August 30, 2010

"I just updated my will and trust and, with heavy heart, cut out what was a significant bequest to my alma mater, Brooklyn College."

Says Bruce Kesler. The reason: The school chose one book to give to all incoming freshman to read to give a sense of a "common experience," and the book is "How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America," written by "a radical pro-Palestinian professor" who happens to teach at Brooklyn College.
[The book contains] interviews with seven Arab-Americans in their 20s about their experiences and difficulties in the US. There’s appreciation of freedoms in the US, and deep resentment at feeling or being discriminated against post-9/11....
The title of the book is drawn from communist WEB DuBois’ same question in 1903 in his treatise The Souls of Black Folk. The current book consciously draws a parallel, ridiculous on its face, between the horrible and pervasive discrimination and injustices that Blacks were subjected to a century ago and Arab-Americans today.

The author asserts “The core issue [of Middle East turbulence] remains the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” that the post-1967 history of the entire area is essentially that of “imperialism American-style,” and that the US government “limits the speech of Arab Americans in order to cement United States policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Again, preposterous....

Online I found two professors who protested to the college president. One, retired from Brooklyn College, said: "This is wholly inappropriate.  It smacks of indoctrination. It will intimidate incoming students who have a different point of view (or have formed no point of view), sending the message that only one side will be approved on this College campus. It can certainly intimidate untenured faculty as well."
I can't imagine wanting freshman to get the message that they are about to be indoctrinated. On the up side, for freshman: If the school makes it clear right in the first week, you may still be in a position to quit and get your tuition back. If they're subtle about it — and it's so easy to be subtle about it — you're drawn into it. Clear efforts at indoctrination are repugnant. One recoils. It's like evil-tasting poison. The evil taste is a great benefit. You reflexively spit it out.

So now I'm picturing the Brooklyn College freshman, hurling "How Does It Feel" against the wall. In the movie I'm inventing in my head, the soundtrack is Bob Dylan — how does it feel — as The Freshman stomps out of Brooklyn and into a life without higher education indoctrination...
Teachers teach that knowledge waits...
Ah, but where does The Freshman go?
For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be Do what they do just to be*
Nothing more than something they invest in
We were talking last night: Why are you doing what you are doing? Do you need death staring you in the face to take that question seriously?

Maybe you don't need death staring you in the face to ask whether you have the courage to be true to yourself and not just to do what others expect you to do. And how much courage does it take when those who expect you to do what they want are so crude about it? But if you don't do what they want, what will you do? Where else is there to go?

What would I do if I were there where you are, dear Freshman? Because I'm old, and I've already made a lot of choices, I don't want to tell you what to do.  This post began with the old man's point of view: Bruce Kesler saying he's got lots of money and he's cutting Brooklyn College out of his will to express himself. But what should a young person do? I'm still an old person answering that question, but I was driving through the bohemian section of an American city the other day and thinking... oh, just about what I was thinking in the early 1970s: I want to live the artist's life. That doesn't mean you need to be an artist, but there is an art to living, and you are more a work of art than a thing you invest in. Yet even if the main thing you want — in this awful economy — is to be something you invest in, a radical left-wing indoctrination is a godawful investment decision.

***

And I still haven't said that I got to Kesler via D.G. Meyers via Instapundit. Meyers says:
In my experience, few if any of the Brooklyn Collge freshmen will even bother to open the book. I can remember the title of the book that was assigned to all incoming freshmen at U.C. Santa Cruz the year I went up there (it was Arthur Koestler’s Act of Creation), but that’s the sum of what I remember about the book. I bought a copy, but never heard it discussed anywhere on campus. Same for the various books that were assigned to incoming freshmen at Texas A&M University over the years. After the English department made a fuss over choosing them, they were never mentioned again.
Yes, but it's not that easy: Brooklyn College also assigns its book in a required English course. I remember the book that was assigned for orientation week to freshmen at the Residential College (at the University of Michigan) in 1969: Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle." 40 years later, I can't think of a book I'd rather read. In fact, it happens I was rereading it yesterday.
All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.
It's nice to be told that right at the outset so you know what you're getting into. Very nice.

***

* I've corrected that line in "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" after cutting and pasting the lyrics from the official Bob Dylan site. I was surprised to see the line "cultivate their flowers to be." It didn't have the right number of syllables, and it didn't lead properly into the next line, and I didn't remember ever hearing it. Meade questioned it too and played the original recording to get to the very familiar line (which also makes a lot more sense). It was weird seeing "cultivate their flowers" — which I took as an allusion to Voltaire's "we must cultivate our garden" — because Meade, with whom I share a love of Dylan, has made a life out of cultivating flowers, and cultivating flowers is something you're more likely to do if you've chosen to defy disrespected authority and see yourself as much more than something you invest in. Not that you can't build up great wealth by starting a gardening business.

104 comments:

shoutingthomas said...

Yet another rerun of the: "[fill in the blanks] is oppressed just like blacks under Jim Crow."

Feminist did the same damned thing, Ann, which is why you have the damned chip on your shoulder.

Feminists spent so much time stoking their themselves on indignation and outrage with this notion that they were "oppressed just like blacks under Jim Crow" that they began to imagine that this bullshit was true.

And most of the feminists were middle class suburban white girls.

There is no oppression of Muslims going on. What is really going on is remarkable restraint on the part of Americans. Despite an attack by Muslims that murdered 3,000 Americans, there has been almost no retaliation against American Muslims.

The radical left at Brooklyn is wearing out a tactic that was already complete corrupt two decades ago.

TerriW said...

When I went to Evergreen about 20 years ago, the book of the day there was Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." I just wish they would have coordinated things better -- I ended up having to read it several times for different classes.

ndspinelli said...

In 1999, I returned to school to obtain my teaching certification. Indoctrination was rampant. We were "taught" that as teachers, we needed to build up the self esteem of female students, and keep the boys in line. That has obviously been the philosophy for some time. And, as we all know, boys are now second class citizens in public schools.

