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Classroom Bullying As A Progressive Virtue

Prof. Nell Boeschenstein of Sweet Briar College (described by Mevrouw Boeschenstein as “a small women’s school in the sticks, basically”) recounts a day of courage [1]in which she faced down a classroom full of docile creative writing students under her authority and attempted to make any gusanos [2] among them confess to having voted the day before for Donald Trump. Excerpts:

Wednesday morning, the prospect of work was difficult. I was frightened of how the radioactive dust left behind by the election would settle in my classroom; I recognized the churning in my gut as the sign of temperatures rising beneath my simmering capacities for anger and grudges. I do not think any of my students are unkind, unintelligent, unthoughtful, or careless. I have clocked sufficient hours examining their faces from across the room, listening to their thoughts, and reading their writing to know otherwise. But still: the rawness, the outrage, the anxiety, and the heartbreak were real. So I had a choice: Did I walk into class and say, “I know we’re all tired and feeling sensitive today, now let’s turn to page 46 and pick up where we left off” or did I walk in and say, “There’s an elephant in the room that we’ve got to discuss”?

In other words, do I let myself be guided by professionalism, or my emotions? You know which one prevailed. More:

Given the premise of the class, and its makeup, it did not seem remotely sane to leave the elephant unaddressed. Which means I did the only thing I could do: I was honest.

Not remotely sane! Note well re: “the premise of the class” that she doesn’t teach a class on politics or history, but on creative writing. Moral responsibility compelled Boeschenstein to turn her creative writing course into a political harangue. History will absolve her, I reckon. More:

I walked in, puffy-eyed and disheveled, and told my students how I felt. They were quiet. I asked if they wanted to talk about it. They were silent. A few looked awkwardly at one another. One sighed and put her head down on the table, as if for a self-imposed time-out. Not quite knowing what I was doing, just wanting to fill the air with something other than what was unspoken between us, I turned to them and told them that I knew none of them subscribed to the bigotry Trump preached and fanned. I then turned to my Trump-supporting students specifically and said that that was why I felt like it was a safe space for me to ask the burning question around which I simply could not wrap my mind: “Why do you give Trump a pass on the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, and the environment? Please explain this to me,” I said. “I am genuinely curious. I do not understand. Why do you forgive this man’s rejection of the fundamental values on which we agree?”

Over the course of the next seventy-five minutes, I asked and re-asked the same question in as many different rhetorical iterations as I could invent: Why is the military more important than kindness? Why do you push aside his language as “just talk”? Does he really “say what you think”? If nothing incriminating has been found in her emails, how exactly is Clinton a criminal when Trump is the one with lawsuits up the wazoo and about to go on trial for raping a thirteen-year-old girl?

I could not get a straight answer.

Gee, you think? You’re their professor, and you have the power over their grade. You have just revealed yourself to be so professionally irresponsible as to suspend teaching your actual subject, and instead to transform your classroom into a struggle session in which young female students who had not behaved in the privacy of the voting booth as Teacher wanted them to. What on earth do you expect them to do, lady? Later in the letter, Boeschenstein expresses incredulity that the Trump-voting young women in that class were so morally and intellectually irresponsible as to use their vote to deny a woman the presidency. Gosh, it’s almost as if those young women believe in voting on the basis of ideas, not tribal solidarity.

Why does Boeschenstein share her bravery with readers of the magazine Guernica? See here:

I wanted to tell you this story because many such conversations will be unfolding within the walls of our classrooms as we go forward and I want to make my plea that we not be—as I was—timid or frightened of this happening, that we not be cautious and distrusting of ourselves and our students. It is altogether fitting and proper that we do this (these, after all, are our better angels)…

You gotta love that allusion to the Gettysburg Address. She’s advocating for teachers bullying their captive undergraduates, and congratulating themselves as pedagogical Lincolns for so doing. Hey, let’s let Prof. Stanley Fish get in on this. [3] He writes:

Boeschenstein knows that her performance that day goes against the “general rule of thumb for us teachers… not to say what is right or what is wrong, but to teach our students to think critically.” But she invokes the “these-are-not-ordinary-times” rationale and regrets only that she hadn’t set aside “test preparation and dates to memorize and topic sentences to hone” earlier: “Had I been brave enough to start this conversation in September, I wonder whether some of my Trump-supporting students might have chosen otherwise at the ballot box on Tuesday.” That is to say, had I engaged in political indoctrination from the beginning of the semester instead of merely doing my job, my students might have done the right thing on November 8. The rest of us, however, can learn from her failure to act in time and take up the real work ― of saving the world from Donald Trump — right away: “Don’t defer the conversation any longer. If we do, more bucks will be bound for our desks that we cannot afford to watch pile up”.

