Thinking in Shorthand

The culture wars over political correctness in academia never really went away, I suppose, although they only sometimes bubble up to the top of the simmering zeitgeist. One of those bubbles reaches up near the top today at Butler University, as a student took public his unhappiness with his professor’s request to a second-year political science class that students “write and speak in a way that does not assume American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status, etc. to be the norm” and instead use “inclusive language” as “a fundamental issue of social justice.”

The student who found this instruction an offensive and insulting presumption that he is a racist, sexist, heterosexist, classist, and national origin-ist, named Ryan Lovelace, dropped the “politically correct” class rather than do what the syllabus asked of him. The just-under-the-text line of outrage that we are supposed to read in to the story is the professor “indoctrinating” her students instead of “educating” them.

After all, if we were to loosely say that valuing, seeking out, and emphasizing matters of demographic diversity is “liberal” and eschewing such an emphasis is “conservative,” then the outrage that actual conservatives (are apparently supposed to) feel when reacting to stories like this becomes understandable. Bear that in mind when you read that Mr. Lovelace claims:

… I expected to hear professors express opinions different from my own. I did not expect to be judged before I ever walked through the door, and did not think I would be forced to agree with my teachers’ worldviews or suffer the consequences.

After reading the syllabus, Mr. Lovelace became upset because he believed that he was being asked to write and speak from the point of view described in shorthand as “liberal,” and if he instead adopts the attitude described in shorthand as “conservative,” he is not welcome in the class.

In my experience teaching undergraduate college classes both online and in person, I have found that students are remarkably sensitive, and react emotionally and unpleasantly, when their writing is challenged. Usually, though, this is when the challenge is based upon a showing of an actual deficiency in the writing itself, as in:

Student: [tentatively enters office, wide-eyed and nervous.] Professor, this looks like you gave me a B- on my research paper. Is that right?

Professor: Yes, Student, that’s right. Twenty of of thirty sentences in your paper have no verbs, and half of the paragraphs are not about the assigned subject matter. You have only one citation to authority, which is the textbook for the class, in your entire three-page research paper, and there’s no bibliography, so it’s not clear to me that you did any research at all.


Professor: [Reaches for bottle of whiskey hidden in bookshelf.]

This is perhaps a little different because we’re talking about content rather than quality. But not much. Mr. Lovelace was told, right up front, that when talking in class and writing reports for it, he was not to assume that dominant demographics were the norm. (In his essay, he makes a point of mentioning that the professor is an African-American woman.) From this, he infers on his own that he was told to assume that to be within particular dominant demographics is somehow evil or morally wrong. “Not the norm” is different than “evil.”

This does not seem a fair reading of what he was asked to do, if you ask me.

If papers expressing liberal points of view were the only ones that got “A” grades and papers expressing conservative points of view were all failed, that would be one thing. But I don’t see anything that would lead me to suspect that the professor would actually grade papers based on their ideological perspective. I might go so far as to think that a paper expressing a conservative point of view which did not demonstrate meaningful consideration of a liberal point of view would be graded poorly.

I can see a potential objection that maybe such a heavy emphasis on diversity might not be what Mr. Lovelace signed up for when he asked to be in this class. The class is called Political Science 201, Research and Analysis, and is described by the university as:

Introduces you to the process of designing and executing research projects in Political Science. Focus is on approaches and methods to teach how to find information and report it.

That course description is a good example of how not to use infinitives. Hopefully the syllabus itself does not suffer from the same sort of soupy language and since language fundamentally the issue here, perhaps we ought not to make such an assumption. Nevertheless, I am baffled in my attempts to find a scan of the actual syllabus that so offended Mr. Lovelace. It does appear that the class will require research into a political issue of some sort, and a written report on the findings. It’s hard for me to imagine that things which have been traditional sorts of political cleavages – race, national identity, sex, economics – are avoidable in such a class. Diversity will of necessity be confronted in this class.

Now, in one sense, Mr. Lovelace’s sniffers of potential “indoctrination” may well be scoring a legitimate hit. There is little doubt in my mind that language, both as heard and read from others and as used by oneself, molds thought. A complex and reciprocal relationship exists between the thoughts and concepts in one’s mind, and the structure of language used to express them. So Mr. Lovelace being asked to consider the perspectives of people demographically unlike himself in the manner of his expression of ideas is likely an exercise in changing the way he thinks of his own demographic place in the world. He is being asked to consider on a different suit of opinions and perspectives, the “liberal” ones, rather than keeping his own “conservative” perspective, and to use more “liberal” langauge as a way of focusing on those new opinions and perspectives.

But here the shorthand stops being useful because it obscures more than it assists. It’s not liberal or conservative to consider perspectives other than your own; it’s not liberal or conservative to value people who are demographically different than oneself. (Yes, there are people who self-identify as conservative who seem to believe that those demographically different than themselves are somehow less important than they are, but I’m not convinced that they are exemplars of what conservatism as an intellectual position is really about.) We’re using “liberal” and “conservative” as shorthand for attitudes towards diversity and inclusiveness and acceptance of demographic differences. Somewhere along the way, that shorthand label becomes the reality and clicks in place with a constellation of other attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and (most powerfully) personal identifications.

By choosing a shorthand notation (“conservative”) that comes weighted with its own value judgments and a whole bunch of the rest of that baggage, we’ve now made something that ought to be universal (accepting people demographically different than oneself as equals and their perspectives as being as valuable as one’s own) and politicized it, and thrown it into a Manichean intellectual process of left-versus-right, what you like I dislike simply because you like it. Thus, diversity becomes a political football.

And even if we were talking about Mr. Lovelace being asked to consider liberal rather than “liberal” opinions, he’s not being asked to adopt them. He’s being asked to try them on for size. And that process of trying them on for size may well be uncomfortable. He may find that from the perspectives he’s being asked to adopt, there are things about his “natural” or at least prior perspective that are questionable. And having seen that, he may be left with a moral quandary about returning to the opinions he once held.

Well, you know what? That’s what it is to think critically. And thinking critically is a very big part of what it is to be in higher education. You don’t have to change your mind on any particular issue, but you do have to look at the issue from several perspectives, thoughtfully and with a willingness to fairly consider that the better position may not be the one you started out holding. Unwilling to do this, Mr. Lovelace now faces a lasting impact on his academic career:

As a journalism major, I will now strive to avoid the liberal arts college as much as possible, not because the college fails to provide its students with any practical knowledge, but because the college seeks to indoctrinate its students with a hostile paradigm that views people like me—an American, white, heterosexual male from a middle-class background—as evil; whitey-righty need not attend.

Query as to how a journalism major intends to avoid taking liberal arts classes. Maybe he’s going to switch majors.

But the real problem is that Mr. Lovelace apparently intends to avoid exposing himself to any situation in which he is required to use langauge so as to reflect fair and honest consideration of perspectives other than his own. As a journalism major, Mr. Lovelace appears to be aiming himself at exactly the sort of career in which he will be routinely required to understand and describe opinions and perspectives other than his own. What kind of a journalist will he become?

I can’t be sure whether the professor was really preaching and indoctrinating a liberal perspective through the incentive of grades. Not nearly enough evidence has been offered in Mr. Lovelace’s essay to reach that conclusion. While I’ve a strong suspicion that the professor is liberal and may well wear her opinions on her sleeve, then she’s like quite a lot of college professors. That doesn’t mean that there’s some kind of mind control being attempted at Butler University.

What’s going on here is Mr. Lovelace opting out of the community of thought that characterizes a university because it’s uncomfortable for him to understand ideas and perspectives other than his own sufficiently well that he can articulate them fairly. Assuming a posture of political victimhood here is unseemly at best and contradictory to the idea of higher education at worst. Mr. Lovelace ought to take the class, learn how to separate fact from opinion, and form his own opinions based on the facts he’s learned.

That’s what college is all about.
Burt LikkoBurt Likko is the pseudonym of an attorney in Southern California. His interests include Constitutional law with a special interest in law relating to the concept of separation of church and state, cooking, good wine, and bad science fiction movies. Follow his sporadic Tweets at @burtlikko, and his Flipboard at Burt Likko.

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557 thoughts on “Thinking in Shorthand

  1. To what extent can it be said that we, here, write and speak in a way that does not assume American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status, etc. to be the norm? To what extent do we fail to use “inclusive language” as “a fundamental issue of social justice”?

    Because if we (happy!) few here at the League writing in the way that we write would fail this political science course, I can’t help but wonder whether the problem wouldn’t be with the course’s expectations.

    (Keep in mind: I’m not talking about the monumental ability of right-wingers to be aggrieved and start screaming as though they had been shot the second that you tell them that girls will be called on in class as well and Jewish people should be allowed to celebrate something other than Christmas this time of year. I’m just talking about a college course in political science that those of us here, writing the way that we write, would get a significant number of points docked for that.)


        • Isn’t Mike’s c0mment an example of being immediately “aggrieved.” The Lovelace guy also seems to be an example of the kind of aggrieved, screaming behavior you note in your last paragraph.

          It seems more like just mentioning race leads to at least one post of ” see you are just calling us racist.” While this is a great way to shut a conversation down (not like discussions of race are going to happen here) what is the point other then to announce how victimized conservatives are just by any mention of race. I think Burt nailed the problems with Lovelace’s concern.

          Has anybody ever said debate teams are indoctrination because they push people to argue positions they don’t hold? We must eliminate debate teams if we are defeat PC. The Anti-PC forces much fight on to rid ourselves of PC.


    • Again, it’s not clear to me that nearly anyone here would be docked points. It looks to me like the professor wants to see that the author of a paper has meaningfully considered diverse viewpoints. You’re assuming (like Mr. Lovelace) that because you are white and male and heterosexual and American and middle-class that this will be held against you. There’s no evidence of this.

      Nor is it clear to me that the professor would be as evenhanded as my charitable reading of those small portions of her syllabus as were reprinted would suggest. It’s possible that even if you correctly articulate a non-dominant point of view but nevertheless diverge from its orthodoxy, you’d be docked points. There’s no evidence contrary to that, any more than there’s evidence consistent with it. If Mr. Lovelace had gone ahead and taken the class, and presented a paper that was given a poor grade justified by the professor’s notation that the paper “reflected white male heterosexual perspective” or words to that effect, then we’d have a more interesting discussion here.

      What we have now is that Mr. Lovelace saw that he’d be required to consider and understand perspectives other than his own, and then refused to even try for fear of getting a bad grade. I have a hard time respecting that because I don’t see evidence that a bad grade was inevitable. The only evidence we’ve got is that the professor demanded students pay attention to how use of language buttresses a particular cultural perspective. That is fairly within the realm of inquiry for a class like this.


      • I mean, let’s say I wanted to talk about Kremlinology.

        Is that a fair thing to talk about in a 2nd year Political Science class? (Not the whole class, of course, but one day in the course would benefit from a condensed Kremlinology section, I’d think.)

        Now I’ll ask you to imagine the topic sentence of a short paper on Kremlinology. How would you make it fall in line with the best ideals of Social Justice?


        • While I doubt a subject as focused as Kremlinology would be the subject of a second-year political science research techniques class in the way, say, gun control or abortion might be, as I read what’s described in the syllabus, what I think is being called for is an understanding of how things impact different segments of the population. So if you’re going to do Kremlinology, then you may not look just at the impact that different Russian leaders have had on mainstream ethnic Russians but other ethnic groups in Russia, and the nations where Russia is projecting its power. Or, particularly appealing if you’re a conservative, you can explain how central economic planning emanating from the Kremlin has caused economic devastation and imposed unnecessary poverty on all of the Russian people other than the political elites, both before and after the fall of the Soviet Union.


          • We spent a *LOT* of time on the fall of the Berlin Wall. I’m pretty sure that a mere five years prior, the same class would have discussed the significance of Andropov, Cherenko, Gorbachev in so short a time following Brezhnev’s longevity. It’s easy for me to imagine a day spent on Kremlinology.

            So if you’re going to do Kremlinology, then you may not look just at the impact that different Russian leaders have had on mainstream ethnic Russians but other ethnic groups in Russia, and the nations where Russia is projecting its power. Or, particularly appealing if you’re a conservative, you can explain how central economic planning emanating from the Kremlin has caused economic devastation and imposed unnecessary poverty on all of the Russian people other than the political elites, both before and after the fall of the Soviet Union.

            It seems to me that “Podgorny is getting closer to the center, we can expect the Ukraine to have better treatment” doesn’t meet the requirements expected in assumptions other than American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, and middle-class status. I can’t even imagine what a discussion of the unforced errors would merit criticism of, using those same standards. I, for damn sure, ain’t seeing praise.

            Indeed, it seems to me that writing an essay about American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status (or the lack thereof) while looking at the pictures of the grey men standing in front of a parade could very well be writing an excellent essay indeed…

            but I don’t know that it’d be best to call the paper a paper on Political Science.


        • Kremlinology. What a crock. As early as 1983 I was on record predicting the fall of the USSR. But I’ll give you your topic sentence:

          Comparative power order ranking of Politburo officials based upon distance from Comrades Stalin and Molotov from atop the reviewing stand on the Kremlin balcony during the May Day parade.


        • Jaybird –

          That’s not what the quoted section is saying. It’s not saying that any paper you write has to be about social justice. It’s not saying you have to talk about social justice at all.

          It’s saying that your paper should not demonstrate the implicit assumption that everyone is white, male etc., or that “white straight male” is the default and everyone else are “special interests” (a view which is all too common in regular political discourse and journalism). It justifies this requirement by calling it a matter of social justice.

          You seem to be reading something into the quoted passage that’s not there. I think it’s a very reasonable requirement for journalists, given how common it is (to give one example) in election commentary to treat the white male vote as somehow more important or legitimate than everyone else’s. In other words, if one party wins the blue-collar white male demographic overwhelmingly, that’s treated as having more meaning than winning the overwhelming majority of black people’s votes.


          • Which brings me back to us here:

            It seems to me that there are different interpretations of what was said. One of them is one that would get all of us here (excepting perhaps one or two of the nuts) to nod and agree that it’s good for students to open their minds, try on new perspectives, and not assume that anyone who ever reads one of their papers is equally white, male, straight, middle-class, and so on. Hey, even I agree with that.

            There is another interpretation that leads me to think “we don’t write like that here, even though we write well on many (if not most) topics (including PoliSci kinda topics). What does *THAT* mean?”

            And I found that second question a lot more interesting.

            Though if your interpretation is correct, know that I agree with it 100% and the student, let me say again, is a jerkface.


      • Agreed.

        If he had written the paper and got a bad grade, he could’ve taken the paper to the department chair and complained. This does happen, IMO, at least at the school I was at. There are times the student demonstrates they have achieved the goals stated in the course description and the grade is required to be changed.

        Usually, the professor is right and the paper was awful according to reasonable, fair criteria, but sometimes students have legit complaints.

        But we’ll never know if his complaint was legit because he never took the class.

        Maybe Breitbartia will give him a column.


    • To be honest, I think most of us would fail beginning calculus too, unless you were willing to put in the work to learn new things. Perhaps they should stop teaching that as well.


