On names, naming and name-calling

So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field. — Genesis 2:19-20

I regularly visit Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog in part because he frequently posts astonishing photographs of dazzlingly beautiful scenes from the cosmos. And, because Plait is an astronomer, he is also able to tell us what it is we’re looking at in those photos — the names and classifications of the strange objects or phenomena. Those names tell us what we’re seeing — what things are and what they do and how they came to be. For seeing, for thinking and for understanding, names matter.

Today, though, Plait posted this uncharacteristically terrestrial photo — of a scene in his own front yard. It is, in a different way, as awesome as those other pictures from space, but because ornithology is outside his particular area of expertise, he wasn’t able to tell us precisely what it is we’re seeing in this picture. It’s a hawk, yes, but what kind of hawk?

The Internet being the Internet, his commenters were quickly able to narrow it down a bit — this is either a Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) or a sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus). The two are apparently pretty similar.

We don’t need that level of precision to admire this photo or this bird, or to appreciate its confirmation that, as Gary Larson said, “birds of prey know they’re cool.” But my point here is that such precision is inextricably bound up with the process of naming things.

“Jane has a dog” may be accurate, but it’s imprecise. Assuming that we all know Jane, we still haven’t got a good mental picture of her dog. “Jane has a small, black-and-brown dog” is a bit more descriptive, but still not quite enough. “Jane has a teacup Yorkshire terrier.” Ah, that gives us the picture we’re striving for. The name allows us to identify with more precision — to communicate and understand with more precision.

If we want to communicate and we want to understand, then names, naming and name-calling will be inevitable.

Or think of the field of medicine. We go to the doctor because we are sick. We don’t need the doctor to tell us we’re sick — we already know that much, that’s why we’re there. We need the doctor to diagnose precisely what kind of sickness we have. That diagnosis — that naming of our sickness — will determine the prognosis and the prescription. To get better, we have to know what’s wrong. And to know what’s wrong, we have to identify it’s name.

Now, not everything that we will be required to name is as adorable as a teacup Yorkie or as fearfully cool as a Cooper’s or sharpie. Sometimes that which we are called on to name, to diagnose or to identify with precision will be bad behavior. If we say no more than only that — “bad behavior” — then we will be limiting our ability to see, to understand and to communicate. We’re back in the territory of “Jane has a dog.” That limits our ability to communicate in just the same way as an artist would limit her ability to do so by refusing to use anything other than the eight-crayon box from Crayola.

We can do better than that. We can speak of bad behavior with greater precision and thus with greater understanding. We have at our disposal a vast spectrum of names and words and classifications for this very thing. Those terms and their subtle nuances of connotation and denotation provide a nomenclature of bad behavior as vast, systematic and precise as any system dreamed of by Linnaeus.

Some of these terms, alas, are mildly impolite. Others are extravagantly and enthusiastically impolite. That presents a dilemma. It raises the need to balance the precision and clarity that such terms can provide with their potential for distracting from that due to their impoliteness. They can also tend to ratchet up the temperature — signaling that one is the kind of conversation in which vehemence might count for more than the aforementioned precision and clarity. They show that your dander is up, and that tends to elevate others’ accordingly, and that can lead to a lot of yelling during which more lines may get blurred than delineated with care.

Those downsides are why it’s best to seek alternatives to such impolite terms if it’s possible to do so without sacrificing the needed precision. Those are good reasons to avoid such terms, when possible. But it’s not always possible.

Note that this has nothing to do with a common misunderstanding of ad hominem fallacies. Name-calling doesn’t substitute for an argument, but an argument ought to reach a conclusion at which point it will be appropriate and necessary to identify, classify and clarify by assigning a thing its proper name. “I don’t have to listen to you because you’re a snob” is a fallacious bit of circular reasoning. “You just behaved snobbishly, therefore I conclude based on that demonstrated snobbishness that you are a snob” is not. That’s just sound reasoning and diagnosis.

If we say, “You must never call anyone a snob,” then we will be unable to speak — unable to see, to understand or to communicate — when we encounter a snob. If you say, “Bob is a snob,” I may disagree, but my disagreement ought to be based on the meaning of the word and the aptness of its application — not on some foregone conclusion that the word is forbidden and that therefore we must never speak of or acknowledge the thing the word exists to name.