And people wonder why so many take a dim view of what goes on in our college classrooms.

Hear, hear. Read Fish’s entire essay.  [3]

It costs $50,000 per year [4] to attend Sweet Briar. Seems pretty clear to me that parents of prospective students who are considering spending that kind of money for a liberal arts education should do their best to ascertain whether or not their children will actually receive a liberal arts education, or rather be subjected to attempts at political re-education by professors who believe themselves liberated from professional obligations, and who have, in Prof. Fish’s words, taken on “harassing Trump-supporting students as a form of pedagogy.”  [3]

I’m serious. The liberal arts are in enough trouble already, and small liberal arts colleges everywhere are facing the possibility of extinction [5]. Look no further than — whaddaya know! — Sweet Briar College as an example of the trend. In 2015, the college announced that it would close because it was broke — but alumnae came forward and saved it. [6]From the WaPo:

In just one year, the women’s college has gone from doomed to resurrected but on life support, to something that is still fragile. But the school is strong enough that its leaders talk confidently about long-range plans and successes that they feel could become a national model for sustaining both liberal arts and women’s education.

It’s a great story, but I hope that the people who run the very fragile Sweet Briar understand how precarious stunts like Nell Boeschenstein’s, and the attitude that inspires them, makes their future. People go to college to get an education, to learn how to think, not to be politically indoctrinated. Here’s a tweet Nell B. released just after the election:

You know what? I live in a part of the country where white dudes in pickup trucks is a normal thing. Even liberal white dudes drive pickup trucks. What’s interesting about this tweet is that Prof. Nell Boeschenstein characterizes her hatred of white men driving pickup trucks as normal, such that she finds it worth telling the public that her hatred of these men for their race, sex, and choice of automotive conveyance, has recently exceeded normal levels.

What kind of nut gets angry at the mere sight of men of a certain race and sex driving a particular automobile — and believes that anger to be a sane, normal response? Seriously, who does that? I hope the owner of the Trump Truck (see photo above), who drives around Baton Rouge, will feel the call to motor up to Sweet Briar, Virginia, and cruise around hoping to trigger Nell Boeschenstein, just for fun.

Seriously, though, think about it: if you are a white woman at Sweet Briar whose father, brother, (white) boyfriend, or white male friend drives a pickup truck, what are you supposed to think about taking a class from a teacher who thinks it’s normal to hate people like them, and who has even ramped up the hatred of those white male truck drivers who did her know harm? Who spent the entire class after the election demanding to know who among her students were traitors to their gender, and insisting that they explain themselves? Who vows publicly to use the privilege she’s been granted as a teacher to crusade for ideological correctness?

Here’s what you think: stay far away from that wack-job creative writing professor, because she’s an unprofessional, sermonizing bigot.

And if you don’t go to Sweet Briar, you ought to consider what kind of pedagogical atmosphere exists there, and what kind of open bigotry is not only tolerated, but promoted by the professoriat there. Wouldn’t you do so for a college whose faculty member tweeted, after President Obama’s re-election, “Been feeling more than the usual road rage at black dudes in pimpmobiles lately”?

I didn’t even vote for Trump, but the crusading self-righteousness and ivory-tower, let-the-eat-cake bigotries of people like Nell Boeschenstein make me kind of sorry I didn’t. One suspects that her mind is so saturated with ideology that trying to open it would be like trying to turn a pickle back into a cucumber. But those who want to see colleges like Sweet Briar succeed have to hope that Philip C. Stone [8], the college’s president, can grasp what a threat to the college’s mission, and indeed to its survival, militant ideologues like Nell Boeschenstein are. She is certainly not alone at Sweet Briar, and Sweet Briar is very, very far from alone among colleges and universities.

To paraphrase Stanley Fish: this is exactly why so many ordinary people are concerned, angry, and even disgusted by academia. 