        • I think Mike’s a little off with the calculus example, but a lot of the writing done here wouldn’t pass a class on, say, memoir or sonnets precisely because of the way we talk. And that would not reflect poorly on such classes.

          The way I see this student is like someone taking an art class on cubism and then complaining that figuritivists are being marginalized!


          • I have only vague memories of my own 2nd Year Political Science class.

            The first is that the professor was a tiny Asian man with a thick accent who opened his speech on the first day by saying “Power…” (but the accent made it more like “pow-wa”) and he just let that word hang there for a good ten seconds before moving on to the rest of the sentence. People were leaning forward.

            Another is that we talked a lot about the dynamics that existed in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia now that the USSR had collapsed.

            The third was the difference between how governments deal with crises (there were acronyms here), how corporations deal with crises (there were acronyms here), and how the military deals with crises (S.O.P.! That’s the only one I remember).

            The last is that we discussed the different kinds of “Authority”.

            Not more more than that in the well.

            I don’t have anywhere near enough info to judge whether the professor is asking for something like “instead of saying ‘Johnny has two apples’, say ‘Xin, who is a lesbian, has two pears'” (which is reasonable enough, I suppose) or asking for something that even most of us would say is more appropriate for a fourth year Political Science Studies course than a second year Political Science course… but I don’t know how to best interpret “American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status”.

            Does this comment assume as much?

            What would a comment assuming non-all-of-the-above look like instead?


    • “Because if we (happy!) few here at the League writing in the way that we write would fail this political science course, I can’t help but wonder whether the problem wouldn’t be with the course’s expectations.”

      But then, we (happy!) few here aren’t taking a class in which one of the ground rules that we cannot assume x, y, z, to be normative. We have other ground rules at the League, although maybe less explicit than to be found in a syllabus.

      I think, as I believe Burt suggested, the issue might boil down to how the teacher enforces the rule.


      • The LoOG has its own normative. So does every society or sub-society or group or clique. Butler U is just another arrogation–fictionalization–of society of the type that takes place behind ivy walls and in ivory towers.

        Better that Butler U teach people teach its charges how to behave like ladies and gentlemen out in the real world. Now that would be helpful.


        • Better that Butler U teach people teach its charges how to behave like ladies and gentlemen out in the real world. Now that would be helpful.

          Hmm, I’d be inclined to say that teaching them to not think of others as abnormal is teaching them how to behave like ladies and gentlemen.


        • I actually agree with you, about teaching them to be ladies and gentlemen; that is to say, teaching them social norms of behavior.

          But wouldn’t you consider that teaching social norms also demands that the student step outside their frame of reference, and view the world from the perspective of another?
          I mean, etiquette is really a way of thinking “How would I like to be treated, if I were female/ elderly/gay/someone other than who I am?”

          A lot of Political Correctness is really just a modern variation on societal norms, where certain words are considered vulgar and unnacceptable in polite discourse.

          As I mentioned in another thread, unfortunately we have impoverished our civil language to where we are only able to discuss norms in the language of individual rights, which creates the win-lose triumphalist situation, where my rights are inviolable, unless I can show “harm”, narrowly defined.


          • Mr. Attitude, once again we regret to find ourselves in substantive agreement. I spend most of my time in fora like this–in fact all of my time, between the LoOG and my history digs and haunts.

            I AM diversity. In fact y’d be surprised how much private email I get from credentialed academical-type folks who envy me my intellectual liberty. I’m not running for anything, I’m not bucking for tenure. [The late great Reform Club blog had 3 PhDs writing pseudonymously out of fear of damaging their academic careers.]

            But wouldn’t you consider that teaching social norms also demands that the student step outside their frame of reference, and view the world from the perspective of another?
            I mean, etiquette is really a way of thinking “How would I like to be treated, if I were female/ elderly/gay/someone other than who I am?”

            A 200-level PoliSci course? No, that’s stealing the tuition money from the little knuckleheads’ parents for remedial Barney, or worse, indebting them to their student loan program for a sackful of PC beans.

            Y’know, people been dealing with gay people and women people and elderly people for quite awhile now in America. They are our friends, our family, our colleagues, our fellow citizens. Baron von Stueben was probably “that way,” but George Washington let him train our sad sack army and win the Revolution. Tocqueville in the 1830s idolizes the American woman—not on a European-style pedestal but as a fully realized human being. Our old? Well, we elected Ronald Reagan. Twice.

            I was just reading that Hollywood megalawyer Bert Fields is still going strong. And then there’s the Rolling Stones, average age older than the US Supreme Court!

            Hillary ’16?

            How to survive political correctness and groupthink with your wits intact, your ability to reason in the lefto roster of prepackaged arguments and clever hijacks of the language [“Choice!”], the predictable ad homs when you leave their tongues dragging in their own dirt, now that would be a class worth going in debt for.

            I’m available, LWA. I gotta start getting paid for this. Too many of these hacks are stealing their students’ money [or their parents’].

            How to Stand Up to Your Leftist Hack Teacher. Now that should be a required course. 101, if not Freshman Orientation.


            • TVD, you keep making some big deal out of this being a “200 level” course. That’s wholly pointless. My colleague teaches our IR course at the 200 level. One of the things he does is randomly assign students to present on a particular issue from a particular IR view. So each year some poor schlub of a dude who just wants to get his SoSci requirement out of the way has to talk about Israel-Palestine from a Feminist point of view (or Iran and nukes from a Marxist pov, etc. etc.).

              This stuff is wholly appropriate for a 200 level political science course. You sit in your mcmansion/ranch house/L.A. bungalow pontificating on an academia of which you are wholly ignorant. You are absolutely in no position to say anything meaningful about what ought to be the substance of a 200 level course.

              And for god’s sake, as a research and analysis course, that 200 level course is geared toward professionalizing students into the discipline–it’s not just to teach students about the presidency, or how Congress passes laws; it’s about how to set about studying the real political world in the way that real political scientists do. Pushing yourself outside of your preconceived worldview is a requirement for doing that. I don’t like the way the prof allegedly wrote it on her syllabus, and I never would write it that way myself. But I sure as hell do make my students take that approach as they develop their research projects.


              • Dr. Hanley, the LoOG blog functions best when you & I stick to our separate orbits. If you want to discuss something or anything for our mutual edification, our mutual friend Jonathan Rowe will forward any correspondence from you to me or from me to you.

                In the meantime, permit me to confess a preference for many or most of your arguments in the now LoOG-historic 600+-comment posts of late.

                And I don’t even agree with your sentiments. It’s just that as a disinterested party and non-litigant, I think you’ve been winning the debate, both in clarity and certainly in tone.


                • the LoOG blog functions best when you & I stick to our separate orbits.

                  Then maybe you should stop talking about political science courses, since that’s clearly my orbit. It takes a lot of hubris to come shit in my garden then tell me to stay out of yours.

                  How about a deal. You don’t give your useless opinions about what political science courses ought to include, and I won’t give my useless opinion about how to play a good blue lick on the bass guitar. So far I’ve help up my end of the bargain.


    • Because you’re not asked to do this (although I don’t think it would be a Bad Thing to do, as Mr Farmer immediately proves). Should one of the Gentlefolk endeavor to do this (as has been done more than once in my experience), it will be looked on as an interesting experiment, nothing more.

      Mr Lockwood was asked to go beyond his normal frame-of-reference. That is completely different.


      • Jeff, it seems to me that there are a handful of (mutually exclusive) assumptions regarding the class. First and foremost is that all the professor is doing is asking the kids to try to imagine other viewpoints and perspectives. Heck, if that’s all that is going on, more power to her. Like James is doing a great job getting those Michitucky shitkickers to see their first revolving door, this professor is trying to get these little monsters to open their closed little minds. Even now, we pat ourselves on the back thinking about how this is doing the Lord’s work or whatever it is that we say these days. “Social Justice” or whatever. Sure, fine. If that’s all that is going on here, I’m sure that we’d all say that this lady deserves tenure and more funding. And, yes, the student is, in fact, a jerkface.

        I was thinking about this, though: “write and speak in a way that does not assume American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status, etc. to be the norm”.

        There is a way that we here, at the League, do a great job of being open-minded. Certainly more open-minded than those Michitucky shitkickers! In another, however, we are pretty fuggin American (Shout Out to our Brethren from the Empire), Male (Shout Out to Rose), White (Shout Out to Murali), Heterosexual (Shout Out to Jason, Boegiboe, and Russell), and Middle-Class. And, yes, every single essay we have (even the ones on Political Science) reflect the ever-living shit out of that.

        Which brings me back to the other assumption I made: if the types of essays on political science we write here (and, quite honestly, I think that we do a hell of a job on the essays on political science we write here) do not meet the high standard of “write and speak in a way that does not assume American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status”, then what?

        If nine out of ten of our essays here would not pass muster in her class, what does that say about us? About her class?

        Because it seems that the general assumption is that, hell, all she’s doing is asking the students to be open-minded to new points of view, that’s one thing… but when I read what she was asking, my first thought was that “we don’t do that here.”


        • Good point, JB.

          Seems like the whole conversation is lacking in substantive information about the class.

          That is the problem with mental shorthand; it leads to different people sketching very different pictures from the same facts.


              • Well, the story isn’t about the syllabus. It’s about the student’s outrage. That’s the story.

                Whether or not the outraged is justified would be kind of important, but that’s not going to fit anybody’s narrative about whether the student is a jackass or the instructor is a feminazi.


                  • Ah, see down below. I did not realize that the student in question was the author of the story in question.

                    After reading the original article, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing I can say for certain is that Mr. Lovelace is not a good reporter.


                • I think the only time I was ever outraged upon reading a syllabus was when I learned that the final paper would be worth 75% of my grade. That’s outrageous!

                  I would like to know what the syllabus actually said, though. Like I said somewhere in the thread, depending on how it’s worded, this could simply be precisely the sort of stylistic prescriptions you find in the APA manual. Which makes me wonder whether conservative students find that outrageous.


                • “Whether or not the outraged is justified would be kind of important, but that’s not going to fit anybody’s narrative about whether the student is a jackass or the instructor is a feminazi.”

                  This is sort of my point that I’m trying to get at with JB.

                  A white male does something dastardly regarding his whiteness and maleness and he is labeled a “jackass”, an insult that doesn’t touch on his whiteness or his maleness.

                  A black female does something dastardly regarding her blackness and femaleness and she is labeled a “feminazi”, an insult that touches directly on her femaleness.


                    • Still, inclusiveness is important. A phrase like “whiney pseudo-victim” or “hypersensitive attention whore” could apply to a wide variety of people who trump up minor but ultimately inconsequential irritations with their professors into full-blown media protests. We could call pretty much anyone those names, not just white heterosexual men from middle-class backgrounds.


                    • Burt,

                      Are you responding to me? If so, you lost me. I haven’t used any of those terms and don’t think they’re particularly useful for constructive dialogue (especially the latter).

                      As I’ve said elsewhere, folks from dominant/majority cultures have the privilege of failing as individuals, while folks from marginalized/minority cultures tend to fail collectively. If this student is in the wrong, it won’t change most people’s opinions of white folks or males or heterosexuals in general. If the professor is wrong, it will make some folks change their opinion (or confirm their suspicions) of blacks or women or feminists and their work in the classroom.

                      No one has yet suggested that we should keep conservative or privileged or male or heterosexual or white students out of the classroom. At least some folks have used this scenario to suggest that feminists* should be kept out.

                      * And I don’t even know if this woman IS a feminist.


          • So because you don’t do that here, her requirement must be unreasonable, because you guys are so awesome.

            I am not saying that it automatically must be unreasonable. It does, however, seem to me to be exceptionally relevant that as we judge the kid for being jerky, we keep in mind that we don’t do what he said he didn’t want to do. Which strikes me as a fairly interesting point.

            I would say that any given essay here on Political Science could, after a little cleaning up, be handed in as an essay in any given 2nd year PoliSci class in the country… and, if it turns out, that that essay would be marked down because it’s fairly white, fairly male, fairly straight, and fairly middle-class, then *THAT* is an interesting thing going on.

            From my perspective, I’d prefer the kids to have a good grasp of Eastern Europe before we got into the meta-issues of whiteness, maleness, straightness, and middle-classness of talking about Eastern Europe.


            • “From my perspective, I’d prefer the kids to have a good grasp of Eastern Europe before we got into the meta-issues of whiteness, maleness, straightness, and middle-classness of talking about Eastern Europe.”

              At the risk of sounding like a broken record, that is easy for you to say, as straight, middle-class white male.


                • Everyone has their reasons. It seems as if you are suggesting your reasons (i.e., to gain a good grasp of Eastern Europe) ought to be everyone’s.

                  If you are a black student sitting in that class, I imagine you have a much more pressing interest in your classmates learning to deal with their whiteness, etc.


                  • Two reasons, mostly.

                    1) To receive an education (perhaps even a classical one!)
                    2) Because a fuggin’ piece of paper is a fuggin’ box you must check before they let you join the Middle Class

                    If we have people leaving PoliSci courses knowing more about why thinking about Eastern Europe is White, Male, Heterosexual, and Middle Class than about Eastern Europe, I daresay that we are creating people who will not be hired into White, Male, Heterosexual, and Middle Class kinda jobs… which, it seems to me, is the carrot that we’ve been holding in front of the kids’ noses.


                    • Eastern Europe has a pretty serious problem with skinheads and shiny happy nationalist thugs, not exactly the most PeeCee of people. They don’t like gays a-tall. Russia doesn’t allow for same sex marriage. There are laws against publicly advocating for gay rights.

                      Seems to me that might be a bit more useful than knowing the Don River flows into the Sea of Azov.


                    • So we should perpetuate the status quo?

                      For what it’s worth, I don’t know if the professor’s approach is necessary the best one. Dr. Lisa Delpit argues that we should neither teacher students from marginalized groups to wholly conform or wholly rebel. Rather, arm them with the knowledge and skills to enter the culture of power AND the knowledge and skills to change it from within once they are there. Perhaps that is what this teacher was attempting. Again, we don’t know because all we have is one aggrieved person’s perspective to work from.


                    • The problem with this is that your #2 suggests that the paragraph you wrote after it is wrong, or at least irrelevant.

                      Dunno about that. Part of the whole “middle class” thing is the “middle class job” thing. So you want a job in PoliSci. What’s available? Eliding over the whole “well, you can teach it” thing (and turn Political Science into joining Amway), I’m thinking various analyst jobs.

                      So we’re at the interview. There’s an interviewer across the table. He says “We’re very interested in what’s going on with Eastern Europe. What can you tell me about the Balkans?”

                      Assume two candidates who give answers similar to the following. Which do you think is more likely to be hired:

                      A) When do you want me to start from? I’ll start with today and go back until you want me to stop. Today in the Hague, the trial against (so-and-so) was concluded (to thunderous applause) when it was found that they couldn’t prove Crimes against Humanity. The trial was for events that transpired back in…

                      B) My emphasis was on doing my best to not assume American-ness, Whiteness, Maleness, Heterosexuality, or Middle-Classness. As should yours be, if you want our society to improve.


                    • So we should perpetuate the status quo?

