November 25, 2013

At UCLA: Protesting microaggression, microaggressively.

"Rest assured I take this extremely seriously. I humbly dedicate myself to listening and to learning from this experience. Together, as a community, we will work towards just, equitable, and lasting solutions. Together, we shall heal."

Wrote Val Rust, the UCLA professor whose class was chosen as the site for a sit-in to protest "microaggression." One of various charges against Rust was that he overdid the marking up of their papers with spelling and grammar corrections. There were other offenses as well, such as failing to intervene in a classroom dialogue between 2 students in which a black male was telling a white female that she's not entitled to use "Standpoint Theory," because she's not a member of an oppressed group. Rust underdid that part of his role, in the view of the protesting students, who seem to have wanted more "support" from him.

I can understand a teacher feeling confident about correcting specific errors, but hanging back when students are arguing with each other about a matter for which there is no right answer. But I wasn't there, and Rust now says he let that "discussion" go on "for quite a while." I can't say what that classroom felt like. Teachers often think that things are going well when the students go back and forth with each other, but there are times when it's uncomfortable and the teacher should feel moved to restore harmony.

But there's something awful about exploring these issues by targeting one teacher for a sit-in. I suspect the students have learned this. "Microaggression" could have been a valuable concept for understanding racial dynamics, but by their actions, they've made it seem — to many people who haven't previously heard or thought much about the term — like a device for making weird, unfair charges against a decent person.

Ironically, the students' words and actions are what feel micro and aggressive.

132 comments:

EMD said...

"here were other offenses as well, such as failing to intervene in a classroom dialogue between 2 students in which a black male was telling a white female that she's not entitled to use "Standpoint Theory," because she's not a member of an oppressed group."

College is the biggest scam going.

And you're a part of it!

Unknown said...

Correcting spelling and grammar mistakes is 'microaggression' and racist.

Because nothing says "hire this person" like a resume with spelling and grammatical errors.

EMD said...

Are we really using the fucking word "microagression" now?

Shouting Thomas said...

Hilariously stupid.

I can see why your position of status prevents you either from observing this or stating plainly how hilariously stupid this is.

Thankfully, I don't have a position of status to defend.

Gahrie said...

Can we all agree that if we have to now resort to being victimized by microagressions that it is time to finally dump the victimization cult and industry?

LarsPorsena said...

I can't wait for the introduction of nanoaggressions.

MadisonMan said...

I'm not checking. But I'll bet he's not a Professor in Engineering or Sciences.

Unknown said...

LarsPorsena said...
I can't wait for the introduction of nanoaggressions.

The term 'nanoaggressions' is racist because it minimizes the real problem of racism.

Not what I really think but I can anticipate the argument.

MadisonMan said...

Or maybe she.

I did check. I was right.

If these students have time for this kind of nonsense, the class syllabus needs to be expanded, to include more instruction and information. They have too much spare time on their hands.

Tari said...

Graduate School of Education’s Information’s Social Science and Comparative Education division - that says it all, doesn't it?

betamax3000 said...

And the inevitable micro-passive-aggressive. You won't even be aware its happening to you. Sometimes the cap left off the toothpaste is just the cap left off the toothpaste. Or is it? So many angels dancing on such a tiny pin.



madAsHell said...

Here's the original link to the UCLA student newspaper.

Paco Wové said...

"Can we all agree that if we have to now resort to being victimized by microagressions that it is time to finally dump the victimization cult and industry?"

Ha! You wish. Victimization pays. Victimhood is the very spirit of the age.

As long as we're wishing for things that won't happen, I would rather we all agree that any field of "study" that is prone to this sort of pathological behavior is not a real academic discipline at all, and should be cast out of the university. (Yes, I know, that would reduce higher education's ranks by at least half.)

YoungHegelian said...

I'm just waiting for some someone to be "struggled" to death for failing to do self-criticism properly, just like in the good ol' days of Chairman Mao.

betamax3000 said...

The universities mulch their own.

Henry said...

The two complaints seem to boil down to:

1) You're treating us like children!
2) You're not treating us enough like children!

Ann Althouse said...

"Here's the original link to the UCLA student newspaper."

I chose the link I did because it has all that background and advances the story a step, with the teacher's sort-of apology.

I think many bloggers picked up this story with a cartoon version that said the students were saying it's racist to correct spelling and grammar.

That is not fair to the students. The students may have been unfair to the teacher, but I don't accept caricaturing what they thought.

I am trying to get people to be more thoughtful and oriented toward resolution, which is also what Rust seems to be doing.

betamax3000 said...

Had to look up Standpoint Theory. A selection from the Wiki:

Proletarian standpoint suggests that the impoverished and other members of lower levels of the societal hierarchy are the ideal knowers. This statement is only true if they understand the class system and the struggles that they endure on a daily basis. Feminists often substitute the term "women" for "proletariat" and they have a good foundational claim for their cause.

Pretty much what I expected.

Shouting Thomas said...

Nora Cisneros, a graduate student who participated in the sit-in, said the group chose to hold their protest because they feel Rust’s class does not encourage a climate where students of color can discuss issues of race openly.

I.e., Nora Cisneros wants to browbeat white kids and insist that they either shut up or confess to their sins.

From Althouse:

That is not fair to the students. The students may have been unfair to the teacher, but I don't accept caricaturing what they thought.

You cannot create a more ridiculous caricature than the students are creating themselves.

betamax3000 said...

Standpoint Theory leads to Sitdown Theory.

Sitdown Theory: Sit Down, Shut Up.

Peter said...

The accuser says:

When you assert something (anything) it's aggression.
If I do so it's a righteous and well-deserved defense.
Because I'm and you're not.

If students can't handle a heated discussion in a classroom, how do they expect to handle themselves in the real world?

Oh, sorry. Let's have a discussion. We'll start by assuming you, because of your racial identity, are wrong. Anything you say to defend yourself shall be construed as a form on non-permitted microagression.


My interpretation: the accuser is the biggest agressor. But when what matters is who you are and not what you say (or do) then it doesn't matter anyway.

Tank said...