Michael said...

I would advise an entering Freshman to devour the book, absorb it wholly. Because it will be the road map to success at Brooklyn College. It will have enough buzz words and claptrap within its expensive covers to give a guide to a happy and successful four years. A careful reading should give evidence of every single correct thought you will need. Nothing will be left out. And when you are done you should be able to absolutely cruise through the humanities at Brooklyn College without another serious thought. Because you will be able to score 100% on every test of political correctness and will know, in advance, what your teachers believe concerning every single solitary topic.

Quayle said...

What would I do if I were there where you are, dear Freshman? Because I'm old, and I've already made a lot of choices, I don't want to tell you what to do.

One gets the strong feeling that the days are over of being able to merely study and pattern one's actions on what previous 'successful' people have done.

Which is both unnerving and exhilarating - total freedom and total risk.

Which doesn't mean that there aren't still multitudes willing to give over (and assume) one's power and responsibility to decide for one's self.

Flexo said...

There is no oppression of Muslims going on.

Sure there is.

There is oppression of Muslims going on by other Muslims.

And there is oppression of Muslims who want to stop being Muslim going on by other Muslims.

And there is oppression of non-Muslims going on by Muslims.

If these folks were not so provincial and Americentric, they would see that the United States is not the center of the universe, much less Brooklyn or Madison or Ann Arbor.

There is plenty of oppression going on in the world BY Muslims against everyone else. There is no oppression by America, rather, it is America, and often only America, who seeks to END the oppression around the world.

MadisonMan said...

It's the height of adult arrogance to think that a book will indoctrinate foolish young freshmen.

Do the people at Brooklyn College understand the cynicism in today's student population?

tjl said...

No hand can be too heavy for academic progressives.

Scott M said...

The biggest complaint that seems to be circling on things like this is that the required reading is a FOTM (flavor of the month) sort of thing. Not something that has stood the test of time and critical review and, quite possibly, without any significant literary value.

AJ Lynch said...

Mad Man:

I have to disagree with you. That cynicism does not seem to apply to their embrace of theories about global warming, recycling, social justice,etc.

The grads I know are 75%-150% brainwashed on these issues.

Scott M said...

Do the people at Brooklyn College understand the cynicism in today's student population?

I don't think they understand the cynicism in the average 6-year-old today. Which, I'm learning, given the 13 year gap between my oldest and my 6-year-old, is magnitudes greater than it was ten years ago.

I blame Sponge Bob.

Michael Haz said...

Sure, no indoctrination, nothing going on here, just make your choices.

I have no doubt the reaction would be exactly the same if a college required incoming students to read Dr. Laura's The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.

Skyler said...

I'm more amazed that some idiot had wanted to leave money to his college in his will.

That's why you pay tuition, you pay them for your education. You don't have to keep paying tuition even after you die. You'd think the brainwashing would have worn off after a few years out of school, but apparently it has a more lasting impact.

It's not like the old days when schools were poor and needed help. They are all stinking rich. You don't give charity to people or institutions that are already rich. As this man has learned, they become quite irresponsible.

As my whimsy leads me.. said...

Slightly off topic: In her sermon yesterday, my pastor talked about "atrocities against Muslims" in the United States. I asked her afterwards what atrocities she she was referring to. (Maybe I missed something while on vacation.) She said they are increasingly happening, but couldn't give me any examples. I've googled hate crimes, violence against Muslims, etc., and get mostly reports of vandalism, which doesn't rise to the "atrocity" level in my book. Murders, yes, but I haven't heard of any specifically targeting Muslims. I'm not sure what she is referring to. Has anyone here heard about incidents of anti-Muslim violence? Thanks.

Toy

knox said...

Why in the world wouldn't they choose a classic, one that's not regularly assigned in high school. There are tons of them. Seems like as an educator, you would want to choose something proven, substantial, and free of politics.

###

The book all freshman had to read at University of Dayton in 1989 was Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson. It was a snoozer. Wonder if I'd like it now.

jr565 said...

Madison Man wrote:

It's the height of adult arrogance to think that a book will indoctrinate foolish young freshmen.


The Koran, THe Bible, Mein Kampf, The Little Red Book.

Ann Althouse said...

"I just wish they would have coordinated things better -- I ended up having to read it several times for different classes."

Why didn't you just remember it from the first time?

Maguro said...

Hmmm, this guy is a conservative blogger and he's shocked and dismayed to discover left-wing indocrination going on in academia? Seems a bit naive, I assume this sort of thing is par for the course these days.

Quayle said...

She said they are increasingly happening, but couldn't give me any examples.

Sounds like one of those social justice ministries.

They don't really believe in God or God's power, but they well understand that the clergy in America have always had a position of respect, and that respect is useful.

tim maguire said...

Reminds me of a Village Voice article I read a year or two after 9/11. It focused on a Brooklyn school with a high Arab student population, mostly first or second generation immigrants. It noted that these students were fully aware of the advantages of being raised in the U.S. over their home countries and were happy to be here, yet none of them felt the slightest gratitude towards the U.S. for offering them these advantages.

There was a second point in the article that the author himself didn't seem to recognize the significance of, but it was there. Not one of these students had ever experienced anti-Arab hatred or discrimination. Not one of these students knew anybody who had been the victim of anti-Arab hatred or discrimination, and yet every single one of them was certain America was a hotbed of anti-Arab hatred and discrimination.

David said...

Isn't indoctrination the point of college?

Actually, I'm not really asking: indoctrination is the point of college, which is why we should choose our colleges carefully.

shoutingthomas said...

Why didn't you just remember it from the first time?

Spoken like a true schoolmarm.

One of my daughters is a schoolmarm. So, I won't hold it against you... well, that much.

