Elsewhere (311)
Friday Ephemera

Feeding On Failure

Dr Erec Smith, an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania, on educators who would prefer minority students not to be understood, or indeed successful

[W]hat is perhaps most troublesome about [“anti-racist” educator, Asao] Inoue’s statement is that he is projecting negative emotionality onto students because of something—their desire to learn standard English—that would otherwise suggest a positive and confident self-image. By framing this desire to succeed as hopeless, he is encouraging healthy young people to adopt attitudes that will hinder their development.

Possibly because expectations of failure, and cultivated resentment, are more exploitable by race-hustling educators. People whose paycheque depends on propagating misery.

Implicit in Inoue’s statement is the notion that the only way “students of colour”—particularly black and Latino students—can successfully navigate American society is to be phony and put on an act for white people’s approval. The thought of a black person seeing the pragmatic benefit of standardised English, or of a black person coming to college already proficient in it, are by this standard of black or Latino authenticity either impossible or reprehensible.

Authenticity being defined, it seems, as inarticulate ghetto knucklehead.

For Dr Inoue, a minority student wishing to be articulate, precise, and understood by a wider audience, by being fluent in the language of his academic peers and potential employers, is “selfish” and “immature.” Opting for comprehensibility and success is, we’re told, to surrender to “white supremacy” and “capitalist-inflicted bullshit.” “You can… mouth the words that are white, but… they’re coming from a [black] body,” says Dr Inoue, as if expecting applause.

Dr Smith continues,

Inoue rejects the notion that education should foster the development of individual identity in favour of promoting a social and political agenda… Inoue subordinates his students’ desires to acquire a helpful communicative skill to his own radical conception of what will promote the well-being of everyone… The course in question is called “First-Year Writing,” not “First-Year Communal Consciousness.” This is a clear example of projection of an educator’s politics onto his students—even when many of them voice, in so many words, that they already have a preferred viewpoint that led them to the class in the first place: to learn to communicate effectively using a standardised dialect of English. 

But in Dr Inoue’s classroom, a student’s ambition to develop linguistic skills, to be clearly understood, and to succeed in life, must be subordinate to the paranoid, tribal politics conceived, rather feverishly, by Dr Inoue. So, no selfishness there, clearly. As a display of the pernicious and perverse, it’s quite a thing. Achieving proficiency and wishing to be taken seriously as someone capable of thought are framed by Dr Inoue as some kind of internalised oppression. And being able to express yourself precisely, and getting a job you want, is somehow a failure, a betrayal of authentic blackness. And by implication, getting on in life - being able to provide for yourself and your family - is, according to Dr Inoue, “a really shitty choice.”

This, then, is the man to whom hopes should be entrusted.

Dr Inoue has of course been mentioned here before, as when telling us that teachers should “dispense almost completely with judgements of quality when producing course grades, on grounds that a student’s ability to convey their thoughts in writing - and to formulate thoughts by writing – is merely a manifestation of “white language supremacy,” an allegedly lethal phenomenon. And when boasting that a simple 495-word press release for his own “racial justice” Writing Centre took “over a year” to write. As if this reflected some profundity of thought, and not a more prosaic explanation.

As noted at the time,

Apparently, the way for minority students to flourish as writers is for them to dismiss any criticism of their prose, and any attempt to improve it, as a racially motivated “microaggression” and an “oppressive practice,” and thus proof of “an inherently racist society.” You see, students with brown skin needn’t be articulate, verbally self-possessed, or precise in their thoughts. And that ungrammatical job application, the one enlivened with incomprehensible sentences and lots of inventive spelling, will do just fine. And by the time the real-world consequences of this “social justice” posturing become difficult to avoid, Dr Inoue will have been paid - and be merrily exploiting the next batch of suckers.

And so, it turns out that the way to help brown-skinned students achieve authenticity and empowerment is to ensure that as many of them as possible leave academia, as graduates, sounding uneducated and unable to write in an adult manner, and consequently struggle to find statusful employment, thus leading to plenty of that lovely and exploitable resentment, on which race-hustling careers, much like Dr Inoue’s, can be built.

Rinse and repeat.

Oh, and should readers assume that Dr Inoue must be some one-off aberration, feel free to think again.

Heavens, a button. I wonder what it does.