Only in a very rich country can you spend any time on this kind of BS.

The people who spend time on this kind of BS are not the people who make this a very rich country.

Tank Fallacy: Actually, we're broke, but making believe we're rich.

rhhardin said...

The microaggression unit of the 70s was the milligiveashit.

MadisonMan said...

I am trying to get people to be more thoughtful and oriented toward resolution

Isn't the resolution for the students to get a thicker skin?

They might argue that there is a racist culture in the Department. So? Are they expecting to find a purely non-racist job environment when they get out of school (if they ever do? I notice that one of the grad students cited in the Student paper had known the Professor for about ten years!).

School should prepare you for the realities of life, in addition to teaching you about your field of interest. These students think they'll be living in some fantasyland in the near future where everyone is working towards a common goal and everyone is helpful. That will not happen.

There is no God-Given right to not being outraged. People will not change to suit you. It's best to learn how to cope, and complaining is not a coping mechanism that will get you very far in life.

Moose said...

Ann: I appreciate your clarification - it helps.
Saying that though, I still think these sorts of conflicts are unnecessary and counter productive. They also add to foster ridiculous conversations. And I had an art criticism minor at one time!

RecChief said...

well, the students certainly seem to be up on bullying. Guess those programs worked. The fact that he is "taking this seriously" shows he can't lead a classroom.

My military history professor used to walk down the hall of the largest building on campus, past about a dozen "no smoking" signs, smoking a Lucky Strike. Stubbed it out on the bottom of his shoe when he reached the classroom. When a student complained, he would tell him or her that he ran the place, and if they didn't like it, drop his course, and find another.

Ipso Fatso said...

So the students want a "perfect world", one in which their every thought, demand, need and emotion is fully embraced by the "other"-- in this case the professor. And when he does not meet those demands he is a bad person and should be protested and re-educated.

The sad part of this is that there are plenty of government jobs, from social workers, to educators that will reward this type of thinking with life long employment. These are the people who vote D and these are the people who will go on to make policy. Very troubling.

CWJ said...

First World problem.

In fact, First World problems have become so small that they are now actually labeled "micro."

virgil xenophon said...

Once yet AGAIN we are reminded of Orwell's statement about academic theories like we are here discussing that "...only an intellectual could possibly believe in such things; no ORDINARY person could ever BE such a fool.."

Henry said...

Peter wrote: My interpretation: the accuser is the biggest aggressor.

Yes.

Professor Rust states that the class argument started because the self-appointed victim told another student that she couldn't use Standpoint theory because she had no business claiming that she was a member of an oppressed group.

There should be a reality show called "Biggest Victim". Each season will take place in a soft-science graduate school. Each student has one semester to prove that he or she is the biggest victim.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

How can anyone with half a brain live and work in that environment? It must feel repressive, judgmental and stifling.

There was more freedom of thought in the old Soviet Union.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

betamax3000 said... The universities mulch their own.

11/25/13, 9:19 AM

Now that is a great comment.

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry, I think those of you who are packaging this incident for disposal of all the racial issues that you're tired of hearing about are so conspicuously serving your own interests and evading thinking deeply that you are making things worse.

How about asking what you can do to help?

These are students. Rust is a teacher. Teachers need to be oriented to helping students, and students are very, very often going to criticize their teachers over-aggressively, unfairly, etc. etc.

If your answer is -- The students have disqualified themselves forever on race issues -- you are not reasoning soundly.

I'm going to put a whole bunch of red marks all over your paper.

There! If you cry about that, you're a hypocrite.

Ann Althouse said...

Note that the professors are involved in the enterprise of teaching students how to think in these terms. What they see in the students reflects what they are saying. Intergenerational mirroring is a bitch.

Ever notice you own child talking in an offensive way and figure out that they got it from you? That's how you sound to them. You may think you got it wrong, but you're the adult with the experience. Do a better job of teaching the next generation.

Paddy O said...

Technically, every person in that class is privileged by the very nature of participating in this program at that school, something the vast, vast majority of humanity does not and can not have access to. So the only consistent policy would be not to let anyone in the class talk about Standpoint theory.

What's also in evidence is how a perceived, even felt, oppressed group does not so much want a change in the system but rather an inversion of roles, so seeks to silence the Other in the same way they felt silenced before, using racial cues to construct a metanarrative that is applied to all individuals. Then using that constructed metanarrative as more evidence of aggrievement by the initial class, even when the latter are actually in positions of both power and influence.

There is no inherent end to such an approach because more power and influence is gained through maintaining the oppressed status.

Thus, the oppressor by status maintains the oppressed by category role, allowing the imposition of metanarratives to perpetuate without interest in actual structural changes and the inquisitional justification for diminishing/punishing all others not in that historically aggrieved category.

EDH said...

Do I sense Althouse tip-toeing unusually carefully through this patent nonsense lest any frank comments she might make comes back to haunt her if some nut in her class pulls the same shit?

Lesson: micro-intimidation works.

Conserve Liberty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paco Wové said...

"How about asking what you can do to help?"

I suspect relatively few commenters here are involved in academics, and even fewer at UCLA. So, what can we do to "help"? We're outside the system entirely.

The only way I can think to "help" is to shut that pathetic excuse for an institution of higher learning down.

Terry said...

Althouse wrote:
"Note that the professors are involved in the enterprise of teaching students how to think in these terms."
You might think that education grad schools teach people how to educate children. They do not. They teach people why children cannot be educated.
What percentage of students in education grad schools are white, heterosexual males?

Unknown said...

Ms. Althouse, not sure exactly what your last comments were supposed to provoke, but if you are saying that the school is reaping what is has sown, that was my first thought (along with something about how elevating navel gazing to a philosophy of life can be so destructive). Is this how the "cultural revolution" started?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann, The InsideHigherEd article leaves a lot of questions open for me. For example: the "spelling and grammar" corrections. The only examples given are of Rust's "correcting" a student's capital-I "Indigenous" to lower-case, and insisting on Chicago Style when some of the students wanted to use the APA style manual.