80 Comments (Open | Close)

80 Comments To "Classroom Bullying As A Progressive Virtue"

#1 Comment By Phil On November 28, 2016 @ 4:26 pm

Since it is a creative writing class the professor should have assigned something like this:

Consider the presidential candidate you voted for in the 2016 election (or preferred to win, if you did not vote). Now write a short story about election day from the perspective of someone who voted for a different presidential candidate than your choice. All stories will be read in class and discussed. Simplistic or shallow stereotypes will adversely affect your grade on this assignment.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 28, 2016 @ 4:50 pm

It’s a good thing that these raging sourpusses are now coming out of their briar patches, so we can see the full dimension of the agenda they had, and have, in store for those they haven’t yet bamboozled, cowed or bullied.

As the gusano turns…

#3 Comment By Elijah On November 28, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

@ TarHeelBlues – You ask “What’s the difference between PC and the basic manners that we need in order to get along?” and that’s a fair question.

It seems to me that acceptable PC culture asks the speaker (or whatever) to express themselves with sensitivity to others. That is, the kind of good manners many of us grew up with.

“Bad” PC is the culture that stipulates that to even express certain thoughts is ipso facto evidence of racism, homophobia, etc. and therefore cannot be discussed.

I do not understand or accept the idea of “hate speech” at all.

Sometimes I find Kevin Williamson’s writing to be very funny, but he has often crossed a line (for me) from making fun of someone to scorning them in a very nasty-minded way that I find off-putting. I don’t think he should be shut down, I simply stopped reading his stuff.

Professors should be able to advocate for all kinds of ridiculous ideas in their research, written works, and personal lives with protection from censorship. But using the classroom as a bully pulpit for, say, bashing Israel is a very different thing than engaging in a critical discussion of Israel’s policies.

And I agree with Camille Paglia that the upshot of restricting speech and expression is to often infantilize students, something we ought to be trying to avoid.

#4 Comment By Lisa On November 28, 2016 @ 4:53 pm

I don’t get why people of either side have to talk politics when it is clearly inappropriate. I teach in an elementary school in Sacramento CA. In the days after the election, the only thing I heard was, “We are going to have to work together to improve things.” Wasting class time emoting over politics wouldn’t be tolerated. In 33 years of teaching, at different schools and grade levels, I have rarely heard politics mentioned in the staff room or at parties.

We had Thanksgiving dinner with my son-in-law’s family in the Bay Area, and again nobody talked politics. My husband, who works in construction, hasn’t had anybody act out. Is my experience the exception? Or are the events you write about the exception?

[NFR: You clearly teach with mature professionals. Good for you (seriously). Your husband works in construction, where people don’t have time for that b.s. And boy, did y’all ever luck out with having a family where people recognize that there is a time and a place for emoting about politics, religion, etc., and Thanksgiving dinner is not that place. — RD]

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 28, 2016 @ 4:53 pm

If you want to get along in a PC crowd, you need to follow PC convention, in a manner of speaking.

“What’s the difference between PC and the basic manners that we need in order to get along?”

#6 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 28, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

BDS: Boycott and Defund Sweetbriar


#7 Comment By mrscracker On November 28, 2016 @ 5:08 pm

Is it professional to share publically that one of her students has parents living here illegally? How is publishing that in the best interests of her student’s family? Wow.
And I thought how we voted was confidential & no one’s business but our own?

#8 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 28, 2016 @ 5:12 pm

“If nothing else to the positive comes from Trump’s election, at least it was a sharp stick in the eye of the ruling class and their media / academic shock troops. Too bad it had to be such a toad to do it.”

Better a toad than a toady.

“[… Richard Spencer and his tribe of Beer Hall Putzes are very much on the fringe, but worth watching with great caution, because they are a lot less fringey today than they were a few months ago. — RD]”

And who brought them their greatest public attention to date, with her speech about the vast international alt-right conspiracy, with Trump as one of many deplorable nationalist Putin puppets? Even Jared Taylor (who I had never even heard of before, and wouldn’t have read before) wrote that Trump was clearly not one of them, but that her speech linking them to him had energized them. If these people didn’t exist, it was necessary to create them. Just like the Afghan “freedom fighters” we funded into existence who were really Al Qaeda, watch out for the demons you call up thinking useful to your immediate cause.

#9 Comment By Old West On November 28, 2016 @ 5:43 pm

“All Bernie’s speeches and all Bernie’s gestures couldn’t put Hillary back together again for a sizeable chunk of voters. It wasn’t a simple matter of uniting after a family quarrel. Hillary was unacceptable.”

