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The Classroom Without Reason

That's the title of an article I just came across on the National Association of Scholars website. It is authored by Douglas G. Campbell, lecturer in the Department of Recreation and Parks Management at California State University at Chico. Here's how it begins:

A few years ago I was asked by the instructor of a philosophy class, then titled “Roots of War,” to discuss with his students the culture of the U.S. military community. After identifying myself as a former career military officer, I discussed my impression of our military’s culture. When I was done, a young woman who had been glowering at me and holding her arms tightly across her chest raised her hand. When called upon she vehemently said, “I don’t agree with you. I don’t think it is anything like that. You have just been brainwashed by the military.”

“OK,” I said, “what do you think our military’s culture is like?”

“Well, certainly nothing like that,” she sputtered. I could see some heads in the class nodding in agreement.

I asked, “Could you share with us your experience in or around the military?”

“I haven’t had anything to do with the military,” she indignantly replied.

“Have you extensively studied the U.S. military or worked with current or former members of the military?”

“No,” she angrily said.

“So where have you gotten your impression of the military’s culture?” I tried to ask softly.

“I am entitled to my opinion, and I think you are a Nazi!” was her voracious reply. The class was clearly enjoying her attack on me at this point and the philosophy professor sat smugly satisfied.

I decided to end this ridiculous exchange: “So let us review. You have no personal experience or knowledge of the military. You have not studied the military. You cannot explain why you disagree with me. And you think you are entitled to your opinion. Well, I agree with you on one point. You do have a right to an opinion, and I have a right to point out that yours is an ignorant opinion—ignorant because by your own admission it is not based on any facts, education, research, or experience. Your opinion is apparently based on nothing more than simple ignorant prejudice.”

The class was silent for a moment. The young woman began to sob and yell at me, “You can’t say that to me!”

I replied, “Yes I can, because it is the truth.”

The now visibly upset philosophy professor said, “Doug, you are being a little harsh on her."

“No Ron, I am just stating the truth.”

“Well Doug, you have to respect her feelings.” Much of the class was nodding in agreement while attempting to soothe the young woman who was now obviously enjoying the attention.

“Gee Ron, I thought this was a university where we discussed subjects rationally using facts and logic.”

“A lot of us feel the same way she does,” the philosophy professor responded, as if that were justification for her ignorance and her personal insults.

Fed up with the charade, I walked out of the class.


You can read the whole thing here. The professor with whom Mr. Campbell team-taught the class comments below the article. Enjoy.

Comments (23)

I'm almost speechless at the absurdity.

It's interesting that dialogue he tells about in the hall concerning global warming. The girl he spoke to said almost exactly the same thing that Wesley Smith quoted someone saying a couple of weeks ago in the letters to the editor to the NYT--in essence,
"Sure, the claims about global warming are hysterical and unjustified, but gross exaggeration is the only way we can get people to do what we want."

Is this becoming some new kind of trope among the lefties? Why are they tipping their hand in this way? Can they afford to do so?

This has to be some sort of parody.

I mean, heck - didn't Victor Davis Hanson teach at Chico State?

Looking on the positive side, this is a great example of how to react to being called a Nazi or anything similar - barely acknowledge it at all and respond with a complete lack of emotion. Never, ever act irritated, hurt, complain, or respond in kind. When people throw their most emotional insult at you and it has no apparent effect or appears to amuse you, they really don't know what to do.

“Gee Ron, I thought this was a university where we discussed subjects rationally using facts and logic.”

What a rube.

Dept of Recreation and Parks Management...Chico State.... I think it's a stretch referring to that as a "University."

I get this mental picture of a football player striking a cheesy "show me the money" pose with a caption underneath that says "Major:Kinesiology"

At my university, I recently finished teaching Don Marquis's "An Argument that Abortion is Seriously Wrong", and I pushed it hard. I didn't say, "he's right and you're all wrong", but I responded to all the students' objections in a somewhat forceful way, mainly because I couldn't believe what I was hearing from them (example: in order to keep their pro-choice position, some students argued that a fully rational, awake, adult person on kidney dialysis was less of a human than a fully rational, awake, adult person not on kidney dialysis).

In other words, I came as close to pushing for a position as I ever have in the classroom. As far as I can tell, it made not one whit of difference to anyone's beliefs.