As to the former, the student has a point -- a lot of the existing literature does capitalize "Indigenous," "Aboriginal," and the like. "Black," most definitely. (I read a fair bit of ethomusicological literature when I was a musicology grad student, twenty years ago, and that usage was more common than not even then.) As to the latter, most humanities departments do require Chicago Style for dissertations, and this was a dissertation-prep course; it's important to get this stuff right, especially the citation and bibliographical formats, lest the ghost of Kate Turabian haunt you afterwards.

Rust says in the article that he laid particular stress on correct citation format. He is right to. The students may think it's all stuffy pedantry, but editors and publishers by and large will not; nor will dissertation committees. ISTR that when my Dad was on law review at Fordham, most of the work of publication was "footnoting," i.e., checking every citation in every article to make sure the citation was (a) accurate, and (b) in conformation with the standard format.

And, IMO, any professor who doesn't correct plain spelling and grammatical errors in students' work is failing his students. You don't learn how to do something correctly if no one dares point out that you're doing it wrong. That's what professors are for. And especially when they're teaching humanities grad students. Sending them out into the hideous academic job market is cruel at the best of times, but sending them there without being able to spell or write grammatical English sentences is worse.

Unknown said...

(or how navel gazing can so easily can isolate one from reality)

damikesc said...

The worst thing one can do in a situation like this is apologize.

Stop correcting their papers and become the world's toughest professor. These are post grad students.

He was too kind to them to begin with.

If one takes these things seriously, the most racist place on Earth is a college campus, which is a haven for moronic PC bullshit now.

Stop humoring the activists.

SGT Ted said...

The subject is yet another manifestation of campus Victimology. It is little more than "my feelings are hurt, kowtow to me."

It is yet another display of leftism masquerading as intellectualism that caters to the emotionally immature on campus. It is to be used to marginalize non-approved speech and enforce conformity with the notions of the proponents, as the article shows.

Michael said...

Nothing says racism like subject and verb agreement.

Love the Amos and Andy malaprop: leveraging of charges.

Priceless.

damikesc said...

It is yet another display of leftism masquerading as intellectualism that caters to the emotionally immature on campus. It is to be used to marginalize non-approved speech and enforce conformity with the notions of the proponents, as the article shows.

Universities are constantly looking to go further Left at all times and they need an excuse to do so.

Michael said...

Professor: What you can do to "help" the students is to take the approach that David Foster Wallace took in his famous essay on the use of standard English. It is to say to black students that they are learning a foreign language and that to be successful they will have to learn to use that language correctly even if it is not employed in the day to day life of their "communities." But then the truth is not welcomed much anyplace especially in a university.

SGT Ted said...

"Stop correcting their papers and become the world's toughest professor. These are post grad students.

He was too kind to them to begin with."

Another good point. There are 20-22 year old Marines and Soldiers leading squads of 18-19 year olds into combat that make these students in their mid to late 20s look like complete pansies and emotional children. I know a black female SGM that would make these people dream of only having to deal with micro-aggressions, instead of her boot in their ass.

They're teaching this pap in the Universities and calling it an "education".

Michael said...

I taught, by the way, in an historically black college for a number of years and confronted the tortured use of our language daily. This was mercifully before the introduction of Eubonics but the idea that blacks have a separate and unique grammar was being discussed, especially by the students who found it difficult and therefore unnecessary to learn to write correctly. The slang element was one they deeply believed to be unique to their culture. To demonstrate how wrong that was I would craft tests using slang from black students on the west coast and in Chicago. They could not understand those usages and nearly always did poorly on those tests. The lesson was meant to be that the common language removed those tribal dialects. It was not learned. As we have seen.

mccullough said...

Intervening in a classroom debate between adults that is on topic seems paternalistic to me.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Terry,

What percentage of students in education grad schools are white, heterosexual males?

More than you might guess, actually, for certain values of "education grad school." There a lot of people who don't start in education, but switch to it later on -- people whose primary study was something else. If you want to teach in K-12 public schools, though, you need a Masters in Education in your field. So if you're, say, someone with a strong math or engineering background who's suddenly out of a job, and wants to teach high school math or physics, first you need to get an Ed. Masters, so that you are officially credentialed to teach in your subject area.

My husband went through this over the last couple of years. In Oregon there was a sort of special dispensation for music teachers, wangled largely by the man who lured him away from a private high school in CA -- where he'd taught for a decade, won three national championships with his orchestra (the only three times they competed, because the other conferences were too far away), and never needed a credential, because, private school.

So back to grad school it was, and I gather that most of his classmates were of a similar ilk. Knew the subjects cold, only needed the teaching credential. (Which, BTW, has to be kept up -- you need to amass a certain number of Continuing Learning Points every year by attending conferences, seminars, mini-courses, &c. It's universally hated by the teachers, but they put up with it, in a dreary sort of way.)

Now, people who go straight to Ed. school after majoring in education from the get-go are a wholly separate question. I have no idea of their race/gender/class/sexuality background, but everything I've read on the subject suggests that people who major in education with a view to teaching a particular subject are unlikely to know the subject as well as are people whose first goal was to learn the subject. Just sayin'.

(I've read some of my husband's required education textbooks. They range from excellent to downright embarrassing. So did his professors.)

virgil xenophon said...

Paddy @9:58am/

Once again proving you've got the au currantPC academic argot down pat, lol. (as well as being right, btw)

RecChief said...

Ann Althouse said....
"How about asking what you can do to help?"

Note that the professors are involved in the enterprise of teaching students how to think in these terms. What they see in the students reflects what they are saying

You're right. I propose UCLA fire that teacher, and close down the course he taught, then do the same at every other university and college.

Michael K said...

"Sorry, I think those of you who are packaging this incident for disposal of all the racial issues that you're tired of hearing about are so conspicuously serving your own interests and evading thinking deeply that you are making things worse.
"

I teach students but, fortunately, they are medical students who have real concerns about learning stuff. I would no more put up with this crap than I would expect to see it. One time, I was going to be away and I arranged for another instructor. The following week they asked me to never do that again. The substitute instructor spent the session "psychoanalyzing them."

There are crazy instructors even in medical school. Medical students, however, have a sensitive BS detector.

