Friday Ephemera
Reheated (37)

Don’t Oppress Me With Your Commas

More crushing injustice on campus, this time at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies:

In a letter sent to colleagues in the department after the sit-in, [Professor] Rust said students in the demonstration described grammar and spelling corrections he made on their dissertation proposals as a form of “micro-aggression.” “I have attempted to be rather thorough on the papers and am particularly concerned that they do a good job with their bibliographies and citations, and these students apparently don’t feel that is appropriate,” Rust said in the letter.

You see, by highlighting spelling and punctuation errors, the professor is contributing to an “unsafe climate for students of colour.” Reminding students of the basic rules of English apparently helps to create “a hostile and toxic environment” in Professor Rust’s classroom. Such are the mental and emotional traumas of the modern grad school intellectual. These, remember, are people studying for master’s degrees and doctorates. Advanced learning. For those of you interested in the policing of tiny tragedies, “micro-aggressions” are defined by an official UCLA report as

Subtle verbal and nonverbal insults directed toward non-whites, often done automatically and unconsciously. They are layered insults based on one’s race, gender, class, sexuality, language, immigration status, phenotype, accent, or surname.


It is not clear whether any workable definition of discriminatory conduct is capable of capturing every such microaggression.

The indefinite and strangely unilateral nature of the term does raise one or two problems. As Ricochet’s Tim Groseclose notes, 

I’m pretty sure that by writing this blog post I have engaged in a microaggression.

And by drawing further attention to this story and its comedic possibilities, it’s very likely that your mild-mannered host is also oppressing somebody, somewhere, in ways that aren’t quite clear. And don’t you get all high and mighty either. By reading this you’re almost certainly complicit too. I denounce your wickedness. Now report to the correction booth. Three hours, maximum setting.


Of course it’s easy to laugh at the cultivation and indulgence of such improbable preciousness. The unhappy students mentioned above sound just a tad opportunist and colossally self-absorbed, even by the standards of their peers. Indeed, one might regard them as pathologically unrealistic. Theirs, after all, is one of the most cossetting and exquisitely PC environments on the face of the planet. But their theatrical umbrage is no accident. Like Mr Arun Smith, mentioned previously, such attitudes and pretensions are the ideal end product of a leftist education. Academia is the foremost proving ground for “progressive” attitudes, a model of utopia and corrected thought, and these students have been processed quite effectively.

Viewed rationally, this urging to racial grievance over matters of grammar and punctuation seems designed to keep young people with brown skin disaffected and resentful, and wherever possible in ignorance and poverty. How else, for instance, might we explain the taxpayer funded race hustler Dr Caprice Hollins? Dr Hollins was paid $86,000 a year to tell Seattle educators that “students of colour” needn’t learn the grammar and fluency she herself enjoys - and which employers generally expect of job candidates. These basic skills and others, including foresight and punctuality, are apparently “white values,” and expectations thereof constitute “cultural racism.” Instead of encouraging “students of colour” to articulate their thoughts and plan ahead, we must, said Hollins, see people as “racial beings” and “teach [children] to view the world through a racial lens.”

Not correcting students’ grammar, thereby ensuring they sound like idiots, is apparently also the way to ensure those students get jobs, find fulfilment and escape poverty. And Dr Hollins is by no means unique. She’s part of an industry, a racket, an institutional hustle. The effect of which is to dull the senses and erode probity, all in the name of fairness. 

Update 2:

More on the linguistic oppression saga from Inside Higher Ed:

The [students’] statement accuses “the professor” (it does not identify Rust by name) of correcting “perceived grammatical choices that in actuality reflect ideologies” and “repeatedly questioning the value of our work on social identity and the related dynamics of oppression, power and privilege.” The “barrage of questions by white colleagues and the grammar ‘lessons’ by the professor have contributed to a hostile class climate,” it continues.

Yes, the students are upset about having the value of their ideas questioned. Given the students’ appetite for Marxoid “critical race theory” and Marxoid “standpoint theory,” outright laughter seems more fitting. The piece goes on to list the students’ grievances as including having to comply with the standard style guide for dissertation work and such agonies as whether or not the word indigenous should be capitalised. The nearest thing I could find to a basis for complaint is that during a heated exchange between two students – basically over which of them is more victimised and therefore righteous - the professor shook the male student’s arm in an attempt to calm him down. According to the students, who are evidently steeped in racial victimhood, “there are additional [i.e., racial] implications when an older white man does so with a younger black man.” 

These, then, are the psychodramas that make grad students – sorry, students of “colour and consciousness” - feel entitled to interrupt a class, impose on others and conduct an hour-long, self-flattering “sit-in.”


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