that if I had listened to the same talks you had, had the same conversations you had, and knew what you knew that I would agree with you. Perhaps I can still be a reasonable and insightful person and come to a different conclusion than you. I have agreed with so much of what you have said and asked for very little. There are very few conclusions that you came to that I disagreed with. I simply wanted to point out one flaw in your argumentation that I saw as hypocritical.

      Reasonable people can reasonably disagree.

      Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for the dialogue,