                      Perpetuation of the status quo is one of the goals, yes. If you want to challenge the system, it seems best to not spend six figures first. Better to just challenge it.


                    • Which brings me back to something I said earlier:

                      We don’t know what was meant by the “whatever the heck that means” portion of the syllabus.

                      If all we mean is “if you want to understand Eastern Europe, you must first understand what it means to be Prussian…” (or some similar preamble), then, by all means!, I’m pretty sure that every single head will nod. Absolutely.


                    • JB,

                      Doesn’t your interview scenario assume the interviewer is a white middle class straight American male?

                      Imagine your Poli Sci jobs involving speaking with filks who don’t fit that mold. Suddenly having that skill set, to be able to communicate in a more inclusive way, doesn’t seem so silly.

                      Also, you are indulging a bit of a false dilemma. The teacher isn’t eskewing the curriculum to teach communication skills. She is simply laying out her expectations for communication while students are engaging the curriculum. Not unlike a prof indicating they want APA style instead of MLA.


                    • Kazzy, on top of that, it’s a methods course (research an analysis) that is designed to teach poli sci students to find, evaluate, and write about information relevant to political science. You’re not supposed to be learning about Eastern Europe in that course. You’re supposed to be learning about how to learn about Eastern Europe.


                    • Sure… You just assumed the perspective of a black woman, something I’m pretty sure you’ve steadfastly argued you wouldn’t or couldn’t do. Is it possible that Condi would respond differently than your hypothetical (formed in the psyche of a white male) suggests?

                      Also, what Chris said.


                    • What? JB said he couldn’t/wouldn’t do something and then did it. I’m not commenting on the doing of it. I’m commenting and the inconsistency.

                      Also, there is a difference between saying, “I think this person would respond this way based on what I know about her,” and “I think this person would respond this way because that is how I’d respond.” I don’t know which JB did. If it is the former, we are back to inconsistency. If the latter, then we should examine the privilege he’s indulging in.


                    • How’s about Hillary Clinton, then?

                      Perhaps this is a teachable moment for me:

                      Could you provide me an example of a job interview example for a new polysci grad that would be less American, heterosexual, white, male, and middle-class that I should have provided instead?


                    • I’ve never interviewed for a PoliSci job, nor even taken a PoliSci class. My point is that you seem to be assuming folks interviewing candidates for PoliSci jobs will be more interested in their knowledge of Eastern Europe than in their ability to communicate in an inclusive manner.

                      Let me put it this way. I work in a female dominated industry. Not only has education long been the province of women, but we are now seeing those woman working their way into administrative positions more than in the pass, meaning my professional world has a very different mindset and worldview than most others.

                      We often get candidates, male candidates, who are fresh out of college. These guys are often highly skilled and knowledgeable. But they interview poorly. Why? Because they come in in a manner and with a worldview that is not particularly welcomed. This manner and worldview is largely formed by their race and gender, though age certainly has something to do with it. How do I know? I was one of those guys. But I avoided many of the pitfalls of my comrades because I had a mother who was a teacher who was able to coach me in this area. I couldn’t be as assertive and aggressive as I might otherwise be; I couldn’t speak in absolutes or from a position of authority; I couldn’t be dismissive of things such as camaraderie, collegiality, and culture. I couldn’t do the sorts of things that young, fresh-out-college white guys tend to do on interviews, which is throw all their book learning at the interviewer, present confidence-bordering-on-arrogance, and assume the job was theirs for the taking. And we didn’t not hire these guys because the interview left a sour taste in our mouths; we did it because we knew the interview was likely just the tip of the iceberg. They were likely going to carry themselves in such a way as they performed their job, which, again, they were likely fairly good at.

                      They were entering an environment in which the male worldview and manner-of-being was not the norm. And because they didn’t have inclusive interpersonal skills, they drowned.


                    • The only jobs I’ve interviewed for are IT jobs. Those tend to go a certain way each time. “So… tell me about a time that a system crashed and wouldn’t come back up.” I have friends who tell me about interviews they’ve had where they had to write a program on the fly, watch it compile, then watch it do what the interviewers asked for the program to do.

                      The people behind the desk were checking for bullshit each time. “Well, the first thing I checked was whether the ball bearings were low.”

                      They wanted to know whether I was familiar with computer systems, of course, but passing that test led to questions about whether I had people skills (dammit!) and whether I would fit in with a particular group.

                      I assume that a corporation that needs entry-level analysts would use the interview to: weed out egregious bullshit and make sure that the person had something approaching a pleasant personality.


                    • But do you see, in my example, how certain folks would be better served had they learned to communicate inclusively? That this might have enriched their educational experience and, as a result, their job prospects?


                    • Sure. There are personality traits that you don’t mind in an analyst that you avoid in a teacher (and vice-versa).

                      I imagine that the teaching interview asked you to jump the bullshit hurdle and demonstrate a pleasant enough personality.

                      I imagine that all interviews do that, to some extent.


                    • How entangled are these personality traits with maleness, or whiteness, or heterosexualness?

                      And I’m not really sure we’re talking personality traits. It was communication styles. These guys weren’t bad guys. Or stupid guys. But they walked into the room and spoke as if they were speaking to a bunch of men. But they weren’t. They were speaking to a bunch of women. And most couldn’t adjust. So their communication style failed them, not their personality.


                    • When I’m interviewing people for IT stuff, I look over their resume, check teh Google and LinkedIn and do a background check. I want to know these guys before I ever talk to them.

                      I say “Try to forget this is an interview. Technology changes every few years anyway. I’m giving you five minutes to toot your own horn. I want to know what you’re really good at in life and why anyone should pay you money to do it. Doesn’t have to be about software, but it might be. Nobody lives to code. Life taught you something. Tell me what you learned.”

                      Then I listen and encourage them to talk. I want the discussion to reveal who they think they are, not what the resume says. I get the most amazing responses.


                    • I’m just white, male, and straight enough to see “the ability to change one’s communication style” as a skill exceptionally relevant to teaching.

                      If the guys couldn’t change how they communicated, they were demonstrating that you asked a question that they couldn’t bullshit their way out of.

                      Which is a good thing.

                      Now, if it is the case that this was, really, a trivial (though off-putting) thing that wouldn’t have impact upon their jobs (which they’d be really good at otherwise), then these people are shooting themselves and, of course, the children, in the foot. And that’s another discussion right there.

                      At this moment in time, however, I’m willing to say that a question designed to suss out the semiotics such as “I can demonstrate competence in communication” is doing one heck of a job… and, yeah, other industries do that too.

                      Now Blaise is approaching it from a different approach than I.

                      I’ve always been on the wrong side of the desk.


                    • Hiring hint from a headhunter: Women don’t like being interrupted.

                      The male conversational style is fine with it, like a baton passed back & forth, the baton pass meaning you understood me and are ready to move ahead.

                      For women, perhaps in no small part because they’re used to being interrupted by men—and are never heard from again unless they push their way back into the conversation— interrupting is an inexcusable rudeness.

                      You want to punt an interview with womenfolk present? Act like a guy.

                      For those who need this dumbed down to college level:



                    • Tom, is there a regional component to that? It’s well-attested that East Coasters interrupt each other constantly as a normal part of conversation, while we West Coasters, being more laid-back, let other people finish their sentences. And that this causes a lot of misunderstanding:

                      “What a rude bastard! He won’t let me get a word in.”

                      “He’s just sitting there with that vacant smile, like I’m boring the crap out of him”.


                    • It’s possible, Mike. As a transplant meself, I’d say Eastern conversational style among men is definitely more aggressive. The insult is the polite form of address, eh?

                      I have noticed that a lot of the movers-and-shakers I’ve come across in law and in the entertainment biz here in CA have an Eastern background; although a bit mellowed, the sharpness of the elbows rounded off a bit, the Easterners have a spark that your average Eagles listener achieves only with a beakful of blow.

                      As for interviewing with women, I’d think it’s fairly a constant. The flow is different and men ignore it at their peril.


                    • JB,

                      No questions were asked to get at it. They wore their privilege on their sleeve.

                      I really think you’re missing what I’m saying here. These people could not work with their potential colleagues because their potential colleagues were not all white males. They lacked cultural competency. This isn’t a personality flaw. It is a fundamental flaw in their worldview which, to that point, was unchallenged.


                    • Jay,
                      I’d hire the one who knows the full picture. You don’t get the full picture by trying to see it from a WASPy perspective. Hell, then you get papers like “Republicans won all the Swing Groups yet lost the election”. Because the Swing Groups were cherrypicked to be white.


                  • So we’re at the interview. There’s an interviewer across the table. He says “We’re very interested in what’s going on with Eastern Europe. What can you tell me about the Balkans?”******

                    Here’s how the interview probably goes in real life (judging from an interview I had for an adjunct job to teach history):

                    “Oh, so you volunteered teaching ESL at X free school in [my home town], my sister used to volunteer there. By the way, you’re going to see a lot of student who come from families who have never been to college, or for whom English isn’t their firs language. How are you going to deal with that?”

                    How would that work for a national security government-y type of job (which presumably some PoliSci people want)? I don’t know. But whatever I had learned sure helped me to see things from other perspectives. (I got hired on the spot, by the way, even though they had already interviewed two other people. So I must’ve had the answers they were looking for. Obviously there’s an element of arbitrariness in there. How was I supposed to know in 2001 that volunteering at X free school would help me get a job in 2008?)


                    • I’ve heard of interviews that go something like “oh, you know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy… yeah, he vouches for you. Says you have crazy bullshit political views but if you can keep those under your hat, you should be fine. Welcome aboard” and I have no idea what to do about those. Libertarian theory is that you wouldn’t need to rely upon so many semiotics if it were easier to fire people but the unskilled need the protections more than the skilled would benefit from not having to rely on knowing a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy.


            • Look, there are abusive terms of art unwittingly used by Americans, males, whites, heterosexuals, middle-class folks, etc. Maybe I see things a little differently: James observes part of a good education is travel. You care about Eastern Europe, think that’s an important aspect of an education and I entirely agree. The Polish people are what the French only think they are.

              Remember that old New Yorker map of the world? Neither of us knows what the instructor’s actual directives were: we only have the word of Lovelace. But this much seems clear, when Americans write “we” in a sentence, implying Americans, that conflates all foreigners around here into such a statement. When we talk about “everyone” we might think of what women might read into what’s being discussed. As for “the gays”, even at a sexual level, gay only implies male homosexuals, hence the use of LGBT. Middle class views, hey, do you want to sound like David Brooks? Of course you don’t.

              Most of this is common sense. Most people obey these rules without even thinking very much about it. If Eastern Europe matters, and it does, remember what you write might be read by someone from there.


        • , about a year ago you posted a link to a site that reads your text and says whether (or IIRC) how much it is like a female vs male author. Do you still have it in your bookmarks or do I have to figure out some Google-Fu to find it? The problem is – it being a year ago much of the context has gone down my personal memory hole.


  2. David Foster Wallace wrote about this in his essay, Tense Present:

    These arguments are hard to make — not intellectually but emotionally, politically. Because they are baldly elitist. [38] The real truth, of course, is that [Standard Written English] SWE is the dialect of the American elite. That it was invented, codified, and promulgated by Privileged WASP Males and is perpetuated as “Standard” by same. That it is the shibboleth of the Establishment and an instrument of political power and class division and racial discrimination and all manner of social inequity. These are shall we say rather delicate subjects to bring up in an English class, especially in the service of a pro-SWE argument, and extra-especially if you yourself are both a Privileged WASP Male and the Teacher and thus pretty much a walking symbol of the Adult Establishment. This reviewer’s opinion, though, is that both students and SWE are better served if the teacher makes his premises explicit, licit and his argument overt, presenting himself as an advocate of SWE’s utility rather than as a prophet of its innate superiority.

    Because this argument is both most delicate and (I believe) most important with respect to students of color, here is one version of a spiel I’ve given in private conference [39] with certain black students who were (a) bright and inquisitive and (b) deficient in what U.S. higher education considers written English facility:

    I don’t know whether anybody’s told you this or not, but when you’re in a college English class you’re basically studying a foreign dialect. This dialect is called ‘Standard Written English. … From talking with you and reading your essays, I’ve concluded that your own primary dialect is [one of three variants of SBE common to our region]. Now, let me spell something out in my official Teacher-voice:

    The SBE you’re fluent in is different from SWE in all kinds of important ways. Some of these differences are grammatical — for example, double negatives are OK in Standard Black English but not in SWE, and SBE and SWE conjugate certain verbs in totally different ways. Other differences have more to do with style — for instance, Standard Written English tends to use a lot more subordinate clauses in the early parts of sentences, and it sets off most of these early subordinates with commas, and, under SWE rules, writing that doesn’t do this is “choppy.” There are tons of differences like that. How much of this stuff do you already know?

    [STANDARD RESPONSE: some variation on “I know from the grades and comments on my papers that English profs don’t think I’m a good writer.”]

    Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. There are some otherwise smart English profs who aren’t very aware that there are real dialects of English other than SWE, so when they’re reading your papers they’ll put, like, “Incorrect conjugation” or “Comma needed” instead of “SWE conjugates this verb differently” or “SWE calls for a comma here.” That’s the good news — it’s not that you’re a bad writer, it’s that you haven’t learned the special rules of the dialect they want you to write in. Maybe that’s not such good news, that they were grading you down for mistakes in a foreign language you didn’t even know was a foreign language. That they won’t let you write in SBE. Maybe it seems unfair. If it does, you’re not going to like this news: I’m not going to let you write in SBE either. In my class, you have to learn and write in SWE. If you want to study your own dialect and its rules and history and how it’s different from SWE, fine — there are some great books by scholars of Black English, and I’ll help you find some and talk about them with you if you want. But that will be outside class. In class — in my English class — you will have to master and write in Standard Written English, which we might just as well call “Standard White English,” because it was developed by white people and is used by white people, especially educated, powerful white people.

    [RESPONSES by this point vary too widely to standardize.]

    I’m respecting you enough here to give you what I believe is the straight truth. In this country, SWE is perceived as the dialect of education and intelligence and power and prestige, and anybody of any race, ethnicity, religion, or gender who wants to succeed in American culture has got to be able to use SWE. This is How It Is. You can be glad about it or sad about it or deeply pissed off. You can believe it’s racist and unjust and decide right here and now to spend every waking minute of your adult life arguing against it, and maybe you should, but I’ll tell you something: If you ever want those arguments to get listened to and taken seriously, you’re going to have to communicate them in SWE, because SWE is the dialect our country uses to talk to itself. African Americans who’ve become successful and important in U.S. culture know this; that’s why King’s and X’s and Jackson’s speeches are in SWE, and why Morrison’s and Angelou’s and Baldwin’s and Wideman’s and West’s books are full of totally ass-kicking SWE, and why black judges and politicians and journalists and doctors and teachers communicate professionally in SWE. Some of these people grew up in homes and communities where SWE was the native dialect, and these black people had it much easier in school, but the ones who didn’t grow up with SWE realized at some point that they had to learn it and
    become able to write in it, and so they did. And [INSERT NAME HERE], you’re going to learn to use it, too, because I am going to make you.