But there are still those distracting downsides.

At the end of the previous post, I observed behavior commensurate with an impolite designation and employed that designation to identify that behavior as precisely as I was able. The word was selected with care. It is used correctly and applied accurately, conveying not just a generic disapproval, but a very specific kind of disapproval of a very specific kind of bad behavior. I weighed the precision of the word against the potential distraction of those downsides and, unable to find a satisfactory alternative that retained all the necessary connotations, decided that, in this case, the impolite term was best. Feel free to disagree on that point, but please don’t think the word was employed by accident.

Again, if we want to communicate and we want to understand, then names, naming and name-calling will be inevitable.

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  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Word.  I get tired of people mis-identifying ad hominem attacks or tone trolling.  Like, when Newt Gingrich pulled his whole, “I’m going to tell the NAACP that jobs are better than food stamps,” in front of a mostly white crowd routine, there were four possible interpretations: he’s ignorant, he’s racist, he was cynically manipulating a collection of ignorant racists, or he was combining those three in some way.  It’s impossible to call Newt or his audience out without also using insulting words.

    However, people who are engaged in horrible activities need to be called out.  And being fairly called a bigot is far less damaging than being the victim of bigotry.

  • Anonymous

    Using a word to describe an asshole which is not as overtly insulting as “asshole” in an attempt to avoid insult will simply, in the fullness of time, create a new insulting way to describe people.

  • friendly reader

    The term “asshole” may have been entirely accurate; but the target may not have been. You referred to the entire school as being assholes, never taking into account that there might have been disagreement within administration and faculty. I know that one could argue that, if someone found what the administration had done appalling, they could quit, but in this economy? And clearly this school has no problem with firing people for whatever reason, and I’m sure protest would be one of them. “Cowards” would be more accurate in that situation… unless, they were thinking about their families having food on the table… etc.

    The people within this school/church who decided to fire this poor woman and who pushed this case all the way to the Supreme Court, you could call them assholes – though I prefer “callous and heartless tyrants.” But in terms of accuracy, a lot of people at that school may have been those weak of spirit who got caught up in the wake of the assholes.

    I can only hope that while the tyrants at the core of this obviously have no hearts, they may at least have some embarrassment and shame. Though, sadly, those tend to be in lesser supply than hearts lately.

  • friendly reader

    Note: I don’t think the concern for the people unfairly lumped in with the callous, heartless tyrants should outweigh the concern for the woman fired, at all.

    But from a very pragmatic debate standpoint, narrowing the focus of your attack can bolster it. The people responsible are assholes, the people around them cowards or held captive. It’s a model of top-down tyranny indifferent to the people it stomps on. Turning the entire school into an evil entity ignores that the kind of tyranny that saw this poor woman be fired is still in place.

  • P J Evans

    Since the school voted to support its administration in firing her, the term is justified.

  • Anonymous

    See, here’s the thing. This all started during the 2004-2005 term. Thats SEVEN YEARS AGO.  Notably- before the economic crash as well, so it wasn’t as hard to find a job then. And this school has sunk…well, certainly hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars into this case by now.  So yeah- anyone left at the school pretty much has to be agreeing with them by now. The parents continuing to pay tuition every year, the teachers continuing to work for people who did this….

    And you know what? Cowardice is no excuse. If you cower beneath an asshole, don’t be surprised if you get tarred with the same brush. We judge you by the company you keep, and the rocks you hide under.

  • friendly reader

    Ah, I was not aware of the years. Yes, in that case, the “economy” excuse goes out the window.

    But no, cowardice isn’t an excuse, it’s the label. I’m saying, if Fred’s defense of his choice of words is “It’s accurate,” then I’m saying he should actually be accurate and call them “cowards” – since it’s the more accurate label.

