Because I was so quick to tell you the story — reported so ably in the New York Times by Richard Perez-Pena — of a student with a stuttering problem at a New Jersey college who had been asked by the Professor not to speak in class, I need to add a postscript.
While the full details of the story may remain murky, Perez-Pena — in the admirable journalistic tradition of careful follow-up when new details are revealed — — wrote a subsequent story with the instructor’s version of events.
Without claiming that I now have a firm handle on the truth in this complex situation, I do feel obligated to state the following:
Virtually every complex human interaction imaginable defies easy description. First-rate writers and researchers can try, and perhaps come close, but it is inevitable that different parties and witnesses to an interaction will see things differently. Perez-Pena, a skilled and distinguished professional, was forced — given the initial choice of the professor not to comment — to write the first story without her version. Only days later, when she did agree to speak, Perez-Pena immediately wrote a follow-up.
The speed with which I angrily chastised the instructor and the institution for this incident, while born of a deep anger and sensitivity to discrimination against people with disabilities, clearly should have awaited a fuller account including the professor’s version. I still may not agree with what I now know was the professor’s judgement, but the point is that my reaction preceded my even having any idea what that judgement was.
The fault was allowing my indignation about discrimination (an indignation that is alive, well, and still white-hot) to lead me to temporarily reject even the possibility of an alternate version of events. I should have thought more carefully before allowing anger to trump caution.
Isn’t it just like complexity to come along and ruin certainty and clarity?