“[My needlework teacher] recognized things according to expectation and environment. If you were in a particular place, you expected to see particular things” (Winterson 45).
Jeannette’s inability to conform to the school policy initially struck me as odd. I did not quite understand why someone could not separate religion from education. However, after observing my own history in school, drawing the two apart from one another proves to be extremely problematic. Mixture of these two elements takes place unwillingly. Therefore, the needlework teacher’s deprecation of Jeannette’s artwork creates controversy. This scene in the novel reminds me one again of Mcruer’s idea of composition. It does not reflect through composition in the classroom but rather through creativity, which is clearly discouraged.
Jeannette recognizes the difference between herself and the “Brownies” early on in the novel. She says that these groups of people, who portray heteronormative concepts in their artwork, are rewarded by the faculty. In contrast, Jeannette’s work, which is queer and atypical, seems to ignite concern amongst the teachers, the parents, and other students. This disapproval leads Jeannette to ultimately revise her ideas, and start creating works that abandon religious themes. By the time this change takes place, the teachers and students have already developed preconceived notions of Jeanette’s queerness.
The censorship and the rigid structure provided in Jeanette’s school reflect in classrooms today as well. At times, this censorship is necessary. For example, last year, some students at Montclair State University decided to write, “Faggots will die on [certain date].” This exemplifies extremity in freedom of expression because it targets a certain group of people negatively. In this sense, the school’s strict observance of what students write or say becomes necessary. However, suppose a student were to write an essay, explaining how his/her religion disapproves of certain elements visible in the classroom. Are the teachers allowed to stop such discourse? After all, if a person is nonviolently expressing his/her beliefs, can a teacher interfere with these thoughts?
Before I read Mcruer’s article along with Oranges, I was tempted to say that classrooms should restrict certain religious comments made in class. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, such expression can lead to discomfort in the classroom, and a classroom should be a safe environment. However, after reading the two texts, I have become perplexed on the situation. Similar to homosexuality, religious beliefs constitute expression of oneself. How can the school curriculum draw a line between expression and over-expression? If the schools encourage the gay community to openly express their views in class, will they not have to do so for every other group on campus? While in support of the prior scenario, I am unsure of my support for the latter case, causing discrepancies in my own opinion about composition and de-composition in the classroom.