Ann, do you ever regret that feminists employed the "we're the same as blacks under Jim Crow" tactic? It was very effective, but the long-term results have been a disaster.

It helped set in motion the Great Bigot Hunt.

It got you stuff. No doubt about that. Do you have any regrets about the tactics feminists used so that you could get stuff?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

They should be assigning Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath".

It would be more timely and topical.

shoutingthomas said...

And, I should add that the Borking of Judge Bork centered on this very issue.

Bork criticized the methods the Warren Court used to enforce desegregation, although he supported integration. I

Democrats refused to acknowledge this distinction, and Borked Bork with the accusation that his opposition to the methods used by the Warren Court was evidence of concealed bigotry.

kcom said...

Your whimsy should lead you out of that church if your pastor doesn't raise her game by several notches. There is no excuse for propagating ignorance and stupidity to a captive audience. If she's going to say something like that she needs to know it's true in a very concrete way. Otherwise she's just slandering her fellow countrymen.

And it would not suprise me at all if she didn't actually know the meaning of the word "atrocity". Words have been so twisted and stretched and massaged these days that many of them are losing any real meaning. "Islamaphobia" is a perfect example. I'm appalled by the real atrocities committed in the name of Islam and supported in polling by substantial numbers (not just a fringe) of practicing Muslims and somehow that makes me "Islamophobic". Sorry, I'm not Islamophobic, I'm just thoroughly and completely disgusted. That's an accurate description of my feelings, not some empty, meaningless buzzword.

Scott M said...

Ann, do you ever regret that feminists employed the "we're the same as blacks under Jim Crow" tactic? It was very effective, but the long-term results have been a disaster.

What has that got to do with this thread?

TerriW said...

Why didn't you just remember it from the first time?

Just a poor turn of phrase. Perhaps replace with "It was a required book in several different classes."

Now, it's possible this could be a good thing -- one was a philosophy class, one was a science class and, done well, you could hit the book from both angles. However, not done well, it felt like a lot of burned classroom time.

And when you are working full-time to pay your own tuition, burned classroom time stands out a bit more.

tooclass said...

Plus, we all know Dylan's views on Israel/Palestine:

http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/neighborhood-bully

rdkraus said...

Eight years ago my daughter entered Fordham. They assigned all freshman a book (I can't remember what). She kept "not" reading it.

My wife and I both tried to read it. And we're both readers (75-100books per year each). Could. Not. Read. It.

My wife gave up after 50 pages. I slogged through 100 pages. Wow. Worst book ever. BORING. Wish I could remember the name. Could not indoctrinate, couldn't even stay awake.

I did notice on the Fordham campus posters about the evil Israelis and the horrors they were inflicting upon innocent Palestinians. Oy. The Israelis are really losing the PR war.

shoutingthomas said...

What has that got to do with this thread?

A surprising response.

To me, it has everything to do with this thread.

The tactic of comparing every aggrieved group/individual to blacks under Jim Crow has completely corrupted our political dialogue.

The leftists at Brooklyn immediately recognized that this tactic has been successful for every group that has employed it: particularly women and gays.

The propagandists at Brooklyn are using this tactic because it works. There seems to be no response to this tactic.

How would the world be different if, 40 years ago, when feminists employed this tactic, the majority public response had been:

"Jesus, are you full of shit. You've never gone without a meal in your entire life. You've got, perhaps a minor complaint about equal rights to a job, but that is not the same thing at all. Behave yourselves, quit acting like assholes, and maybe we'll think about making some adjustments."

Richard Dolan said...

A strange, meandering post to start the day. It fits its subject, though.

That a college assigns a lefty book to all incoming freshman isn't surprising. But people, even freshmen, aren't stupid. Some will embrace the PC-ness of it all. Those that don't will learn quickly enough how to navigate in PC waters.

But the more interesting part of the post is this: " .... just about what I was thinking in the early 1970s: I want to live the artist's life. That doesn't mean you need to be an artist, but there is an art to living, and you are more a work of art than a thing you invest in."

So what is this artist's life that is so attractive? The artists I know generally have a hard life -- for the musicians, it's long hours, constant running after gigs, insecurity that many try to alleviate with teaching posts. Visual and plastic artists have an even tougher time. Choosing that path, knowing how hard it can be, and then sticking to it, requires dedication -- not to the art for its own sake, but instead to what, for that person, makes life worth living. It has a lot in common with a religious vocation.

Ann links it all to yesterday's post about the regrets many feel about how they lived as the end of life approaches. Neither an artist's life nor a religious one is any guarantee against such regrets, all of which are just as much a part of the human condition as breathing. Perhaps the constant need to question what one is doing when living the artist's life (or the religious one) integrates the inevitable doubts, the always-insistent 'why am I doing this?' stuff, that more conventional ways of living tend to push aside until they can't be avoided.

But I'm not sure what Ann means by it.

AJ Lynch said...

Rdkraus:
I have 2 nieces who went to Fordham. Those Jesuits do a good job in indocrinating the students to the far left view [unfortunately]. But so far, they are still good kids though just a tad uninformed about real facts.

Skyler said...

However, not done well, it felt like a lot of burned classroom time.

This has been the hallmark of academia as long as I've been around. Unless you're learning science or engineering, then it's all just whimsey and make believe anyway. There is no way to know literature to an objective standard, so there is plenty of room to pretend that it's all so deep if it fits in the proper stereotypes.

Higher education is less about learning, despite the grandiose claims, and more about being from an institution that takes credit for your intelligence. The trick is to go to the school with the best reputation, since reputation of the school seems to be all important to some employers.

Or just get the check in the box so you can perform some line of work that is controlled by a cartel, such as law or hairdressing and spend as little money doing it as possible. You can be a free man as a solo practicioner from Harvard or from St. Mary's. You just leave with more debt from one than the other.

MayBee said...

When did this "common experience" business start, anyway?

