That Old, Unfamiliar Feeling

Image by: mnpix

I normally post on Thursdays, and shall do so this week, but I had something happening to me last night that I’ve got to get off of my chest.

If you’ve been reading here for a while, then you’ve likely seen me say that I am going into the education field. In fact, I’m enrolled in a program which will see me with my Master’s of Education in a little over a year. I have class every Tuesday night and the story I am about to recount took place during class. It left me a little shocked and more than a little angry.

The professors for our classes don’t have too much time to get to now us. We only have each one of them for an eight week period, so they often have exercises that they use to get to know us. Invariably I mention that I’m a gamer during those exercises. Every professor that I’ve had has seemed to have no problem with this even though I usually just say “I play Dungeons and Dragons” because it’s a game whose name most people have heard.

During class last night, the professor was talking about PAT, or Preferred Activity Time, where the teacher has a game or other fun activity that the students can do as a reward for doing the work they may or may not enjoy. As he was talking about this subject, he gave an example of a game he would not use. He said, “for example, I wouldn’t choose something like, say, Dungeons and Dragons.”

At this point, I’m a bit intrigued. Being someone who hopes to use gaming in the classroom, I thought he might take that opportunity to talk about why it might be better to play an RPG after school when you’ve got more time, or that all of the students might not be comfortable with the social interaction. Unfortunately, I was wrong. He continued, “I wouldn’t want something negative like that in my classroom.” Wait, what?

I kind of felt like the whole room paused for a second and looked at me, though that might be my imagination. I get along with my classmates and they know I’m a gamer. The professor kept talking as he walked to the front of the room. The person sitting next to me said something to me, I don’t remember what, and the professor asked if there was anything our part of the room want ed to contribute. I replied, “I play D&D every week.” His answer?

“Well, I’m not going to tell you what you should be doing in your personal life.” Then he moved on with his lecture.

As one might imagine, I kind of checked out for the rest of class. I mean, I had heard of people having negative opinions of D&D, and RPGs in general, but I had never had one thrown at me before, especially not in the middle of class. It seemed malicious. Of all of the examples he could have chosen, he went with the one that I love. As well, he didn’t mention its appropriateness from a classroom perspective, he went at it from a moral perspective. Unless I did something to upset him, I can’t see where his comment came from. I felt attacked.  It doesn’t help that I attend a conservative university, so when it happened, I immediately started thinking that the setting contributed to it having happened.

I’ve been thinking about this since it happened. I talked it over with my wife and with a classmate with whom I carpool. I’ve come to a few conclusions about it all.

1. Apparently, hatred or RPGs and those who play them is alive and well.

I have never gotten that kind of nonsense from anyone before. People might laugh a little or roll their eyes, but I’ve never had my gaming hobby typed as something negative, and especially not to my face in a group setting. I had thought that nastiness like that had died out. Sadly, I was mistaken.

2. Ultimately, he can have his opinion.

Since it didn’t come up within a context where I felt the need to defend the hobby, I let it go. I felt that it wasn’t appropriate for him to use the example in that was, as it wasn’t contextually appropriate for the discussion we were having. It also would not have been an appropriate time to take up arms and defend the hobby. Such a discussion, at that time, would have had no bearing on the class discussion and I didn’t want to be the one to derail things. Outside of the context of class, if he wants to hate RPGs, that’s his right. I don’t think that they’re for everyone, but they’re certainly not something evil.

3. What really bothers me is that it happened during class.

Like I said, he can have his opinions. What gets me is that it felt like I was the target of an unprovoked verbal attack from a professor in a Classroom Management Class. The irony of that is thick and rich. This man, whose opinion I am supposed to respect on the matter, took it upon himself to verbally bash a student and his hobby for no apparent reason and it happened in a class that is supposed to teach us how to effectively manage out classrooms. Way to model what you teach, sir.

When all is said and done, I doubt that anything substantive will come of this incident. If I see a repetition of his behavior, then I’ll have to say something to someone, but I hope it doesn’t come to that. If anything, this has made me even more willing to try and incorporate gaming into my future classroom. I feel that the hobby has so many valuable things to offer so many people that it would be doing my future students a disservice for me to not try.

As well, it makes me even more interested in making my gaming hobby more of a public thing. If you’ve not heard of the Play in Public Campaign, check out their website. I intend to keep a gaming book with me at all times and to read it in public whenever I am able.

I’ll leave you with this: if someone comes at you, spewing bile about the hobby of gaming, don’t give in to the urge to fire back. In my experience, that’s just what that kind of person wants. Have a self-confidence to know that you’re in the right when it comes to the issue and let them be the only who looks like a screaming idiot. And make sure that if you are going to bring up gaming or defend the hobby, do so in an appropriate context. If you just try and cram your support of gaming into everything you do, you’ll end up coming off as no better than the man who prompted me to write this in the first place.

[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games, incidents, Play in Public[/tags]

28 thoughts on “That Old, Unfamiliar Feeling

Add yours

  1. “The teacher provoked an Attack of Opportunity!”

    Here in Brazil some people see RPG’s as same as “Black Magic”, or Devil things.

    They associate the theme of D&D to Evil itself, and say it can influence players to commit crimes like ritualistic sacrifice, and so.


  2. Hate that you experienced this, but yes, anti-gaming sentiment (especially, anti gaming sentiment directed at D&D) is alive and well.