There are three possible lessons from my experience:

(1) Other professors have already done such a good job brainwashing that it's too late for my attempts to work.
(2) You can only brainwash students into believing what they already want to believe, and what they want to believe has to dovetail with their self-interest.
(3) Brainwashing is hard! I need a lot more practice at it.

In support of (2), I should say that I also push the Peter Singer line on famine relief pretty hard, too, and that, so far as I can tell, also never works.

Bobcat, in the case you give of abortion and degrees of human worth (I can't say about the famine relief case), I'd plump for #1, so long as I can include "elementary and high school teachers, television, movies, and other cultural influences" along with "other professors."

Bobcat - you've just got to do your best.

The Marquis anti-abortion piece & the classic Singer article are both paradigms of good philosophical writing.

I assume that you also use that clever pro-choice essay by...what's-her-name? The one with the spores, and all that?

I assume that you also use that clever pro-choice essay by...what's-her-name? The one with the spores, and all that?

Dr. Feser's exemplary crushing of that piece remains one of my favorite scholarly articles.

Zach - thanks!

I was, of course, thinking of Judis Jarvis-Thomson's A Defense of Abortion.

I didn't know, until now, that Dr. Ed had published a refutation.

I'm off to read it, now.

The article covers more than that, I should mention, but the JJD demolishing was my favorite part.

Sinister? Try this for child abuse.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/evaluation/

According to the Ontario Ministry of Education policies, if a student misses a test (whether they skip class or are sick) or if they cheat then the evaluation is not valid and they must not be given a zero. The student must have an opportunity to be re-evaluated on the material. Assignments can have a due date but if the student does not hand it in on the due date a zero cannot be assigned. The student must be allowed to hand in the assignment late without being penalized.

. . . you can offer the student a chance to be re-evaluated, and if they don't turn up they still cannot get a zero. Assignments can be handed in at any time during the year. . . . The only way around this is not returning the assignments until all of the students have submitted their work, but this delays essential feedback to the students.

Hi Steve,

Yes, I assign the JJT article. It's a really good article in that it very clearly sets out the issues, but I think the intuition pumps she uses in fact end up pumping the other way.

Take the baby seeds case. According to JJT, if I want to breathe some fresh air, and so open a window, knowing full well that there's a small chance baby seeds could drift in, nest in my carpet, grow really big, and so crush my house, then I'm allowed to crush them once they nest in the carpet, even if they're people in just the same sense as you and me.

Or, to use another example: if an innocent person is behind the wheel of a car and can't control it, and the car is speeding towards my house, and will cause thousands of dollars of damage to it, I'M PERMITTED TO KILL THEM SO THAT THEY DON'T CAUSE DAMAGE TO MY HOUSE. When I use this other example (which I made up)--which I think is less fantastical than the baby seeds one--I find my intuitions not reaching the same conclusion as Thomson's.

By the way, Richard Posner also had a really good takedown of JJT in his The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory.

Bobcat - here's another point, for what it's worth:

...suppose we were *all* born as a result of this "seeding" process?

How might that affect our "moral intuitions" in this case?

Bobcat - here's another point, for what it's worth:

...suppose we were *all* born as a result of this "seeding" process?

How might that affect our "moral intuitions" in this case?

It recalls to mind a Professor who used to relate how the position of Stephen Douglass is that espoused now by the pro-choice community, and the position of Lincoln is that held by those deemed "pro-lifers."

He said how young women would weep in his class when they realized that their "moral" reasoning in support of continued abortions was precisely that used by pro-slavers.

The lack objective and deductive thinking in the classroom is one of the big reasons I have felt led to pursue an academic career. I am new here, but am thoroughly enjoying the content and dialogue.

Funny, Nate, it's exactly why I abandoned an academic career. I wouldn't last two months in today's college classrooms.

Martin Regnen: "... Never, ever act irritated, hurt, complain, or respond in kind. When people throw their most emotional insult at you and it has no apparent effect or appears to amuse you, they really don't know what to do."

I find that, generally speaking, people get even more emotional and insulting when one doesn't show the desired reaction to the prior round.

It can be great fun, or at least mildly amusing, to wind them up ... and all by refusing to get wound-up oneself.

This sounds like many of the discussions at my school.
Our education system is FUBAR

I mean, heck - didn't Victor Davis Hanson teach at Chico State?
steve burton

Victor Davis Hanson taught classics at Fresno State.

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