The Thinkers of Tomorrow
Friday Ephemera

Get Them While They’re Soft and Yielding (2)

Somewhat related to the previous post, here’s another display by our moral and intellectual betters. Oh, the things that can happen in a creative writing class

A professor at Michigan State University opened the first day of his creative writing class on Thursday by bashing Mitt and Ann Romney and ranting against “old Republicans” who he says “raped” the country, according to a student who made a secret recording of the class. The eight-minute video also reveals Professor William S. Penn bullying a student who apparently disagreed with his Democratic politics and arguing that Republicans want to prevent “black people” from voting. “If you go to the Republican convention in Florida, you see all of the old Republicans with the dead skin cells washing off them,” said Penn. “They don’t want to pay for your tuition because who are you? Well, to me you are somebody,” he continued.

Yes, prey.

Here’s the video: 

And all on day one. Your dollars well spent.


Ann Althouse, however, is keen to give Professor Penn the benefit of the doubt:

Look out all you professors. Anything you say may be taken out of context and posted on YouTube. Your hyperbole and casual humour and re-enactments of the arguments of others will look quite different as the world looks over the shoulders of the captive audience you think you’re talking at.

So how might that general argument apply in this case? A longer, unedited video of Professor Penn’s “teaching” reveals no extra redeeming context, only more of the same, including chippy threats to “come after” any “closet racists.” How the professor will identify these “closet racists” and what he’ll do if he finds any remains unclear. And a belief that Penn was merely playing devil’s advocate might have been more credible if the professor had actually been contrarian in terms of his peer group and personal views – say, by trashing some leftist shibboleths, or Democrats or the Obamas – instead of declaring himself a fan. When Penn’s own students have previously described him as “intolerant,” “self-righteous” and an “over-the-top liberal,” i.e., a leftist, one who “hates Republicans” and “doesn’t accept any other views or ideas,” then his rambling tirade can hardly be waved away as some devil’s advocacy that was taken out of context. It seems more likely that our tenured intellectual is letting his students know what kind of teaching they, or their parents, have been suckered into paying for, and that demurral is unwise.

After all, presumption of this kind is hardly uncommon. As we’ve seen, more than once, the arrogance is institutional. Many students of the humanities are entering a world in which adults can behave like Duke’s Wahneema Lubiano, an Associate Professor of African and American Studies who rails against the “hegemony” of “Western rationality,” and whose students learn that she’s “physically traumatised and psychologically assaulted” by global capitalism. This, remember, is a woman tenured at an elite university. For Lubiano, the classroom is chiefly a venue for her own political “activism,” i.e., the propagation of obnoxious racial theory, in which guilt depends on pigment, class and gender, and students are told that “experiential knowledge” is preferable to actual facts. Like who did what to whom, for instance. Lubiano tells us that her job is “to reconstitute not simply particular curricula, but the academy itself.” Universities, we learn, are “engines of dominance” that should be “sabotaged” by people suitably radical and enlightened. People much like her, in fact. A transformation, incidentally, that one might think had already taken place and hence Lubiano’s license to take such liberties with students and the people paying her salary.

So entrenched is this sense of entitlement and personal fiefdom, Lubiano’s immediate peers have declared their primary, self-given duty as being a “critique of commodity culture, patriarchal structures, tyrannical regimes, racial hierarchies, sexual normativities, and so forth.” These are the concerns around which all else must revolve. “Almost all humanities scholarship is,” we learn, “now considered political in one sense or another, whether it names its political intention or not.” A statement that prompted KC Johnson to ask, “How many Duke parents, alumni, or trustees are aware that the University’s humanities openly state that their goal is not instructing students in the traditional disciplines of the liberal arts, but instead engaging in political activism?”

And let’s not forget this instructive episode, in which the first speaker, Sarah Knopp, a teacher, Marxist and Occupier, tells us she wants to peddle the “enlightenment” of communism to the children in her care. Because when they believe as she does – and only as she does – then they’ll be “critical thinkers.” Then they’ll be “emancipated.” Just like her. The second speaker, Megan Behrent, merely intends to subvert the proprieties of the classroom in order to propagate her own communist politics at someone else’s expense. The preferences of parents, students and those who her pay her salary are to be circumvented in the name of “social justice.” Again, the students in her care will be “thinking for themselves” when they think and act “radically,” i.e., just like her.

Update 2:

In the comments sk60 draws our attention to this item in the Detroit Free Press:

Penn, a tenured professor, was pulled from all his classes Thursday in the wake of videotaped comments he made during a previous class… Penn remains an employee of the university, and will continue to draw his $146,510 salary. No decision has been made about whether he will teach next semester… Derek Wright, 20, a junior actuarial sciences major… said the comments in the video “were pretty much the same thing he had been saying for the last two classes… He hadn’t done much teaching of the class, just talking about his personal opinions and preaching them.” Wright said he wasn’t offended by what Penn had been saying. “I was more offended he wasn’t teaching the class.”

Hitting the tip jar will only encourage me.