That was twelve years ago and I haven't done it again.

RecChief said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael K said...

By the way, about half my medical students each year are black but they are almost all foreign born. I also correct English and grammar in medical writeups. The Asian students often need the most correction.

RecChief said...

SGT Ted said...
"Another good point. There are 20-22 year old Marines and Soldiers leading squads of 18-19 year olds into combat that make these students in their mid to late 20s look like complete pansies and emotional children. I know a black female SGM that would make these people dream of only having to deal with micro-aggressions, instead of her boot in their ass."

I had a CSM who would first smoke us with rifle drills and other assorted PT, then make the offender write a 300-1000 word essay (depending on the infraction) on how the particular regulation or policy that was violated contributed to good order and discipline. And if grammar and spelling were not correct, the offender had to write it again. Very low rate of recidivism

virgil xenophon said...

Michelle@10:37/

Your husbands experience and the description of the state-of-play in the Ed credentialing game only spotlights the ridiculous nature of the union-card mentality of the K-12 teaching "profession." I just love the logic that says that a Nobel laureate PhD Physics professor at MIT--a person parents would commit mass murder for if they could get their child in his class--is deemed totally incapable of teaching a HS Physics course to the very same student in his freshman Physics course some four months earlier as a HS senior in the same calender year without an "ED" degree.

Tari said...

I think it's an interesting data point that the professor in question is Emeritus. So (1) he apologized for this nonsense and he didn't have to (because he's clearly tenured) and (2) he's been around so long he likely has had something to do with the atmosphere in this UCLA department that has led students to think it's just fine for them to behave this way. What comes around, goes around, doesn't it?

Scott M said...

Microagression just means the slope of the slippery is barely perceptible.

ErnieG said...

I would like to introduce a new term: micropassiveaggression. This would be to grade any paper with egregious grammatical or spelling errors A+, and not call attention to the errors.

This would not be noticed until the student is out in the real world, and shoddy work product is noticed. Even then, it will be blamed, not on ones professional shortcomings, but on The Man.

Rusty said...

That is not fair to the students. The students may have been unfair to the teacher, but I don't accept caricaturing what they thought.

We cannot know what they thought. We can only know what they said and did.

If your answer is -
My answer is that they disqualified themselves on immaturity grounds.

Ever notice you own child talking in an offensive way and figure out that they got it from you? That's how you sound to them. You may think you got it wrong, but you're the adult with the experience. Do a better job of teaching the next generation.

Hearkins back to maturity issues. By the time you get to college you should realize that not everything is going to go your way.

The department of education.
nuff said.

MattL said...

The caricature only got worse for me when Althouse pointed out that he allowed students to use Standpoint Theory earnestly in class discussions.

It also wasn't clear to me on whose the protesters thought the professor should have intervened. Clicking through, I find it was the students of color. So apparently they don't believe they are capable of standing up for themselves in discussions with other students, which probably explains why they have to have the protest. Whatever the case, it's not helping the students' case, as far as I can see.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

virgil xenophon,

I just love the logic that says that a Nobel laureate PhD Physics professor at MIT--a person parents would commit mass murder for if they could get their child in his class--is deemed totally incapable of teaching a HS Physics course to the very same student in his freshman Physics course some four months earlier as a HS senior in the same calender year without an "ED" degree.

You choose an extreme example for effect, and of course you're right. But a lot of people who want to teach and know a field extremely well have never taught at all, or only as grad student TAs decades earlier, and there it's not so obvious that they shouldn't at least be made to do some observed practice teaching. Knowing the material really isn't the same as being to transmit what you know effectively.

My husband had been doing this already for over a decade, and so didn't need to learn much. Hell, his official observer -- a music teacher that had to do these observations for the whole Western part of OR -- told him "You're obviously a master teacher, but we need to go through the whole form anyway."

The thing is, knowing the material cold really isn't enough. I know that from my own time as a music history TA. I can write, I can talk, but I'm a lousy teacher. My husband is (yes, I know, you can totally consider me unbiased here) a very gifted teacher, who practically drifted into teaching high school music students when he was originally working as a freelance violinist/violist/conductor. He therefore learned how to teach through falling into it, and by doing it at private schools and youth orchestras where the rigid credentialing requirements didn't apply.

Trashhauler said...

Regardless of the merits of the Standpoint Theory, it should be pointed out that the "entitlement" to use it is inherent in being a citizen of a free country.

There, fixed one problem.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Tari,

If a professor is "emeritus," it means that s/he is basically retired, though able to teach the occasional course.

Michael said...

A friend teaches in the UCLA medical school. I sent him this yesterday and responded that he did not like to breathe the same air as these people.

Illuninati said...

From Wikipedia we find that the main inspiration for Standpoint Theory is a woman named Nancy Hartsock. Here is how it started:
"Nancy called this theory "Feminist Standpoint Theory" in 1983. The focus of this theory is women's social positions, such as race, class, culture, and economic status.[8] "Developed primarily by social scientists, especially sociologists & political theorists; it extends some of the early insights about consciousness that emerged from Marxist/socialist feminist theories and the wider conversations about identity politics. Standpoint Theory endeavors to develop a feminist epistemology, or theory of knowledge, that delineates a method for constructing effective knowledge from the insights of women's experience."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standpoint_theory

In other words it is just some more Marxist/Leftist claptrap. The teacher who was teaching this junk deserves whatever he/she gets.

SGT Ted said...

micro-aggression = micro-bullshit.

Balfegor said...

RE: Althouse:

Note that the professors are involved in the enterprise of teaching students how to think in these terms. What they see in the students reflects what they are saying.

Y-es . . . the problem I see here is that this concept of "microaggressions" is not a useful or meaningful lens through which to view the world.

If you leave it at the purely descriptive level -- the level of

1. In a given social context, there is a dominant culture
2. The norms of the dominant culture may conflict with other cultures active in that social context
3. People who affiliate with or view those other cultures as normatively controlling experience these conflicts as a species of "aggression," which they find tiring and/or stressful.