Wow. Here I was starting to think there was some hope for our country after reading this story. Think! A small liberal arts college where there was a writing class with more than one person who supported a Republican for President.

But you are suggesting that these girls probably voted for Trump to protest the fact that Hillary wasn’t a socialist like Bernie? If you are right, then I am really depressed.

But I doubt this teacher would have been so upset had she heard left wing explanations for a Trump vote.

And as someone else astutely noted, the head sinking to the desk is a sign that these poor students had been harangued all semester long on political subjects.

#10 Comment By VikingLS On November 28, 2016 @ 5:50 pm

“And when Obama was elected and many conservatives publicly lost their minds and proclaimed him to be the Antichrist, did you take that as evidence that conservatives regard fanaticism as a virtue? How is it that your idiots are always fringe figures with no influence but our idiots are always deep revelations of the inherent nature of liberalism?”

Actually I am perfectly willing to admit the right is seriously screwed up as well. “The Obama is a secret Muslim commie, who sits on his hands while the world goes to hell” is incredibly destructive to the credibility of conservatives, as well as being demonstrably counter-factual.

It also makes it a lot harder to make reality based criticism of Obama, (like that he’s way TOO interventionist, often on behalf of some very shady allies.)

The thing is that I don’t think my politics make me moral. (I don’t as a Christian think I am all that moral anyway.) Therefore I don’t have a problem saying that the right is screwed up, the GOP is corrupt and most Republican politicians aren’t all that bright, that Fox news is a travesty, and that way too many Christians on both sides are risking their eternal souls in behavior that, under normal circumstances they know is forbidden. ( I may be one)

What I find obnoxious about progressives is that you all can’t seem to do that. It’s always a tiny minority of “fanatics”, or “silly college kids”, or when all else fails, as it did with the violence against Trump supporters “they had it coming”.

Sorry, but so long as liberal progressives refuse to admit they have a problem, you’re dangerous.

#11 Comment By KD On November 28, 2016 @ 6:21 pm

TarHeelBlues writes:

“Is political correctness always bad? Is nothing off limits? What exactly is “hate speech”? What’s the difference between PC and the basic manners that we need in order to get along?

Political Correctness v. the Southern Gentleman:

i.) No one ever tried to prevent a scholar from speaking on the grounds of bad manners.

ii.) No one ever tried to shut down an argument or neglect empirical facts on the grounds of bad manners.

iii.) No one tried to bully people for voting a certain way on the grounds of bad manners.

iv.) No one ever beat up people attending a political rally on the grounds of bad manners.

v.) No one ever made up “hoax” incidents of bad manners in order to libel/incite hatred against so-called “racist/sexist/homophobic groups”.

vi.) Generally speaking, good manners are expected of everyone at the table, not just cisgendered racist, sexist heteronormative white males.

This is why it is “political” correctness, rather than correctness. The rules exist only for groups identified as enemies, or for purposes of purging former “friends” on the basis of heresy.

#12 Comment By St Louisan On November 28, 2016 @ 6:39 pm

It’s interesting to see the mental games we play with power dynamics. This professor is obviously more powerful than her students (and if a right-wing teacher behaved this way towards Clinton-supporting students, she would see that all too clearly), but by treating her students as cipherous stand-ins for the patriarchal Virginian electorate writ large, she can still pose as a courageous truth-teller.

#13 Comment By candles On November 28, 2016 @ 6:47 pm


I think that political correctness high jacks , weaponizes, and radicalizes a certain subset of civility norms. It’s a kind of entryism. That’s part of why it’s so divisive.

To make a comparison, I don’t have validate the beliefs of, say, the Amish in order to fulfill the obligations of civility to Amish people. Manners don’t require me to verbally assert their beliefs as true to be a good neighbor and citizen. Being polite and decent and accepting baseline pluralism is enough.

A lot of the speech codes arising from political correctness do require that kind of public vocal assent of someone else’s beliefs as constituting civility.

Previous norms for manners help provide a buffer or cushion between our differences, a kind of insulation to minimize the friction of pluralism. Political correctness seeks to provoke confrontation by making “bigoted
” people verbally assent to truth claims they don’t believe. Out of the resulting conflict is supposed to come progress.

