January 9, 2014

"Sweetness and a smile is a great façade, but is also very boring. Whereas outbursts of anger at appropriate times..."

"... set boundaries and wake people up by letting human emotions... into the game. A tongue lashing is not violence. But today's social standards permit only the most docile sweet men. A bold pretty woman may get to do angry in public, but no Braveheart type males need apply."

Traditionalguy brings the gender analysis to the discussion of the law school that suspended the professor for his "disrespectful" and "intimidating" outbursts. 

I'm making a separate post about this because it's such a distinct subject, part of what some would call the feminization of the workplace. There once was a time when Professor Kingsfield was the iconic law professor, and demanding high standards and enforcing them staunchly with righteous indignation was the norm. But unless there's a critical mass of tough guys (and gals) in the school, you'll be a problem. If the school has created a climate of friendliness and ease — which might be thought central to a policy of inclusiveness toward female and minority students — then you're a rebel against the policy. Is that possible? It might be, with allies, or with work that is especially great and devoid of incidents where you seem to be declining into personal expression of your own emotionality.

In the lawsuit discussed at the linked post, the claim is based on the Americans with Disability Act, and the professor cites Asperger's Syndrome as the basis for the outbursts the law school found inappropriate. Keeping traditionalguy's statement in mind, let's think about the theory — proffered by Simon Baron-Cohen — that autism is an extreme of the "male brain."
In the back of Baron-Cohen's book, The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain, you can fill out questionnaires that allow you to determine your Empathy Quotient (EQ) and Systemizing Quotient (SQ). Baron-Cohen himself can't take the empathizing and systemizing tests, because he wrote them. But from all appearances he may be one of those fortunate individuals with a brain that is equally balanced between male and female. People who know him place him far up on the empathizing axis. "When you go into a meeting with him, you always feel good afterward," says one graduate student. Says another, "On the one hand, he'll coach us very closely, but on the other, he leaves us lots of space to do what we like." Yet Baron-Cohen is pushing a theory that attempts to capture the full diversity of human brain types in a single X-Y graph—and if that isn't male systemizing, what is? "We all have some autistic traits," he says. "It's just a matter of degree."
Here's Baron-Cohen lecturing about his theory:

31 comments:

MadisonMan said...

Speaking as someone who was assigned a category in school (I'll let the reader decided which category that was), I am highly resistant to describing my kids with one adjective, and I think that's a problem when people say "He's on the spectrum" -- it means that people will treat you differently because of one small aspect of your whole.

I do think that politeness can be overrated in society (certainly it is in Elementary school for boys). I'm sure it's easier for a teacher to deal with kids who all behave the same, but the reality of life is that no one behaves the same as anyone else, and it's madness to try to force it. I think the Law School might want to encourage difficult behavior in its professors -- won't that better prepare students for the Real World? Or have judges all gone soft and cuddly lately?

BDNYC said...

Is that guy related to Ali G?

EDH said...

Beside inspiring, I discovered that the law professors stereotyped as the "toughest" were among the most generous, with the biggest hearts and the best senses of humor.

It's the little twerps you have to worry about.

MadisonMan said...

If you're going to be curmudgeonly, you can't make it a personal attack.

If a student is lazy, you have to admonish all lazy students, not just the lazy student sitting in front of you. Because if you attack a student, personally, then that student might just complain to a Dean. But what's a Dean going to do if a student complains about a Professor going off on all students who come to class unprepared?

I don't know if there is some aspect of Asperger's or Autism or whatever popular brand is bandied about these days that makes it difficult for a professor so afflicted to be unable to transition from the specific (lazy student in front of me) to the general (all lazy students).

Mark O said...

May I find these gentle souls on the other side of every case.

Hagar said...

The U.S. Navy should have provided Captain Queeg with a "personal interaction facilitator"?

I think the commenter who said the college is getting set to retiring this professor, and he does not want to go, put his finger on it. This is a nonsense suit erected in self-defense against a nonsense charge.

Darrell said...

Students learn the counter-charge game early in their careers. You get in trouble and you turn it around to get your accuser fired or neutralized. You probably become a target now when you don't give them an "A."

Michael K said...

I'm sitting in the medical school cafeteria waiting to meet my students for the first session this year. I don't think it is necessary to be rude to maintain standards in teaching professional students. These kids are here to learn, not to have hands held. What I do is small group teaching of the clinical skills of medicine. This is their first foray into the role of physician. There is a great temptation for many instructors to get into some sort of analysis of the students. I stick to the mechanics of being a doctor and find they prefer this by far.

