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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Friday, November 3, 2017


Protests don't shut down universities that are actually politically conservative. Only liberal institutions are vulnerable to the kind of implosion that has occurred recently at Reed and Evergreen.  If an administration tries to affirm its commitments to social justice, it might increase student dissatisfaction about these issues.


They say a liberal is someone who can't take their own side in an argument. I've seen it attributed to Robert Frost: "A liberal is someone too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." What this means, in practice, is that I spend a lot of time considering arguments I don't agree with, both from the left and the right of my own positions if we must imagine every issue along a spatial continuum we inherited from the French revolution.  There is a danger I might be convinced by a right wing argument, or have my positions not entirely line up the way they ought to. I certainly cannot shield myself from arguments I don't like. What would be the fun in that?  


There is an irritating Facebook group called teaching with a sociological lens, or something like that. A person reported that a student had written an email to her saying "we only hear liberal views in class, how about a debate with people on different sides of the issue." Of course, virtually everyone on the group responded that sociology is a science based on empirical research, so of course there are no sides to these issues, only facts. Now the student, whom the group immediately labeled a privileged white guy, may have been misconstruing the field of sociology.  But surely these sociology professors know that "facts" are socially constructed? Surely there are issues about which people, seeing the same set of data, disagree, and not necessarily from ideological differences. There have to be things that nobody knows for sure, open questions. There have to be implicit biases in the field, and specific ways in which researchers attempts to hold their biases in check, or ensure that they haven't put their thumb on the scale when gathering and interpreting data.  The purpose of the sociology class should be to teach students to think like sociologists, not to simply provide a set of incontrovertible facts about society.  

As a literary critic, I never know what my conclusions will be before I engage with the text. My conclusions are not aligned along a right / left axis. If I knew in advance what I would find, then my reading of the text would be worthless.

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