What a former college instructor really thinks…

Posts tagged “philosophy

Proposed Chemistry Course: Postmodern Alchemy

As some of you may be aware, scholars in the humanities are often suspicious and even downright hostile towards the STEM fields.  According to them, people who claim that science reveals “knowledge” are playing a trick on everyone.  Science is said to be nothing more than the legitimation of certain views that work to exclude other ways of knowing.  A greater respect for other knowledge systems is urged.

With this in mind, I am proposing that the university offer a course on Postmodern Alchemy.  But you may object: alchemy has been completely debunked.  You would be correct with your objection, but none of that matters in today’s university.  If the English department can teach Freud as though he were still cutting-edge psychology and Marxism as though it were desirable, then why can’t the chemistry department teach alchemy?  All the subject needs is a good coating of postmodern theory to make it relevant.

And in all honesty, an alchemy course would succeed in creating gold.  Universities make money off of student enrollments and tons of students would file into a lecture hall to fulfill their science requirement with a course that requires no math.  Heck, the course doesn’t even require any science!  Students would always succeed at mastering the material because, after all, the failure to derive gold from other elements is at the heart of the subject.  And when the course has concluded, the college can inform students of how much their hard work is going to help them in their professional endeavors.  Students want to feel good about the work they’ve done and they’ll donate money to Alma Mater if you make them feel good enough about your educational product.

And so you can clearly see that a Postmodern Alchemy course is in the best interests of everybody.  Students get to keep their self-esteem and we get to squeeze gold out of blockheads.

“Inappropriate” Places to Pee

The next time you visit a college campus, listen to how many of the professors and graduate students discuss differences between men and women.  Because you can get in trouble for saying that men and women are different, I will not make that claim.  As we all know from camping trips (and other activities where a toilet is not nearby), men and women can do exactly the same things.  It is acceptable for men and women to turn their backs to their friends, face a tree, and relieve themselves.  Suggest that to your female friends the next time you’re out and let me know how that works for you.

Professors of some subjects would also criticize the “unacceptable” social norms that are behind the idea of an “inappropriate” place to pee.   Calling something inappropriate reeks of too much power, and power is a bad thing.  Society constructed the idea that some places are “appropriate” to pee in and some are not… and there is no good reason why society couldn’t have constructed the idea differently.  We must open our minds to the liberating potential of uninhibited urination!

One “inappropriate” place to pee would be in your professor’s coffee cup.  If you try it (and I don’t recommend it), you will be liberated from the class and perhaps from your university.  (Faculty only like these “constructions” when they’re astute enough to see the legitimate reasons behind them.  It doesn’t happen very often, but it usually happens when the construction supports their political views.)  Don’t expect the faculty member to still care about power as you are thrown into jail; to them, power is only evil when it doesn’t serve their purposes.

If you’re really unfortunate, your professors won’t be able to understand why peeing in their coffee cups is inappropriate.   Although you’d probably escape without being formally disciplined, you’d probably be opening yourself up to more punishing expectations from the professor.  But that’s a post for another day…

Proposed Philosophy Course: The Aesthetics of Sarah Palin’s Bra

Colleges these days like to put forth a curriculum that speaks to the interests students already have.  It is something they tout constantly, as long as those interests fit into the college’s preferred political frameworks.

Therefore, I would like to suggest a new course to the local university, which I am tentatively entitling “The Aesthetics of Sarah Palin’s Bra.”  Now you may ask yourself how on earth the campus feminists would ever let something like this pass.  Surely they would object to an educator taking such  a prominent female political figure and reducing her stature in this way. But no, you would be wrong.  According to feminists, it only counts as demeaning to women if the woman being demeaned is not a conservative.  In fairness to the feminists, Sarah Palin has more brain cells in her breasts than she has in her head, so the feminsists’ reluctance to protest would be justified here.

I further believe that a course on Sarah Palin’s bra would help increase course enrollment figures.  Conservative students would be elated to be able to study something that has no connection to liberal politics and male students will take an interest in anything involving Palin’s boobs.  And since humanities programs insist that the study of seemingly insignificant material goods is just as valuable as studying works by authors such as Aristotle and Kant, this course should have no problem making its way past the curriculum committee.

And what might the reading list look like?  I suggest that we pass over those old fashioned things called “books” and focus on “cultural texts.”  According to the lit. crit. folks, everything is a cultural text and can be “read.”  So instead of books, students could spend their evenings staring at pictures of Palin’s boobs, analyzing the precise angle at which she wears them.  From there, students could discuss the cultural significance of her bra selections and how those bras fit into the Tea Party political platform.  Since inviting unclothed guests worked so well for that professor at Northwestern, maybe we could sponsor a model to come in and display some of the bra styles that create Palin’s distinctive look.  Students always favor hands-on education and I seek to please.

For the tuition money they spend, students deserve nothing but the best.

The Arachnid Theory of Mind

Among those without an extensive academic background in psychology or philosophy, a popular question concerns what kind of mind animals possess.   Usually, the question is posed in reference to the beloved family pet: is Fido happy?  At a slightly deeper level, one reaches what is known as “Theory of Mind,” which is an individual’s understanding that others around them have minds of their own and are capable of having thoughts and desires that differ from from one’s own.  It is often assumed that this capacity is necessary for a person to be fully conscious; although that characterization falls a little short (such as among autistic people), I would like to do a little thought experiment to see if we can discover anything new.  As a baseline, I will use the arachnid mind.  As we all know, spider brains are comparatively small and it seems difficult to imagine that such a small organ could produce something as complex as the awareness of others’ minds.  But I’d like to know about spiders and not just the big cute animals, so maybe I can come up with something similar to spiders.

So let’s talk about college students.  (Caveat emptor: I am a former college instructor.)   One of the most notable aspects of the college student mind is that it is regularly focused on sex, not unlike many animal species.  And speaking from personal observation, it amazes me how many students imagine that the teacher is hot for them.  Seriously.  (Yes, yes, I know.  There are some pervs out there in front of a classroom.  But not that many…)  These kids possess no theory of mind, only a consciousness of themselves.  They’re horny, so the teacher must also be horny.  And the object of the teacher’s affection must obviously be “me” and not any of the others in the classroom.  The teacher, who sees these kids only a couple hours per week, is somehow supposed to be infatuated with the student.  It’s almost kind of funny.

From the teacher’s perspective, things look a little different.  In my experience, I often wished I could teach as though I were leading an old-fashioned Latin Mass.  It would have been great to teach without having to look at the students.  Facing towards the class, the woman on my left would be sitting with her legs in a most immodest position and the woman in front of me (in the loose fitting shirt) has forgotten that she is entering a professional venue where someone will be standing right over her looking down to maintain eye contact with the class.   But at least she’s wearing a bra.  It sure beats looking to my right (which isn’t saying much) because the guy in the blue shirt is going commando and he’s hanging out of his shorts.   I think the Catholics had it right all along by having their priests face the altar instead of the congregation.

But I digress.  We’ve established that college students, at least in this one respect, lack any recognition that the people around them have (literally) a different perspective.  And as anyone who has ever observed a college classroom knows, college students very often lack consciousness.   And much like the spider with a tiny brain, they often lack the intellectual heft you would expect of a creature that can spin such an elaborate and beautiful web.

From all of this, we can conclude that animals may not have the same mental capacities we often ascribe to them.   If you are a professional psychologist or a philosopher, you probably knew that already.