    I should note here that a couple of the students I’ve said this stuff to were offended — one lodged an Official Complaint — and that I have had more than one colleague profess to find my spiel “racially insensitive.” Perhaps you do, too. My own humble opinion is that some of the cultural and political realities of American life are themselves racially insensitive and elitist and offensive and unfair, and that pussyfooting around these realities with euphemistic doublespeak is not only hypocritical but toxic to the project of ever actually changing them. Such pussyfooting has of course now achieved the status of a dialect — one powerful enough to have turned the normal politics of the Usage Wars sort of inside out.


    • Actually here you could cite the UK as an example, where the dialects vary more. Standard English is considered that used on the BBC and the like. Cockney definitely for example does not qualify, nor does the Scottish dialect.
      Another example might be to point out that Chinese has a single written language, and multiple (some not mutually understandable ) spoken dialects.

      In German the “official language” is High German, but the folks in north germany speak what is called low german with different pronounciations of words.
      In all these cases there was a dialect established as the standard written language, and indeed in many as the standard spoken language.


    • Ooh.

      Lots to think about there.

      At first I want to argue that SWE allows greater clarity of language and precision of thought, but then I start thinking about how all language is essentially a shared convention and how difficult it is to judge between linguistic groups, particularly dialects, in that respect. Something that appears unclear may not actually be so to an initiate.

      Imma put on my thinkin cap.


      • English is standardized chaos, as open source and additive as it comes. Memes drift into English as easily as anything. because English, when it comes down to it, is about communication.

        Now, dialect? Dialect communicates as well. It communicates who is family, and who is not. Chomsky’s the classic source on this, and as batty as he sometimes is, his research is still good.


  3. Maybe I haven’t clicked through enough links, but what I am not quite grasping from the outrage and the outrage-at-the-outrage is a good solid example of what would be a wrong thing to do by this suggestion and what it would look like if done the right way. And the extent to which this is an across-the-board expectation (as in, we shouldn’t be making assumptions about who constitutes “we”) or whether it is specifically intended to re-balance the scale by having some expectations here but not over there to counterbalance societal prejudices.

    I can think of some examples in my head that would be worthy of concern or an eyeroll, and I can think of some examples that are not only reasonable but something good for everybody to consider.


  4. Let’s not talk about us. Almost all of us FPers are guys and almost all of us are white. And of the FPers a similar proportion are heterosexual. Almost all of the FPers are American as well. Since we are writing on a blog and not an academic paper, our language is more casual and therefore more likely to fail the standards of the pol-sci course.

    Can well curated wikipedia articles pass the course? (in terms of minimal language standards). Will critical theorists of various stripes read wikipedia articles and come away without snickering at “NPOV”? Is it even possible to use language without situating oneself as black or white or brown, male or female, cis-gendered or trans, heterosexual, homosexual or asexual, American or Canadian or Malaysian? It seems that if the crit studies people are right, then we cannot avoid situating ourself within some arbitrary perspective. But then any even if wrong (as in not meeting up to the intellectual ideals of neutrality) it is still a blameless kind of wrong.


    • I think the point of an excersize is to learn about language and words. I dont’ think any of the FP’s or posters would pass this course. But we’re not in the course. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good to learn and improve. I’ll repeat my question that i posed above:

      Has anybody ever said debate teams are indoctrination because they push people to argue positions they don’t hold?

      Doesn’t debating teach various skills even if one is debating a view they don’t hold?


    • The English language can tolerate all sorts of idiosyncrasies. It’s a crazy language, a train wreck of Saxon and French and the flotsam of a hundred other languages. English doesn’t have gendered nouns. English has gendered pronouns, but we don’t use our gender-neutral pronoun “it” to describe people by convention.

      The Crit Studies people are simply wretched writers. If they want gender neutral writing, have their word processing software replace “he” and “she” with “it” routinely. Problem solved. As for all this Inclusive Language crapola, give the student an Inclusive Language Manual of Style and grade to that if you want. That’s where these Crit Studies people annoy me no end. They want to enforce rules of style without going to the trouble of actually defining them.


      • I don’t disagree with you Blaise. But as a writing and thinking exercise i can’t see a problem with this. If someone wants to be a writer, like the lovelace guy, then you should be focusing a hell of a lot on language.


        • Heh. If I was Lovelace, I wouldn’t be writing on a site where the President’s head was crudely photoshopped onto a painting of Lenin, with the title “Obama! Socialismo o Muerte” within the first few divs.

          And I wouldn’t have a photograph of an unshaved ROTC cadet on my own article. But that’s just me.

          If I took my own Red Pencil out, I might have to criticise the run-on sentence in the first paragraph. I might also point out almost all the paragraphs in that article are single sentences. While we’re at it, the professor wasn’t named, but she was called Black and Female.

          This Lovelace is a non-writing schlub. What is this bullshit sentence? Being judged and forced to act a certain way is antithetical to how any institution of higher education should conduct itself.. In standard English, you know, we need a goddamn subject for every sentence. The institution is judging and forcing and we don’t need that dumbass infinitive “Being” to start that out. “An institution of higher learning should not judge students or force them to behave in a certain way.” But of course, that’s exactly what institutions of higher learning do all the time: judge students’ work and oblige them to obey the rules in the student handbook. Once we’ve unpacked this dreadful sentence, it seems Mr. Lovelace is advocating for some Hippie-Dippy Philosophy wherein all is permitted and nothing denied.

          It’s all too stupid for words.


            • Jesus, Tom, quit talking about things you don’t know shit about. Every one of my PoliSci classes demands that students write well. And I make that demand because my students have to know how to communicate knowledge. As I tell them, if you don’t write well, people will assume you’re stupid. It won’t matter that you’re not stupid, people will assume it anyway.

              And in a PoliSci class, if you can’t put yourself in others’ shoes to understand how they see the world, you’re never going to get a complete understanding of the subject. I had a liberal student in my political economy class last year–should I have just praised her liberal views about the evils of capitalism and free trade? Hell, no. I not only forced her to look at it as an economist would look at it, I also forced her to think about who in the economic equation she wasn’t considering. E.g., when she complained about big banana corp outcompeting the family banana farm because of free trade, I made her think about the poor family that wanted to buy bananas. It’s not just about the conservative seeing how a liberal thinks, or a white guy seeing how a black woman thinks; it’s about understanding that one’s own instinctive view of the world is not “the” sum total correct view.

              You irritate me to no end when you start talking about how college education is supposed to work, because you just don’t really get it. You have a piss poor understanding of how a real education really works.


              • Well put.

                I think the best exercise is to have students write down what they think and then list all the reasons (with explanations) that suggest that they are (or could be) wrong.

                Democracy is just? Why isn’t it?


              • I have this theory about how to teach good writing. I’d have student sit down with an excerpt from a recorded book and literally type what he hears. Once that’s done, the student reads the written text, as it was read to him, corrects all his spelling errors and punctuation and moves on to the next passage.

                There was a day when people would gather around to hear a story read to them. They’d go to plays and hear mighty prose. Poetry was once the province of manly men, there’s the James Joyce pub in Durham NC, where people get slobbering drunk and read Heaney and Yeats and tears run down their face. That’s living with words.

                Nobody can possibly write without that voice in his head, that inner cadence which rejects flabby prose on principle, that knows how to organise a paragraph, that shamelessly apes his betters, that rolls around words like a horse on his back in a sunny meadow. When we’re talking, we know these things. Why, then, do so many people write so stupidly? Because their ears aren’t in it.


        • His problem isn’t his ability to write so much as an unwillingness to attempt empathy.

          Perhaps technical manuals. But even dry business journalism benefits from empathy and willingness to push against your biases.


      • “English doesn’t borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, hits them in the back of the had, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.”


    • Murali,
      Considering that certain computers edit wikipedia articles routinely, it is indeed possible to use language without sitting in one bucket or another (I’m told their linguistic capabilities sound Chinese, so their bits are routinely rewritten).
      That last parenthetical? What does it say about our need to ascribe meaning to things that don’t have it in the first place?


  5. When I was an undergraduate, lo, these many years ago, I graded the homework for a class that performed the construction of the real numbers. That is starting with the primitive notions of “zero” and “successor of”, there’s a standard way to construct first the natural numbers (0, 1 ,2 etc.), the integers (add in negative numbers), the rational numbers (fractions), and finally the real numbers (add numbers that aren’t fractions, like pi and the square root of two.) That’s four completely different number systems. For each one, it’s necessary to prove things like “a + b = b + a”. The facts that we’ve known this since childhood and that we proved them last week for a different numer system are irrelevant.

    This freaked most of the students out. They weren’t mathematically mature enough to separate “true in this system” from “true”, and they really didn’t understand that (say) the integers as constructed were entirely different from the natural numbers as constructed, so that you can’t assume they have anything in common, so you have to prove it.

    It feels to me like Lovelace has the same issues.


  6. If I’d wanted a course in left-wing gibberish, I’d have ordered a course in left-wing gibberish.

    Speaking of Turing tests,

    1. Realities of collapse

    In the works of Gibson, a predominant concept is the distinction between opening and closing. Several deappropriations concerning deconstructivist subconstructive theory may be discovered.

    “Sexual identity is part of the paradigm of truth,” says Debord. In a sense, Brophy holds that the works of Gibson are reminiscent of Smith. Sontag promotes the use of dialectic objectivism to read sexuality.

    “Class is a legal fiction,” says Foucault; however, according to Bailey, it is not so much class that is a legal fiction, but rather the stasis, and some would say the absurdity, of class. It could be said that if neodeconstructive sublimation holds, we have to choose between Lyotardist narrative and Sartreist existentialism. An abundance of narratives concerning the role of the artist as reader exist.

    The above was created with


      • It’s not even close to it. Oddly, this is not far from the standards of the American Psychological Association, which no one seems to get up in arms about. The idea is that, if you treat certain things as the norm, you won’t be able to objectively evaluate either those things or things that are different from them, particularly if the things you’re treating as the norm correlate highly with the facts of the matter about you.

        That Tom thinks this is a great offense is, well, indicative of his ability to evaluate information objectively.


      • A whole semester’s worth of PC, with our shocking ignorance of basic civics???!!!

        February 5, 2010
        College Makes Students More Liberal, but Not Smarter About Civics
        By Jill Laster
        While many graduates of American colleges cannot answer basic civics questions, a higher education does make their opinions more liberal on controversial social issues, according to a new report issued on Friday by an academic think tank.

        The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, an independent group with a tradition-minded view of issues, asked about 2,500 randomly selected people more than 100 questions to gauge their civic knowledge, public philosophy, civic behavior, and demographics.

        “The Shaping of the American Mind,” the fourth report from the institute on civic literacy, will be formally released on Wednesday.

        Richard A. Brake, a co-author of the report, said he and his colleagues had sought to see what civic or social lessons students were learning in college.

        The institute found that people who had attained at least a bachelor’s degree were more likely than Americans whose formal education ended with a high-school diploma to take a liberal stance on certain controversial social issues. For example, 39 percent of people whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree supported same-sex marriage, compared with 25 percent with a high-school diploma. The trend continued with advanced degrees: About 46 percent of people with master’s degrees supported same-sex marriage, as did 43 percent of people with Ph.D.’s.

        Previous surveys have found that, in general, college does not bring students up to a high level of civics knowledge. According to the institute’s 2008 report, based on a survey of 2,500, people whose highest level of educational attainment was a bachelor’s degree correctly answered 57 percent of the questions, on average. That is three percentage points lower than a passing grade, according to the survey’s authors.

        Even earlier surveys showed that years in college were only slightly correlated to civics expertise. For a 2006 report the institute surveyed 14,000 college freshmen and seniors on basic civics questions. It found seniors answered an average of 53 percent of the questions correctly, just 1.5 percent higher than freshmen. (After the 2006 report was released, some experts questioned the study’s methodology and focus on a small range of facts.)

        Mr. Brake said results of the studies in the last four years showed that many universities do not place enough emphasis on civics or the basics of American history. He also called for universities to adopt better-balanced curricula.

        “College graduates, whether it be current or graduated in the past, seem to have difficulty knowing basic things about our government and our history,” Mr. Brake said. “Does college share all the blame? Of course not — this is a systemic problem, from K through 12 and all the way up. But universities train our teachers and train our leaders, so they play a role.”


        • Odd, when PPP, which was one of the most accurate polling firms during the last election cycle, says something you dismiss it as the product of a liberal outfit, but when you see a study by a conservative think tank, it must be true.

          I don’t know how you manage all of that dissonance, dude, but you are an expert at it.


          • Because PPP was clearly making trouble, looking to embarrass the GOP with an irrelevant question, a question that was settled by the Supreme Court in 1967 with Loving v. Virginia. Neither does a single poll make clear that there wasn’t “signalling” going on, as in FU, you liberal assholes.

            Now if you have anything intelligent to add [doubtful] about what I’m actually writing about—the civic ignorance of college students—do. Otherwise get off my back.


            • So asking a question about something that was settled by The Supremes is off base. Then i assume asking a question about abortion is off limits? And also imminent domain, the 2nd amendment, etc.


              • Precisely. Polling outfits ask questions about “settled law” all of the time, because the relationship between “settled law” and subsequent attitudes is an interesting topic, both politically and as a matter of social science.


              • Did they ask potentially embarassing questions of Democrats, like the CIA creating AIDS to exterminate the black man? Do the Jews run everything?

                Of course not. And there’s also the question of “signalling.” Is Barack Obama the antiChrist? Put me down for “Strongly Agree” then go fuck yourself.


                • I’ll bet conservtives are more likely to believe the anti-semitic stuff. (Old WASPS were the anti-semites in the day, and are heavily Republican now, and those attitudes die slowly.)

                  Being pro-Israel to support end times prophecy, or because you are Islamophobic and want to bomb those Arab Iranians, is consistent with you being anti-Semitic. Very much so.


                • TVD,
                  FUCK yea, someone did that one on AIDS. The AA response is REALLY fucking interesting, and really fucking frightening.

                  But what will that and a bucket of Crystal Pepsi get you?
                  *bip* *bip* *bip*
                  I suppose it depends on where you’re living, now don’t it?


            • Dude, they were asking a legitimate question about attitudes towards interracial marriage. That you don’t see it as a legitimate question is pretty much irrelevant. Do you doubt the results because it was a liberal outfit? Or do you doubt the results because they asked the question in the first place? If it’s the former, see my previous comment. If it’s the latter, you’ll have to explain this further, because you’re making a claim about how people respond to the question. It would be interesting, however, apply the same level of analysis to the studies with which you agree as well, though (in other words, see the previous comment).


              • It’s an obvious plot to embarrass and “smear” conservatives by asking conservatives what they really believe and giving them the chance to say it out loud where everyone can hear.

                Or that’s the best I can deduce from TvD’s half-coherent ravings on the subject.

                TvD says Loving v. Virginia is settled law. Well, so is Roe v. Wade but the GOP are always trying to repeal or circumvent that, too. Under TvD’s theory, polling shouldn’t ask about abortion rights either because those are settled under Roe – but we continue to do so on that issue as well, because abortion rights are just as relevant as civil rights and racial relations today.


