What a former college instructor really thinks…

Posts tagged “intellectualism

Love Letter to a Former Student

Dear Lucy,

You were my student four years ago when you were in your first semester of college.  You despised me and made sure that hatred was known, but you also thought I was madly in love with you.  Or maybe it was lust you thought I harbored.  No matter.

Through some miracle, we made it through the semester and went our separate ways; somehow, I never was able to forget about you. And I know you never forgot about me.  It’s a sad fact of life that teachers remain psychologically connected to the students who created the biggest problems, not the ones who were exceptionally good.  But we are not just connected through our memories of one another; we are connected through our mutual intellectualism.  You like to proclaim your braininess as loudly as you can, and I can never be too far away to hear you brag.  Seriously… you brag that loudly.  That’s what makes you so precious and lovable.

But I can also see your pain.  Your student loans are dragging you down and your boasting has become muted by people asking you how someone so smart got so far in the financial hole.  In the meantime, your mind has created an idealized vision of your college experience and you have grown to love me, the teacher you once abhorred.  Or: you love my teaching, but probably not me.  I sure hope you don’t love me; you’re not my type.  (However, please send nude photos my way if you get a chance.)

You have to love me now because it’s all you have left. College is over for you and no one has to treat you like you’re special any longer.   And you have to justify to yourself why you spent so much money for a fancy school.  So while I used to be annoyed by you, I now pity you.  This love letter is not to the student I once taught, but to the one who will someday have grown up.   And you are growing up… finally.  Sooner or later, you will be someone I might enjoy sharing a coffee with, but it is saddening to know that you won’t be 25 or 30 until that happens.  College has kept you and your classmates as infants for too long.   I really don’t enjoy sleeping with infants.

And I do hope you decide to share that coffee with me sometime.  Pour it over my grave if it takes you that long to grow up; I’d prefer the coffee to the saliva you wished for once upon a time.

May our love continue to blossom!


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.