Then, okay, sure, that may be descriptively accurate. It's also kind of trivially obvious -- every time you read a "fish out of water" type story (yokels perplexed by fish knife at the Harvard Club or whatever), you're seeing exactly this kind of mild friction illustrated.

It's at the point where these teachers attempt to translate the descriptive into the normative -- i.e. that where there are conflicts among cultural norms, people who affiliate with the dominant culture ought to subordinate their culture to the other cultures active in the space, to avoid causing stress or offense -- that they run into trouble. Essentially, when they make the leap from scholarship to activism. At that point, they have transformed themselves into cultural imperialists, lording it over the natives. Or tried to, in their awkward, pathetic, and largely ineffective way.

CWJ said...

Paddy O @ 9:58

Very good.

Not sure what you said boils down to "First World problem," or whether First World problem can be fleshed out to what you wrote.

Either way, it gave me a god laugh.

Ann Althouse said...

"As to the former, the student has a point -- a lot of the existing literature does capitalize "Indigenous," "Aboriginal," and the like. "Black," most definitely. (I read a fair bit of ethomusicological literature when I was a musicology grad student, twenty years ago, and that usage was more common than not even then.) As to the latter, most humanities departments do require Chicago Style for dissertations, and this was a dissertation-prep course; it's important to get this stuff right, especially the citation and bibliographical formats, lest the ghost of Kate Turabian haunt you afterwards."

So he could have crossed out the first capitalization and written a note like "See Style Manual, page 10" and left the rest alone. Did he put 100 red marks on her paper, every time she did it?

It's upsetting to get something back with a lot of red marks, especially to see that the teacher saw fit to repeatedly make the same point. It makes you feel as though the teacher is mad at you or thinks you're an idiot (even when you try to control your emotions).

William said...

I agree that this is a first world problem, but make the observation that first world problems led o the First World War.

Balfegor said...

Re: Althouse:

It's upsetting to get something back with a lot of red marks, especially to see that the teacher saw fit to repeatedly make the same point. It makes you feel as though the teacher is mad at you or thinks you're an idiot (even when you try to control your emotions).

Sure, but that's part of being a student. And it doesn't stop just because you've graduated (at least not if you become a lawyer). If I got upset every time I got a draft document back covered in line edits, I . . . well, I'd be a very miserable person. Often it's minor things over and over, like crossing out every single Oxford comma, or changing verbs to singular after collective nouns.

madAsHell said...

I chose the link I did because it has all that background and advances the story a step, with the teacher's sort-of apology.

Yes, I noticed that it focused on other issues, and I disagree.

You show me someone crying racism, and I'll show you a racist.

CWJ said...

William,

OTOH, the first world war predates the concept of a first, second, & third world.

ken in sc said...
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ken in sc said...

I had never heard of the term 'microagression' until last week, however I have witnessed and on one occasion committed it myself. I was once in a graduate school class that involved class presentations that were evaluated by other class members. One of the presenters mispronounced several words, including 'epitome', pronounced to rhyme with 'tome'. I mentioned that in my written eval, but the professor omitted my comments from the overview given to the presenter. The professor told me privately that he had heard lots of people pronounce those words that way.

The presenter was a female minority, a two-fer.

Fred Drinkwater said...

"upsetting to get something back with a lot of red marks"
Poor babies. Stay away from programming computers, then (though I suppose they are already doing that). There's a reason the "-Wall" (show all warnings) control on compilers is usually called the "Wallpaper" command, since it will produce enough pages of complaints about your code to wallpaper your office.
Say, you don't suppose that's what went wrong with the HealthCare.gov website, do you? Built by a bunch of oversensitive types who couldn't bear criticism, so they disabled "-Wall"? "Look, boss, my code is fine! The machine has no complaints!"

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

So he could have crossed out the first capitalization and written a note like "See Style Manual, page 10" and left the rest alone. Did he put 100 red marks on her paper, every time she did it?

We don't know, do we?

It's upsetting to get something back with a lot of red marks, especially to see that the teacher saw fit to repeatedly make the same point. It makes you feel as though the teacher is mad at you or thinks you're an idiot (even when you try to control your emotions).

Haven't you ever had a copy editor go through something of yours and make the same correction over and over again? I spent a couple of years working with the copy editor of one of my doctoral adviser's books. If something wasn't "to style," she would flag it every time, and I would correct it every time in the file.

We're talking about dissertation drafts here. You don't want to miss something. If your professor proofreads your draft (printed out), are you supposed to be "like Niobe, all tears," because he flagged every instance of the mistake, not just the first one?

Is it "Oh, now that you have shown me the error of my ways, I can go fix the rest myself"? I've done a lot of proofreading, and really, most people are happy if you catch everything, as opposed to telling them "Here's the problem; there are 38 instances in this article; I fixed one; now do the other 37 yourself." Do you think that would be more or less insulting to the student than would be simply flagging all of them?

MattL said...

Bah...-Wall is worthless without -Werror. But that's getting into the range of macroaggression, and I don't think these snowflakes could manage it.

Henry said...

Balfegor wrote: Y-es . . . the problem I see here is that this concept of "microaggressions" is not a useful or meaningful lens through which to view the world.

I think the problem is more psychological. The concept of microaggressions may be useful to analyze how various groups interact in a complex culture. But emotions of resentment and self-pity are horribly destructive to the psychology of the individual.

Consider an alternative philosophy, one focused on "microcompassion" and "microcourage". These characteristics actually exist, under different names. Microcompassion is called "kindness". Microcourage is called "character". These are qualities worth internalizing.

My question for the bitter theorists: is your theory of identity resentment corrosive to the individual? Examine yourself.

DanTheMan said...

I think the only satisfactory way to address these concerns would be for the professor to make a full and complete micro-apology.

MadisonMan said...

the only satisfactory way to address these concerns would be for the professor to make a full and complete micro-apology.

I can lend him my micro-violin to play.

Gahrie said...

It's upsetting to get something back with a lot of red marks, especially to see that the teacher saw fit to repeatedly make the same point. It makes you feel as though the teacher is mad at you or thinks you're an idiot (even when you try to control your emotions).

Really?