                • Yes, it was an obvious plot to embarrass conservatives. There is no call for re-banning interracial marriage–unlike Roe and abortion, it’s a settled issue.

                  It’s a red herring, and a cudgel for liberals to beat their ideological enemies with.

                  PPP is a Dem organization, and as noted—there were zero questions were the result would have been to embarrass Democrats, such as the CIA/AIDS psychosis, or attitudes towards Jews.

                  Using PPP’s hackery to attack and embarrass is neither helpful nor principled, intended to inflame, not inform. Feh.


                  • There is no call for re-banning interracial marriage

                    46% of Mississippi GOP disagree with you. 14% are “unsure.”

                    It reveals something decidedly unsettling about the GOP. That you dislike what it says about you doesn’t make it illegitimate.


                    • But there is no call for re-banning interracial marriage. It’s a question on a poll designed to impugn Republicans. It is not reality. One of the other questions was “Do you wish the South had won the Civil War?”

                      The poll has zero integrity or sincerity. It’s fantasy football, designed to be used as a weapon, no more or less.


                    • Tom, are you familiar with the date July 4, 1863? Are you familiar with a holiday that falls on that same day of the year every year? Are you familiar with the status of that holiday in a certain MS town until recently? I don’t think these are silly questions. Perhaps you should spend more time in Mississippi (pronounced “Miss-ssipi”).


                    • My worst is worse than your worst? Fine, whatever gets you off. One point of the Texas secession thing was being sick of people whose only goal is to attack the other side. I’m quite sick of this.

                      You get off on the results of a hack poll of zero integrity? OK. But it doesn’t make you or your side any better. In fact, using it as a weapon speaks ill of you.


                    • Do you really not see how a party containing a plurality, if not an outright majority, of members who think the wrong side won the Civil War can never hope to get the votes of minority groups, regardless of whether those people actually want to make undoing the Civil War a priority?

                      If one thinks the Tariff of Abominations was the greater evil than slavery (which is what one is saying if one thinks the “South shoulda won”), then – at best – one literally thinks the fundamental human rights of people of color are less worthy of protection than the rights of Southern states to cheap imports. One might properly believe both are worthy of protection; but what one thinks about who should have won the Civil War says an awful lot about one’s priorities. If your response to the question is “the South,” then you’re making abundantly clear that protecting the civil rights of people of color isn’t something that even shows up on your radar as a priority.


                    • First of all, MarkT, it’s one state, MS. Secondly, it’s a hack poll. Third, even the heinous Al Sharpton would not stop me from voting Democrat if such were my ideals. Bottom feeding has limited probative value.

                      And it would be nice if someone repaired M.A.’s not-inconsequential error on the FP guest post.


                      As of 2011*, the correct figure is 29% of Republican Mississippians, not 46% of the GOP. We have enough bottom feeding going around here without crossing into downright slander. Further, the 29% figure for Mississippi Republicans** is still deplorable, but is not as damning as the inaccurate 46% figure given for all Republicans.

                      Thx in advance for your attention on this matter.
                      *Page 12 or so, I make it: they’re not numbered.

                      **Rep 29%, Independents 23%, Democrats 13% I’m sure we all agree that even 13% is too many.



                    • No Tom, I do know you, even if you’ve lost my respect.

                      It also should be pretty clear that I’m not saying you yourself think the “South shoulda won.” I am however saying that there is indisputably a shockingly high percentage of Republicans who do.

                      While PPP’s intentions in asking the question may have been ignoble (they were) and intended to embarass the GOP (also true), the fact remains that the results really are embarassing, and for legitimate reasons. Rather than whine about being embarassed, Republicans should be asking themselves why so many of their party hold such embarassing views.


                    • I’m not going to return your disrespect, MarkT. It’s not how I was taught and you know that about me now too, that I will not hit back. So do what you must.

                      As for bottom-feeding your side of the aisle, I have no interest. It does not make my side better, nor does it diminish the best of your ideals.

                      And yes, thank you for confirming the hackery of this PPP polling outfit. The poll was clearly designed to be used as a rhetorical weapon.

                      Also, it would be proper to fix or acknowledge M.A.’s serious error on the FP, not just a mention in the comments. 29% of Mississippi Republicans is a long way from 46% of all Republicans.


                    • I already fixed it.

                      And while you have lost my respect, that does not mean I will be uncivil – you should know me well enough by now to know that’s not how I roll. But you will not regain my respect until you realize why you lost it in the first place.


                    • “Rep 29%, Independents 23%, Democrats 13% I’m sure we all agree that even 13% is too many.”

                      This is where it starts to get silly. Yes, 13% is too many. But why does it appear you were only willing to go on record with it being wrong once you could cast your opponents in a negative light?

                      It’s just more of the goddamn same. Oversensitive pseudo-victims are just playing the race card. OH, unless of course, they’re pointing at a lib/Dem. Then racism is wholly evil and ought to be denounced. Give me a breka.


                    • The left-wing PPP’s first poll had 46%, its second [with twice as many surveyed] sunk to 29%. I don’t think much of the poll either way. Its purpose is to fan up race ammo for the benefit of the Dem Party.

                      In the real world, Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi lost his standing in the party for a relatively innocuous stupidity. The GOP takes this crap seriously.

                      And I suspect, Kazzy, that if Brother Scott were all over the LoOG with polls showing Dem antipathy toward Jews or other undelicious attitudes, you would be in WTF same as I. Because this is an exercise in slime, not reality. Your party has Al Sharpton in it. We all have our strange bedfellows.


                    • Tom, in the real world a SITTING MEMBER OF THE KLU KLUX KLAN was elected numerous times to the Senate as a DEMOCRAT but of course the Republicans are the racists. There is no winning these arguments, one side never fights fair, has committed every crime in the book and has brilliantly played the Public Relations game so that it can first commit the crimes then second, blame the other side for the offense. This is the Democratic Party, corrupt to the core and surrounded by useful idiots carrying their water.


                    • wardsmith: empty rhetoric.

                      Many members of the KKK were elected to political office.

                      Harry Truman – inducted because it would get him into a local judgeship, never active as far as any historian knows.

                      Edward Douglass White, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, was accused of membership but it was never corroborated. Similar baseless accusations have been made against Warren G. Harding.

                      Of course, you’re probably referring to Robert Byrd, who was indeed elected a number of times and yet repented his actions, calling Klan membership his “greatest mistake.”

                      And then there’s the obvious shifts that occurred as the South went solidly Republican after 1965; very few members of the Dixiecrats survived, a couple switched to the Republican party directly and the rest were all run out in primary challenges or direct challenges as Nixon’s Southern Strategy took hold.

                      If you want people to say that 70 years ago, the Democrats (Dixiecrat faction specifically) were racists? I’ll be happy to grant it. Doesn’t have any bearing on the indisputable fact that the GOP are the modern home of Southern-style racism.


                    • They cannot win on the strength of their ideas.

                      Oh, that’s too funny.

                      History’s shown the Republicans don’t win on ideas. They win on homophobia (gay men are going to “destroy marriage”). They win on racism (black men or women are mooching “welfare queens”, latinos are “job-stealing wetbacks” or all members of drug gangs).

                      They win on the Southern Strategy, which has been their calling card since 1972.

                      And when their ideas falter, as they always do, they go full-on DARVO and crank the rhetoric up to 11.

                      Case in point: it was the GOP who demanded that the so called “fiscal cliff” be placed in the BCA 2011 compromise. Now, they’re blaming the President for “driving us towards the fiscal cliff” every day on the radio for the echo chamber to hear. And all the while they’re screaming about how the “liberal media” is blaming them for the very provisions they demanded be in the bill. Classic DARVO.

                      The GOP ought to learn from that age-old saying: be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.


                    • Race-bait away.

                      DARVO. Here’s an idea: when you can come up with ideas that don’t involve claiming there is a “war on men”, a “war on christmas”, or about a thousand other fake, DARVO-style wars and actually run on GOP ideas? We might see if your ideas win.

                      But they never have before and you know your track record on ideas sucks. That’s why you’re so stuck on the idea that the reason people voted for Barack Obama was his skin color rather than that his ideas, and his party’s ideas, were better than your southern strategy and odious rhetoric.


                    • I think I’m done responding to you. That was a pretty disgusting comment and just proved my point.

                      All you have is DARVO and abusive rhetoric from your side. If you had ideas, you’d have brought them out. But you don’t.


                    • We corrected your error, M.A. Our work is done here.


                      As of 2011*, the correct figure is 29% of Republican Mississippians, not 46% of the GOP. We have enough bottom feeding going around here without crossing into downright slander. Further, the 29% figure for Mississippi Republicans** is still deplorable, but is not as damning as the inaccurate 46% figure given for all Republicans.

                      *Page 12 or so, I make it: they’re not numbered.

                      **Rep 29%, Independents 23%, Democrats 13% I’m sure we all agree that even 13% is too many.



                    • Dear people who run this blog,

                      A guy on your masthead just wrote this, “Race-bait away. We’re inured to it. And when Barack Obama is gone, you’ll have to win elections on your merits again.” After claiming that Dems only win because of the race card.

                      If you don’t boot this racist off your masthead it sends a message that people of other races and (given his sexist comments) genders aren’t welcome here and.

                      And if any of you defend him or say he’s not all that bad, or that you tolerate and even appreciate some of his comments, or have hom on livechats, you’re sending the same message to everyone around that this kind of gross BS is okay around here.

                      Seriously. Dump the guy.

                      Makes me sick.


                    • My Dear fellow Liberal Shazbot,

                      I took the liberty of hopping over to the League’s commenting policy tab to refresh my memory.

                      After a quick perusal I’d like to present a couple of points for your consideration.
                      -The League of Ordinary Gentlemen’s commenting policy is very carefully tailored to be small and minimally restrictive. Open dialogue is held of paramount value.*

                      -The only reasons given for deletion of a comment (or by extension banning of a user) is when the comment in question makes blanket ad hominims against either the original poster or another commenter the comment is directed at.

                      -Spam is also unacceptable and is banned.

                      -Based on my perusal I do not think that Tom has violated the commenting policy. His statement, while knee slappingly ludicrous, does not constitute an attack against either another commentor or the original poster. Instead it constitutes an attack (albeit a very ineffective one) against the Democratic Party of the United States.

                      -Hyperbole and lunacy are not in violation of the League’s commenting policy. This is a fortunate thing since I personally am occasionally as crazy as a catfish and indulge in hyperbole like a fundamentalist pastor indulges in cocaine off of gay prostitutes six pack.

                      -Since Tom’s comment doesn’t merit deletion I don’t think it would represent a cause for scrubbing Tom off of the masthead. Many of the people on the masthead hold views that many people consider abhorrent. Some of them believe redistribution is an legitimate government policy; some of them think it’s an act of violence against a hapless public; some of them think abortion is murder; some of them think it’s an integral part of women’s control over their own bodies and destiny; some of them think that the GOP has gone as crazy as a bag full of squirrels; some of them think the GOP is the only hope for sanity in America today. The list goes on and on. The League doesn’t typically drive people off the masthead or out of the conversations for those kinds of beliefs (even if they come off loopy or offensive).

                      -So in conclusion I don’t think there’s a case to be made for banishing Tom from the Masthead even though I disagree with him on almost everything he writes. Especially lately.

                      I’m not religious (at ~all~) but it strikes me that “by your fruits you shall know them” is a pertinent line to invoke. Tom’s utterly laughable assertion that a notable majority of the country re-elected the Democrats in both Houses and the Presidency (but were stymied in the House by entirely legal and legitimate gerrymandering mind) because they were snookered by race baiting is so utterly ludicrous that it casts a shadow over all the various arguments he makes. This is bad for his personal image and bad for the conservatism he advocates on behalf of but it does no harm to Liberals or the Democratic Party (other than getting their blood pressure up). At some point Tom or his party may wonder if this strategy and his statements really are helping their cause and rethink it. I don’t see any reason we should hurry him or them along to that conclusion. Time in the political wilderness is good for parties and not being taken seriously by other commentators can be a healthy corrective.

                      As a side note I wish both sides of the debate would ease back on the meta a tich. We liberals are far too quick to start both denouncing the entire community based on our personal offense at someone’s positions or debating tactics or call for the powers that be to start administering righteous retribution on people who say things we don’t like. Lord (Lady?) knows I’m tired of the right wing and libertarian penchant for sighing in exasperation and grumbling about how the League was better back in the old days when the internet ran on coal and the commenters were all libertarians, right wingers and some milquetoast centrists. We’ve got some active red meat liberals around, I think that’s nice!

                      So, in conclusion if one finds that one’s opponent is making a fool of his or her self it is my opinion that the most productive course of action is to let them get on with it and then eventually interject some humor to tie a bow on their silly behavior.

                      So I’d suggest that the status quos should remain.

                      Sincerely and affectionately,

                      *I’d add that maintaining a certain level of courtesy and decorum, while cherished by many of the commentariate, is not an official League policy and is instead organically encouraged by the commenters.

                      **North does not run the League nor does North in any way influence anyone who does run the League and thank goodness for that because if North was running things there’d be dust and those woolly little dust balls everywhere that look like \ pre-cat-ingestion hairballs and that’d be fishing gross. North’s opinion is strictly his own and you read it at your own risk. Excessive reading of North’s opinions can lead to verdant tongue, vapors, post partum baldness and puts you at some risk of being taken by The Fear.


                    • That’s great North, stand by the racist, mysoginist.


                      Upthread people were talking about how there are some bad pressures to conform, and conforming to tolerativng TVD is clearly one of them.



                    • BTW, “doesn’t engage in personal attacks” is a pretty low bar for being on the masthead. Lots of neonazis or real, hardcore racists would meet that standard. But you wouldn’t tolerate them there, nor would you defend their point of view as a part of the discussion.


                    • Shaz- North wasn’t standing by TVD. He was expressing, in epic fashion, the idea that this place is a public forum for discussion for people of all points of view. It takes a truly massive step over the line to merit deletion of a post or being stricken from the masthead. That someone posts stupid things doesn’t imply every other FP endorses it. There are all sorts of things we all feel passionately that others disagree with. We would be well served by everybody toning back some of the bile and emotion. But that’s just me.

                      This is like a bar where everybody can step up to have drink and say what they want. If you don’t like what they have to say mock them or walk away. This isn’t an echo chamber for any side, its a freewheeling discussion. You can have one or the other, but not both at the same time. I can assure you i find Tom’s posts to be more then anything, an insult to the many actually smart conservatives out there. he isn’t don’t his side any favours. But this is simply a public discussion for anybody who wants to spout off.


                    • Consider, Shazbot, the consequences of pushing Tom out of here. These things do get around the Internet. Far more people read us than write here. RedState drops the ban hammer on its dissidents. DailyKos is far worse, they’ll just get abusive. That’s not what anyone wants around here.

                      Tom treads a very fine line and well he knows it. He thinks he’s doing Liberals a favour, repeating all these silly mantras he picks up from Drudge et. al. So what, Tom says stupid things from time to time. Matt Drudge says them every day and gets millions of hits. But eventually, the line Tom treads will grow blurred for his much treading on it and he will forget where it is.