Why isn't it enough of a common experience that they are all beginning the same college at the same time?

Maguro said...

Higher education is less about learning, despite the grandiose claims, and more about being from an institution that takes credit for your intelligence.

This. Colleges are the only institutions in America that are permitted to screen applicants with an IQ test.

Shanna said...

It’s not going to kill anyone to read a book they disagree with, even if it is kind of a stupid book to assign. As mentioned, most of the kids probably won’t read it. Maybe they’ll skim enough information to get by. That’s a useful skill to learn.

I have to disagree with you. That cynicism does not seem to apply to their embrace of theories about global warming, recycling, social justice,etc.

Because they got that when they were 5. By 18, you have to unbrainwash them :)

As my whimsy leads me.. said...

Kcom, believe me I've thought about it. We're the church of "open minds, open hearts, and open doors." I've told a few that open doors are good--they let people in, and they let people out, too. The open minds, I have my doubts about. The hearts are quite open, though, and we have a great choir. So I'm still pondering.

Toy

rdkraus said...

AJ

I actually think the education she got was fine, and she managed not to be indoctrinated (prolly growing up with me insulated her to some extent).

roesch-voltaire said...

Requiring a common reading is not indoctrination if it is subjected to critical inquiry which should take place at the university level. For example last year at the UW our common reading was In Defense of Food, by Pollen and it produced a objections from some as well as a lively pro/con debate in the classroom and in panel discussions. Some of us pointed out his weak and incomplete use of references, while other folks questioned gaps in its history of the family meal. Eventually 8,000 folks, from both on campus and off, attended a lecture by Pollen! This year the common reading is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Skloot and I am sure it will produce conflicting views and keep our intellectual life lively.

former law student said...

Why is everyone so eager to assume the administration chose this book to indoctrinate their new students? Perhaps they hoped to provoke outrage, or at least lively discussions. I imagine that the bulk of the undergrads are not Arabs. These non-Arabs will certainly be sharpening their critical thinking skills, as their natural reaction should be to reject the arguments. Although hopefully with a bit more skill and rigor than we see here.

MadisonMan said...

I blame Sponge Bob.

Whoooooooooo

lives in a pineapple under the Sea

Sponge! Bob! Square! Pants!

Absorbent and Yellow and Porous is he!

Sponge! Bob! Square! Pants!

Sponge Bob Square Pants
Sponge Bob Square Pants
Sponge Bob Square Pants

Sponge Bob Square Paaaants!

Thanks so much. I really wanted to sing that song all day.

TerriW said...

My philosophy professor in college assigned us a book -- unfortunately, I don't recall the title -- that was, frankly, utter crap. Poorly argued, et cetera. So, of course, we all came to class filled with piss and vinegar ready to rip it to shreds, only to find out, that was the point. He wanted to know if by that point in the class, could we identify crap arguments and reasoning.

But I have a hard time imagining a school would employ that kind of stunt required reading for the whole freshman class. Heh.

kcom said...

Whimsy, maybe your questions and comments to her will get her thinking. And maybe she, too, will take advantage of the wonders of Google to educate herself about what she's already talking about. She might be surprised.

I'm kind of reminded of that stunt NBC pulled in sending Muslims (or was it fake Muslims?) to a NASCAR event with a hidden camera to record all the anti-Muslim slurs and outrages they were convinced would surely take place. Except NOTHING (not surprisingly) happened.

MayBee said...

Are incoming college freshman so awkward that they need an assigned "common experience" to find something to discuss?

What ever happened to finding out- on your own- what common experiences you have with your schoolmates?

Hoosier Daddy said...

College assigns leftwing anti-American tome to incoming freshman? This is news? Next up, this Sunday, Catholic priest reads from the Gospel according to St. Luke.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

What would I do if I were there where you are, dear Freshman? Because I'm old, and I've already made a lot of choices, I don't want to tell you what to do.

aside

Yeah, the lyrics of "September Song" really hit home at some point.

/aside

The assumption is these kids will actually read the book, which may be asking a lot. (I got through about the first 10 pages of mine and that was it)

Your average 18 year old really doesn't know enough about the world to be aware of what the "little Lenins" (paraphrasing Ward Churchill) want to do to them, so they have to get some input from Mom and Dad, and that's assuming they'll listen once said input is given since the choice is ultimately the kid's. (Yes, I'm aware the kid doesn't usually foot the bill)

Some schools have better reps than others with regard to political orientation and, even at a place like Berkeley, they won't get anywhere near the brainwashing in physics or computer science that they will majoring in liberal arts.

There is also the military option, which will not only put some money for college in the kid's pocket, but will also knock some of the nonsense out of him/her so (s)he will be able to make a more intelligent choice.

Christy said...

B.F. Skinner's Walden Two was big when I went to school. That is when I gained my contempt for Utopians, and came to believe that man only progresses through conflict. (Think that last phrase would make a progressive's head explode?)

Ann Althouse said...

"Yeah, the lyrics of "September Song" really hit home at some point."

I think of the Cat Stevens song "Father and Son"... and still feel that I'm on the son side:

If they were right, I'd agree
But it's them, they know not me.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

Scott M said...

That is when I gained my contempt for Utopians, and came to believe that man only progresses through conflict. (Think that last phrase would make a progressive's head explode?)

I don't know about "only", but certainly looking at your average treeline should educate one about the advantages of competition.

craig said...

Toy, the writer G.K. Chesterton once said the point of having an open mind, like an open mouth, is to close it on something solid. Beware of the kind of people who pride themselves in looking but abhor finding.

k*thy said...

and still feel that I'm on the son side

Same here.

holdfast said...

Isn't this really just a ploy to help the author by boosting sales of a crap book?

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

"Yeah, the lyrics of "September Song" really hit home at some point."

I think of the Cat Stevens song "Father and Son"... and still feel that I'm on the son side:

If they were right, I'd agree
But it's them, they know not me.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.