#14 Comment By garymar61 On November 28, 2016 @ 7:35 pm

Lincoln’s First Inaugural, not the Gettysburg Address.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 28, 2016 @ 7:38 pm

But you are suggesting that these girls probably voted for Trump to protest the fact that Hillary wasn’t a socialist like Bernie? If you are right, then I am really depressed.

I don’t know about those girls. Voters have a plethora of motives for how they vote, beyond what pollsters, pundits or politicians have ever really understood. But here in the middle of flyover country, every detailed empirical county by county analysis of election results, and more recently, journalists going out to interview individual voters in fairly large numbers, is making it very clear that people who voted twice for Obama and for Bernie in the primaries, voted for Trump in the general election. This was probably a sufficient number of voters to swing the election. If that makes you depressed, you and the Clinton loyalists can all go have a pity party together somewhere.

In addition, Trump drew fewer votes than Romney did in 2012, and Clinton fewer than Obama in 2012, so there is a good probability that Hillary’s lack of appeal kept a lot of voters home, even if they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Trump.

Phil has a good idea.

My biggest fear is that we’re going to have to endure this type of Trump Derangement Syndrome whining and petulance from the Left for *eight* long years…

Hopefully only four.

#16 Comment By Lisa On November 28, 2016 @ 7:44 pm

[NFR: You clearly teach with mature professionals. Good for you (seriously). Your husband works in construction, where people don’t have time for that b.s. And boy, did y’all ever luck out with having a family where people recognize that there is a time and a place for emoting about politics, religion, etc., and Thanksgiving dinner is not that place. — RD]

You are right, in that I am fortunate to be around people with common sense, good manners and maturity. I think you are also right about people in my husband’s trade or mine not having the time to worry overly much about politics or micro aggressions or any of the other nonsense that the so called intellectuals of all persuasions whine about. I’m beyond sick of the whole mess. I try to bury myself in my family, students and friends, like an ostrich in the sand.

#17 Comment By Heartright On November 29, 2016 @ 12:15 am

Old West,a rest proper Berners had the options Jill ( my preference ) or voting with their feet.
And that is what many did. The majority, I should judge.
False dichotomy by you then.

BTW: while the Bern still burned strong, there was no shortage of Hillary supporters who made all kinds of threats in the comboxes at TYT.

The Clinton supporters are enemy number one.
No forgiveness for them. No reconciliation with them.
The Democalypse has not gone far enough.

#18 Comment By Pat On November 29, 2016 @ 10:21 am

Group attribution error. Sorry, try again.

#19 Comment By Becky On November 29, 2016 @ 11:43 am

I’m a longtime reader but … less so lately because the theme of this blog has become so aggressively “let’s hate on the sillier things that fringe academics do.” It just seems like us-vs-them boundary policing and doesn’t provide anything by way of new insights into the problems bedeviling our nation.

The first professor in this post is clearly kind of a nut. But I get where the second one is coming from. I’m a 30-something white liberal-ish woman in a conservative southern city. My polling place for the presidential election is the branch of the local library to which I bring my kids on around a weekly basis. And my state has early voting.

It’s just presumed that white people in my part of town are Trump voters. When I’d go to the library with my (white, preschool-aged) children during the voting period, I’d get nothing but sweet smiles and also … knowing, winking looks. It made me feel vaguely like an imposter. I wasn’t offended, and I know that the people doing this certainly had no ill intent. But they were treating me with obsequious niceness because I’m a pleasant-looking white woman with cute white children, and they presumed I was “one of them” on numerous levels (i.e., not the liberal feminist reluctant Clinton voter that I am). I’m glad people treat me well, but I wish I didn’t feel as if this good treatment was contingent on the assumption that I’m part of the in-group.

My best friend from college also lives in a conservative southern city, and she has two adorable children around the same age as mine. She’s of Indian heritage and is in a senior position over almost exclusively white employees–so she was the target of resentment long before the election. The runup to the election was incredibly tense and uncomfortable for her–everyone she works with is pro-Trump, and they weren’t ashamed of their anti-immigrant sentiments … and apparently weren’t afraid to offend the boss by saying so. (She legally emigrated with her parents when she was a child and is a U.S. citizen.) So there’s that.

But on a more general level, she just doesn’t get the adoring glances from middle-aged ladies when she’s at the grocery store with her kids. Her kids are brown (her words, not mine). She’s not One of Us. She gets resentment and suspicion. People say they can’t understand her accent even though she doesn’t have one since English is her first language. Someone yelled at her mother the other day to go back to her own country–she was taking too long at a crosswalk or something.

