Speaking up.

I have submitted the following letter to customer service at World Wide Marine Training, LLC (https://www.worldwidemarinetraining.com) in the hopes that it will be forwarded to Captain Pease and considered by his employers. I have submitted it to the letters section of TownDock.net the online news hub of the Town of Oriental, North Carolina, because World Wide Marine Training has a link to TownDock.net on their “About Us” webpage, which was part of how I decided to attend this particular course. I have also submitted a copy of this letter to the U.S. Coast Guard course approval email address, since World Wide Marine Training proudly advertises that their courses are U.S. Coast Guard approved.

December 6th, 2018

Captain Ross Pease

World Wide Marine Training, LLC

22532 HWY 55 East

Oriental, NC 28571

Dear Captain Ross Pease,

I am writing to let you know why I left your OUPV Captain’s License class even though I believed you when you said that you were sincerely sorry for having offended me. I want you to know that I don’t think you are a bad person, even though your behavior in class was indeed racist and sexist. I believe that racist and sexist behavior often stems from ignorance about what damage those behaviors do to others and to our society and that once we know better we can begin to do better. After our early morning meeting on the 4th day of the 7 day course, I could see that you were really trying to do better and I do appreciate that it wasn’t easy for you, however the tone of the class had already been set and your understanding of what needed to change was quite obviously incomplete. I could see that I had a choice: 1) I could spend the remainder of the class letting you know when your words were inappropriate, potentially getting into some kind of debate with you each time. 2) I could let the offenses pass unchallenged. or 3) I could leave. Since it goes against my moral compass to let racist or sexist comments go unchallenged and since challenging them and debating you about them comes with such a huge emotional price tag and is such a distraction from learning, which is what I paid to come to your course to do, I chose to leave.

I am not writing to you because I want to “beat you up”. Far from it. I am writing to you because I want you to understand that the choice to leave wasn’t about what you believe or how you conduct yourself outside the classroom. It was about the level of professionalism within the classroom and your seeming lack of understanding that you, the instructor, have a responsibility to all of your students to set the tone within the classroom to best support their ability to learn, just as you have a responsibility as a Captain of a boat, to bring all of your passengers safely to shore.

You, Donna, and Lucy all suggested to me that maybe I shouldn’t be so sensitive, that I should just let some things go. My question to all of you is this: What happens if you ignore a small leak through the hull on your boat? And then another small leak? And another? How long should you ignore the leaks before you take action to fix them? Each time you make a derogatory remark about a group of people or an individual person or a business in your community while wearing the hat of an instructor, you damage the integrity of the educational experience. Each time I ignore a racist or sexist or ageist or other derogatory comment made by a person in a position of power, I damage my own moral integrity.

Whether you take this feedback to heart to improve the experience of your future students and your relationship with them is entirely up to you. I offer it for the sake of those future students and for our collective future. I’m thinking of students who might not have the luxury of the choice to leave or stay in your class. I’m thinking of what it would be like to be a shy young, black or hispanic person or a person of the Muslim faith, male or female, in your classroom.

Here is my best advice:

  • If you would not say what you are about to say in any and all company, don’t say it.

  • If you feel you have to say to any member of the classroom, “close your ears,” don’t say whatever you were about to say.

  • If you find yourself saying, “I’m not supposed to say this,” don’t say whatever you were about to say.

  • If you find yourself generalizing about any group of people, stop. Apologize. You are teaching individuals and the only thing you know about them is that they paid to be in your classroom to learn a very specific subject. You don’t know their religion or their beliefs about anything. You don’t know if learning is hard or easy for them. You only know that they paid to be in your class. Don’t generalize about people. Just don’t. We are not paying to hear your opinions about any other person or group of people.

  • If you find yourself saying, “Now this isn’t racist, ….” Whatever you are about to say probably IS racist. “Towel-head” is a racial epithet. So is “tar-baby.” You should never say them, let alone in a classroom setting. But especially you should never say them in a classroom setting. A person in a position of power has a special responsibility to conduct themselves ethically. As a teacher, you are a person in a position of power, just as when you are Captaining a boat.

  • It is absolutely possible to teach everything you are expected to teach in your course without referring to anyone’s genitals or using any racist or sexist terms. You are not teaching human anatomy or sex education.

  • You are also not teaching political science or philosophy or comparative religion or relationship counseling. It is absolutely possible to teach a Captain’s license course without mentioning anyone’s religion or political party and without mentioning your own political preferences or whether you prefer the company of younger or older women.

  • It is not the responsibility of your students to tell you when you are out of line. You are solely responsible for the tone of your classroom. Students look to you to see what will be acceptable in the classroom. On the first day of class, you said derogatory things about millennials (as well as numerous other groups of people). On day five, one of your students was saying similar things within the classroom. You set the tone of the class by using smutty language on Day 1, “Dawn, close your ears,” then looking at all the guys in class, “When in doubt, whip it out.” So those guys then knew it would be ok with you for them to talk that way, so even after you had apologized to me and Adam for that sort of thing, they were still egging you on to tell them raunchy jokes. That is what I mean by “the tone had already been set”.

Captain Pease, You seem like a generally intelligent, thoughtful human being to me. I think you can do so much better, if you want to. The question here is, do you want to? Do you truly want any student, of any background to be able to thrive within your classroom at World Wide Marine Training? If not, please make sure that you give a disclaimer to the students who you would not like to teach, so they don’t waste their time, money, or energy coming to your class.

Seven days ago, I was so excited to start my OUPV Captain’s License Course. I was really looking forward to meeting the instructor and fellow students. I had sailed to the town of Oriental, secured a slip for my boat at a local marina, and rented a car to get back and forth from the marina to the school. I showed up for class the first morning excited and ready to learn. By the end of the first day I was so disappointed, tired, and angry at what I had experienced in your classroom after hearing your derogatory comments about millennials, liberals, people of Middle Eastern descent, environmentalists, former students and employers of yours and people who go to The Bean, and after having had you tell me to “close my ears” while you said something inappropriate to the rest of the class. Please don’t let this be the experience of other women, minorities, or anyone who doesn’t share your political views. Please, now that you know better, do better.

Sincerely and with all best wishes for your future success,

~ Dawn Dexter

* former 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatcher & Communications Training Officer (18 years) * Owner and Captain of Sailing Vessel Deep Peace (2 years) * yoga and meditation teacher (12 years) * somebody’s daughter, mother, niece, sister, wife, auntie, and grandmother * Human Being *