There are always those wonderful parental conflicts. While I had a terrible relationship with my father, I feel I've gotten past it - at least in some ways. The Blonde is still rebelling against her mother.

A lot of people always have to reflect a moment to think of themselves not as a kid, but as an adult.

Dead Julius said...

This situation reflects how conservative leaders have failed our society.

Do our conservative leaders openly challenge young people to question authority? Do they encourage young people to learn, to explore, to ask tough questions, and then to make up their own mind with confidence? Do they encourage young people to avoid conformity and to embrace mindful solitude?

Nah... Instead conservatives put on big shows-- like the Beck & Palin Extravaganza of this past weekend-- that just reinforce the big conformist myths of our culture. "YAY MILITARY!" "YAY GOD!" "YAY CONFORMITY!"

Conservatives have abandoned our young people, and that's allowed Leftists to do whatever they want to them. Why? I think that, deep down, conservatives are still afraid of what will happen if young people think for themselves...

Kirk Parker said...

MadisonMan, now we *really* wonder about you. :-)

David said...

"Not that you can't build up great wealth by starting a gardening business."

Get cracking, Meade.

Scott M said...

DJ,

The most common lament that I got from my profs in college (when I went back as a 33=year-old...I wasn't listening as at 18) was that freshmen show up woefully lacking in basic critical thinking skills. Most are extremely ill-prepared for the college-level academics and pace.

Before lambasting an entire ideology on this particular topic, please remember who's had a pretty good grip on the public education system in this country for the past 30 years.

To answer your first question, I'd say conservatives are giving a pretty good example right now on how to go about questioning authority. The Tea Party, whether you agree with them ideologically or not, have led a peaceful movement from the get-go. No riots, no malicious property damage, no burning cars. Plenty of questioning of authority.

Ann Althouse said...

"Get cracking, Meade."

Meade is an old man. He's already cracked.

HDHouse said...

If a kid quits school because he is assigned to read a book that should stimulate lively discussion and can't handle the most basic and obvious goad to develop a point of view, then the kid is too stupid to be in college.

No one is required to do anything other than read the stuff and you and probably get away without reading it but to what end? What ever happened to “hey I read that and I didn’t agree”?

Why is pabulum the only food acceptable to the right wing?

Stephen A. Meigs said...

Being true to oneself is both an artistic and rational undertaking. It is true that people have innate tendencies, but those tendencies hardly suffice to directly lead a fulfilling life. Accordingly, it seems to me, people tend to understand their tendencies so that they can abstract new more generally useful tendencies, and after having done this, they gain as new tendencies these abstracted tendencies, i.e., those which their understandings of themselves suggest they might possess merely because they fit the patterns of their innate tendencies or could be explained by what explains their observed innate tendencies.

Being true to oneself involves not just familiarizing oneself with one's own innate tendencies (and in particular, not just assuming they are what others say they are), which may involve being or having been in a setting more likely to elicit such tendencies, but also using one's own reasoning to come at an understanding of one's innate tendencies (and in particular, not just assuming standard explanations of human nature best explain one's own), so that the new tendencies that come from one's sense of self via abstraction also be authentic.

Of course, people can have an innate tendency to assume that their tendencies are the standard tendencies that most people (or most successful people, or most people in their clan, etc.) say that they are, but being motivated by this tendency, innate though it might be, doesn't really count as being true to oneself as the concept best be defined, or the whole concept of being true to oneself would be automatic and a ridiculous subject of discussion. (But there is also the wrinkle of how to deal with people who decide according to their own true natures that they are so screwed up and polluted by addiction they can't perceive rightly what their natural tendencies be--might'nt they not rightly feel they could be more true to their own innate self by assuming what those they had respected (e.g., their parents or their parents' religion) have to say about this self is more true than what their polluted feelings have to say about it? Of course, many pseudoreligions, etc., exploit this tendency by making people wrongly feel screwed-up when they aren't, but that is another matter.)

The reason girls tend to think that being oneself is mainly an artistic endeavor is probably that rational undertakings have a way of being slow, and girls being true to themselves often need not so much to be true to themselves as to be true to themselves fast, e.g., because they feel they might very much want to love sooner rather than later. And anyway, girls will have lots of time to make deductions about their youthful feelings later.

That said, there is an underappreciated artistry involved in logic. A good mathematician, he familiarizes himself with a ton of proofs, reproving when he thinks he can make an improvement. Feeling one can prove something comes largely from having such a thorough familiarity with the feelings one has about other proofs that when some combination of ideas are logically related in some way resembling ideas in some past proof, one often gets a feeling one can prove something, and if one also has the feeling that it will be lovely, then one sets about proving it, guided by one's feelings.

LarsPorsena said...

"That said, there is an underappreciated artistry involved in logic. A good mathematician, he familiarizes himself with a ton of proofs, reproving when he thinks he can make an improvement. "Feeling" one can prove something comes largely from having such a thorough familiarity with the "feelings" one has about other proofs that when some combination of ideas are logically related in some way resembling ideas in some past proof, one often gets a "feeling" one can prove something, and if one also has the "feeling" that it will be lovely, then one sets about proving it, guided by one's "feelings".

All of this 'feeling' is making me uneasy about the proving of anything. It's almost as if Archimedes should have shouted 'How touching'! instead of 'Eureka!'

Oligonicella said...

Maguro --

"This. Colleges are the only institutions in America that are permitted to screen applicants with an IQ test."

Been there, seen the student pops, didn't see this permission utilized.



HDHouse --

"...a book that should stimulate lively discussion..."

Quickly followed by an "F".

shoutingthomas said...

Why is pabulum the only food acceptable to the right wing?

Tell me something that more fits the description of "pabulum" than yet another repetition of

"[fill in the blanks] is oppressed just like blacks under Jim Crow."