One time a few years ago, I had to be away the week of one of our sessions and I arranged another instructor. The next week the students asked me to please not do that again. The substitute spent the four hour session analyzing them. I have no problem with attendance or tardiness, which seems to be an issue for some. Could it be that the students recognize when they are getting a fair return for their tuition ?

I don't know why a person teaching graduate students would need to be rude. I did have to chastise a student a few years ago at his midyear evaluation and he retaliated by giving me the only bad evaluation I have gotten in 14 years of doing this. I mentioned this to the course director as an example of a student that needed to be watched in the next two years.

Treat these students as grownups and they should respond accordingly. Unless, of course, they are in the wrong place. In Medicine we pay attention to this.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I'm curious to know whether there's a diagnosis for those law professors who do the full Socratic bit while seemingly oblivious to the obvious fact that the student they're engaging is totally unprepared.

Oso Negro said...

The question of the social acceptance of the expression of male anger goes far beyond issues in the classroom. It is my observation that society's acceptance of men publicly expressing anger has declined greatly in my lifetime. Perhaps it started in the schools, perhaps people are terrified that angry men will start shooting, but if you want to get a crowd quick, or draw the attention of HR stooges or the police, just try being a man and expressing your displeasure in harsh terms with an angry visage.

traditionalguy said...

in ROTC marching parade preparation our Sgts from the Army were nice as they had to be to 16 year old civilians, and we slouched around as usual. Then the top sargeat who usually kept quiet yelled at us, threw his clip board down and did a Steve Spurrier act at us.

That got our attention and we won the City Trophy the next day.

Litigation attorneys need an aggressive style. It is a Trial between opponents. Appellate law is different. But the Appeals judges are trapped by the jury verdicts, so the litigator and the trial judges still rule the outcomes case by case.

Hagar said...

Bill O'Reilly is not a person I would wish to socialize with, nor work with, and certainly not work for, but I bet he was a very good teacher back in the day.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I miss the good old days when Achilles could lay down all the wrath he wanted.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm curious to know whether there's a diagnosis for those law professors who do the full Socratic bit while seemingly oblivious to the obvious fact that the student they're engaging is totally unprepared."

Well… key word: "seemingly." How do you know that barreling on and refusing to stop isn't part of the Kingsfieldian routine? If the student won't openly state that he is unprepared, the questions should corner and torment the student. The question: Did you read the case? might properly be avoided.

I often find myself saying something like "Show us exactly what it is in the case that is making you say that." If the student doesn't have a text in front of him that he knows his way around in, he will wish he had simply passed.

Why pay to attend law school if you don't believe you are receiving a great benefit when it is your turn to perform in front of the class? Anyone who wastes the class's time like this should feel guilty about it. He's stealing the experience from someone who actually did prepare and is trying to receive what he too paid for.

The idea that you would kind of sit back and think the professor is oblivious… I wish you'd reveal your intent to behave that way on your law school application so that the seat you took would have been given to someone else.

Anglelyne said...

Random thoughts: I intensely dislike working in "feminized" zones, where niceness über alles rules. The pathology here is that the proper lines between private and public, personal and professional, are dissolved.

On the other hand, I don't have any time for men with a "straightforward expression for me, but 'sweetness and a smile' at all times from thee" attitude toward female co-workers. (Dude, don't bitch to me about your having to be nicey-nice and kissy-butt, and then turn around and present yours for me to smooch.)

On the other, other hand, what behaviors are we talking about, anyway? The idea that good manners per se are unmanly and indicate feminization is poisonous. Riding your students hard - not bad manners. (I always got along fine with the hard-ass teachers; I always felt they were the ones that truly respected their students.) Just being an unpleasant man-bitch to students because you're much too special to control your emotions like an adult? Bad manners. Going off on maintenance staff? A gentleman does not lose his shit on maintenance staff.

Aside from all the other stuff - the ADA, the Aspergers, the "feminization" - is the fact that we no longer have any shared culture of manners - so baboonery and bullshit "nice" ooze into the void in the public square. And it's only going to get worse.

traditionalguy said...

In Litigation Class at Emory Law School our professor was harsh and challenging to say the least. It was full metal jacket territory.

