Thursday, February 22, 2007

Continuing Education Class

My insurance producer license requires 24 hours of annual continuing education. The classes are always packed because most folks wait to the last minute to get their credits. Classes are presented in four hour sessions. The organizations that offer these courses know our industry and generally offer 3 sessions in one day. I have not had to sit through one of those marathon days. I can only stomach two four hour sessions. Everyone is there to get their hours, but a few attendees actually want to learn more about the subject manner. Those are the folks who help make the class tolerable. They generally don't fall asleep. They ask intelligent questions. Class is usually a reflection of the insurance industry, 90 white men, 5% white women, 2% black men, 3% black women.

The instructor is always a burned out agent or attorney who is teaching the class for the money. Some take their mission more seriously than others. All require everyone to at least sit in the class. The class discussions are usually bland and ALWAYS politically sensitive.

Today's class was a little different. Fifteen minutes into the class an old white guy fell asleep. No big deal, right? He fell out of his chair. He was more embarrassed than physically hurt. The class continued. After we knew he was ok, the laughter spread quickly.

The instructor was a good old boy from the Pennsyltucky section of Pennsylvania. His description, not mine. He is a 58 year old, ex-military Catholic, bachelor who loves living in his log cabin with his guns. The courses presented today were ID-Theft and Terrorism Insurance. Needless to say, he presented the classes from his world view. Oh my God.

Where do I begin? Since he is an agent in this tiny depressed community, he is a safety consultant for his construction clients. His first rant was about the boys who show up to the job site with the low-riders, sneakers, earrings and the hat cocked to the side.

It gets better.

The discussion turned to credit checks and red-lining. He complained about non-Americans calling on Sundays to try to scam him. The calls always interrupt his trip to church.

Of course, he did not understand the problem with the whole concept of red-lining. The discussion became very heated. A couple of the students walked out. The instructor was more concerned about uttering a swear word, than the toxic waste that was flowing from his mouth.

That was the first course. I couldn't wait for the Terrorism Insurance.

He began by asking where one of the students was on 9/11, that was benign. Then the wheels came off. The old white guy who fell out of his chair, said 'since 'they' hate us, we should nuke the entire Middle East. Further, he knew who to target and did not have a problem with profiling". Maybe the bump on the head affected his ability to reason.

Some of the remaining students pounced on him. An older black man spoke of weariness of being profiled.

The instructor was befuddled by the firestorm that he created.

I have taught sensitive diversity training classes in hostile environments. I knew to prepare for my audience. I learned how to communicate my message without offending the participants.

During the last break, he received notice about the death of a cousin. It was sad to hear about his loss, but his cousin did him a huge favor because he cut the class short.

The good news is that I walked away with my eight credits.

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