I’ve been employing the Smack-o-Matic rather heavily on religious assclowns lately, with the occasional good whack at my favorite whipping-boys: politicians and the media. But let’s not forget that stupidity is a human universal, and irrational assclowns abound in every endeavor and creed.
Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars, we have a shining example from the teaching profession. She’s threatening to sue Dartmouth College and her students for creating a hostile work environment.
If you thought she was an IDiot forced out for her IDiotic views, you’d be wrong.
No, she wasn’t sexually harassed, either.
Nope, not physically attacked.
She’s upset because her actual students used actual critical thinking skills to – oh, the horror! – disagree with her.
Absorb this a moment. Savor it. Appreciate the complex bouquet we are sampling here: an Ivy League professor, entrusted with the task of teaching young minds to engage ideas, understand, appreciate and critique ideas, is pitching a fit because her students had the temerity to actually understand, appreciate and critique ideas.
The Wall Street Journal snarks. Observe:
Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of “French narrative theory” that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional exposé, which she promises will “name names.”
The trauma was so intense that in March Ms. Venkatesan quit Dartmouth and decamped for Northwestern.
My goodness, that’s some trauma. Those Freshman English students – they’re vicious buggers. Especially when they actually pay attention in class. The nerve!
Ms. Venkatesan lectured in freshman composition, intended to introduce undergraduates to the rigors of expository argument. “My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful,” she told Tyler Brace of the Dartmouth Review. “They’d argue with your ideas.”
Egads! The rogues! How dare they show any sign of thought process more complex than “vegetable!”
Ms. Venkatesan’s scholarly specialty is “science studies,” which, as she wrote in a journal article last year, “teaches that scientific knowledge has suspect access to truth.” She continues: “Scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct.”*
And her students weren’t impressed by this impenetrable woo? Shocking!
The agenda of Ms. Venkatesan’s seminar, then, was to “problematize” technology and the life sciences. Students told me that most of the “problems” owed to her impenetrable lectures and various eruptions when students indicated skepticism of literary theory. She counters that such skepticism was “intolerant of ideas” and “questioned my knowledge in very inappropriate ways.” Ms. Venkatesan, who is of South Asian descent, also alleges that critics were motivated by racism, though it is unclear why.
My powers of snark fail me. It’s paddle time.
Why isn’t this silly bitch working for the Discovery Institute or teaching Sunday school in some fundie church somewhere? I suppose it’s because she’s too “liberal” and would probably describe herself as “enlightened,” but let’s deconstruct this for a second here:
She presents intellectually vacuous arguments as rarefied, profound truths. She teaches that science is just a social construct. She pitches a fit when people disagree with her. She can’t handle the least bit of skeptical thought or criticism, especially valid skeptical thought and criticism, because she has no valid response. Instead of being able to hold her intellectual ground, she has to resort to temper tantrums, lawsuits, accusations of harassment, and on top of all of this, plays the race card (read: persecution).
Tell me. How the fuck is this different from the right-wing fucktards who rely on the same damned bullshit arguments to bolster their indefensible positions? Is this really any different than the snivelling “Evilutionists are so mean!” cowardice we hear from IDiots? No? I didn’t think so.
But – and wait for it – she doesn’t stop there. Oh, hell, no. She’s going all the way. She has to play a card worthy of Expelled:
After a winter of discontent, the snapping point came while Ms. Venkatesan was lecturing on “ecofeminism,” which holds, in part, that scientific advancements benefit the patriarchy but leave women out. One student took issue, and reasonably so – actually, empirically so. But “these weren’t thoughtful statements,” Ms. Venkatesan protests. “They were irrational.” The class thought otherwise. Following what she calls the student’s “diatribe,” several of his classmates applauded.
Ms. Venkatesan informed her pupils that their behavior was “fascist demagoguery.”
The fact that her students PWND her this thoroughly gives me hope for the next generation. Apparently, the Wall Street Journal columnist feels the same way:
The remarkable thing about the Venkatesan affair, to me, is that her students cared enough to argue. Normally they would express their boredom with the material by answering emails on their laptops or falling asleep. But here they staged a rebellion, a French Counter-Revolution against Professor Defarge. Maybe, despite the professor’s best efforts, there’s life in American colleges yet.
I think we should all make it a point of honor to encourage rebellion in the face of fuckwittery, no matter which side of the spectrum the fuckwit is on, no matter the cost.
Viva la revolución!
*Update: It appears this bit was quotemined in the grand tradition of DIsco. However, the basic fuckwittery of the good professor still stands, based on emails sent to her students and slightly more reputable sources than the WSJ and Dartmouth Review. Read the rest of the comments in Ed Brayton’s post, should you wish to form your own conclusions.