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June 03, 2015

Liberal Professor: My Liberal Students Terrify Me

Then all is right. Terror is virtue, Robspierre said. It is through terror that we compel virtue.

I don't like linking Vox, but this is worth reading, sort of, as it's, perhaps, a sign of the times. Here's the link. If you don't want to pick up Yglesias Cooties, which go right up your dickhole to lay their Eggs of Miserable Ignorance in your brain, you can read the excerpt at the Ace of Spades warm-up act.

The article is not by Yglesias.

I say it's sort of worth reading because the writer is such a leftist coward. The entire piece is framed around the argument that this New Reign of Terror is bad chiefly because it limits the potential for leftist political victories. He's such a scaredy-cat he cannot go two paragraphs without coming back to his major point -- or, possibly, his chief defense at the academic kangaroo court which will be investigating him for his heresies -- that his real problem is that this gonzo identity politics militancy just blocks us from effective action to protect abortion rights. (No really, he says that.)

I've cut that twaddle out. Not just because I'm anti-leftist, and thus this argument bothers me on a subjective level. But because the argument is basically this: Terrorizing people into political conformity could be or would be a valid form of "arguing," if it actually advanced leftist political goals, but it doesn't, so it isn't.

I tend to think that stupidity, solipsism, and social cruelty are objectively bad things, and not just bad because they fail the Marxist Ends Justify the Means test.


I'm a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me

by Edward Schlosser on June 3, 2015

I'm a professor at a midsize state school. I have been teaching college classes for nine years now...

Things have changed since I started teaching. The vibe is different. I wish there were a less blunt way to put this, but my students sometimes scare me -- particularly the liberal ones.

Not, like, in a person-by-person sense, but students in general. The student-teacher dynamic has been reenvisioned along a line that's simultaneously consumerist and hyper-protective, giving each and every student the ability to claim Grievous Harm in nearly any circumstance, after any affront, and a teacher's formal ability to respond to these claims is limited at best.

...


The real problem: a simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice

This shift in student-teacher dynamic placed many of the traditional goals of higher education -- such as having students challenge their beliefs -- off limits...

The current student-teacher dynamic has been shaped by a large confluence of factors, and perhaps the most important of these is the manner in which cultural studies and social justice writers have comported themselves in popular media. I have a great deal of respect for both of these fields, but their manifestations online, their desire to democratize complex fields of study by making them as digestible as a TGIF sitcom, has led to adoption of a totalizing, simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice. The simplicity and absolutism of this conception has combined with the precarity of academic jobs to create higher ed's current climate of fear, a heavily policed discourse of semantic sensitivity in which safety and comfort have become the ends and the means of the college experience.

This new understanding of social justice politics resembles what University of Pennsylvania political science professor Adolph Reed Jr. calls a politics of personal testimony, in which the feelings of individuals are the primary or even exclusive means through which social issues are understood and discussed. Reed derides this sort of political approach as essentially being a non-politics....

Personal experience and feelings aren't just a salient touchstone of contemporary identity politics; they are the entirety of these politics. In such an environment, it's no wonder that students are so prone to elevate minor slights to protestable offenses.

...

The press for actionability, or even for comprehensive analyses that go beyond personal testimony, is hereby considered redundant, since all we need to do to fix the world's problems is adjust the feelings attached to them and open up the floor for various identity groups to have their say. All the old, enlightened means of discussion and analysis --from due process to scientific method -- are dismissed as being blind to emotional concerns and therefore unfairly skewed toward the interest of straight white males. All that matters is that people are allowed to speak, that their narratives are accepted without question, and that the bad feelings go away.

So it's not just that students refuse to countenance uncomfortable ideas --they refuse to engage them, period. Engagement is considered unnecessary, as the immediate, emotional reactions of students contain all the analysis and judgment that sensitive issues demand.

This emotion-based style of "argumentation" is, it is forbidden to say, chiefly a female one (a dopey, girlish female one, not a womanly one), and one that has been lately adopted by the more female-skewing girlboys who are easily dominated by group will.

One problem with this "argument" from "Narrative" and "emotion" is that there is absolutely no separation between the idea and the person announcing it. Ergo, any disputation of the idea is taken -- necessarily, and accurately -- as a denigration of the value of the person advancing it.

And thus Feelings Get Butthurt.

It is absolutely imperative in any kind of intellectual discussion or inquiry to preserve some space between ego/emotion/self and the idea being advanced. Debate must be had about external claims, not the internal, intrinsic worthiness of a being.

"I'm important!" is not an argument; it is an ego-based squeal for attention and affirmation.

And that's what the Old System specifically ruled as out-of-bounds. Inquiry must investigate things outside the self -- otherwise it's just therapy.

Now, of course, there is no way to not get one's ego invested in an idea one pushes. But the code of intellectual inquiry was that people who did so were committing an error, and could (and should) be derided for doing so. The actual capital-T Truth must always exist as an ideal outside of oneself -- not just out of humility (can the Truth actually live inside a flawed human being?) but in order to make sure that the Truth could be argued about, without people--

Crying like little babies any time someone's conception of the Truth disagreed with theirs.

This entire mode shifts the grounds from Intellect -- where there are rules and codes and dispassionate standards -- to the Emotion, to the Self.

There's a reason the left wants to do that. Frankly, most of these people are rather dim, second-raters at best, and are accutely insecure about their place in the academic world, -- as they should be.

A demanding skill is involved in actual academic work -- a skill which we have lately taken to calling "Mansplaining," explaining based on evidence and reason without regard to your never-ending feelings about it all -- not to mention an evil inegalitarian natural talent (native academic intelligence) which makes some people simply better at it than others.

Intellectual discourse is, in short, necessarily elitist.

Pure emotional venting and demandng that one's Story Be Heard, on the other hand, is extremely democratic and egalitarian -- in a bad way. It's democratic and egalitarian the same way taking a loose, liquidy shit is democratic and egalitarian. Literally any wet-ass can do it.

That's why this mode is so favored by those of limited intelligence and ravenous insecurities -- it erases the advantage of those who are good at Thinking, instead advancing something that everyone is pretty good at -- Not Thinking -- as the chief mode of discourse.

I keep saying this, but man, everyone should watch David Mamet's Oleanna. Pretty much sums this all up, and he wrote that like twenty years ago.


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posted by Ace at 01:38 PM

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