You're completely out of the loop, HenHouse. The liberal shibboleths of the last 50 years are trite pabulum.

We've heard it all millions of times. So have the kids.

Sofa King said...

These non-Arabs will certainly be sharpening their critical thinking skills, as their natural reaction should be to reject the arguments.

That may be their natural reaction but if they've successfully navigated primary education, they're smart enough by now to recognize an obvious trap when they see one, and won't be stupid enough to be the nail sticking out that gets hammered down as a lesson to the others.

Michael said...

"Why is pabulum the only food acceptable to the right wing?"

HD's skills with logic remain challenged. The objection to the book was that it was a bad book, a stupid book and a book premised on a fallacy. The right wing would prefer that its children read something a bit meatier. A History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire would be my suggestion. The book in question is almost certainly leftie "pablum."

The left routinely dumbs down curriculums because they see themselves in their children.

Graham Powell said...

I want to live the artist's life.

I myself want to live an engineer's life, getting things to work, and I'm fortunate that I do. Plus I still get to write on the weekends. What a country!

Pogo said...

After their long march, leftists own higher education. This was first documented by WF Buckley in God and Man at Yale, with more recent updates by David Horowitz through FIRE.

The author of the article who cut out his significant bequest to his alma mater, Brooklyn College, must have had great memories of his education, and does this with a heavy heart.

But the school he knew is dead, and the stalinist university that replaced it is too far gone to be helped. Best to starve it and let it die alone in its utopian fever.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

Lars--

Not that the feeling ideas can fit into a proof can't arrive abruptly, but I don't think math is properly a striving aim-and-shoot thing like when Archimedes was striving for a result in his engineering problem. Godel's incompleteness theorem (admittedly using a machinery more useful for aim-and-shoot math) implies that there is no way to clearly axiomatize a math theory strong enough for arithmetic in such a way as to keep there from being sentences in the theory neither provable nor disprovable. In other words there will always be statements sort of like Melville's krinkum-krankum whales ("them's whales that can't be cotched"). One could waste one's life trying to prove something unprovable or with a ridiculously long proof.

It may well be that mathematicians tend to be nerdy enthusiasts (but less than, say, computer scientists), but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be better mathematicians if they were less nerdy and enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is especially useful, I think, to females as a way of keeping inappropriate externalities (esp., abusive male third parties) from interfering with their mating decisions. And if one has lots of female ancestors who partly as a result of lacking enthusiasm did have their mating emotions warped by abusive male third parties, then one has probably lots of male ancestors who were abusive males, who tend to be bad at math, etc., which tendencies one may inherit.

Maguro said...

@Oligonicella said...
Maguro --

"This. Colleges are the only institutions in America that are permitted to screen applicants with an IQ test."

Been there, seen the student pops, didn't see this permission utilized
.

Oh, your school's admissions office didn't use SAT scores? Most do, you know, especially the more selective ones.

deborah said...

Firstly, Professor, you're not old, you're older.

Secondly, wasn't the assignment of Cat's Cradle back in the late sixties a politcal act by your school?

My favorite line from Slaughterhouse Five: "Dread told him when to stop. Lack of it told him when to move again."

dividebytube said...

back in my ol' college days (graduated in '95), I knew a few Middle Eastern students. Most were unabashedly pro-capitalist, pro-American and trying to get ahead in life. Heck, they had nicer cars and better clothes than me - I was a poor student living on $40 every two weeks. I don't remember anyone shedding any tears over my poverty.

William said...

It's pleasant to think that a happy life can be achieved by making smart choices and reading the right books......Arthur Koestler deserves his place in hell. It's one thing to choose suicide; it's quite another to talk your wife into following you down that path.....Well his life, if not his books, illustrates the problems inherent in taking the ideas of a charismatic intellectual too seriously.

Michael said...

My daughter was given "Power, Privilege and Difference" as required reading and the only textbook for an English course at the U of Arizona. It is a "whiteness studies" book inappropriate for freshmen, especially. Her final exam in that course consisted of an essay (60% of the grade) on a white man raping or abusing a woman or minority. I helped her choose William Kennedy Smith and her grad student instructor, devoid of irony, gave her a 90 grade.

My daughter no longer attends U of A.

gus3 said...

B.F. Skinner's "Walden Two" was big when I went to school. That is when I gained my contempt for Utopians, and came to believe that man only progresses through conflict.

That's not a new idea. Viz. the Cuckoo Clock speech from The Third Man.

WV: crewa: a Mardi Gras float decorator who can't spell

rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rcocean said...

Althouse has made a mistake. This line:

"...because Meade, with whom I share a love of Dylan"

should read:

"...because Meade, who pretends to share my obsessive, chick love of Dylan..."

Milwaukee said...

It's too bad that Jesuit Universities have become so liberal. Look at Notre Dame with President Obama. And now we have:
"AJ Lynch said...

Rdkraus:
I have 2 nieces who went to Fordham. Those Jesuits do a good job in indocrinating the students to the far left view [unfortunately]. But so far, they are still good kids though just a tad uninformed about real facts. "


Franco brought the military into the Spanish Civil War in part because the socialist were murdering priests and nuns. When the firing starts here, are those liberal Jesuit priests going to expect somebody to come running to their defense? Will there be time, or will things move so fast no one will be able to save them?

rcocean said...

I have no respect for Kessler. He thought Brooklyn college was A-OK when it pushed left wing Marxist theology and promoted 'Diversity'. But now Muslims are included in the victim class - so BC is awful.

Sounds like the guy just hates Muslims.

Ronnie Schreiber said...

Residential College (at the University of Michigan) in 1969

RC in '69 eh? Did you stay in East Quad till you graduated? If so, we may have crossed paths as I lived there in 72-73.

Ann, you weren't a member of the East Quad Tripping Society, were you? When I got to A Squared acid was a shadow of its former self, but there was some awfully interesting graffiti in the East Quad stairwells.

deborah said...

