What a former college instructor really thinks…

The Difference Between Independent Thinking and Arrogance

In my last post, I inferred that college students are sometimes not open to the professors’ ideas they pay big bucks to listen to.  We sometimes see an attitude of “I already know better and I don’t have to read or listen to any of this garbage.  The professor should be agreeing with my ideas!”  If an education were nothing more than a diploma at the end, I might be able to let this attitude pass.  But it’s not, so I can’t.   If you’re a student, grow up and get over it.

The conservative movement (in particular) likes to make a lot of noise about how universities have been infiltrated by liberals who are subverting the pursuit of knowledge.  All too often, they hold up research that does not agree with their political views and declare academe to be more in touch with Marxism than reality.  They often do this without reading much of the research they target and sometimes the attacks reveal an incomprehension of what research is.  Sorry, it is not the job of biologists to find evidence for your Creationist religious beliefs.  However, if you ask really nicely, the professor will find other ways to stroke your self-esteem.  If not, maybe you can get yourself a cookie.  I recommend chocolate chip.

If conservative critics were to spend the time to move past the outlandish book titles and read the less provocative-sounding research, they would realize just how right they are.  There’s some pretty explicit politics buried underneath the arcane language of a lot of humanities and social science research.   The most popular philosophies and theories explicitly tell scholars to guide their research towards conclusions that support liberal views; you never get sound bites from this because the writing contains more contorted language than anything in the legal profession.   The only difference between a lot of professors and the anti-evolution Creationists is that the professors demand support for their pre-existing liberal beliefs instead of religious ones.  (I suppose the professors are also distinguished by their nifty clothing, but that’s a topic for another day.)  Neither group is particularly fond of engaging with an opposing viewpoint.  To see the consequences of this, check out FIRE’s blog; it is included on my blog roll.

It is arrogant to believe that you have all the answers without first gaining a substantial knowledge base and exposing yourself to conflicting opinions.  You are thinking independently when you gain knowledge, examine ideas you might initially find incorrect, and come to your own conclusion.  Don’t be like an arrogant professor.  Do you really want to spend decades of your life in pursuit of things you “already know?”  It’s kind of like an old movie called The Neverending Story, except no horses are killed.  If you check out FIRE’s website, you will find that some activist college administrators bear a striking resemblance to the statues that shoot lasers at anything that comes between them.  Drugs aren’t the only way people get fried in college, and there’s a great big Nothing coming after everyone.

It is also independent thinking to recognize that your professor has not gone through the necessary steps for independent thinking.  Just remember that the professor has no professional obligation to teach views that cannot be supported intellectually.  Sometimes, the opinion you enter class with does not merit the attention.  Also remember that many professors have read numerous books that promote liberal politics without offering much unbiased evidence, and therefore professors are qualified to promote liberal politics without offering much unbiased evidence.  Students need to learn their place.

And sometimes, the professor’s definition of what “can be supported intellectually” is “conforms to liberal politics.”  I’ll have to write about that another day.

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