The differences between our experiences might have something to do with the white privilege that academics are always talking about, but hey! That’s probably just crazy academic talk, right?

[NFR: No time to address all of your comments, but I just want to say how bizarre it is that your Indian friend doesn’t understand why middle-aged women smile at her kids in the grocery store. Maybe your friend has a beautiful family, and the kids strike others as well-behaved, or otherwise admirable. I do this all the time in the store when I see a mom with kids. It’s almost always because seeing families makes me happy, but sometimes it’s because I can tell the mom is stressed, and I want to convey to her, “Take heart, your kids are beautiful, and a blessing to us all, and you’re doing the right thing.” Is that so wrong? Do you have to be an educated liberal to take offense at that simple human gesture? — RD]

#20 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 29, 2016 @ 2:26 pm

I think Becky and Rod may be using the word “get” in two different informal colloquial fashions, and thereby the above exchange misfires. It appears to me that Becky is saying that her Indian friend says that her brown children are not looked upon with smiles the way equally nice well-behaved lighter skinned children are. I’m not sure its that the lady “doesn’t get why” people smile at her children, but that her children don’t “get” the smiles other children get. And there I go using the word “get” to try to explain this.

The Clinton supporters are enemy number one.

At the upper level of the Democratic Party, certainly. These are the self-absorbed numbskulls who made Donald Trump president of these United States.

But never never never write off millions of voters because “you made the wrong choice.” Anybody who wants to be president in the future needs a certain percentage of those voters to break for whatever is next. We can’t write off Trump voters, Clinton voters, or any other transitory ‘class’ of voters. They are really not a class at all.

#21 Comment By Becky On November 29, 2016 @ 5:10 pm

Yes, get as in receive. Strangers don’t gush over kids nearly so much. Of course I think my kids are uniquely adorable, but I don’t think that’s really the whole story.

#22 Comment By Julia On November 29, 2016 @ 7:47 pm

I remember back in 2010 Keith Olbermann implying that a white candidate driving a pickup truck (Scott Brown) in a political ad was a dog whistle to racists to vote for him.

So apparently animosity towards and assumptions about white guys driving pick up trucks is a thing that’s been around a while.

#23 Comment By Becky On November 30, 2016 @ 8:04 am

Not to beat a dead horse, but your misreading of my post and eagerness to leap to the Worst Possible Conclusion about my friend kind of illustrates the point I was trying to make.

She’s lived in America since she was a small child and is, to repeat myself, a U.S. citizen. American customs vis-a-vis small children are no more foreign to her than they are to you or me. She is as delighted as any other mom when strangers wax eloquent about the charms of her children. I think I can speak for moms the world over when I say we all eat that stuff up.

I’m not saying friendly strangers never tell her she has cute kids, but it’s not the routine, everyday thing that it is for me. What she gets that I don’t are lots of suspicious, resentful looks, and moreso than ever before in the runup and aftermath of the election.

But let’s unleash the hounds of hate because she’s not white and feels concerned for herself and her kids in Trumps America! Clearly, her experience is irrelevant since she’s not really One of Us.

[NFR: Wait … what?! What on EARTH makes you think that I wish to “unleash the hounds of hate” on this woman? Good grief. — RD]

#24 Comment By Betty On November 30, 2016 @ 8:29 am

I think in regard to the comments about people smiling or not smiling at kids that you have to be careful about imputing motives or thoughts to other people. You can guess at what’s going on, but to make assumptions about others based on those guesses–which are bound to be wrong a lot of the time–is really ungenerous!

#25 Comment By mrscracker On November 30, 2016 @ 10:12 am

Betty says:

I think in regard to the comments about people smiling or not smiling at kids that you have to be careful about imputing motives or thoughts to other people”
I absolutely agree.

#26 Comment By Becky On November 30, 2016 @ 10:59 am

I was being hyperbolic re: hounds of hate. I thought that was obvious … but then, I thought my original post was fairly clear. Sigh. Great job going off on tangents as opposed to engaging with the actual substance of the comments.