    I guess my question would be: how is “asshole” as accurate a term as a species of hawk? “Asshole” is an insult that means different things to different people. As I said in the other thread, to me an asshole is the guy who cuts in front of me in traffic or who talks loudly during a movie. What they did was worse than that. Their actions require more precise labels to say what they’ve done wrong. They’re bullies. They’re cowards. They’re heartless. They’re tyrannical.

    Saying “they’re assholes” is like saying “they’re organisms.” It’s not specific enough.

    This is just my opinion, based on how the word resonates with me. I think the rest of the piece was right on-target, and I think that they’re Bad Teachers is the worst condemnation you could ever lay at their feet.

  • Anonymous

    “And this school has sunk…well, certainly hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars into this case by now.”

    Probably not.  I have no specific knowledge of this case, but this sort of thing is typically picked up by an advocacy group of some sort.  The school probably too the case through the first round in the trial-level court.  At this point the advocacy group’s attention would be captured, and it would fund the appeals, and perhaps even supply its own lawyers.

    Note that I am neither condoning nor condemning this behavior.  An advocacy group can be advocating a good cause, or a bad one.  The strategy of picking up a legal appeal and running with it is itself neither good nor bad.

  • Anonymous

    “And this school has sunk…well, certainly hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars into this case by now.”

    Probably not.  I have no specific knowledge of this case, but this sort of thing is typically picked up by an advocacy group of some sort.  The school probably too the case through the first round in the trial-level court.  At this point the advocacy group’s attention would be captured, and it would fund the appeals, and perhaps even supply its own lawyers.

    Note that I am neither condoning nor condemning this behavior.  An advocacy group can be advocating a good cause, or a bad one.  The strategy of picking up a legal appeal and running with it is itself neither good nor bad.

  • Anonymous

    “And this school has sunk…well, certainly hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars into this case by now.”

    Probably not.  I have no specific knowledge of this case, but this sort of thing is typically picked up by an advocacy group of some sort.  The school probably too the case through the first round in the trial-level court.  At this point the advocacy group’s attention would be captured, and it would fund the appeals, and perhaps even supply its own lawyers.

    Note that I am neither condoning nor condemning this behavior.  An advocacy group can be advocating a good cause, or a bad one.  The strategy of picking up a legal appeal and running with it is itself neither good nor bad.

  • P J Evans

    The bird in the picture looks like a Cooper’s hawk (a juvenile, not an adult, by the color and the markings), but the distinction that’s easy to notice in the field is the shape of the tail (Cooper’s has a round tip, and sharpies have square tips).

  • MaryKaye

    If there *are* decent people teaching at this school, they should leave.  Administrative actions of this kind create a poisonous atmosphere, and it is clear that the administration is committed to continuing in this way or it wouldn’t have gone to the Supreme Court.

    The Pagan writer Starhawk told a story about a company at which a well-liked middle manager had just been fired because his younger protegee, who had been promoted over him, had decided to get rid of him.  She was asked to provide morale-building exercises for the company, which had a morale problem; but she totally failed.  Her eventual conclusion was that people felt, with good reason, catastrophically unsafe and there was nothing she could do about that, since she couldn’t reform the company’s practices.

    There’s a reason that college teachers have some of the strongest work-protection agreements in the world (tenure).  You have to put yourself and your views on the line every day.  If you are afraid you *cannot teach effectively*.  This is true at the K12 level too, and it’s a shame you can’t earn tenure in that field.  So if your administration does not have your back, you are too vulnerable to teach well–to stand up to bullies even if they or their parents are popular, to stand up for fair grades even when it’s more convenient for the school to falsify them, and so on and on.

    The American Association of University Professors publishes reports on universities and colleges that pull this kind of shit, so that members of the profession know to avoid them.  In a better world K12 educators would have the same resources.

  • Terchomp

    Maybe instead of calling them “assholes,” Fred should have called them “a brood of vipers” or “whitewashed tombs full of rotting corpses.” But such insulting terms would have been just as un-Christian to use as “asshole,” I’m sure. Surely no Christian should ever be so rude.

