Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Speaking of Self-Parody

At first glance this op ed seemed to be strictly parody, and yet it apparently is not.
Occupy the syllabus

"We are calling for an occupation of syllabi in the social sciences and humanities. This call to action was instigated by our experience last semester as students in an upper-division course on classical social theory. Grades were based primarily on multiple-choice quizzes on assigned readings. The course syllabus employed a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color.

We have major concerns about social theory courses in which white men are the only authors assigned. These courses pretend that a minuscule fraction of humanity — economically privileged white males from five imperial countries (England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States) — are the only people to produce valid knowledge about the world. This is absurd. The white male syllabus excludes all knowledge produced outside this standardized canon, silencing the perspectives of the other 99 percent of humanity.

The white male canon is not sufficient for theorizing the lives of marginalized people. None of the thinkers we studied in this course had a robust analysis of gender or racial oppression. They did not even engage with the enduring legacies of European colonial expansion, the enslavement of black people and the genocide of indigenous people in the Americas. Mentions of race and gender in the white male canon are at best incomplete and at worst racist and sexist. We were required to read Hegel on the “Oriental realm” and Marx on the “Asiatic mode of production,” but not a single author from Asia. We were required to read Weber on the patriarchy, but not a single feminist author. The standardized canon is obsolete: Any introduction to social theory that aims to be relevant to today’s problems must, at the very least, address gender and racial oppression."
These students are in the first course, so they probably are 18 years old. And being products of government education, they already know everything they need to know: Class War is the only truth; white men are evil; dissent must be stopped; triggers cause mental distress due to unacceptable concepts.
"The exclusions on the syllabus were mirrored in the classroom. Although the professor said he wanted to make the theory relevant to present issues, the class was out of touch with the majority of students’ lives. The lectures often incorporated current events, yet none of the examples engaged critically with gender or race. The professor even failed to mention the Ferguson events, even though he lectured about prisons, normalizing discourse and the carceral archipelago in Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish” the day after the grand jury decision on the murder of Michael Brown.

Furthermore, the classroom environment felt so hostile to women, people of color, queer folks and other marginalized subjects that it was difficult for us to focus on the course material. Sometimes, we were so uncomfortable that we had to leave the classroom in the middle of lecture. For example, when lecturing on Marx’s idea of the “natural division of labor between men and women,” the professor attributed some intellectual merit to this idea because men and women are biologically distinct from each other, because women give birth while men do not. One student asked, “What about trans* people?” to which the professor retorted, “There will always be exceptions.” Then, laughing, the professor teased, “We may all be transgender in the future.” Although one might be tempted to dismiss these remarks as a harmless attempt at humor, mocking trans* people and calling them “exceptions” is unacceptable."
Their morals are offended. What are their morals? The NEW Leftist Canon, from which professors must not deviate, or it will trigger their "discomfort" which they must not ever, ever, ever, ever feel. Ever.

As one commenter said, these students don't want to learn anything. They want their prejudices confirmed and nothing more; nothing.

So there should be two degree tracks, one intellectual and one anti-intellectual: first, an intellectual track for students who don't know everything and want to learn, a track that would culminate in a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Second, an anti-intellectual track for students who don't want to learn anything, culminating in a Doctor of Dogma and Triggers degree.

It would be useful for future identification and class identity: the Messiahs would hold the DDT degrees, the Other would hold the PhD degrees. It would make it easier to determine which university to send your child to, based on your worldview regarding the intellect. The university with all DDT's would attract Leftist students, and they could revel in their superiority in peace without any contradictory facts to trigger their massive discomfort zones.

There's more at the site, if you can stand it.

Addendum:
There are some great comments. I love this one:
"Ms. Perret's affiliation with the GERC suggests that this kerfuffle is yet another instance of the Diversity Mau-Mau Racket. How the racket works: Activists raise a big fuss over some contrived offense -- perhaps they go so far as to stage the offense themselves, as in hoax incidents that have happened on other campuses -- and then use the offense as a pretext for making demands on the school administration. These demands inevitably include that the campus hire yet more diversity officers (with graduate degrees in the same "Studies" majors the activists are pursuing, of course); or initiate some new mandatory sensitivity training program (to be overseen by the "marginalized-oppression-victims-resource-center" organization with which the activists are affiliated, of course). In other words, the Diversity Mau-Mau Racket is a way for otherwise-unemployable "Studies" majors to create jobs for themselves and their co-ideologists."

2 comments:

Stefani Monaghan said...

They did not even engage with the enduring legacies of European colonial expansion, the enslavement of black people and the genocide of indigenous people in the Americas.

For shame that Plato never addressed European expansionism. What COULD he have been thinking? Just another white, cis-gendered philosophical hack with nothing of relevance to contribute. And the absolute effrontery of Hobbes, et al., to deliberately ignore the foremost issue of their times -- gender imbalance and racial oppression -- simply underscores their irrelevance.

the classroom environment felt so hostile to women, people of color, queer folks and other marginalized subjects that it was difficult for us to focus on the course material.

Wow. Just wow. These students felt so oppressed by the professor failing to ride their favorite hobby horse they actually had to flee the "hostile" atmosphere of those dis-gendered ivory towers (and what more proof of the innate sexism of higher education to call those towers "ivory"!).

Well, good riddance. And don't let those ivory-colored doors slap you on your over-sensitive asses as you exit.

Robert Coble said...

Stefani, you have a wonderful way with words!