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« Because I’m Glorious, Goddammit | Main | Friday Ephemera »

November 15, 2012

Comments

Jan50

David, do you know if many students read your blog?

David

Jan50,

Unless readers take time to comment and identify themselves as such, I wouldn’t know. When I check the blog’s incoming traffic stats I do sometimes see academic addresses but I’ve no idea whether those visitors are students or faculty, or whether they find the content here congenial or scandalous. Which is why I encourage readers to comment. As with most blogs, there’s a huge disparity between the number of visitors, and visitors who stay and poke about, and the tiny minority who add comments. Maybe if I offer cake and liquor the lurkers will join in.

I do know that a few leftist educators dislike what I write, quite a lot, but they generally fume elsewhere.

Rob

"the most educated among us are also the most likely to live in the tightest echo chambers."

And hence the most crazy ideas come from those with the greatest ability to see how wrong and stupid they are, but either do not or will not.

Steve

What makes this particularly bad is the fact that the one-directional indoctrination from the educators etc. is on top of the usual peer pressures and, particularly with vaguely creative or sociological courses, the perceived idea that lefties are more cuddly & caring. A lethal cocktail that is hard to resist. The stronger willed right-thinkers will keep their heads down and feel suitably cowed (political dhimmis), most will join in with the leftie nonsense to 'fit in'.

I recall my own moment of weakness as an 18 year old joning a CND march when I was firmly in favour of our nuclear deterrent. I lasted about 20 minutes before the working-class-hero-anarchist bull-shit became too much for me and I retired to the Virgin megastore. Alone.

watcher

I seem to remember some leftie saying that all the nice people he (or she) knew were lefties too. In fact, they were all jolly nice people, unlike those evil conservatives/republicans/free-thinkers, etc.

I suppose then that if you live in a closed world where everyone agrees with everyone else, even if it is manifestly ridiculous what you are all fervently agreeing on without any question or "what if?", then they are indeed all nice. Only those who speak against a brand of idiocy or a lunatic assessment of the human condition can be seen as 'not very nice.'

As this blog points out repeatedly, any aggression is never against the left's own limited ideas and preconceived notions, but against people who manage quite well without being sheep.

WTP

What makes this particularly bad is the probability (from what I've seen and heard) that among those 30.3% of college seniors who strongly agreed with the statement that, “It is safe to hold unpopular opinions on campus” are a significant number who are the ones behind the problem who think of themselves as having "unpopluar opinions". By this I mean the Communists, the Transgenders, the Muslims, etc. for whom the campus culture bends over backwards to please.

JuliaM

Watcher: "I suppose then that if you live in a closed world where everyone agrees with everyone else.."

Yup, witness the number of times the 'Royal We' is used in CiF columns. 'We all agree that..' and 'We are right to be concerned about..' are dead giveaways.

mojo

"You must all think for yourselves!"
"WE MUST ALL THINK FOR OURSELVES!"
-- Life of Brian

WTP

mojo, you left out my favorite part:

"You must be individuals"
"WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS"
"...uh, i'm not"

Sanity Inspector

This blog post did not make me feel all affirmed and completed inside. I'm afraid I'll have to sue you under Britain's generous libel tourism laws. Sorry David!

David

Sanity Inspector,

“This blog post did not make me feel all affirmed and completed inside.”

No refunds. Credit note only.

Jason B.

You can chalk one of those "academic addresses" up to me. I'm a librarian in a community college in Texas. We actually seem to have an ideologically mixed group of faculty here, but we don't offer tenure, which is probably why.

I still generally avoid discussing politics unless it's with someone whom(?) I know to be on my side. Too many horror stories about retaliation and the "new civility" for me to be comfortable arguing with some people.

Mr Potarto

As a lurker I would comment more if the earlier commenters weren't so erudite and witty.

Charlie Suet

As another lurker I'd like to say that I enjoy reading David's stuff... perhaps too much. It's very flattering to read what he has to say about various idiots like Laurie Penny - it bothers me slightly that I don't disagree with that much of it.

David

I knew the promise of liquor would bring the lurkers out of the shadows.

What Steven Fry would have said

It woz the cake wot dun it. Let us eat cake!

Jeff Guinn

What Mr. Potarto said. I am insufficiently clever, therefore I lurk.

My son is a freshman at Washington State University. He has often complained about the ideological conformity there.

Fortunately, his major is Electrical Engineering, where results matter.

FWIW, here is, quoted in its entirety (absent mechanical details), the assignment for his Anthropology 101 term paper:

Read the article “Body Rituals Among the Nacirema” by Horace Miner in order to help you with your assignment. You may check out the article from the TA or me.

