Saturday, May 16, 2009

To engender gender differences

One of my favorite teachers was my high school biology professor, Mr. Horak.  For me, he is that teacher that always springs to mind when someone says, "Name your favorite teacher."  I don't know what the significance of him NOT being a music teacher is, but he definitely wasn't.  He loved music, but he didn't try to shoehorn it into dissection lessons just to try "multi-pronged learning" or some other buzzword.  He taught the biological sciences.

He did the things that "good" teachers always try: he used humor in his teaching style, he spoke from knowledge rather than notes, and he stressed the everyday applications of science by citing genetic examples from his own family (how albanism runs in his progeny). And I seem to recall him calling some students "half-wit", but only in the most loving and motivational way. Heh.

He died in 2002, at the age of sixty-four, from complications of colon cancer. For some reason, I thought of him tonight. It was a strange connection, because I had recalled (also for no reason) someone making a comment a few months ago about "same-gender marriage". Mr. Horak was always adamant about the differences between "sex" and "gender", much more so than even other biology teachers I've had.

The "same-gender" comment came at the high of California's debate about Prop. 8. A conservative commentator was continually reffering to "same-gender" marriage. It caught my attention right away as most people (no matter what their views) refer to it as "same-sex". Mr. Horak would have taken her to task, reminding her that "sex" refers to the biological equipment we come with, while "gender" refers to the cultural and psychological implications of our behavior. It is, as far as I know, perfectly legal for two people of the opposite sex but same gender to marry.

Really, I just wanted to hear Mr. Horak correct her while calling her a nitwit.

I remember attending his memorial service, in the smallish gymnasium of a local Catholic church. Until I reread an obituary earlier this evening, I'd forgotten he was Catholic, if I'd ever actually known it to begin with. Had I been paying more attention, I would have recalled our churchy surroundings on that November day. That service was the closest thing I've ever had to a high school reunion, what with people from various graduating classes there to pay their respects.

He's one of my role models. I'd love for him to have been proud of me and what I've accomplished. I honor him in the best way I know how: remembering who he was. He deserves a few entries all to himself, talking about what he meant to me. But waiting around to do that isn't doing him any favors, so I'll just have to sneak in the remembrances as they come, attached to barely connected sparks of memory.

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