  • Anonymous

    Slightly off topic, before touching the rest of the post/thread– probably a Cooper’s Hawk, since it’s nomming a bird. At least out here in the Northeast, where we have both species, a hawk that takes down a bird is almost certainly a Cooper’s or a (usually young) Red-tailed, since they’re the only diurnal raptors with enough speed and agility to make a habit out of eating birds. They usually grab Mourning Doves, who’re slow and large and very clumsy (on the ground, which is where it’s easiest to strike), but are known to take on others as well.

  • P J Evans

     I’ve seen Cooper’s with blackbirds – that one was grabbed literally next to me – and pigeons. The pigeon was being eaten on the ground, but the blackbird was small enough to be taken away.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a reason that college teachers have some of the strongest work-protection agreements in the world (tenure).  You have to put yourself and your views on the line every day.  If you are afraid you *cannot teach effectively*.

    Eh. I never bought this line of reasoning.  Facts is purty much facts all over. I can think of almost no discipline where your views should have anything to do with what you’re teaching.  Literary Criticism, maybe.  Are they trying to fire people for their views on James Joyce now?

    But a christian theology professor should be presenting on: “Here’s what Aquinas/Bonhoeffer*/Lewis  etc. had to say.” A history professor should be saying “here’s what happened in X time period.”  A poli. sci. professor should be teaching “this is communism, this is socialism, this is capitalism, this is how the Soviet Union fell.” And lets not even get into the sciences, where facts actually ARE facts. 

    Now, I have had courses where the professors personal views had an influence. And those classes STUNK. They did not encourage free thought or discussion, they stifled it, because once you figure out your professor is a Marxist, you either A) have to be me, and willing to argue with your teacher every day, or B) you’re the person next to me, who couldn’t disagree with the professor more, but wasn’t willing to risk their grade over a disagreement. The best and most informative discussions I ever had in a class were conducted by people whose personal views I couldn’t sound out with a plumb line. I still couldn’t tell you the political beliefs of my undergraduate mentor, and I’ve spent countless hours talking to her. 

    Tenure is a scam.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Tenure is a scam.

    What do you call union jobs with seniority rules, then?

  • hapax

    And lets not even get into the sciences, where facts actually ARE facts.

    Really.

    And that’s why hapaxspouse is constantly questioned by the university administration about whether he has to include “all that evolution stuff” in the Intro to Physical Anthropology course.

    And that’s why another professor at that same institution was threatened by the administration for conducting research into the culture of immigrant employees of a certain Big Name Local Corporation.

    And that’s why another colleague (at another university) was threatened by *her* administration for research indicating that a certain Native tribe was in fact  indigenous to a particular (disputed) region.

    All three cases (in the past few years, off the top of my head) were protected in their teaching and research by appealing to that “scam” of tenure.  Give me half an hour, and I probably could come up with dozens more examples.

    But you had a professor you disagreed with, so of course you know all about the pressures that academics have to deal with.

  • Anonymous

    A history professor should be saying “here’s what happened in X time period.”

    The fun thing about studying history is that one of the things you learn is that it is, ah, far more subjective than one might think.  Saying “here’s what happened in X time period” isn’t as easy as it sounds considering historians are all telling the story that best fits the documents, artifacts, etc. that they have and sometimes their own views can color that story somewhat.  The best history profs teach their students how to spot these stories, and analyze them critically in order to determine which ones are most plausible, rather than having students memorize and regurgitate random pieces of information handed down by an authority figure.

    You get the same issue in Poli Sci and theology.  Everyone has a different way of interpreting available information and so there will be many different explanations for why, for instance, the Soviet Union collapsed or nature of the relationship between the earliest polytheistic stories and some of those contained in the Bible.  Again, a good prof will teach students how to recognize a solid explanation over one that is not well considered.

    The sciences may be somewhat more objective than other disciplines as people can, in theory, replicate studies but it is still the best interpretation of available information.  Interpretation can still be wrong.  Information can be complete.  The most valuable course I took in my degree program was Research Methods, in which I learned how to critically analyze research in order to determine a well-reasoned, well-conducted study from one that is not well done.

    Anyway, a prof can hold certain views, and even draw on them, and still foster an environment friendly to free discussion.  The real problem is when one runs across a tyrant who isn’t willing to entertain other ideas and encourage students to engage with the material.