Many anthropologists believe that culture is best expressed by the way people think, imagine, decorate and/or punish their bodies. This assignment will involve several steps. The first will be for you to observe14 persons (7 males and 7 females) and take notes on the clothes and cosmetics they wear and how they adorn their bodies. Also pay attention to their hairstyle and/or facial hair.

The next step will be to interview 10 of them (5 males and 5 females). Ask them what they think of the body shape they have now, whether or not they are happy with their current image, how they would change their appearance if they could, and their opinions of the ideal body. Always write down your observations before you forget them. Also, keep taking notes during interviews.

Write a 5-7 page typed, double-spaced paper based on your observations and interviews ...

Even aside from its general incoherence and occasional assaults on grammar and logic, there is a clearly a subtext to this assignment that presumes conformity with its entering argument, such as it is.

I can't believe I'm paying perfectly good money for a class that is practically beyond parody.

sk60

culture is best expressed by the way people... punish their bodies.

O-kaaay...

David

Jeff & sk60,

“culture is best expressed by the way people... punish their bodies.”

I suppose the problem is that if you evaluate cultures on the basis of, say, their technological, scientific and medical accomplishments, their grasp of the world and its physical laws, their aesthetic and moral sophistication, their enabling of the individual, etc, then you might see that some cultures are quite a bit better than others. And that’s often frowned upon. If, however, you focus on face painting and piercings, you can pretend a kind of equivalence. It’s much fairer that way.

Richard Powell

But Horace Miner's article on the Nacirema is indeed a parody, and rather a good one, in that one cannot determine whether it is targeted at Americans or at the pretensions of academic anthropologists.

https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html/pagewanted=al.

Either those who have set Guinn Jr's Anthropology 101 assignment are themselves taking the piss, or they have dimwittedly fallen for a spoof. The injunction that students should always write down their observations before they forget them suggests that they're in on the joke.

David

Richard,

The thing is, it’s easy to find students and lecturers exactly in step with the parodic view of modern American culture, as, for instance, with this outline, found on the website of Southern Connecticut State University. After noting Miner’s satire - and heavily underlining how “barbaric,” “obsessive” and “brutal” modern American life is (apparently) - things get even more tendentious:

Throughout the world there are many cultures with many different customs that would seem primitive to an American. Take for instance the !Kung of Botswana. They are a hunting-gathering tribe whose way of life differs from ours in many ways. One example of the !Kung way of life is the concept of sharing. Everything in the village from tools to food supplies is shared among the people so that everything is equal. It is hard to imagine as an American sharing one’s belongings with everyone, especially with people you dislike. Yet this is the !Kung way of life. These customs do not make them less civilized, their customs define them as a people; a people from which we may learn a lot from [sic]. If Americans were to share their belongings, so many problems may perhaps be solved.

Private property, boo. Sharing, yay. (Hint: If only we had socialism…)

And,

As Americans, we tend to view ourselves as “civilized” and “superior” to many other cultures throughout the world. Yet in reality we are no better if not worse than the cultures that we view as inferior. Americans are so focused on beauty and outward appearance that some people living within the culture feel the need to physically alter their bodies through surgical procedures to achieve a certain look. If this practice is not barbaric, then what really is?In order to better understand other cultures, it is important to have a full understanding of one’s own culture and to realize that we are no less barbaric than the next culture.

And so the dishonesty starts…

carbon based lifeform

Yet in reality we are no better if not worse than the cultures that we view as inferior.

We've so much to learn from the Taliban.

Richard Powell

David,

I take your point. We should perhaps be thankful that institutions such as SCSU offer a refuge against the prevailing barbarism. I do sometimes wonder, though, whether these people really believe what they write, in the pragmatic sense of actually behaving as if it were true. But perhaps that would presuppose the idea of some sort of objective reality.

I think I'll stop there and go for a walk.

David

Richard,

“I do sometimes wonder, though, whether these people really believe what they write, in the pragmatic sense of actually behaving as if it were true.”

Well, I suppose bad faith can be learned and cultivated like anything else. See, for example, this.

Jeff Guinn

But Horace Miner's article on the Nacirema is indeed a parody, and rather a good one, in that one cannot determine whether it is targeted at Americans or at the pretensions of academic anthropologists.

When my son & I were spit-balling ways he could tackle this miasma of an assignment, I read Miner's article and a whole bunch of scholarly discussions about it. While they were all rife with how he skewered American bourgeoisie, not one apparently noticed that Body Rituals was really a just-so story, in precisely the same way that most, if not all, cultural anthropology amounts to nothing more than just-so stories.