Roesch-voltaire, great story about UW's approach to the incomers' book assigment. Sounds like a fun intellectual/team-building experience.

Someone isn't updating his or her blog.

deborah said...

'Get cracking, Meade.'

He could call his nursery 'Meadeful Things.'

:)

Gabriel Hanna said...

I don't think books indoctrinate people, at least non-fiction books. Some commenter brought up Mein Kampf, but Mein Kampf was famously unread; being the unedited rantings of a racist autodidact it would not convince anyone of anything. I never read Mao's Little Red Book; I heard hippies carried it around but how many of them got through it?

My objection to the book assigned in this case is that it would be wasting the time of people who already have a lot to read as it is; and most of these people don't like to read to begin with. But it wouldn't do them any harm to read a book that's offensive and contentious. Nobody should believe things just because they read them.

What's far more dangerous is fiction. Gone With the Wind, for example, gives a very distorted picture of the antebellum South and Reconstruction, but it is such a compelling story and lots of people come away unhistorical notions. Movies and TV are just as bad.

I don't believe anyone comes out of academia "brainwashed". If they changed their opinions is because they wanted to. Most college students I've known don't pay enough attention to be brainwashed.

former law student said...

they're smart enough by now to recognize an obvious trap when they see one, and won't be stupid enough to be the nail sticking out that gets hammered down as a lesson to the others.

Do conservatives really remain mute during four years of undergrad? Do they craft their essays from what they believe a liberal might say?

I picture conservative students huddled together over a guttering candle in an unused boiler room, listening to the cheering show of Rush Limbaugh, reminding them That They Are Not Alone. Then I picture the clean-cut boys asking the demurely-clad girls (plaid skirts, natch) to chastely share ice cream sodas at the nearby Sweet Shoppe.

knox said...

What's far more dangerous is fiction. Gone With the Wind, for example, gives a very distorted picture of the antebellum South and Reconstruction, but it is such a compelling story and lots of people come away unhistorical notions. Movies and TV are just as bad.

Well, but anyone who thinks what they read in a novel or see in a fictional movie or TV show is fact is the one with the problem, doncha think?

Quilly_Mammoth said...

I don't believe anyone comes out of academia "brainwashed". If they changed their opinions is because they wanted to. Most college students I've known don't pay enough attention to be brainwashed.

Perhaps the stupidest comment I've seen on Althouse in a year. Or more.

One bases one's opinion on the data given. If you do not see all sides, and all information, then your opinion must, perforce, be based on what you are shown.

Clearly there is a dearth of political diversity in colleges and universities. Which can't be balanced by the opinions of the Engineering Department which must, because of physical laws, deal in reality and provable results.

If 90% plus of squishy discipline (non-hard science) professors denote themselves as left or left leaning (or support the Democratic Party)then what, for fuck's sake, makes you think that a balanced presentation of the facts is going to occur?

And absent all data being presented to the student what makes you think that the result is not equivalent to brain washing?

In engineering and other hard sciences you must present all the facts for the result to be proven. In the squishy fields you do not at all as long as they lead to your conclusion.

Quilly_Mammoth said...

As an aside, if the members of Academia were all conservative then that side would be pushed to the exclusion of others. The scene in Animal House rings true.

Today there are professors privately talking to students about how The Collective doesn't work. Dave Jennings in reverse.

But they are few and far between. And honestly the whole dope thing made it so much easier to believe.

[Handed his first joint]
Pinto: I won't go schizo, will I?
Jennings: It's a distinct possibility.

Chris said...

http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/08/29/0456229/Bill-Gates-Enrolls-His-Kids-In-Khan-Academy

The writing's on the wall for the current model of colleges as indoctrination boot camps. Online education, streamlined and trimmed of all the ideological fatty tissue, is well, not a done deal but it's close.

The Crack Emcee said...

Wow - from Vonnegut to this nonsense - or from Left to extreme Left:

Not of diversity of thought on college campuses, is there?

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Quilly Mammoth:

One bases one's opinion on the data given. If you do not see all sides, and all information, then your opinion must, perforce, be based on what you are shown.

Then why are there still creationists? Creationism has not been taught in schools in forty years. Students learn it somewhere. Outside school. Astrology and crystals and homoepathy are never taught in schools, yet there are educated people who believe in these things. Where di they get the information? Outside school.

When shown contrary evidence, you can just refuse to believe it or forget you were shown it. You can question the sources and do your own research. There's all kinds of ways to avoid indoctrination.

You seem to think students are brainless automatons who just absorb only what their professors assign, like sponges, and have no life outside of completing assignments.

And absent all data being presented to the student what makes you think that the result is not equivalent to brain washing?

Because "brainwashing" is process of torture and psychological manipulation, and that is not what is going on at universities. You can be totally hyperbolic if you want, but no one who's attended a university will take you seriously.

BJM said...

They're overplaying the Muslim card and soon it will have little value. Unlike the sexist and racist card there is little guilt in post 9/11 America on which they can draw...but I digress

I removed our alma mater from the family trust and stopped contributing to the alumni fund years ago and so have many friends and colleagues.

In the end, such indoctrination matters little, as evil corporations will soon crush their young souls and suck them dry...oh wait...that would be the national debt.

BJM said...

Afls

Do conservatives really remain mute during four years of undergrad? Do they craft their essays from what they believe a liberal might say?

If they're smart they do, just as I bit my tongue for thirty years in business.

I vote absentee ballot after being insulted and/or ostracized at polling places in San Mateo and Alameda counties.

I have a several very good friends of more than 30 years standing who think I'm a lib because I mutter a platitude or nod in agreement and change the subject to one of the many interests we have in common. There are some battles best not fought.

It is a sad commentary on how narrow minded and politically rigid the SF Bay Area is and not a little ironic that the only folks in the closet nowadays are moderate Dems and conservatives.

ndspinelli said...