Another "women are too hysterical to function" post from Althouse?

So now anything that makes a woman feel bad, and forces them to deal with their emotions is aggression?

William said...

I have known some teachers to be unfair and, also, some bosses. The unfairness I've received in the workplace was several magnitudes of grossness worse than anything inflicted on me in school. You would have to go the lowest pit in hell in order to find calipers broad enough to measure the dimensions of one asshole I worked for.....As education is, by definition, a learning experience, perhaps the students should reflect that this gives them the opportunity to learn how to interact with assholes in positions of authority. If you can manage this, you have mastered one of life's most lucrative skills.

Seeing Red said...

So a bunch of college-educted future teachers were bitching that their teacher was grading too hard on grammar & punctuation?

Can we say "HOMESCHOOL?"

Henry said...

Fred Drinkwater wrote: Stay away from programming computers, then...

I was thinking the same thing. The peer review and QA processes can be pretty brutal, until you realize (in a well managed effort) that everyone's work is treated the same.

Every revision to the codebase has an individual's name on it. You own your code forever -- at least until its abandoned. Programming has a strong egotistical element -- but there's a kind of ego-death that good programming demands as well.

Some programmers never get it. The resentful and self-righteous are toxic to good practice.

Ann Althouse said...

"Sure, but that's part of being a student...."

And thinking about student psychology and working with it is part of being a teacher.

I don't like the sit-in and the targeting of Rust, but understanding the things that make students feel bad is important -- not because you're going to rearrange everything, but because it's a factor in deciding what you ARE going to do.

Gahrie said...

but understanding the things that make students feel bad is important -- not because you're going to rearrange everything, but because it's a factor in deciding what you ARE going to do.

Aren't teachers supposed to make students feel bad about making mistakes...especially grammar mistakes in a college paper?

Vittorio Jano IV said...

Also this month, ATL asked: Racist t-shirts at UCLA School of Law?

http://abovethelaw.com/2013/11/racists-t-shirts-on-campus-only-if-you-bother-to-think-about-it/

http://abovethelaw.com/2013/11/are-you-on-team-sander/

ALP said...

The more I read stuff like this, the more I think the age of entering college should be raised - similar to talk of raising retirement age.

I would expect this kind of behavior from high school kids. Not college age. Clearly, some kids, even though of legal adult age, are simply not ready for the rough and tumble adult world. Maybe if they waited until they were 25 or even older to tackle something as emotionally challenging as a university campus?

openidname said...

"It's upsetting to get something back with a lot of red marks":

Aww, poor little snowflakes . . .

One red mark conveys the information that the student has made a mistake. A lot of red marks convey the information that the student has made a lot of mistakes. One would think that this information would be valuable feedback for the student.

Or is the professor not allowed to give the student a lower grade for a lot of mistakes than for just a few mistakes, because that would be "upsetting"?

On this one, Ann, you've been in the academic asylum too long.

ALP said...

I just love the logic that says that a Nobel laureate PhD Physics professor at MIT--a person parents would commit mass murder for if they could get their child in his class--is deemed totally incapable of teaching a HS Physics course to the very same student in his freshman Physics course some four months earlier as a HS senior in the same calender year without an "ED" degree.
***************
My partner is a mechanical engineer. He loves math and science with a passion - returned to school as a 30-something to obtain said degree. A highly, highly motivated individual.

However, even he needs science professors that know how to TEACH. He had a math professor from MIT - that sucked as an instructor. It was the low point in his schooling - they guy simply could not teach the subject at an undergrad level in a way that prepared his students for admission into engineering programs. I am not well versed enough in math to really explain it well - suffice to say: given my partner's motivation and general level of intelligence - they guy was a terrible teacher.

In my own case, a really good science/math teacher in HS would have made a big difference for me. But they were impatient, obtuse, and not willing to meet me at my "math phobic" level - as if they simply could not grasp having issues with math. I would argue that in math/science, subjects that are complex and abstract - good teaching methods are even more important.

Alex said...

So the students want a "perfect world", one in which their every thought, demand, need and emotion is fully embraced by the "other"-- in this case the professor. And when he does not meet those demands he is a bad person and should be protested and re-educated.

Notice that this attitude never existed until the Ward Churchills got into power.

Alex said...

ALP - then you're weak pal. Hit the bricks, coz you're going OUT!

paul a'barge said...

the teacher should feel moved to restore harmony

Note this and note it clearly and carefully .... there is NO such thing as restoring HARMONY with an aggressive, bullying black male in an academic situation.

The white female in this situation had every right, especially given the First Amendment, to make any argument she chose to make. No one, most especially the self-appointed victim-fascist black male had any right in an academic environment to deny anyone the right to make any argument.

And I will point this out to you ... the bullying black male chose as his victim a white female. Being the coward that he is, he chose not to make this argument (aka STFU) to a white male (who might have rightfully cleaned his pathetic little clock).

Balfegor said...

Re: Althouse:

And thinking about student psychology and working with it is part of being a teacher.

True, but the teacher has a responsibility to his students -- cossetting them may make them feel better, but it doesn't necessarily mean he is doing his job.

Now, if it's something trivial, like using blue ink for the markup, rather than red ink, that seems awfully silly to me, but if it makes the students more receptive, then so be it. Switching from red to blue doesn't mean the teacher is slacking off on providing important feedback and criticism. The substantive content is exactly the same.

On the other hand, refraining from making mark-ups because the student will feel bad seeing a sea of mark-ups is just irresponsible. If the instructor thinks that making the markup once or twice, and then writing "same error x20 -- watch out next time" is sufficient, then he should do that. But writing "you made the same error 20x" is not the same thing as actually going to the trouble of marking each and every instance. The latter sends a somewhat different signal, which the instructor could reasonably feel is warranted, especially in the case of a student who is consistently very weak on formal style.

If the teacher allows a tender concern for student psychology to prevent him from giving the feedback students need, he is not helping them. These aren't kindergartners here -- they're college students.

EMD said...

It's upsetting to get something back with a lot of red marks, especially to see that the teacher saw fit to repeatedly make the same point.

They certainly won't be able to cope with a job in advertising, then.