So while I agree that it was good Swiftian satire on two levels, as far as I can tell, neither Miner in particular, nor anthropologists in general have any sense of the second level, and therefore must be irony impaired -- the Anthro 101 professor has clearly fallen for the spoof.

My son's paper took the position that what most anthropologists believe is wrong because the way people think, imagine, decorate and/or punish their bodies can only express about culture what you had already decided it expressed, and used the probably unintentional irony of Body Rituals to help make the point.

It's a good, tightly argued seven pages. I'm betting he gets a C.

Back to my regularly scheduled lurking ...

David

Maybe I should have a regular Lurker’s Amnesty, where I wheel out a trolley of pastries and booze and wait for people to emerge from the bushes. I’ve been doing this for almost six years and I still have almost no idea who it is that reads this stuff. Or why they don’t have anything better to do. At least I have wine.

Anna

I never come here sober.

WTP

And I'm just a bored and lonely software engineer.

Appropos of nothing Anna, I like the way that scarf matches your eyes.

Spiny Norman

Pasties and booze? What's this? Half-naked wimmin and whisky???

Oh. He said "pastries. It's not gonna be one of those parties.

David

Those parties are in the members-only section.

Sam

I think we need to know more about this members only section.

Rich Rostrom

Mr. Guinn: It may be a very well argued paper, but it doesn't meet the assignment: observing and describing people, and interviewing some of them.

Regardless of the substantive content, whether or not it is PC fatuous, doing and thereby learning these procedures seems to me a strong challenge to a student in an intro course. And relevant to what anthropologists do in the field.

If I was the instructor, I would be very annoyed with a student who dodged in this way.

And "Body Ritual..." being a parody, an instructor who would use it isn't too self-important, I'd hope.

Rich Rostrom

"Pasties and liquor"? I prefer beer with my pasties... But then, you prolly never been to da U.P., ya?

SteveGW

Among the people we hope are not reading this blog are young master Guinn's lecturer and TA for the Washington State University Anthropology 101 course.

WTP

Well far be it from me to jump into this...ok, I lied...besides, I'm an engineer and do have a dog in this fight, so to speak

RR:
Regardless of the substantive content, whether or not it is PC fatuous, doing and thereby learning these procedures seems to me a strong challenge to a student in an intro course. And relevant to what anthropologists do in the field.

If I was the instructor, I would be very annoyed with a student who dodged in this way.

Further up the thread:
JG::

Fortunately, his major is Electrical Engineering, where results matter.

Now I'm all for cross pollination of ideas, but it sure would have given me considerable satisfaction (not to mention the effect on the grading curve) to see a few anthropologists, humanities, sociologist, and poli-sci (and what a crock that label is) taking Thermodynamics, Parallel Computer Architecture and Programming, or Matrices In Vector Space. There were a few lawyers in CSI 101, along with a couple of philosophy majors. But that was pretty much it. But, hey maybe that was back in my day...long, long ago.

jkrank

Lurked for years. Love the decor, notably the comments. Appreciate the responsiveness of our host in said comments, as well.
Another engineer in the A/E/C industry. Pass the whiskey, please.

David

Thanks to those who’ve de-lurked (de-cloaked?). I’ve long been curious as to who reads this thing and why. I hope you’ll participate in future as comments often prompt updates and new posts.

o sawyer

Another long time lurker (a history student) just wants to say keep up the good work and thanks -especially for your interactions with commenters. Very informative.

Steve

David,

"...Thanks to those who’ve de-lurked (de-cloaked?)..."

Speaking of de-cloaking; curiosity recently drove me to try to find out more about you, in particular what you look like. I could find nothing on that there inter-web. Is this deliberate? Do you prefer to post from behind an electronic burkah?

David

o sawyer,

As I’ve said before, I tend to think of the posts as starting points rather than full stops. The hope is to spur discussion. And yes, the comment threads are often much more interesting than the actual posts. Participation, see?


Steve,

“I could find nothing on that there inter-web. Is this deliberate?”

Heh. Er, nope (much as I’d like to cultivate an air of intrigue). Just not into showbiz, as it were. I am of course handsome and strapping. And spoken for.

Steve

"And spoken for"

Perhaps your publisher will force you to include a photograph on the inside cover of your forth-coming book and the the floodgates can open up for us homo-cyber-stalkers!

Jeff Guinn

Rich Rostrum:

Mr. Guinn: It may be a very well argued paper, but it doesn't meet the assignment: observing and describing people, and interviewing some of them.

Actually, he very precisely, and ingenuously, fulfilled that part of the assignment.