                      North has laid out where the line is and why we should all respect that line. But we cannot become a collection of hothouse flowers. It’s bad for business. For all the fine talk from Liberals about diversity of opinions, we don’t handle diversity very well. Banning Tom will not solve the problem. It will only prove we can’t observe our own line.


                    • I didn’t say he should be banned. I said he should be pulled off the masthead and everyone should condemn his stupidity instead of finding ways to defend him or his right to say it.

                      The attacks on my comment send a message that TVD is liked and respected and his comment is fine and that people around here respect (even if they disagree with) his view.

                      I don’t respect it, but it isn’t quite ban worthy.


                    • One of the other questions was “Do you wish the South had won the Civil War?”

                      Asking that of someone from the South.(a white someone, anyway) sets a pretty damned high bar. “Do you recognize that your ancestors’ way of life was so evil that all of us, including you, are better off that it was ended violently, leading to defeat, humiliation, and occupation?” I’m fairly sure that most Germans would answer that “yes”. I’m dubious that would be true of the Japanese. If I were from Alabama, raised on the nonsense that passes for Civil War history these days [1], I might answer that one the wrong way myself.

                      1. You know: Slavery would have ended in a few years anyway, the secessions were about states’ rights and tariffs, Lee was a great man who hated slavery but fought for his homeland anyway, etc.


                    • Neither Blaise or North or I have defended TVD in anyway. B pointed out that T deliberately walks a fine line. Sadly he uses his smarts to tightrope walk instead of learning. N expressed he doesn’t think much of Tom’s posts and i certainly didn’t defend him. Saying this is a public forum for all sorts of hot, sincerely believed and widely disagreed with ideas doesn’t imply any of us think T isn’t usually trolling or showing how much conservatives need to learn if they are ever to win another Pres election.

                      Free speech and public forums means people we seriously disagree with will get there turn to speak.


                    • BTW, “doesn’t engage in personal attacks” is a pretty low bar for being on the masthead. Lots of neonazis or real, hardcore racists would meet that standard. But you wouldn’t tolerate them there, nor would you defend their point of view as a part of the discussion

                      A few points.

                      1. North did not defend Tom’s point of view. North only defended his continued presence.

                      2. We actually used to have a neo-confederate paleocon here as a regular commenter. We only banned him when he started becoming abusive. So, who stays and who goes has nothing to do with the content of their views. The league does not brand itself as representing any particular view point, there was a time before the influx of libertarians when the league consisted of a mixture of derigiste conservatives, social democrats and more radical socialists. There was a time when almost everyone was a libertarian, now we’ve got a mix of moderate libertarians, conservatives and liberals.

                      3. If we started kicking out people based on how offensive their views are, then none of us would be safe. We would all be forced to censor ourselves out of fear of losing what to many of us is our only feasible avenue to communicate our views to a large audience. For example, I am, notoriously, the biggest democracy sceptic in the Masthead. I have also come out as saying that the Nuremberg trials were a farce. That’s the nearest that comes to anything resembling Nazi or fascist sympathising that goes on in respectable parts of the blogosphere. There have been calls to have me kicked out before. I wonder what happens if we start with Tom? Where would it stop? Do we want that kind of pressure on FPers to monitor the content of their posts?

                      4. How is Tom spouting what seems to be standard republican rhetoric somehow an offence so beyond the pale that it warrants removal of FPer privileges? Do you think that half your country is beyond the pale? And if we are talking about a deficiency of rationality or for that matter patience or minor violations of decorum, I would like to remind people of motes and beams, the priorities of removing them in which order and from whose eyes.


                    • Shazbot, the only way I’ve ever found to cope with Tom was with either the velvet glove of elaborate courtesy or the stark fist of direct opposition. He seems to respect those two approaches.

                      Attempting to punish him is both fruitless and pointless. It seems to come in waves around here.

                      The other day, I was getting onto an elevator. Out scuttled a little boy, perhaps nine or ten years old with the guiltiest look on his face. I got in, to find he’d pressed half the buttons, leaving me to watch the doors open and close at a half-dozen stops. Little bastard, heh heh.

                      I wish Tom would stop pressing everyone’s buttons. In like measure, I’d like everyone to quit responding quite so vehemently to his stupid teasing.


                    • “doesn’t engage in personal attacks” is a pretty low bar for being on the masthead. ” Exactly. Have you read some of freaks they let post here. But yeah, this is a blog, a great one its own way, but its only a blog.


                    • “actually used to have a neo-confederate paleocon here as a regular commenter”

                      Was he on the masthead and invited to leaguecast videos? Tom isn’t just not banned, his comments are respected and defended as being “legitimate” or interesting or worth discussing, explicitly or implicitly, even by people who disagree with him. You are sending the signal that his views are worth keeping around right now. Please stop.

                      “If we started kicking out people based on how offensive their views are, then none of us would be safe. ”

                      Slippery slope fallacy. 10 yard penalty.

                      And I didn’t say ban him. I said kick him off the masthead. Stop saying anything about him other than that he should screw off and quit saying racist or mysoginist stuff. And stop defending his point of view. That’s all I’m asking. Because if we do that, it might make the league inclusive. Don’t do that and the league won’t be inclusive. Ever.


                      “This is like a bar where everybody can step up to have drink and say what they want.”

                      This is like a bar where racists say racist and mysoginist stuff and nobody yells at them to piss off and never come back, even if they have a legal right to speak their mind. (That sort of bar is also a bar where non-white people don’t feel welcome, BTW.) And this is a bar where non-white men have said, explicitly, that they don’t feel welcome. Yet still you drink with a guy who says racist stuff, but you argue with the guy who is yelling at the racist.

                      In fact this is like a bar where the guy who says the racist stuff has his picture above the bar or, maybe even the bar is named after him.


                    • In fact this is like a bar where the guy who says the racist stuff has his picture above the bar or, maybe even the bar is named after him.

                      I find myself in agreement with Shazbot. I’ve crossed the line when I let my temper get the better of me, I’ve been chastised for it, and I’ve watched myself since.

                      TvD has said some of the worst, most racist and most misogynist things I’ve seen on this blog. Moreover, he’s the poster child for the DARVO-type activity that the GOP has been engaging in for too long.

                      DARVO is a form of abuse and part of a larger pattern of abusive behavior. I point out the GOP doesn’t engage in campaigning on policy and ideas, and Tom’s response is to accuse me of “drinking from the toilet.”

                      So, I agree with Shazbot. I don’t think Tom has done anything banworthy, but I think he’s a main contributing factor to why you have so few women commenting.


                    • Was he on the masthead and invited to leaguecast videos? Tom isn’t just not banned, his comments are respected and defended as being “legitimate” or interesting or worth discussing, explicitly or implicitly, even by people who disagree with him.

                      So, people who disagree (some even rather vehemently) with his views are respecting and defending him and his views. Got that.

                      You are sending the signal that his views are worth keeping around right now. Please stop.

                      This is exactly like the conservatives saying that legalisation of gay marriage endorses the idea that homosexual relationships are not sinful. No, just as the legalisation of gay marriage merely means that people are free to do whatever they want with consenting others, keeping Tom as an FPer involves no endorsement of his views, especially when many FPers have in fact pushed back against his ideas when he voiced them.

                      10 yard penalty.

                      And who is using language that assumes american-ness here?

                      And I didn’t say ban him. I said kick him off the masthead. Stop saying anything about him other than that he should screw off and quit saying racist or mysoginist stuff. And stop defending his point of view. That’s all I’m asking. Because if we do that, it might make the league inclusive. Don’t do that and the league won’t be inclusive. Ever.

                      Neither was I. I was talking about removing Tom from the masthead as well. I don’t know that doing so would make Tom unwilling to comment as well, but if you removed me from the masthead, I would be too ashamed/and or resentful to show my face in these parts. And for me that is the end of any wide audience for the near future. Nor was I making a slippery slope argument. I’m saying that there is no rule that would get rid of Tom which could also not be used against the a number of the FPers like myself.

                      “This is like a bar where everybody can step up to have drink and say what they want.”

                      This is like a bar where racists say racist and mysoginist stuff and nobody yells at them to piss off and never come back, even if they have a legal right to speak their mind. (That sort of bar is also a bar where non-white people don’t feel welcome, BTW.)

                      Only people do yell at Tom. Tom is the most yelled at guy in this place. we are not telling people to stop yelliing at him. All we are saying is that you don’t get to kick anyone out unless they have crossed lines that we have explicitly set up. Tom has not done that.

                      And this is a bar where non-white men have said, explicitly, that they don’t feel welcome. Yet still you drink with a guy who says racist stuff, but you argue with the guy who is yelling at the racist.

                      FWIW, I am neither white nor American. I feel very welcome here. I am from a minority ethnic group in my country as well. Not only that, I belong to a minority subgroup of my minority ethnic group. I have a fairly good idea of what it takes to communicate with people who come from a different background.

                      I have had more than my share of arguments with Tom in the past. Tom can attest to that.

                      Oh, and this DARVO stuff? comparing Tom to a sexual abuser is way not cool. It is a personal attack. Stop it.

                      DARVO is also of questionable pedigree being a concept used to discredit lots of parents in the 90s during the repressed sexual abuse memories hysteria. (i.e People invented DARVO to attack innocents)


                    • Murali:

                      Oh, and this DARVO stuff? comparing Tom to a sexual abuser is way not cool. It is a personal attack. Stop it.

                      DARVO is not limited to sexual abuse.

                      DARVO refers to a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of “falsely accused” and attacks the accuser’s credibility or even blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.

                      Yes, they mention sexual predators, but ANY offender may engage in this behavior. The GOP have done so for quite a long while. I have provided numerous examples of the behavior and Tom has provided a few of them as his own arguments.

                      It’s really nothing new, except to be codified by acronym. It was the standard method introduced by L. Ron Hubbard for the “defense” of Scientology as well; it is the basis of the “Fair Game” policy they employ.

                      The GOP has behaved in ways that I find abusive. Abusive towards women, abusive towards minorities, abusive towards anyone who questions them, their tactics, or their rhetoric.

                      Their response follows perfectly the DARVO framework, and I will not apologize for labeling it as such. It is not “sexual” abuse, but they are definitely abusive.


          • Here’s what’s fundamentally wrong with TVD’s and ISI’s approach. I could drill my students on basic civics questions until I’m blue in the face just to ensure that students know such vital issues of the day as how old you have to be to become a congressman. Or I could have them read a peer reviewed research paper that shows that initiatives that limit some group’s rights are far more likely to be approved by voters than initiatives in general are.

            In a survey, folks ask the first question as “civics knowledge,” and don’t ask the second one. But what’s more important for students to know?

            And I’ll let you all in on a little secret. We political scientists don’t teach civics, we teach political science. You get all your civics in K-12 (hopefully), then we get serious about studying how political systems work, not teaching little Johnny to worship George Washington and remember how many years you have to be a citizen before you can be a Senator.

            Some people, unfortunately, never seem to learn the difference between trivia and knowledge.


            • Some people, unfortunately, never seem to learn the difference between trivia and knowledge.

              Here’s an important general lesson for everyone in academia. Ready?

              Are you teaching at < college level? Stop reading. Are you teaching a remedial class? Stop reading. With me so far? Good. Does the number of the course you're teaching begin with a "1"? Stop reading. Still here? Great. If you make an exam, and you feel it necessary to forbid the use of a computer because you're afraid that the answers will all be on the web, you're probably a terrible test author. You're testing for data, not knowledge. And if you got past all those previous questions, you almost certainly should be testing for knowledge, not data.


    • A stupid data question is:

      “Describe the first 128 bits of the IPv4 header.”

      Seriously, nobody needs to know that. Not even the top network engineer needs to have that committed to memory.

      A slightly less stupid data question would be:

      “Describe the 13 mandatory fields in the IPv4 header and why they are significant.”

      A knowledge question would be:

      “Describe the relationship between TCP and IP, version 4. Include a proper classification for IP and TCP in their respective layers of the OSI network model. If either protocol can be said to not properly match a layer of the OSI network model, describe which functions of the protocol fall outside of the boundaries of the layer in which you have classified it.”


        • Mike is joking, but a fleshed out version of that answer takes the stand that Mr. Lovelace would take… were he a true believer in fighting the good fight.

          “I will challenge the premise behind the question, and show that I not only understand it, but understand things outside the scope of the original question.”


  • I don’t know how others around here felt about themselves after they took of their mortarboards and gowns and looked back over their college years. I went into the military after two years of college and resumed my education thereafter. I never really felt as if I’d learned all that much. I’d been introduced to many subjects. The better teachers had taught me how to learn a subject but what I’d learned was terribly cursory.

    The military had seriously alienated me from the my fellow students. I didn’t want to talk about my time in the service. There was the age difference, too. I knew a lot more about the government: I was constantly surprised by how little my fellow students understood about the political subjects upon which they’d opine, hour after hour.

    Education did change me, it changes everyone. But it’s not education which changes us, it’s experience. If kids these days emerge from college with a lack of basic civics knowledge and a lack of bias toward same-sex marriage, maybe they met some gay people on campus and formed an opinion.

    I’d known gay men in the military, I’d helped protect them. That’s what soldiers did back then, these were our fellow troops, you always covered for your own people. That opinion arose not from some Librul Politically Correct Indoctrination Seminar. The hippies were just plain stupid, most of them, and a surprising number of them were bigots. The school administration was clueless and overworked. The country was going to hell in a hand basket. In my senior year, Nixon was going apeshit and so was Congress.

    Put it this way, we learned about civics from Watergate than from some textbook. But learning tolerance of gays, I learned that in uniform and I learned it in spite of the rules about homosexuals in the Army. I watched soldiers come in, green as grass, still racist, still stupid. We clued them in fast. Call it political correctness, we’d beat their asses if they started talking shit about anyone in our unit and we did not tolerate squealers or ass kissers. You hung with your squad and your platoon and they were your family. Once that all got straightened out, they were good troops.


    • A+. My biggest frustration is students who’ve just never been anywhere or done anything. I’ve literally taken students to Chicago and had them tell me they’ve never seen a revolving door before. I’ve met students who by the time they get to college have never before left the state of Michigan. I had a student graduate last year who came from a small town in Indiana and whose only goal in life was to go back to that small town as soon as he graduated from our small college in our small Michigan town; couldn’t get him to even consider studying abroad or taking a semester in a program in D.C. He wasn’t interested in actually learning, because he wasn’t interested in being challenged–he’d never been asked to stretch himself and confront a new culture or new ideas, and he actively resisted engaging new ideas (his senior thesis was basically an effort to prove that what his dad told him about taxes was true). We had a student once who was a commuter, and his mom wouldn’t let him stay overnight on campus once because, if you can believe it, he’d never been away from home overnight before.

      Any of you who have kids, take them places. If there’s a program in their high school that takes them to another country for a week, scrimp and save to make it happen. If they’re younger, find a summer camp to send them to for a week each summer, if there’s any possible way you can scrape to afford it. Tell them you won’t pay their tuition in college unless they spend a semester abroad. It’s the best gift you can possibly give them, and a hell of a lot safer than how Blaise got his experience (not dissing your experience, Blaise, but I suspect you don’t wish for most kids to go through what you went through).