I used to read your blog for interesting, iconoclastic takes about culture and society … and now it just feels like another conservative blog. The tone is increasingly hectoring and hysterical, especially as pertains to academia. I sometimes agree with your conclusions–of course some academics really are “out there,” as is true of the general population–but at other times, it’s clear that you don’t have any sense of the scholarship of the fields you’re criticizing and are dismissing it out of hand because it conflicts with your beliefs.

I’m married to an academic in a STEM field, and it bothers me to see conservatives painting such a broad brush of “crazy liberal academics.” My husband is a liberal, but it has no bearing on how he teaches. He teaches science. He’s great at it. He advocates for his students and tries to find them good internships and research opportunities to help them succeed. He is sad that Trump won the election, but he taught his courses the next day as planned and without discursion.

There’s a conservative acquaintance of ours that my husband avoids at events because he always wants to hear stories of crazy liberal hijinks at my husband’s university. There aren’t any. It’s a regional college in the south. The professors generally tilt liberal, but seriously: we don’t know of any. And it’s a good school. It provides affordable, quality access to higher education for students in our region. It deserves support.

Whipping up more conservative furor against fringe academics isn’t going to help reform academia; rather, it will help persuade people that academics–and higher education in general–are unworthy of public investment. The people you are lambasting are a tiny minority of academics, even in the liberal arts. They are not representative of academia, and their existence doesn’t discredit the process of scholarship any more than John Birchers discredit conservatism.

So I wish you would stop with the constant barrage of anti-academia posts. And I also wish you would consider the perspectives of non-radical non-whites like my friend who are understandably-but-not-hysterically concerned about what a Trump presidency might mean for them and their families.

#27 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 30, 2016 @ 12:42 pm


I certainly don’t speak for Rod, only myself. I offer this from a personal perspective you may lack. I am welcomed by Rod and Julie (his wife) as a friend, and I’ve spent time with them (all too little of it, alas).

Rod has failed to acknowledge the deliberate hyperbole of many readers’ comments, including my own. I don’t mean that to excuse him… and I’m still smarting over a couple of examples of my own, albeit very mildly. The writer to whom you were attracted, as you describe, is still there. He’s also a man, husband, father, citizen and more, meaning he’s as human as you and I and will make many of the same missteps and mistakes. I can attest to the fact, mostly just hinted at by him, that he has (perhaps too) many obligations to fulfill, and being directly engaged with us on any level of detail is just going to get a distant, secondary priority.

To your main point: there is a trend out there, visible beyond those stories upon which Rod has chosen to comment. It remains at this point (still) anecdotal; I caution you that your husband’s experience is also anecdotal, and I hasten to add that I give it respectful credibility as any story I read from Rod or any other source.

The difficulty is in drawing conclusions and discussing/debating/arguing them. That anecdotal label is sort of a fatal flaw for both sides.

Simply put, with a phrase I’d bet your husband knows intimately, we need more data. In the meantime, we are deep in the middle of a phase in our society where emotion takes precedence over reason. From your posts here I’m assuming you know that very well. Mass emotions are a force of nature against which reason too easily fails. An individual who shares in that mass emotion has its weight and momentum behind them, and is all the more resistant to reason.

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 30, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

To be fair and complete, I think Rod misplaced the grammatical significance of a word with multiple colloquial uses, not a politically loaded misreading of anyone’s statement. Becky’s last comment, however, is sound advice and useful perspective as to the big picture of facts on the ground.

#29 Comment By David On November 30, 2016 @ 9:20 pm

I teach at a liberal arts college, am a Democrat and black, and professors like this drive me crazy. I didn’t teach the day after the election but a day later. I didn’t mention the election in class then or later, except to tell my students after their final exam that they were in their rights not to talk about politics at Thanksgiving (I didn’t).

I was and am angry about the election on multiple levels but my politics are my business, just as they were when I was a student. My students’ politics are their business and I try not to tip my hand at all (which is hard) lest some of them think I won’t treat them fairly. Besides, I don’t believe that I could change their minds even if I wanted to. They don’t arrive as blank slates any more than I did.

In class I stick to the subject matter I teach both because that’s my job and because I need far more time than I’m ever going to get to go as deep into it as I’d like.

#30 Comment By Paulie from SC On December 1, 2016 @ 5:17 am

In political science or criminal justice class, current events were interjected into class to provide a more “real life” meaning into the subject matter. English and politcs do not mix and, I’m hoping at the end of the semester, where students rate their professor, the revolt begins. Any dean can’t ignore a negative score.