But maybe from Stockholm Syndrome I really enjoyed learning from him. At graduation reception I tried going up to Professor Ferguson and being nice to him, but he had no social skills to accept love. He was his class persona.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

The idea that you would kind of sit back and think the professor is oblivious…

I don't know whether any of those students thought that some professors were oblivious. My surmise at the time was that many of the unprepared students were lazy and figured they'd get away with it.

Some of them I figured they were well-intentioned but overwhelmed.

Lucien said...

Kingsfield was not out of control. When he said "Here is a dime. Go call your mother and tell her there's serious doubt of your ever becoming a lawyer" it was a calculated act of pedagogy. (Isn't it fun to make factual arguments about fictional characters.)

Freeman Hunt said...

"I think that's a problem when people say "He's on the spectrum" -- it means that people will treat you differently because of one small aspect of your whole."

I agree.

I think that social media is making culture smoothed out and boring. There's this narrowing, this enforced sameness. That was already happening because of regular media, but I think social media has accelerated it.

What happened to accepting that there are all sorts of personalities in the world and an adult is expected to be able to deal with all types?

Alex said...

I suspect what these spoiled children need is a Gunnery Sgt Hartman.

Xmas said...

I like his cousin's work on the subject more than Simon's.

Richard Dolan said...

"But today's social standards permit only the most docile sweet men."

Well, that depends on the issue and the provocation. And looking at it through a 'masculine v. feminine' lens seems less than helpful. Today's culture will accept a firm rebuke, even a loud and angry one, from a man if the sin involves a violation of some PC commandment. But not for ordinary derelictions (like being less than prepared for class -- who wasn't at some point in Law S?). Whether academic culture selects the right kind of sins for harsh treatment is a different issue, but the fact remains that it distinguishes between the ordinary and not-so-ordinary, and calibrates the acceptability of the harshness of the response accordingly.

That seems entirely sensible in any adult setting. Reserve the sharp smack-down for a small class of problems involving truly unacceptable conduct; the rest are dealt with using varying degrees of firmness, all within the norms of civility.

Joe said...

The demonization of male anger has been one of the most successful modifications in society behavior by feminists. Even in this and the former discussion the words "verbal abuse" were thrown out--verbal abuse is real, but a justified verbal thrashing of someone is not abuse. Unfortunately, this type of bullshit has not only affected the work place in a very negative way, it's being used to great effect in divorces and child custody hearings.

(As an aside, the word "abuse" itself is being rendered meaningless; it is, alas, being abused.)

Joe said...

Richard, you fail to grasp that "firm rebuke" is now considered verbal abuse in many places.

Bob Ellison said...

Why pay to attend law school if you don't believe you are receiving a great benefit when it is your turn to perform in front of the class?

Assumes facts not in evidence.

Ann Althouse said...

"Assumes facts not in evidence."

No it doesn't. It's a generic remark, not saying anything about anybody. But if the shoe fits, wear it. Maybe the shoe fit so well you thought this song was about you.

Bob Ellison said...

What I am trying to suggest, quite probably badly and with too few words, is that you are assuming that law school students pay tuition in order to learn to perform, as though they are ballet students.

A better assumption is that they are there in order to try to make money as lawyers. Not gonna happen for enough of them.

Maybe you are not assuming this. Maybe the song is not about you.

Leit Bart said...

@Bob Ellison, sure, we went to law school to make money. But in order to make money, we have to learn to perform. And to your ballerina point, trying a case, making an argument, negotiating a deal ... all involve a performance art.

What's more, we have to perform before, and get along with, Aspy judges who never say, "There, there. You're not prepared, and you need a continuance? Certainly, dear." Nor would any partner or judge say, "Gentle lady, the case you are citing says no such thing. But do carry on. There's no shame in bluffing."

So I say, the tougher the professor, the better. If you come unprepared, you've wasted some of your tuition. But don't waste the tuition of everyone else in the class.

Mary said...

Very often, the professors are not prepared to go off script. Don't question their assumption of the factsn of a case.

Learn to go along to get along. Very lucrative but ultimately unsatisfying, I hear. You start to practice less, and pet puppies more. Dream of other careers, like journalism say or adventures outdoors.

Once they're tenured, some professors rarely publish about the law. They take money to teach, but don't get them off script. Learn to swallow.

Mary said...

So I say, the tougher the professor, the better.
-----

As do I.
DOn't confuse 'tough' with close minded though.

Mary said...


What happened to accepting that there are all sorts of personalities in the world and an adult is expected to be able to deal with all types?
----

Lol, all types, huh?