    As for the professor coming at the issue in an inappropriate manner… surely you are not surprised? Professors are, by rule, some of the worst examples of meglomaniacs in society. They do what they want in their classrooms, using whatever methods they deem appropriate, and if you don’t like it… tough. Logic and reason have little place in academia. A classroom is a professor’s tiny little fiefdom, and he will likely treat it that way.


  3. I am surprised, given the level of professor that we have seen, to date. Plus, he’s supposed to practice what he teaches. Not an unreasonable expectation in an education class.


  4. Wow, it sounds like you learned an important lesson about classroom management.

    I have to say, even my best education professors had methods that could be improved upon, and it seems like you found a particularly glaring example here.


  5. I wonder if he views it as “evil” or just as “a waste of time in the classroom”. Or even as “violent, in quotes”?

    Knowing why he thought it was negative would be interesting knowledge to have.


  6. i find the same issues here at my place of work, during my breaks i openly read my books or write my adventures.
    Others ask what im doing and so i tell them. they ask what that is so i tell them and the moment i say Dungeons & dragons abuse in a supposed light hearted manner ensues.
    I have come to the point that i just agree then get back to what im doing.
    Maybe they will except me because i just do not say anything any more


  7. I ran into it with my parents when I first started playing, but what I used then is still what I use when people look at me funny. I explain that it’s about spinning a story with other people–collaborative storytelling. And since I majored in English, I love a good story. 😉

    I’m rather surprised that your professor went at it from the moral point of view. I don’t know how well it’d work for some classroom settings (it’s time-consuming, etc) but it’s morally whatever the players make of it.


  8. Wow. You’d think tolerance had come farther in the past few years. He could have at least phrased it in a non-escalating manner – hasn’t he heard of starting with “I feel…” to make non-threatening statements? Oy!


  9. I checked out of this article after you leaped to conclusions about his “hate” when all he said was he thought it was a negative in the classroom. As someone else pointed out, it’s a game where the focus is on violence. I don’t think the professor’s opinion was unreasonable.


  10. I agree. He’s perfectly entitled to his opinions. That said, the context within which he voiced his opinion was not an appropriate one. There are many reasonable examples of why D&D is not appropriate within the context of the discussion we were having. The manner in which he went about it and his subsequent dismissal of my statement that I play added up to make it feel much like an attack.


  11. Why didn’t you confront him specifically on why it was a negative game for a classroom? There are some legitimate reasons why any game might not be right for the kids. You have parents who disapprove because of the magical element. Or, as someone mentioned, if there is some form of violence you may have parents who aren’t thrilled with that. Just stating that you play the game seemed more attention seeking than getting to the actual issue. I agree with you that holding a discussion about the actual game would have been way off topic, but discussing why that particular game might be a negative influence in your room seems totally appropriate. You were talking about games and activities to help motivate kids. Getting back to classroom management, anytime the kids challenge me about the topic at hand, I consider that a great lesson. I think you should have challenged him and could have done so while keeping it relevant to the topic. Good discussion piece. I’ll have to read this more often.

    Chris Bowen
    Author of, “Our Kids: Building Relationships in the Classroom”


  12. When I stated that I played on a regular basis, I think I did so with the expectation that it could begin a conversation. I didn’t state it (at least I don’t think) in a confrontational manner, but with a slightly questioning tone. I thought that, based on out previous experiences in the class, that my statement would begin a discussion. Instead, he dismissed my comment and proceeded with the lesson.

    Since the class is about classroom management and not content selection, I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to get into a discussion about the merits of the game. As well, my take on the situation is that he would not have been receptive to further discussion. So, I let it ride. We’ll see what next week brings.


  13. I just had a thought I wanted to share. I agree with you wholeheartedly and think that incorporating DnD into a class regimen would be a blast. However, in order to avoid the doltish and ill-informed in the future, you might try using something like Pathfinder. That way the name Dungeons and Dragons isn’t directly said when kids go home and tell their parents what they did at school and you don’t get an idiot parent trying to get you fired. 🙂


  14. I haven’t said anything to him about it. In such a small class, if it was deliberately said to be injurious, I would rather not risk pushing him further and get singled out for the next 5 weeks. If it was a one-time slip, that’s forgivable. If it continues without any provocation on my part, then I have to say something.

    And the point of the post is that I felt the desire to talk about it and have an appropriate platform here from which to do so. That was reason enough for me to write it.


  15. It wasn’t until I talked her into gaming with me that my wife gave up on all the “facts” she knew about D&D. Being a big fan of “true crime” books she had read plenty about the evils of D&D. (that’s about the only time I’ve heard them disparaged in the last decade; I think everyone who used to hate them has moved on to video games and Harry Potter)


  16. I agree with the poster above, any thoughts on why they were so against it?

    Yeah, usually the eye-rolls or snickers happen. Whatever, not a big deal. But to have someone specifically call out RPG’s for, well, any reason at all seems odd.

    Have you thought about hitting up office hours to ask?


  17. I have had people laugh or chuckle, but any real hate against RPG’s has been something I haven’t had to deal with (yet).

    I’ve been following a minor in education myself (stopping next week, don’t like teaching kids I found out ;)) and my DMing experience has helped me being creative in my class design (or however it translates).

    I do agree with your choice not to press the issue, it wasn’t the time and place for that discussion.


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