Of course, since the assignment included the statement "Many anthropologists believe ..." then implicitly his data should be used as a basis to best say something about our culture. Based upon his data, he arrived at two completely plausible explanations for the data, linked with transition words to make them seem as if they were complementary, when in fact they were completely contradictory (powerless women are sexually objectified; women use their secondary sex characteristics to exert power over suggestible men).

The point he argued was two fold: first, his data could be used to support any narrative one could possibly desire; and, second, that whatever narrative one constructed, it was completely dependent upon having a thorough knowledge of the culture in the first place, relying upon all manner of things having precisely nothing to do with ... the way people think, imagine, decorate and/or punish their bodies. . Consequently, far from such things being "the best expression", most likely outcome was exercises in circular logic.

That's why I guess he is going to get a C -- he used the "data" (as well as the probably unintentional irony of Body Rituals) to contradict the original assertion. My guess is that an anthropologist won't like getting told, no matter how well, that the whole discipline is concocted nonsense.

Spiny Norman

I tend to think of the posts as starting points rather than full stops. The hope is to spur discussion. And yes, the comment threads are often much more interesting than the actual posts.

Which is why, although you don't post nearly as often as I, and I can assume most of your readers, would like, I always want to see what new pearl has been added to the discourse. I don't have time to surf the blogosphere much anymore, but I make time to stop by here (and Protein Wisdom) whenever I get a moment. I don't comment very often because, as noted by Mr Potarto, whatever I might want to say has usually already been said by someone else and, usually, more wittily or more elegantly than I could.

whatever

Uhmm, how funny, I see a lot of agreeing here.

Gabriel

Reading through the talking points of the comment section I have noticed a common trend. The use of labels such as "Leftist", or "Conservative" are being thrown around in complete disregard of the main point of the topic. These labels are evidence of a lack of the "free thinking" Steve mentioned in his previous post. This discussion has little to do with ones political leanings. I understand some people cannot help themselves when it comes to pushing their political agendas, but it also shows a complete disconnect from the actual topic.

The point this article is making is not subtle. It is also common knowledge that when people are exposed to the same information in a vacuum they will tend to regurgitate that information without question. Some might even say that is why religious teaching is so effective. It thrives off that principle. On another point of topic a mistake one makes is to assume that those who's educational backgrounds are incomplete are somehow less informed, or not as intelligent. There are many reasons someone may not finish their formal education. It is unwise to conclude that people who fall into that category are all left leaning, or in some way confrontational. That belief is bred from the same ilk who condones bigotry.

I would be willing to bet that a large number of successful, intelligent people fall into the latter category. I would conclude that some may count these people among their friends and colleagues without ever knowing. After all, we are more than just our outward appearance.

David

I see this post has been linked at Reddit.

What strikes me is how many of the commenters there don’t appear to have read the full quote, above, or watched the video, or followed any of the links, which provide the necessary context. As a result, there’s a lot of debate about the differences between diversity of opinion and quality of opinion, and quite a few indignant jibes about educated people not wasting their time in arguments with people who believe in UFOs, conspiracies and perpetual motion machines. But the context is rather important – the uniformity being discussed in the video isn’t in a context of chemistry or engineering, or whether Bigfoot exists. It’s in a context of politics, personal liberty and campus policies that can inhibit debate, and where enormous subjectivity is in play, where questions can be begged and conformity enforced, and where ideas and assumptions aren’t always tested in ways one might expect. The “conflicting points of view” often involve definitions of “social justice,” personal autonomy and the scope of the state. Or whether students should even be permitted to question tendentious definitions and presumptions of virtue.

And the people most dismissive of the partial quote at Reddit - some of whom made a point of asserting their “critical thinking” credentials - seem to be those who didn’t bother to follow the links or read the quote in full, which might have modified their position. The commenters’ assumption of personal cleverness short-circuited the process of addressing the actual issues raised in the video by Bill Whittle and illustrated further, quite vividly, in the links above. That this should happen among people who evidently pride themselves in their schooling and general cleverness rather underlines Mr Whittle’s point.

Jordan

I for one am not at all surprised at this. When one considers the very structure of our academic institutions here in the U.S. and the deference to authority/seniority therein, it becomes clear why this is the case. You aren't granted tenure by openly disagreeing and actively attempting to disprove those who review your work; you aren't offered graduate funding to be at odds with your graduate advisers; you hardly make it ahead as an undergraduate by opposing accepted academic ideals and trends.

These things are, of course, lauded by universities in principal. However, when put in practice, they are hardly put up with past the novelty stage. The university functions just as any private company does--you learn how to talk the talk, and you work your way up the ladder in turn. It is no fault of the institution, I don't think, but more-so a fault of human interaction.

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