142: Dignity

Dignity is a foreign concept in this modern world in which we live. In class, my students and I are reading a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel called To Kill a Mockingbird. I chose this novel for us to read for several reasons: it is a classic, I had enough copies of it for the number of students in the class, and I happen to be born and raised in the culture and region (if not the time frame) where this novel is set: the American Deep South. I can read the dialect conversations in this book with the real accent.

If you have previously read this book by Harper Lee, or seen the movie adaptation of the novel starring Gregory Peck, you will already have an idea about what I mean when I say dignity. Atticus is a quiet man, reserved, with impeccable morals and values – and absolutely no propensity to blowing his own horn. It is enough that he knows what sort of man that he is, he does not have to advertise it. Lately, that quality of quiet dignity is in extremely short supply.

I know some Southern ladies who possess it, and exemplify it. I also know a few gentlemen who are fine examples of dignity. I am not one of them. Unfortunately. I would like to be, but I have a real problem being dignified, because part of the definition involves QUIET and RESERVED dignity. I do not exemplify quiet and reserved – not one little bit. If you want to know what I think about something, you won’t have to wait too long to find out, because chances are, I am going to tell you. And, I will usually do so in no uncertain terms.  I have no problems speaking my mind.

That is one of the primary reasons that I did not register for Administration when I enrolled in an advanced degree program, even though I could find one of those close to me at reasonable cost. I do not want to be an administrator, even though I would probably be fairly good at it – at least no worse than any number of administrators I have worked with. I don’t want to do it, because it requires some tact, and some holding of one’s tongue. I don’t want to have to do that. I can do it, I just don’t want to do it. I’d rather tell you exactly what I think, and let the chips fall where they may. As an administrator, I would not be able to do that – speak my mind, that is – because there are always people who think they are special exemptions to every rule and every policy created to allow for reasonable functioning of any facility or organization. And usually, those are the very people who need someone like me to rattle their cages enough to let them know that they are not special exemptions, regardless of whether they think that they are.

I need to find a job like THAT – and dignity be damned.

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