Tact or cowardice?

Is this man teaching his son the right thing?


Grim said...

There's a reason my GPA has never been a 4.0. :) You've got to go after them. Professors are as afraid of you as the students are of them, especially in this era of very easy harassment claims. While ideology is not a protected category, it's very easy to worm any kind of complaint against the professor into such a category (veteran status, for example), so they have to be terrified. While of course I've never made any such claim, nor even the suggestion or threat of such a claim, students ought to know that it's always in the back of the minds of even tenured professors. You needn't fear them.

And, of course, adjutant professors and others are under constant threat of not being renewed if student evaluations are too low.

So no, the right thing is to learn how to stand up and fight for what you believe, and to use the leverage you have to defend yourself.

Of course, if you're in college hopefully it's because you came to learn. There are many situations in which it is the path of wisdom to listen, and carefully, to the people who disagree with you -- especially professors. But even here, a respectful challenge can help you discover whether your views were more poorly founded than you thought. If you don't bring them forward, you'll never know if they can show you your error, or if you might discover an error in their own foundations.

Texan99 said...

One commenter had a sensible suggestion: get all of the students to explain their natural views, then require them to write a letter from the opposite point of view.

Grim said...

Yeah, that could really be helpful. As we've learned, conservatives have an easier time doing that -- precisely because we've been carefully educated by the other side. We understand what they think. They usually don't get us at all; they can't even imagine what our principles are.

E Hines said...

Tact or cowardice? The link opens to the comments, so I'm responding to the first comment.

My kids all learned early on to give the teacher what he or she wanted to hear.

In other words, the kids learned to lie to the teacher. This isn't tact; lying can never be tact.

Is it cowardice? I'd have to know more about the situation before I could call it cowardice. Cowardice involves attempts to avoid negative outcomes, no matter the cost to oneself and/or one's neighbors (which is a poor description of cowardice); it's far more than mere panic.

The thrust of the comments defending the behavior, though, start to add up to cowardice in my mind. They're all centered on avoiding responsibility in favor of avoiding pain and obtaining nearby personal gain, without any consideration of the morality involved. The defenders seemed to have no principles worth sacrificing for.

Eric Hines

raven said...

I am not sure the other side even knows what a principle IS.

DL Sly said...

To answer the question: From my beliefs of right or wrong, the father's teachings are wrong, wrong, wrong. However, after reading his reasonings, I would have to say he believes he is.....kinda sorta.
As to my own college years, I have challenged many teachers and always prevailed in some manner. One that actually follows in the strings of this thread was at my last college when a (very) young History teacher gave very low marks on a mid-term because the answers given to his essay questions were not what he wanted. What he failed to realize, however, was that in the essay format you are being asked to provide a position and back it up with factual references. In such a format, the answers I gave were indeed complete and cogent. I told him that if he was searching for a specific answer, he either needed to rewrite the question more narrowly or change the format of the question. After speaking with the English Comp prof -- and being told exactly what I had said regarding essay questions -- he changed his position and decided that those who wanted to increase their grade could do so by rewriting that part of their tests. To which I adamantly told him that I would not be rewriting my essay as I had not only proven my point in my first answer but had actually answered his question in full. He revised his statement and said that if anyone wanted a higher grade, they could bring him their tests after class and he'd review them again.
Needless to say, I was the first person in line at the end of class.

I have tried to instill the same conviction of beliefs and the confidence to defend them within the VES -- which, truth be told, has been an uphill battle given that the public schools located where military bases are have been dangerously infested with liberal/progressive mindsets.

Apologies for the long post....

MikeD said...

I am of two minds on this, and if I may beg your indulgence, I'll explain (if not, move along... my feelings will not be hurt).

I had a class in University on "Vietnam". Supposedly this was to be a combined History/Poly Sci class, taught by the head of the Poly Sci department. Less than 15 minutes into the first day of class, I knew I was going to have a problem with the professor when she began, "If you served in the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, you need to drop my class today."

I was stunned, to be stating this outright in front of her class was a slap in the face (myself a veteran, but not of the Vietnam War... but my father was). Regardless, rather than call her on it, or get up and leave I stayed.

Later, she went off on a lecture of how the way she spelled "Mao Tse Tung" (and no, I don't recall her spelling) was the only CORRECT spelling of his name. I interrupted, "But ma'am... we're not writing it in Chinese, are we?" "No," she replied. "Then, we can't spell it correctly, all we can do is transliterate it." "I never thought of it that way," said she.

Well of course not you narrow-minded fool! Because some authority figure somewhere once taught you there was only one correct spelling, and you accepted it unquestioningly. But I had the sense not to say that out loud.

Later, she stated that all dates in her class would be in CE and BCE, and (smugly) asked the class if anyone knew what they stood for. I answered "Common Era and Before Common Era." "That's right," she said "and do you know why?". "Because CE and BCE remove references to Christianity," I answered. "Very good!" "But ma'am, if both AD/BC and CE/BCE center on the same event in world history, aren't you just obscuring the language?" "Oh," she says, "I never thought of that."


