Student grievances

Students at Oberlin College don’t like the food
. But they can’t just not like the food, because it’s 2015; the food can’t just be not very good; it must be wrong and wicked; violent and oppressive; at the very least, a micro-aggression. Kids today, right? When I was a student, the food was a macro-aggression, and we ate it anyway, because there wasn’t anything else, unless you had money.* Then after dinner we went out and protested — not for ice cream, but for Natan Sharansky. But I digress.

The students at Oberlin find their food culturally appropriative, inauthentic, and racist. They want, no kidding, fried chicken every Sunday. I think the demand for fried chicken is evidence that not everyone at Oberlin is a complete idiot.

“What should we ask for?”

“Come on, guys, this it nuts. The rice for the sushi is undercooked? Really?”

“Yes, Carl, we know, but it’s what all the popular kids are doing. Think of it as an opportunity. What should we ask for? How about a big chicken dinner every Sunday?”

“Sure, whatever; to the barricades! No passaran! For the chicken! Anyway, I’ve got finals to study for.”

“So, all in favor of demanding chicken on Sundays?”

At least maybe someone gets a chicken dinner out of it.

*Really, the food in the dining hall was fine, though a little bland and monotonous. After I moved out of the residnece hall into an apartment the food got a good deal worse.

The clock

This Is Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock.” The boy didn’t build a clock, he took a clock apart, wired it up, and then put it in a box. There is no way a reasonable person would think this was merely an innocent electronics project.

UPDATE 19 September 2015: Says Jerry Pournelle, “There was no reason to handcuff him, but we had that in Los Angeles 20 years ago: officers had discretion on handcuffing people, and got pummeled because they handcuffed more Blacks and Latinos than White, and the Department took the discretion away: now everybody gets handcuffed, even though the cops find it absurd in many cases. On the other hand, there are plenty of cases where it’s a wise precaution, so if it’s handcuff everyone or handcuff no one, it has to be everyone, absurdities or not. I suspect it’s that way in Texas, too. One of the joys of diversity.”

Multiple choice

Of 13-year-olds: “Geography scores are even worse. Most did not understand time zones, and a quarter thought Canada was a dictatorship,” seen here.

They don’t really think Canada is a dictatorship, any more than they think Canada is a species of Acipenseridae. It was probably a multiple choice question, with one of the choices “dictatorship.” Some number filled in that bubble, for whatever reason – because it was A, or because they were playing connect-the-dots, or because “dictator” is a funny work. Some, if asked “what is Canada’s form of government?” would have said “It’s a dictatorship.” But then, if a multiple choice question asked seventh graders “what’s a dictatorship?” and one of the choices was “an aircraft carrier,” some would have said a dictatorship was an aircraft carrier.

Everything comes around again

Sometime in the next ten years they’ll tell us that attendance centers are a bad idea and we need a K-through-eight elementary school in every neighborhood, unless your kids go to a K-through-eight elementary school in your neighborhood, in which case they must be bused to an attendance center across town. How do I know this? Because after years of telling everyone to be The Guide on the Side and not The Sage on the Stage, someone says ‘Chalk and talk’ teaching might be the best way after all.

Astonishing, but they say it’s supported by the latest pedagogical research, so it must be so. I suppose ‘Chalk and talk’ is nothing like lecturing; really, it must be another thing entirely. In fact it’s probably so different that everyone will have to sit through a professional development seminar on how to effectively move toward a culturally sensitive implementation of the chalk-and-talk paradigm.

What they won’t tell us ever is that the only pedagogy independent of the subject to be taught is taking attendance, or that they are air-heads who talk about moving toward implementation of paradigms.

Logic quiz 2

This logic quiz would have been more interesting if the instructions had said “choose the least bad answer.”

Choose the least bad answer: If all whales are triangular, then

  1. no whales are triangular.
  2. some whales are not triangular.
  3. some whales are triangular.
  4. all four of these answers are equally bad.

UPDATE 17 May 2014: The answers.

Logic quiz

Who said “Logic is a wreath of pretty flowers”?

  1. Commander Spock in the Star Trek episode Who Mourns for Adonais?
  2. Pope Francis during an interview with the editor of Corriere della Sera, but that’s a bad translation.
  3. Nanki-Poo, in The Admiral’s song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury.
  4. Nobody said that.


You say that like it’s a bad thing…

“There is in philosophy a very old name for the view that the point of argument is to persuade; it’s ‘sophistry’. One of the old Platonic points is that if you take argument to be primarily for the purpose of persuading people to its conclusion, what you are really saying is that reasoning is primarily a way to impose one’s will.” — Arguments and Persuasion

The thing is, even if politicians and managers today believed this – that it’s mere sophistry to define argument as persuasion – they’d say “Ah, sophistry! I didn’t know there was a word for that. Go and hire me a sophist right now! No, two! Two sophists! Get the cheapest you can find, and spare no expense!*

*That’s how politicians and managers talk.