      I’ve never had a student who studied abroad who didn’t come back much richer for the experience, a more thoughtful student, a more able and accomplished person, with more confidence and a bit of gleam in their eye about their future prospects.

      Give your kids as much experience as you can, or you’re robbing them and pre-emptively slashing the value of their college education.


      • +1
        I was a very shy immature kid when i got to college. The education was good and helpful, but only really useful when combined with the experience of meeting people, traveling and doing different things that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I wish my parents had pushed me to study abroad or something like that.


              • “My biggest frustration is students who’ve just never been anywhere or done anything.”

                though your deep fatigue with a lack of curiosity is understandable, to be fair, not all of us once we got to college had families who had the money to travel, etc. wasn’t in the cards, beyond sneaking into the city now and then in high school. work school work etc etc and so on.

                on the other hand, naivety makes for funny stories sometimes.

                my hs girlfriend’s older sister, upon hearing i was going to a college on long island, told me “just watch out for the japs!” i was shocked! now, they were an indian family but had come to america when they were young, so i spent part of the next day tearing through the encyclopedia at the library trying to find out if there was any history i should be aware of, etc, and came up with nothing.

                i finally broke down a week later and asked my gf why her sister was racist against japanese people.


              • dhex,
                Did anyone ever mention “Jewish American Princess” to you? rofl.

                I’ve got worse stories (not from my own hometown, mind). On a bus trip to NYC, high school kids saying, “Those are real live black people out there!” (hadn’t seen one in their life, apparently)


              • dhex,

                My comment may have come across as disliking people who hadn’t traveled. I should emphasize that “frustration” just means they tend to be more difficult to engage. They’re not all bad people, by any means, and it’s a delight to watch the ones that do learn how to engage, and who suddenly decide that by god they’re going to go somewhere, somehow, sometime, even if they can’t do it right now.

                To be more specific, the ones that are simply hard to like are the ones who strongly resist getting engaged in learning, who don’t want to hear different ideas, or about different political systems, or can never get past thinking about other cultures as just weird, or somehow lesser because they’re not American. The ones who, when given the opportunity to travel, even if it’s only vicariously, simply lapse into daydreaming about going home the next weekend because they haven’t seen their high school buds since the last weekend. That divide doesn’t actually fall on class lines, so far as my casual observation tells me.


              • “My comment may have come across as disliking people who hadn’t traveled. I should emphasize that “frustration” just means they tend to be more difficult to engage. They’re not all bad people, by any means, and it’s a delight to watch the ones that do learn how to engage, and who suddenly decide that by god they’re going to go somewhere, somehow, sometime, even if they can’t do it right now.”

                believe you me, as the spouse of an academic who teaches some intro english courses, i get it. i was so naive heading in – the first person in the entire family going to college and all that jazz – that i expected some kind of idealized, socratic, entirely imaginary experience totally created out of my fantasies. when i realized most students were just checking in (just like high school) and not really interested in learning as i understood it (just like high school), which itself was a fairly absurd, idealized version of learning. maybe that would have changed from traveling more, but i think cultural expectations/experiences of the home base would have trumped that regardless.

                as a side note, i presume your institution has those programs you can zip a paper into and it feeds you back a color coded version with x% of the material being plagiarized or suspect? i’m still somewhat shocked that students at the wife’s institution – everyone has access to the same service – act shocked that she can figure out that they’ve copied from wikipedia or that with a bit of digging that paper they spent all weekend writing was actually done in two hours on a tuesday afternoon, two days after deadline. weird.


              • For my intro course I have students submit it through the safeassign feature in Blackboard, which does a plagiarism check. The advantage is that they get the same feedback I do, so they can see for themselves what I’m seeing.

                For my higher level courses I usually know the students well enough to have a sense of their writing level, and usually just opportunistically google phrases that don’t sound right–usually of the “wow, this sentence is written at a really high level” type not sounding right.


              • do you get students who go through the checking process and then submit it anyway?

                “Did anyone ever mention “Jewish American Princess” to you? rofl.”

                it simply never came up. i grew up in a part of new jersey that had more buddhists than jews.

                also took me a number of years of dealing with people from long island before i realized that “north shore type” or derisive references to the north shore meant “rich jewish person who annoys me”.


              • do you get students who go through the checking process and then submit it anyway?

                The program checks after submission, so they couldn’t do that. Although they could submit a second time and ask me to ignore the first.


      • Well said and touches on the very point that the professor (however clumsily) wanted to make.
        That is, being exposed to other viewpoints and perspectives is a terrific way of challenging what you think you know.
        Traveling usually has this terrific effect of forcing us to experience the world from outside our own framework.

        I remember speaking to an Arab student in France in the mid 80’s who was honestly puzzled by the American hostility to the USSR; the Afghan war meant squat to him, and he saw the US and USSR as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

        However, he was astonished- and appalled- by my stated neutrality in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

        Asking people to put aside their “American-ness, White-ness, etc” may be cloying or trite, but it aims in the right direction.


      • In the beginning, all things are hard. There’s so much ground to cover. If Book Larnin’ Education is to accomplish anything in our lives, it begins with the preface: “You’re only getting an introduction. Scholars have worked this subject matter for centuries. You’re only looking at a textbook. This is not the real thing, kid.”

        Education is wasted on some people. My old man taught college journalism for a few years. He would have some of his students over, I thought they were the coolest people, not realising at the time I was looking at the very best from among his students. College itself was such a let-down in that respect. I dove into everything. Other people around me couldn’t care less about education: for them, classes and papers and labs were just doin’ the needful. For them, it was all about the social life. Petty stuff. Hormones.

        After two years of it though, all I could see was myself turning into a carbon copy of my father.

        I’m told the most rewarding aspect of being an educator is seeing what becomes of your students. The phrases in loco parentis and alma mater imply a sort of parental affection and obligation between teacher and student. I had some wonderful professors.

        But Lord, it must be a sore trial to endure the incurious student. That has to be infuriating. Grading a poorly written paper. Attempting to solicit feedback in class. Dealing with pedants, fools, nitwits, clowns, cranks, the blankly ignorant. I couldn’t do it.


      • A week in another country nets most kids little. When I went, it was little more than “go shopping” and “eat lotta pizza”. Just saying. I learned a lot more from three weeks in Greece (or Spain) or one day spent in Morrocco, than from any stupid class trip.


  • If I’d wanted a course in left-wing gibberish, I’d have ordered a course in left-wing gibberish.

    You’re a smart guy, so here’s my two cents: you’re intentionally ignoring Burt’s thesis to unintentionally confirm Burt’s thesis.


    • Not at all. I read this blog and see that manipulating language mutilates clarity of thought. The tyranny of cliches, as one fellow put it.

      This is not to say the right doesn’t do it, but they don’t waste as much time and tuition.

      I understand Burt’s point fine, thank you. A correction here, a day here, perhaps even a week to learn to read and write leftish in anticipation of an academic career, where the academic establishment takes turns writing gibberish for each other.

      But this is no replacement for actual knowledge. My own point, thank you. I’m stunned reading otherwise erudite college types here and elsewhere so completely ignorant of what we are and how we got here.


      • “write leftish”

        And you’re worried about a “tyranny of cliches.” Dude, you haven’t written a comment on this thread that wasn’t precisely the cliche Burt was talking about. Honestly, let go for a moment and try to see the way you look to others. I promise you, it will do you some good.


  • Burt- Just wanted to point out, before the thread goes to far off the point, this was a great discussion of the “short hand” we use in our discussions. We in general have invested to much in words like liberal and conservative. They are perfectly good, innocent words that can’t carry all the political and social meaning we heap on them. Good writing is specific writing. Vague writing is sort of not really all that good. Lovelace could use some lessons in that.


    • Agreed. The only thing that potentially bothers me about the prof’s syllabus, does so for basically this reason, even thigh it is not the focus of the complaints. Specifically, I am referring to the statement that the purpose of the standard is to serve a “fundamental principle of social justice.”. I think liberals don’t understand just how vague that term is, nor how difficult it is to avoid the conclusion that the phrase “fundamental principle of social justice” sounds like “fundamental principle of modern American Leftism.”.

      But, as I said, that does not seem to be the part of this that is drawing outrage. The part that is drawing outrage is most readily interpreted as just a request that students in a critical thinking class… demonstrate that they are thinking critically.


      • Not to turn this into a group hug and away from continuous mutual vituperation by Mark’s point about the use of “social justice” is correct. I don’t have an issue with its vagueness per se but liberals don’t understand how its heard by non-liberals. It is often heard, not entirely incorrectly, as Liberal Principles. I think its a fine concept to work towards and engage with but if we use a term that will be misunderstood or set some people immediately on edge its less likely to lead to productive discussion.


          • “Social justice” is a catchall for the secular-left agenda, untethered from its Catholic origins in this current form. Why, abortion as “reproductive rights” is “social justice!” in its modernist incarnation. You see the absurdity and the dishonesty of trying to connect the “social justice” bleat of 2012 to the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.

            That said, there are things that Thomism can teach the libertarian side of contemporary American conservatism. Just as Adam Smith’s invisible hand had a heart for the poor, since we are by nature social animals, a “radical individualism” is contrary to our natures–both our basest nature and our highest nature.


            • I’ve never heard reproductive rights referred to as “social justice.” In general, “social justice” is used on the left to refer to the treatment of the poor. Can you point me to an example of someone using “social justice” to refer to reproductive rights? If so, I’ll buy your point. If not, you’re going to have to start from scratch in convincing me that “social justice” as it’s used today isn’t the descendent of Aquinas.


              • It might depend on what one means by “descended” from Aquinas… but “Social Justice” as used in SWE (in homage to BlaiseP) is indeed a catch-all that includes, among many other things, “Reproductive Rights.” A perfunctory google search yields a wikipedia page dedicated to Reproductive Justice, 7,160 Google Scholar articles (restricted to 2012 alone), plus you just missed the “Reproductive Rights as a Social Justice Issue” hosted by the Center for Reproductive Rights this past October 5th.

                As a Catholic who does take seriously Social Justice, I merely point out that the term as it is commonly used today has wandered down many different roads that may or may not lead back to Aquinas; at this point, it is an appropriated term.


                • Aquinas is as close as the Catholic Church ever got to a reconciliation with science, and that only by aping Aristotle. But Aquinas wanted to castrate science, paring away doubt and replacing it with faith.


                • Marchmaine, I think that forum sounds pretty interesting. I could see the argument that, in order to achieve social justice, economic independence for women is necessary, and in order to achieve that, reproductive freedom is a necessity. Oddly, I don’t find this inconsistent with the Thomist conception of social justice, even if Catholics are anti-reproductive freedom as a rule.


                  • Also, it looks like that “reproductive justice” movement, which I now see treating reproductive justice as part of a larger “social justice framework,” is both somewhat new and not representative of the mainstream “secular left” use of the phrase. But it is definitely used in that context, and I hadn’t seen it before. Thanks for finding it.


                  • Chris, Perhaps an occasion where the Religious Left was in advance of the Secular Left? The elision(s) among American Catholics certainly picked up steam after Humanae Vitae in 1968, and has been in full force my entire adult life.

                    But here I rather agree with Mark that the term has been fully appropriated by non-Catholics (and why not, it’s not a particularly Catholic term that should merit copyright protection) and means lots of things to lots of people. But you got me thinking about the use of the term (Social Justice) itself and its origins for Catholics, so I went back to the primary Catholic texts on the subject: Rerum Novarum (1891), Quadragesimo Anno (1931), Populorum Progressio (1967), and Centissimus Annus (1991).

                    The term is never mentioned in RN. Social Justice is specifically referenced at least 5 times in QA and is very clearly used to defend a Just and Living wage for workers. Interestingly, in PP it is referenced specifically four times and always in reference to Rich Nations owing Justice to Poor nations. CA makes three references and somewhat officially “blesses” the terms Social Doctrine and Social Magisterium as originating with RN and continuing through the other encyclicals; otherwise the use of Social Justice in CA is with regards the injustices of Marxism (which, incidentally, led some of my co-religionists to perhaps overstate CA with regards Market Capitalism… but that’s another kettle of fish).

                    I take your point that Secular Liberals can and do make the argument for reproductive rights as a form of social justice vis-a-vis the independence of women. That is rather the point of the original kerfuffle about the term and its use.

                    The encyclicals, however, very clearly articulate that the first functioning unit the living wage is to defend is the family, and specifically decries the state of affairs which forces both spouses to work outside the home as an injustice. Total independence and atomization of society is squarely in the crosshairs when the encyclicals tackle justice. One might, I suppose, finesse the matter by standing on the principle of just wages for the support of families and remain silent on who precisely earns that wage. But arguing that “reproductive rights” are a positive good so that both spouses may work is not something supported by the terms… not specifically owing the the “reproductive” part, but owing to the injustice it inflicts on the family.

                    Not that I expect secular leftists to necessarily find the above persuasive, but there is much in Catholic Social doctrine that might make for good neighbors, even when we need good fences.


            • “Social justice” is a catchall for the secular-left agenda, untethered from its Catholic origins in this current form.

              This is more or less my objection to Mr. Farmer’s use of the word “statist”, so objection upheld.

              I don’t know that I entirely agree with your estimation, Tom, and there’s at least a group of nuns who disagree with you, but it’s at least an arguable position.


              • Thx, PatC. It’s nice to get a word in sledgewise now and then.

                We’re having a go at John Locke over at my Am History blog, and Locke is not a big “distributive justice” guy, except of course re the fulfillment of basic needs, something even the iciest glibertarian has no objection to guaranteeing.

                Locke’s theory can be considered an extensive re-elaboration, in polemic against Filmer, of the anti-monopolistic principle characteristic of the whole of Scholastic social thought: this principle is intimately connected with the principle of man’s natural liberty.

                Locke maintains a negative and formal conception of justice: justice prohibits interference with others’ liberty of appropriation. Alongside the justice is the positive and conditional obligation of charity which prescribes the transfer of some of one’s own goods to others who need them in order to survive. But for Locke there are precise limits on the obligation of charity: the application of charity suspends the application of justice only when the immediate physical survival is at stake; in all other cases justice leaves no room for charity.



                • I haven’t read enough Locke to really have a good sense of the entire body of the guy’s stuff, but the Second Treatise itself punts entirely on the potential problem of redistribution. The whole exercise of the Second is built from the ground up; assuming you gather no more than is just, we now go forward to discuss what it means to own the thing you gather.

                  He does very baldly gloss over the “what if somebody’s already gathered most of the stuff, John?” question. At least, in the Second… which actually seems rather odd given the context of the time, what with inherited monarchy and landed gentry and whatnot.

                  Sounds like a fun discussion, though.


                  • BTW, PatC: A bleg for another word than “statist?” I use “communitarian” when I’m feeling expansive. But it’s a pain to type and applies as much to the crypto-Catholic “distributism” of Chesterton as to the prog-left Euro-social model that even some leftpersons allow is “the welfare state.”

                    *Pardon the Wiki: “Distributism (also known as distributionism or distributivism) is an economic philosophy that developed in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century, based upon the principles of Catholic social teaching, especially the teachings of Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum and Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno.

