If this course, INTD 105-04, is comparable to that of the Preserve in Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”, then parallels may also be drawn from the partnerships formed within these two institutions. The partnership between Gan and T’Gatoi, and the one between the students of INTD 105-04 and Professor Beth McCoy, are both built on a foundation of trust. Alongside these partnerships are its risk and rewards as well as the responsibilities of the parties involved to uphold it.
The conditional trust and partnership between Gan and T’Gatoi is one that is born through force of circumstance. Both characters are a part of a system that rewards the mutualism of a Tlic and Terran; within the Preserve established by T’Gatoi and her political faction, the Terrans are protected from the hordes of Tlics that did not understand, or did not care to out of desperation, saw and would have treated Terrans as nothing more than ideal host animals for their young. (Butler, 5) In return, Terrans would willingly carry the fertile eggs of the Tlic ensuring that the Tlic species would not go extinct. Gan had absolutely no qualms about receiving the honor of becoming an N’Tlic, the host of T’Gatoi’s eggs, until he witnessed childbirth for the first time. Lomas, an N’Tlic, who had (unknowingly) accepted the risk in becoming a host – for no Terran, according to T’Gatoi’s experience and knowledge, had seen a birth and take it well, and thus they should be protected from seeing (Butler, 28) – had suffered the horrifying consequences of being left alone by his Tlic partner during childbirth. The possibility of sharing the same fate as Lomas hadn’t been a risk that Gan was willing to take, which left both him and T’Gatoi at a stalemate. Their responsibilities – T’Gatoi to her people, and Gan to his family – were what established their fragile partnership in the end. Both of them have the means to hurt one another to the point beyond forgiveness: in allowing Gan to keep the rifle, T’Gatoi risks putting herself and her children in danger; and there is no telling of the possibility of T’Gatoi being absent when Gan gives birth to her children. It is Gan who has said it best: “There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.” (Butler, 26)
Any partnership involves risk and responsibility. For Professor McCoy to extend her trust to the students INTD 105-04, so that they can “meaningfully, thoughtfully, and honestly assess their own coursework based on feedback they receive from instructor and peers” (McCoy), would require good faith on her part, and course accountability of the students.
There are many rewards, two in particular, that I intend to take away from my academic partnerships with Professor McCoy and my classmates. The first is to become a dependable judge of the quality of my work through the practice of unbiased self-assessment. To accomplish this would require that I be honest to myself about my own work. In other words, I must stay vigilant of any biases that I may have towards my work, whether it means to be overly critical or overly lenient. Self-criticism taken too far, harsh, and unforgiving is counterproductive – what was meant to be thoughtful and helpful advice becomes twisted into discouragement. The purpose and process of revision is solely dedicated to the improvement of one’s work, which by no means equates to demoralizing the initial process of thinkING and writing itself. However, to be forgiving without understanding my own work is also counterproductive; it is no different than being indifferent of any errors I have made – a serious breach in my obligations as a student given the privilege of grading my own papers. In short, a biased assessment would lead to an inaccurate evaluation of character; unnecessary steps may be taken to fix what isn’t broken, and the real problems may be ignored.
The second is to use this opportunity to help myself in transitioning from having a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Because this course removes the “stress-producing grades that end up inevitably becoming the focus instead of the learning” (McCoy), students will be able to dedicate their full attention to their writing and thinkING process, personal growth, and looking out for their peers. I do not doubt that INTD 105-04 is a space that would allow the growth mindset to thrive. Rather than anxiously waiting to be graded on the final product of my paper, I could appreciate the journey taken to arrive at my paper’s destination. I would be given more room to ask myself how could I have done better, what I can improve on, what can I do differently next time, rather than agonizing over the shallow question of “did I do good?” If the answer is no, then the usual sensation that entails is the sense of unworthiness. If the answer is yes, then it means I’d have reached the peak of my abilities. Neither answer encourages anything better, the former a downward spiral of negativity, and the latter an excuse to not put in more effort than the bare minimum required. This blatant lack of care and accountability for my work and action is not something I wish to make a habit. With this reward of self-grading, I intend to instill the habit of taking initiative in my personal growth.
However, these rewards of the self-grading policy would be rendered useless if I did not care to reap them to begin with. I would be breaking Professor McCoy’s trust in me as a student should I forgo my responsibility to not take advantage of her policy by giving myself high, if not full marks, without putting in the work for it. If that were the case, I would be no better than Gan’s older brother Qui, who does not hold himself accountable at all for the safety of his family members. In fact, he gloats at the knowledge of his own safety while Gan is the one who must take the risk of becoming an N’Tlic. (Butler, 21) All the more despicable, as much as he runs away from the risks of the Tlic-Terran partnership, he always comes back to demand for his one of the rewards: a share of the contents of T’Gatoi’s sterile egg for the euphoric high that it induces. (Butler, 9) It didn’t matter to Qui if the lives of his siblings are at stake, but it was the case for Gan, who demonstrates a great deal of accountability throughout “Bloodchild”. He could’ve used his sister, Xuan Hoa, as a shield against the risks of upholding the deal made in the Tlic-Terran partnership, just like Qui. However, he knows himself that he “was not Qui,” and unlike Qui, it would not “be easier to know that red worms were growing in her flesh instead of” his own. (Butler, 26) It is against my values, an impediment to my growth to be like Qui. While his fears were justifiable, he ultimately could not overcome them due to his overpowering selfishness. I will take Gan’s path, because like him, I have many things to care for: myself, my work, my partnerships and all the risks and rewards that it comes with, and the maintenance of Professor McCoy’s trust in my course accountability.