Advanced topics class: Men’s issues

Last night was the first night of a six-week series of advanced level classes at the Community College. I always struggle to keep this class fresh. The learners are all professional people with great English skills who want a place to talk about ideas. This time I happened to find that June is International Men’s Month, so we’ll spend at least three weeks discussing that.

There are two women in the class and five men, and what I realized in preparing for this class is that we often discuss topics that lead us in to women’s issues, such as Equal Pay Day, and Equal Rights, but we have rarely, if ever, discussed what I would think of as men’s issues. Last night we spent alot of time on men’s health issues, such as suicide, prostate cancer, and heart disease and the social factors that make men more succeptible. They are a very insightful bunch and are willing to talk openly about sensitive issues, for example homosexuality. One man suggested that homosexuality was, “something wrong with their heads.” I stifled my laughter the best I could, having never heard someone seriously opine that out loud. The other students did a great job, and instead of saying that there was something wrong with his, their take was, “So what if there is? It doesn’t make them any more unworthy as people.” Of course they tried to disuade him from his ideas, and in the end I think he was just saying that as a way of trying out that idea in his own head, not that he firmly believed it.

We talked about men having a hard time fitting into companies as functioning communities and the problems that makes when they retire. Community has been very important for people, especially farming people like the Japanese like to see themselves. Until recently the community for men has been the local area around where they lived and farmed. The students suggested that now the company has assumed that role for most men. That is fine until they retire from the company and that community disappears. In the past people didn’t retire from where they lived, so their support group was intact when they hit old age. Now it just isn’t there, and they may or may not be able to plug into a community that their wives have created.

A great group of students and inspiring conversation. Makes my late Tuesday nights worth it.

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