Michael said...

A quick report from out here in the real world. If someone on my payroll puts together an offering memorandum and the English is mangled he will not put together another. I will get someone else. And have. There is really no alternative micro wise.

Ann Althouse said...

"True, but the teacher has a responsibility to his students -- cossetting them may make them feel better, but it doesn't necessarily mean he is doing his job. Now, if it's something trivial, like using blue ink for the markup, rather than red ink, that seems awfully silly to me..."

Well, how about the example I used? The student capitalized "indigenous," a word used repeatedly throughout her paper. Did the teacher have to mark it every single time?

Do the correction and show that you assume the student cares about a style mistake and move on? You don't have to make the paper look like it was full of mistakes. In fact, sticking to the same form throughout, once the decision was made that the word should be capitalized, was itself correct form. Consistency throughout the document is also an important value.

Marking every example of the mistake makes the teacher seem like he's focused on things that aren't so import. It makes the teacher look trivial!

EMD said...

Well, how about the example I used? The student capitalized "indigenous," a word used repeatedly throughout her paper. Did the teacher have to mark it every single time?

Depends upon how you mark or correct the paper. Do you look at the initial instance, find others and then address the error globally, or do you you go through the paper linearly, and mark things as they appear?

Balfegor said...

Re: Althouse on "Indigenous":

I think the context matters. If that's the first paper the student has turned in with "indigenous" incorrectly capitalized, then perhaps it's excessive. But if it's the second or third paper, and the error has been pointed out before, I think it's entirely reasonable for the teacher to point out every single instance.

It may seem to be trivial, but all those stylistic rules are "trivial" in that way. If a law student made a consistent bluebooking error in his citations, it would be reasonable for a professor to mark every single instance (if he could bear the tedium of it all), because standard citation style is evidently a matter of extraordinary importance in the American legal culture, even though it's a triviality among trivialities.

Balfegor said...

Re: EMD:

They certainly won't be able to cope with a job in advertising, then.

Or in law.

Bob Ellison said...

MattL is right. We white males need to get into macroaggression. Lots more money and death there.

But we need a logo and a slogan. "Macroaggressors, unite!" No. Too leftist. "Down microaggression, up macro aggression!" No. Too complex.

"Macroaggress!"

That might be it. It's difficult to pronounce, but it has the accent on the last syllable, which is good for a shout.

For the logo, I suggest a pit bull.

James said...

It's upsetting to get something back with a lot of red marks, especially to see that the teacher saw fit to repeatedly make the same point. It makes you feel as though the teacher is mad at you or thinks you're an idiot (even when you try to control your emotions).

Said no student past third grade.

Bob Ellison said...

RE: "marking every example of the mistake"-- this is something good copy editors do routinely. I do it to myself and have to keep from editing emails sent to me (yes, I'm that kind of pedant). Marking those mistakes is not difficult or inefficient; in fact, it can increase efficiency for the reader/teacher who doesn't want to have to read past incompetent composition.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
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Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
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Carl Pham said...

How about asking what you can do to help?

Well, when I was on a college faculty, I would help by giving these people Fs that would drive them to either drop out and do something useful with their lives, like learn to flip burgers dextrously and fill drive-through orders in a jiffy, or move on over to the Departments of Education and Social Science from any serious quantitative field.

I think it's actually quite useful to have the inevitable fraction of narcissist vapidity among callow youth concentrate in the Departments of Education and such, and I salute Professor Rust for encouraging that. This way when the good times run out -- when lifeboat rules start applying -- we'll have an easier time identifying the social parasites who need to be thrown overboard.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
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Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

This time for sure!

Ann,

Well, how about the example I used? The student capitalized "indigenous," a word used repeatedly throughout her paper. Did the teacher have to mark it every single time?

It was my example, something I took from the linked article. (Not that it matters, but I read InsideHigherEd daily. I chalk that up to masochism.)

You damn well know that a copy editor would have. Why shouldn't a professor? It means "This needs to be fixed." The more times you're reminded to fix it, the more likely it is that you will.

Had the student used "it's" for "its" 38 times, would it be OK, for you as an educator, to correct the first instance and leave the other 37 unflagged?

Carl Pham said...

The thing is, knowing the material cold really isn't enough.

Let us not further encourage the brainless in their difficulty grasping the distinction between insufficient and unnecessary.

Unknown said...

Mr. Ellison:

macroaggro

ALP said...

Re: EMD:

They certainly won't be able to cope with a job in advertising, then.

Or in law.
******************
Oh how true! I wrote for lawyers for ten years as a paralegal. My area (business immigration) tended to use language that leaned away from legalize: our audience was a USCIS officer in a cubicle in Nebraska, not a judge. Much of the writing was simply explaining the facts and evidence in plain language.

And new, slightly insecure lawyers are the WORST offenders by far, massaging short, 4-sentence paragraphs describing a petitioner's job duties - over and over - essentially saying the same thing. Its not even an issue of grammar at that point - many times, I thought "hey, if you had just drafted these 4 sentences yourself at the beginning, we could have saved 4 hours of time."

Thus, the red ink in that case was not even to correct anything...just "say it again but this time slightly different".

The sad part is: paralegal jobs are the best paying, "fallback" jobs for those with useless liberal arts degrees...providing you actually learned how to write well while in college. But if ya can't stand a bit of red ink....you'd never last.

MikeDC said...

Marking every example of the mistake makes the teacher seem like he's focused on things that aren't so import. It makes the teacher look trivial!

Except this sort of trivial error gets people in trouble in the real world every day. This is the sort of nonsense that those students need to fix when working on their dissertations, or working on business proposals (especially to public entities, which often knock down proposals for trivial errors when they don't know what they're doing) or on their resumes.

Success in life is often related to how one deals with criticism and how closely one attends to details.

These kids feel bad because they're being confronted with reality. For the first time, apparently.

Yes, they need to be shown their error every single time, because they need to learn that others judge them on the whole of their work. And... they need to learn to look closely and painstakingly at their own work before turning it in.

Bob Ellison said...