Milwaukee, A minor point needs to be made. Jesuits don't teach @ Notre Dame. The Holy Cross Fathers are the order that staff ND.

The Sanity Inspector said...

The title of the book is drawn from communist WEB DuBois’ same question in 1903 in his treatise The Souls of Black Folk.

Quibble: DuBois fought against racism for decades and saw little progress. He was a socialist starting in the 1910s, but did not become a communist until towards the end of his very long life, in the early 60s..

jr565 said...

tooclass wrote:
Plus, we all know Dylan's views on Israel/Palestine:

http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/neighborhood-bully

AH, irony! I was this close to writing Dylan off as yet another lefty that hates Israel till I read the words. Dylan, you are exhonorated!

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, do you ever regret that feminists employed the "we're the same as blacks under Jim Crow" tactic?"

Regret it? I don't even remember it? What are you talking about?

"Secondly, wasn't the assignment of Cat's Cradle back in the late sixties a politcal act by your school?"

To compare Vonnegut to the kinds of political propaganda that BC handed out is just plain crazy. The richness of the novel is astounding. Interviews with members of minority groups telling stories of their grievances... how can you compare that.

Anyway, my school, RC, was political, but it was also based on reading and understanding great books. It was a new and vibrant educational experiment, and the kids who went there in 1969 were damned rebellious. It was very anti-war and very hippie. No question about that.

Ann Althouse said...

"RC in '69 eh? Did you stay in East Quad till you graduated? If so, we may have crossed paths as I lived there in 72-73."

I lived there for 2 years. Fall 69 to Spring 71. What a crazy time!

"Ann, you weren't a member of the East Quad Tripping Society, were you? When I got to A Squared acid was a shadow of its former self, but there was some awfully interesting graffiti in the East Quad stairwells."

The expression "East Quad Tripping Society" doesn't ring a bell for me, but there was some LSD in East Quad in the years I was there. Still, you didn't see drugs that much. And there was very little alcohol. I'm sure substance abuse today is far far worse than when I was there. We were gentle people with flowers in our hair.

M. Simon said...

LarsPorsena,

The human brain is most effective as a pattern recognition system. Which is why you train it with the study of proofs so you get a "feeling" when patterns are recognized.

It is often useful when pontificating about a subject to be somewhat cognizant of the latest research in a field. i.e. knowledge that is over 20 years old.

Without feelings you can't think. You can look it up.

AST said...

My older son went to Harvard where he also got a PhD. I can't talk to him about anything cultural anymore. He thinks Harvard is the epitome of all thought. Fortunately, he's been getting a post-doc education in hard knocks, so there's hope yet.

My younger son is starting his fourth year of a six year Phd/Med school program at the U of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. He told me last year that he was in favor of Obamacare. We haven't discussed it since.

Who knows what I'd do if I were eighteen now. Probably go to vocational school. I know a number of people who are happier and better off than I am who never went to college.

M. Simon said...

AST,

I have a daughter who is going to UICU. Fortunately she is majoring in chemical engineering.

I have a son who graduated from UChicago in liberal arts. Luckily he studied Russian and is now teaching at a Russian University (Eng. lang., American culture). He has seen extreme liberalism up close (it is thuggish) and is not enamored of it. Besides in his teens he was a hard core Libertarian. So he has some resources to fall back on. Best of all his natural stance on everything is cynical. So he and I can talk.

My #3 son is in electrical engineering and is a limited government guy at heart. #1 son is a poet and has zero interest in politics.

deborah said...

"Secondly, wasn't the assignment of Cat's Cradle back in the late sixties a politcal act by your school?"

To compare Vonnegut to the kinds of political propaganda that BC handed out is just plain crazy. The richness of the novel is astounding. Interviews with members of minority groups telling stories of their grievances... how can you compare that.

Anyway, my school, RC, was political, but it was also based on reading and understanding great books. It was a new and vibrant educational experiment, and the kids who went there in 1969 were damned rebellious. It was very anti-war and very hippie. No question about that.


Here is a link to the book, which will hopefully open to 'first pages':

http://www.amazon.com/How-Does-Feel-Be-Problem/dp/1594201765#reader_1594201765

Skimming, the author says that the 35,000 muslims in Brooklyn represent half of all Muslims in NYC. He talks of them being 'the new blacks.' He talks of a friend who turned out to be someone who spied on him. If you scroll down to the first biographical portrait he presents, Rasha, and her experiences, you can get the gist of where he's going with this book.

So Brooklyn College, located in a borough with 35,000 Muslims, wants to raise consciousness about the Muslim experience. If executed in the multi-faceted approach of UW, that roesch-voltaire outlined, couldn't it possibly be a boon to our society, to talk about the elephant on the table?

My only point about your class reading Vonnegut was that it was definitely a leftist social statement. How is this Muslim book so different from 'Black Like Me' or an equivalent book on the WW II internment of the Japanese?

lucid said...

What a fabulous post. Sometimes you really come through, Althouse.

Sofa King said...

Do conservatives really remain mute during four years of undergrad?

Well, most pretty quickly get a feel for when it is or is not safe to voice contrary opinions. I have had unapologetically liberal professors who I had no problem arguing conservative ideas with in class because he welcomed the debate and respected that people can disagree on certain things and still be good, honest people.

On the other hand I had another professor who was very cutting and mocked conservative opinions often. Unsurprisingly, there appeared to be no conservatives in his class aside from one or two very brave ones.

And almost every conservative knows that the by-far absolute worst time to voice conservative opinions is during any non-academic function like orientation, when they are just looking for reasons to pound home the lessons of "diversity" and "respect."

Dokemion said...

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Montagne Montaigne said...

The Onion: Man Already Knows Everything He Needs To Know About Muslims

Did anyone read the monstrous indoctrinating book?