Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Punishment? Or Alternative Assignment?

“If you don’t do the reading, and you don’t turn in your response paper on time,” our instructor threatened, “then your punishment will be performing one of your traditional dances for five minutes in front of the class!”

I came back to my dorm room one afternoon to find my Pakistani roommate slothing through the reading assignment. “There are so many words here that I don’t know,” she stated. I looked to see the words “indigenous” and “powwow” circled in the first paragraph of her copy of the reading. “I’m thinking that dancing for five minutes would be so much easier—I mean, I can dance for thirty minutes, no problem!”

Dancing for five minutes in front of the class would be punishment for undergraduates at UCR enrolled in some cultural arts class. But in a similar class where students harken from Pakistan, South Korea, Myanmar, Philippines, and Malaysia, and all are specialists in some aspect of their “indigenous” arts, dancing for five minutes in front of the class may not be seen as “punishment,” but an alternative assignment—and one that takes less effort and energy! Leave the reading and response writing to the two white Americans in the class who have advanced English language capabilities and no dance moves!

Well, while she did, in the end, decide to do the reading and the written response, we still got to see our Pakistani classmate do two dances as “punishment” for being late, as well as one monologue as Lopakhin from Anton Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” She’s one talented artist, to say the least.