Stories of teaching and change, part 2

Here’s the second story in response to the prompt, “tell me about a time a teaching/learning experience changed how you thought about something?”

“I started my undergraduate education with an interest in human behavior, from a very biological perspective. I had read Desmond Morris’ books in high school, and he makes all these very detailed observations about human behavior and provides evolutionary explanations for them, and at the time that made a lot of sense to me.

I think it was my 2nd year of college when I took this class on sexuality, and early on we read Foucault’s argument that, at the time, I could not wrap my head around–that sexuality is not essentially biological, but is made up of a set of socially, culturally, and historically specific meanings that are sometimes not even related to biology at all.

And so I marched up to the professor after class that day, talking about a psych course I took the previous semester where I had learned about the physiological aspects of the sexual response cycle, saying, “This can’t be right, sex is obviously a biological fact.” And the prof patiently explained, “Ok, but, here’s this other way of thinking about how the way we have to make sense of that biology is through discourse,” and so on. And I still didn’t get it. So I walked out of there thinking, “These people are so wrong.” But I kept thinking about it and it sort of percolated for that whole summer term.

Then at a university event a few months later, I ran into that prof, and he asked, me, “Did you ever figure out Foucault?” And I realized that in the time that had passed since that course, I had completely changed how I thought about sexuality.