Unknown, I like it. "Microaggro" has that two-beat style to it. We'll need a bass guitar to liven it up. "Micro Aggro!"

Bob Ellison said...

Uh, "macro". But it could be good both ways. Keep 'em guessing!

Biff said...

Ann Althouse wrote, "Marking every example of the mistake makes the teacher seem like he's focused on things that aren't so import. It makes the teacher look trivial!"

Interesting. Whenever a teacher did that to my work, I felt comforted that the teacher cared enough to read my work that closely and carefully. Standpoint theory, anyone?

Kirk Parker said...

MDT,

Not universally hated by teachers.

My wife teaches high school math; she finds plenty of courses run by folks like these, these, and these that are generally actually useful for her teaching endeavors, and barring that are at least interesting. I suppose it helps that, as a math person, she can also get in on any science-related workshops as "practical application of math".

I'm well aware that things may be different in other fields.



Michael K.,

"The Asian students often need the most correction."

Oh, those pesky English articles! And number!

As for the Africans, I assume they get a fair amount of some-flavor-of-real-English at home, right? I'd be astonished if East Africa, Nigeria + Ghana, and South Africa and its neighbors didn't comprise the bulk of their nations of origin.



Virgil,

I think you need to be a bit more cautious there.

No, I do not want to defend the educrat establishment, not at all. But on the other hand, being at genius level in one's field does not automatically convey the ability to get the fundamentals of the subject across to rank beginners, either.

To me, that's the real crime of the educrats: giving some real help in knowing how to do that level of communication would be a good thing, but instead we mostly get PC crap from them.

Kirk Parker said...

"
Marking every example of the mistake makes the teacher seem like he's focused on things that aren't so import. It makes the teacher look trivial!
"

That depends an awful lot on the recipient's attitude.

For my part, given that I would going to have to make all those changes to conform the the required style guide, I'd be hugely grateful to the prof for doing the low-level editing job of finding and marking each and every instance.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Carl Pham,

Let us not further encourage the brainless in their difficulty grasping the distinction between insufficient and unnecessary.

Well, indeed.

My husband recently ran across a music "unit" (published by a reasonably well-known educational publisher) that not only said that Haydn had personally met Handel, but put knowledge of this non-fact on the exit quiz.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Kirk Parker,

Not universally hated by teachers.

Fair enough. Teaching math is difficult, at least teaching it to kids who don't take to it. OTOH, my husband spent three hours in a seminar on how music-practice teachers are to teach the Common Core just this morning. I don't think he is likely to come home energized and full of bold new ideas that have never occurred to him before.

Then again, the rest of the day was all parent-teacher conferences, so if he comes home enervated, I can't really blame the Common Core Standards.

David said...

You have to read the article in the UCLA Bruin to see how ridiculous this is. The Bruin reports it straight, in neutral and balanced journalistic style. Not a bad job at all.

They quote one of the protesters, who tries to explain why they occupied the professor's class:

“Many of us have been through the formal complaint system of leveraging charges … the letters are reviewed, and we receive responses saying (the) charges have no merit,” Watson said.

In other words, we are entitled to win. No matter how little merit there is to our charges, discipline and punishment should be handed out. Remember, the only way to satisfy us is to agree with us.

[And you don't "leverage" charges. You make charges. Or perhaps levy them. But leverage? No damn wonder the professor wants to correct their grammar and English expression.]

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

It is interesting, looking at the Bruin article, to see who is sticking up for Val Rust. Other students of color, of course, but not the kind that count as "students of color" at UCLA. If your surname is Le or Kim or Deng, and you are not in complete solidarity with your fellow students of color, you're even worse than "model minorities"; you're race traitors.

John Lynch said...

Now I have a new word to use, besides "white privilege."

Kirk Parker said...

MDT,

" my husband spent three hours in a seminar on how music-practice teachers are to teach the Common Core just this morning. I don't think he is likely to come home energized and full of bold new ideas that have never occurred to him before. "

Oh dear. I hope he has a little bit of his soul left at the end of the process.

And re Haydn meeting Handel: maybe the curriculum folks read about it in the (long-past) series in The Atlantic about fictional encounters between famous historical characters, and thought it was reportage?

Joe said...

Reminds me of a paper I wrote for a physical materials class (the most boring class I ever took.) My paper was well written with almost no mistakes. The guy next to me had literally cut and pasted his paper together (I do mean literally) and it was barely decipherable as English. Ever sentence had an error in it. He got an A, I an A-. (Apparently, one of my diagrams wasn't large enough--I shit you not.)

Anthony said...

This reminds iif an incident in my first year of law school. One of the other Con law sections had a big protest because the professor spent "only" one day on Dred Scot. The thing is that the professor in question was a fairly conventional pre-68 liberal and I think got completely caught unaware by the whole thing.

Douglas said...

Ann wrote, "It's upsetting to get something back with a lot of red marks, especially to see that the teacher saw fit to repeatedly make the same point." Well, it's upsetting if you are in second grade. By the time you are in graduate school, you should be able to deal with criticisms.

These UCLA students should be grateful to Prof. Rust for caring enough about them to take the time to make detailed corrections. If their feelings are hurt, they need to see a therapist.

Fernandinande said...

she's not a member of an oppressed group.

Oppressed UCLA students have a choice: work 14 hour shifts in a coal mine or starve.

Leit Bart said...

Just watched this 9-minute video on Stand Point (should I capitalize?) theory. As the (pro-stand point) fellow said at the beginning, "It is convoluted."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsZ1ZxcKvmg

But while we're on this convoluted topic, can we have an inclusive conversation about how grammatical errors by white students may just be their own deliberate micro-attempts to shed their white privilege? Can we talk about how correcting the errors of white students are also micro-aggressions, which penalize the white students for attempting to rid themselves of their own micro white-privilege aggressions?

Because standpoint theory should not be race or gender-based ... right? Because standpoint theory is decidedly not "relativist."

P.S. If none of this makes sense to you, all the more reason to reach into your wallet (and tap your home equity) to give your child the $200,000.00 college education of her dreams. When she comes home, she can educate you over the Thanksgiving holidays. Win-Wynn!