                    According to distributists, property ownership is a fundamental right and the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralized under the control of the state (state socialism) or by accomplished individuals (laissez-faire capitalism). Distributism therefore advocates a society marked by widespread property ownership and, according to co-operative economist Race Mathews, maintains that such a system is key to bringing about a just social order.”


                    • Communitarian doesn’t really mean the same thing as “statist,” as you note, but the problem with “statist,” as you note, but there is another, perhaps more relevant difference. Communitarian works well as a noun, but “statist” is really works better as an adjective, since it’s really a term that denotes a relative (to another policy or theory) reliance on the state. So any view that’s not anarchism is statist relative to anarchism. Perhaps Farmer, who uses “statist” reflexively, is a minarchist, so just about everything looks statist to him? Which shows why it’s pretty much a useless term here. One has to establish what one is comparing something to, in order for the label “statist” to carry any information.


            • This untethered secular-left agenda of which you speak — have you noticed how it crops up mainly in institutions of higher learning? Similarly, Communism only crops up among landless peasants. Aquinas generally pops up either in some History of Philosophy course or among priests and prelates who are intent upon squeezing the calloused foot of reason into the glass slipper of theology.

              Horses for courses, Mr. Van Dyke. Every weed grows well in its own soil. There’s a Catholic church I walk past on the way to work. Upon it is an inscription in Latin, from Anselm: fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding. We of the Left are not so stupid as to deny faith.

              But we do believe faith should seek understanding and that might imply Aquinas was dead wrong when he said human salvation demands the divine disclosure of truths surpassing reason. God will not think for us, Tom. He gave us minds for that task. God does not speak to us through divine revelation alone. He also speaks to us through mathematics, through the application of reason itself.

              You can go on stinking up this joint with your babbling and ranting about Radical Individualism. I was created in the image of God and so were all my fellow men and women. The very idea, that I must conform to some other standard, that’s all a bit silly. I won’t do it and if I find more in common with some honest atheist than some whey-faced priest, intent upon loading me up with guilt, I would rather go to Hell than endure an eternity with such enemies of reason.


              • Man is not his own salvation, Blaise. And until your reply grew sour, I was reading with interest, great interest. I think you are wrong about half of things, either your premises or conclusions, but you are not one to ever cheat the argument.

                At least with me.

                At your age—and mine—I have no hope of convincing you of anything. But unlike the replies of my ballbiters, most of which I skip, I read all your replies with hope and delight. Your thoughts and opinions are your own, and for that reason alone are worthy.

                Better a single hedgehog than a thousand mugwumps. here’s to you, Brother Hedgehog.


          • Makes me bristle because I still don’t get what the adjective social adds to the concept justice. Then again, the word justice makes me bristle, but I’ve already told the story about walking out of that class.


            • Being only a layworker in Social Justice, I can’t speak expertly on Aquinas, but only observe that at the street level, the adjective is used to describe the moral obligation of society to those who are powerless or marginalized.

              So it could refer to those who are financially poor, or those who are shunned, or those who, like women, find their human diginity tossed into the meatgrinder of economics.


      • Even invoking the Socratic method is, itself, a form of indoctrination. It communicates a set of values about how discourse and education should take place.

        You can’t avoid transmitting values.

        When I teach my PreK-ers not to hit, I am indoctrinating. But very few people object to this because, by and large, we all sort of agree that hitting is wrong. But it is still indoctrination. People only tend to balk about indoctrination when it is values or beliefs that they don’t agree with that are being transmitted. And there certainly ought to be limits on that which we transmit; just don’t pretend it isn’t still happening.

        Dewey had a quote that I’ll paraphrase as such: “Do you think it is a coincidence that most Soviet children grow up to be communists and most American children grow up to be capitalists?”


      • I’d even sever the education – indoctrination arrow. Unless “indoctrination” is understood really broadly, there is such a thing as an education without indoctrination. Sometimes a person is just learning the facts of the matter. The trades are an example of this. Physics and math are pretty clear cases as well. So it seems to me.

        Do you think the discipline of economics is based on “indoctrination”? I hope not, because you’ve been convincing me for the last coupla years that that isn’t so.


  • Burt’s little story described my life perfectly, right down to the whiskey on the bookshelf (not that it’s actually very well hidden).

    I’m a bit critical of both the prof and the student, though. The student sounds like a rather typical douche, the type who comes into college already knowing everything they actually want to know, and just wanting to have that repeated to them until they get a degree in learning what they already knew. I once taught a course called “Problems in U.S. Politics,” and had students read liberal and conservative opinions on different issues, and in leading discussion I stayed strictly neutral and gave each approach a serious hearing. Two student evaluations stood out: One read, “I’m sick of all these left-wing professors,” and the other said, “I can’t believe I was forced to sit through all this right wing yay, America bullshit.” One liberal, one conservative, both hoping to major in learning what they already knew.

    But I teach a methods and analysis class, too, and I don’t see that as an appropriate statement on the syllabus. It does seem overly confrontational right off the bat. The assumption it makes about students may be on target, but it’s still throwing a negative assumption in their face before the instructor even gets to know them. It’s much better to just quietly challenge their assumptions all along the way, and as they develop the research project for their methods class to insist on the little details, whether in the type of data collected, or the way they word a survey, etc., that directs them away from those assumptions. I’m persuaded it works better. Heck, look at this blog. The more any of us throw those negative assumptions out there right off the bat, the less thoughtful the ensuing discussion inevitably becomes.


    • “It’s much better to just quietly challenge their assumptions all along the way, and as they develop the research project for their methods class to insist on the little details, whether in the type of data collected, or the way they word a survey, etc., that directs them away from those assumptions.”

      Admitting to being a bit snarky but mostly serious, how much is THIS statement assuming maleness or whiteness or whathaveyou? Do you think it might be easier for you, a white male, to patiently bide your time and wait for opportune “teachable moments” to confront privilege than it would be for a black woman?


      • You read this blog, Kazzy. Just how easy do you think it is for _me_ to be patient? ;)

        But your point is well taken. Students who can’t move beyond their own views bother me greatly. But it surely doesn’t bother me as much as someone who’s not white and male (and undoubtedly I miss more of it than someone who’s not white and male). But as a functional matter, it’s not a productive way to go. In fact, the very fact of my being white and male probably means that _I_ could actually use that confrontational method more readily, because I’m “one of them” making that demand. It’s easy enough for students to simply reject it from a guy like me, but will be even easier to reject it from a black female professor because it plays right into their preconceived stereotypes. As much harder as it might be for the black female prof, a more subtle approach is probably–unfortunately–even more necessary in order to be successful.


      • I had this same thought on Mr. Hanley’s, and many other, comments. I’m impressed (surprised?) that you picked up on this, Mr. Kazzy.

        This blog is exasperatingly obtuse about these things. Too white. Too male. No Very little idea of what it is like for others.


        • So, JHG, I’ll ask you these questions:
          To what extent can it be said that we, here, write and speak in a way that does not assume American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status, etc. to be the norm? To what extent do we fail to use “inclusive language” as “a fundamental issue of social justice”?


          • To what extent can it be said that we, here, write and speak in a way that does not assume American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status, etc. to be the norm?

            I fear that this will lead to (require?) a deeper dive than I have the strength to hold my breath for. In no particular order, and for the sake of brevity:

            – Many of the posts on this site are what I would refer to as “First World Problems That White People Have Or Think About”. Of course, this isn’t the only site that does it. But, it reinforces to me that y’all are white males almost every time I come to this site.
            – This site tolerates some pretty amazing deviants. Some are gone, but many are still here and tolerated. You don’t think they’re that bad. You’re wrong (from my perspective).
            – Every fishing image or picture is based on that worldview. Could we have some people of color occasionally? Women? Maybe even some gay people, if it wouldn’t upset some FPers too much? How about a post with some Mexicans, when the post isn’t about immigration? How about showing a black family, when the post is about families and the suburbs and good values?
            – Bowler hats – really? Cmon. Could you BE any more white male elite than that? Seriously.
            – I have a really hard time separating talk about/with libertarians from American-ness, maleness, whiteness, hetero-ness, middle-class status-ness, etc. So, I see those qualities every time talk drifts to libertarian-ness, or when the OP is about libertarian-ness. Which is often. The reason for this is because it is your starting point for almost every discussion. The kind of Liberty that non-whites want is entirely different than the kind of Liberty that most libertarians talk about on this site.
            – The things that are important to people who are not white, male, hetero, middle-class, etc. (in my experience) tend to not be the things that are talked about here very much, if at all. People in those other groups think that other topics are much more important. I see more of this different perspective in the subsites, particularly Blinded Trials, even though there is (I assume) a white male and a white female on that site.
            – With all this said, I (grudgingly?) say that this group surprises me at times with their openness when you see behind the curtain a little bit to what it’s like for “others”, or when it’s pointed out to you or you are challenged, or you decide to see how life is different on the other side of the fence (a simple example would be your discussion about “The Talk” with your black friend at work).

            To what extent do we fail to use “inclusive language” as “a fundamental issue of social justice”?

            It’s not so much “inclusive language” as it is “inclusive perspectives”. So much Liberty talk is really “First World White-Person Liberty” talk to me. This site gets into the weeds pretty fast. Most people I know who aren’t white and male don’t talk like this. What is the Hayekian meaning? Is this Rawlsian or von Misesian or Hegelian? You have NO IDEA WHAT LIBERTARIANISM MEANS YOU STUPID LIBERAL!!1!!! Is ACA constitutional or not, from a Federalist perspective (not including early Madison, but including later Jefferson). If X happens then Y, but Z before A, carry the 1. Those people don’t pay taxes, and my labor is being taxed to provide for them!!!1!

            If you’re ready for some honesty, you guys sound like white male graduate students most of the time to me. Not everyone. And, not all the time. But, enough.

            The people I know who aren’t white, or male, or middle-class, or hetro, or etc. are thinking about and worrying about completely different things. How will my kids get ahead when so much of society is already set against them getting ahead? Will I lose my job if my boss finds out I’m gay? What would happen if I got sick and lost my job? Where can I find some more work, make a few extra bucks? How little can I eat today, so that I can save money? If I play music loud in my car (in Florida) will some crazy white guy come by and shoot me? What am I going to do to try to get my kids a good education when the schools that are available for people like me are the worst in the county/state/country? Should I be more respectful, so I don’t get any unwanted attention on me? Can I get this job, even though I’m not white? And, on, and on.

            Don’t know if this is the answer you are looking for, but these are the answers that came to mind when I read your comment at the top, and again here.


            • John,

              I don’t disagree with everything you’ve said here, but I will disagree with a few key points:

              1.) I get the White People Problems (WPP) meme, even calling folks out on it myself (not really here, but elsewhere). A problem I have with it is that it is inherently dismissive. It’s basically saying, “Quit complaining, dude.” I’m not a fan of that. People’s feelings are real, no matter how lacking in perspective they might be. Instead, offer the perspective you feel is lacking instead of deriding those who lack it.
              2.) We have a good mix of gay folks here, both as authors and commenters. In my experience, these folks have the freedom to speak as individuals who are not seen as representing their sexual orientation and as offering a unique perspective informed by it, depending on the topic and the tack.
              3.) “If you’re ready for some honesty, you guys sound like white male graduate students most of the time to me. Not everyone. And, not all the time. But, enough.” Well, most of us are. Or at least were grad students at some point. So it is not shocking that that is how we come off. Which doesn’t excuse this. There are several avenues we could take to adjust for this, which some folks oppose because they believe the “us-ness” of this site is part of what makes it what it is, which they enjoy. I can’t fault this perspective even if I disagree with it, but do know that these things are known and sometimes discussed, if not necessarily given the weight or attention that you or I might hope for.


              • 1. Getting to the point in the discussion where I can actually offer the perspective that I feel is lacking takes more time than I have available during the day. I tend to be blunt in the limited time I have (or even more than a bit blunt). This is one of the White People Problems I’m talking about. I don’t have as much time to post on blogs as you do. And, ironically, this is exactly what you called Mr. Hanley out for (to which I responded originally).

                2. My comment about gay folks was to celebrate them the way that white, hetro, middle-class males are celebrated in picture and image on this site. I appreciate the gay voices on this site, for it brings some variety. If they weren’t here, I would probably not read the site. But, they are closeted when it comes to images.

                3. You end up seeming like a tribe (like white male graduate students), and work hard to haze any that you might allow in, while forcing a certain conformity on them once they are granted acceptance in the group. At least, that’s the way it seems to me. Hey, fine by me. It’s your (royal your) site, not mine. I’m just a surreptitious intruder most of the time.

                Thanks for the clarification and response. I thought it deserved my response, in kind.


                • “You end up seeming like a tribe (like white male graduate students), and work hard to haze any that you might allow in, while forcing a certain conformity on them once they are granted acceptance in the group. At least, that’s the way it seems to me. Hey, fine by me. It’s your (royal your) site, not mine. I’m just a surreptitious intruder most of the time.”

                  I agree with you wholly on this. It is actually something I push back on, when I can, with limited success. If you have the time, look up a piece (which is really just a reprint of someone else’s work) I posted on “The Elephant and the Giraffe” or something like that. It didn’t get much mileage, but it addressed the ideas of how we define our community (and, again, the whole piece was lifted with credit).

                  Re: WPP, I should clarify and say that I think this group in particular might be a bit hostile to such a charge being levied, even if it is wholly accurate, for the reasons I offered. I have actually challenged many a libertarian on the way in which the presentation of the world view comes of as such and fails to garner support with communities that might actually be better served by the adoption of its ideologies. My common refrain is to note that many libertarians’ focus on property rights is eerily silent on the complete disrespect offered to Native Americans’ property rights claims (and not just the broader, more abstract ones; actually broken treaties with the gov). Hanley, to his credit, is a notable exception in actually taking up this challenge, both in responding to it and noting Libertarians’ struggle in this area. So, yea, there is a lot of WPP crap that goes on here but I don’t think slamming down a #WPP on things is going to make much of a difference here, as tempting as it might be.


                  • I think this group in particular might be a bit hostile to such a charge being levied

                    Yeah, yathink?

                    So, yea, there is a lot of WPP crap that goes on here but I don’t think slamming down a #WPP on things is going to make much of a difference here, as tempting as it might be.

                    Oh, I don’t expect it to make any difference at all.

                    But, how can you have a conversation with someone who doesn’t see something without saying,…well…you aren’t seeing something. Please recall that I was responding to Jaybirds question about “American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status, etc”. I can’t answer that question honestly without mentioning that this site concentrates on WPP to whatever extent.

                    I try posting comments occasionally that get directly to the perspective I’m trying to get others to see. You know what happens 9 times out of 10. No response. No engagement. No acknowledgment. After a while, you learn what you’re being taught: we don’t respond to those comments. That’s cool. I get it.


                    • I comment a lot less than I used to, largely because the reason I comment is for engagement, and I rarely get that. After withdrawing some and then coming back, I’m realizing the problem is not my point of view so much as my speed of discourse. I’m a dinghy amongst hydrofoils.