In any event, suffice to say I voiced my objections (politely) when she'd go off on one of her ridiculous stances, but when test time came around, I regurgitated her same nonsense back to her on the essays. Why? Because I knew she didn't want independent thought, and I wanted a good grade. I learned nothing about the history of the Vietnam War, but I DID learn how to write a pretty good position paper. I just didn't support the position I was asked to write about.

And that's where I was getting to by telling this story. Even though she was worthless as a history teacher, I still learned several lessons from her. Not the ones she wanted me to learn, of course, but useful life lessons all the same. I learned how to deal with a bigot that you cannot simply dismiss or ignore. I learned how to get along with an authority figure who is unworthy of respect. I learned that sometimes what I want and what I believe may need to be suborned in order to achieve a goal. And while those may not have been lessons intended to learn when I paid the University for that class, I am fairly certain it was more valuable than the knowledge I missed out on, in my day to day life.

As long as you take away a valuable life lesson from the class, I think it might be acceptable to suborn your own beliefs, if only to satisfy a power-tripping authority figure. After all, sometimes you must answer to such a person in a job.

DL Sly said...

Mike, a couple of things:
"As long as you take away a valuable life lesson from the class, I think it might be acceptable to suborn your own beliefs,..."

If I'm paying for the class then I am well within my rights (I really dislike the overuse of that word, but nothing comparable comes immediately to mind.) to demand that the course I've paid for gets taught -- not receiving some kind of hidden (or not so, in many instances) indoctrinational agenda of the prof. I paid for their course, they are not paying me to take it.

As for the rest, "After all, sometimes you must answer to such a person in a job."

WRT my comment above, I am not paying my boss to hire me. He is paying me to do the job for which I was hired. Which always brings me back to advice my Pop gave each of us kids when we embarked upon our first job, "He may not always be right, but he is always the Boss." And therein lies, for my part anyway, the distinction between *sucking it up* to get through the class and *sucking it up* to satisfy the Boss.

Cass said...

Choose your battles :p

I see something entirely different in this, but before I start I should probably say that I don't think I'd make this boy's choice. But that's for reasons of my own and has more to do with ego and stubbornness than lofty principles.

Was the assignment, "Write the president and tell him what YOU think about X (but make derned sure "what you think" agrees with "what I think"?

That's one thing. Or was the assignment, "Write Obama and make the case for Position X?"

That a very different case. I could probably make a case for doing all sorts of things that violate my personal ethics or beliefs. It would not be at all dishonest for me to do so, so long as I did not falsely represent the case as my own beliefs. Playing Devil's advocate is an intellectual exercise that often reveals just as many flaws in the argument you're making as it does in the one you believe in.

Sounds to me as though the kid did something perfectly acceptable (treating an academic exercise in devil's advocacy as just that) for all the wrong reasons.

I ran into two situations like that in school. In the first I registered a strong protest with my prof that he did not take graciously and which I suspect caused him to view my work with an unfriendly eye. I still got an A, even after declining the politically charged extra credit. That was something I felt should be decided on principle.

I don't really see this assignment that way, though. Of course, there may be facts I don't know.

Cass said...

By the way, I don't think it at all implausible that a good conservative argument could be made for sustainable energy policies.

Maybe I'm just ornery tonight, but I sometimes feel that we back ourselves into our respective corners. What's wrong with a national energy policy that uses resources efficiently and plans for the long haul?

Unless, of course, it is now a core tenet of conservatism that we shouldn't be responsible stewards?

The Devil (and his pesky Advocate) lurks in the details :p

/running away

Grim said...

Ornery Cassidy:

Would you care to compose a brief essay on what such a conservative policy might look like? I think the problem may lie with what we call 'sustainable' -- wood? Nuclear? Not coal... wind? I'd be glad to read a conservative essay, if there's one to be written.

MikeD said...

If I'm paying for the class then I am well within my rights (I really dislike the overuse of that word, but nothing comparable comes immediately to mind.) to demand that the course I've paid for gets taught -- not receiving some kind of hidden (or not so, in many instances) indoctrinational agenda of the prof. I paid for their course, they are not paying me to take it.

I'm quite comfortable with this. In any rational environment, he who pays the piper picks the tune. The problem is, University is not a rational environment. I could choose to die upon that hill and insist that the head of the Poly Sci department was teaching without a lesson plan (which was painfully obvious), that I paid for a history class but got a form of comparative religion (since "you can't understand what happened in Vietnam without understanding Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism and their impact on the Vietnamese concept of time and space" -Direct quote), that she pushed a political agenda that had nothing to do with the history of Vietnam (or in some cases was blatantly false like "we dropped Agent Orange on the rice paddies of North Vietnam to try and starve them out")... but all of that would have been difficult to prove as most was subjective. 'She had a lesson plan, you just didn't understand her teaching method' or 'it was a combined History/Poly Sci class so some measure of political theory was to be expected rather than a recitation of dates and events' or 'you just didn't understand the material'. Never mind that I got an A. Never mind that I got full credit towards my degree. I paid my tuition and got the credit hours as agreed. So I can't even claim that they harmed me in any manner. You and I both know that she was pushing her political agenda at the expense of the class (well, I know it... you're taking my word for it). But in the grand scheme of things I can't say I didn't pull a more valuable lesson from that class than I would have gotten from a straight, well taught History of the Vietnam War class.