    Without tenure, you get the opposite problem of the one you described.  Instead of a tyrant prof one sees tyrannical students.  The prof would have to tailor the discussion to avoid offending students and so a vocal, perpetually offended, minority could control the discussion.  Academic freedom and learning would be destroyed across the board.  As it stands now, all a student has to do is figure out which course sections to avoid.

  • Madhabmatics

    This Hidden Urchin post is pretty awesome, I just want to add to it.

    Saying “Here’s what happened in X time period” is pretty useless on it’s own, a good history teacher teaches context and how to think about history and culture – they don’t just act like a walking, talking chronology.

    edit: Basically if a teacher does what the original quote says, they are a really bad history teacher and could be replaced by a timeline.

  • Anonymous

    Basically if a teacher does what the original quote says, they are a really bad history teacher and could be replaced by a timeline.

    Good point.

    I tutored a handful of college students this past semester who were taught this way.  They had learned at some point that history was, in the words of one, “just a bunch of names and dates.”  When I taught them to look at it as a story where events grew out of a context, they got really excited.  Suddenly, the subject actually meant something to them.  One of my “kids” went from seeing history class as another hoop to jump through to being fascinated by it.

    Of course, after they learned that, they didn’t really need me anymore so I was out of a job.  It’s still a WIN in my book!

  • Anonymous

    Basically if a teacher does what the original quote says, they are a really bad history teacher and could be replaced by a timeline.

    Good point.

    I tutored a handful of college students this past semester who were taught this way.  They had learned at some point that history was, in the words of one, “just a bunch of names and dates.”  When I taught them to look at it as a story where events grew out of a context, they got really excited.  Suddenly, the subject actually meant something to them.  One of my “kids” went from seeing history class as another hoop to jump through to being fascinated by it.

    Of course, after they learned that, they didn’t really need me anymore so I was out of a job.  It’s still a WIN in my book!

  • Ken

    The fun thing about studying history is that one of the things you learn is that it is, ah, far more subjective than one might think.

    “Perhaps, then, [time] cannot be deciphered by the living, which is why meaning is assigned retrospectively, by those who inhabit the future.  By historians.”

    “Who aren’t even a part of the events! Are future historians better placed to interpret [your life] than you are?  Of course not! But will their reading of your life make more sense than anything you can tell me now – or at any other point while you’re alive? Yes, almost certainly.”

    From Mark Hodder’s “Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon.”  Elsewhere he makes the point (which others have as well) that what we call history is really narrative, a story that tries to make sense of events and in the process gives them limits in both time and character – it began then and ended then, and these people were significant to what happened.  But would any of them have recognized that at the time?  Perhaps not.

  • Ken

    The fun thing about studying history is that one of the things you learn is that it is, ah, far more subjective than one might think.

    “Perhaps, then, [time] cannot be deciphered by the living, which is why meaning is assigned retrospectively, by those who inhabit the future.  By historians.”

    “Who aren’t even a part of the events! Are future historians better placed to interpret [your life] than you are?  Of course not! But will their reading of your life make more sense than anything you can tell me now – or at any other point while you’re alive? Yes, almost certainly.”

    From Mark Hodder’s “Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon.”  Elsewhere he makes the point (which others have as well) that what we call history is really narrative, a story that tries to make sense of events and in the process gives them limits in both time and character – it began then and ended then, and these people were significant to what happened.  But would any of them have recognized that at the time?  Perhaps not.

  • Anonymous

    I would bet you a significant sum of money that if history teachers had said “Here’s what happened in Gaul in the 5th/6th centuries CE” at 20 year intervals between 1912 and 2012, they would have said six entirely different and often contradictory things, and their students would have learned very little worth knowing – at best a crude chronology, likely inaccurate.

    (There’s nothing magic about Western Europe in the period now commonly referred to as Late Antiquity but 100 years ago called The Dark Ages; it just happens to be a period that interests me. Any other time and place would do as well.)

    A good teacher could be a Marxist or an Objectivist or any darned thing else, but she won’t assess her students on parroting her own ideology, but on the coherence with which they make their own arguments and their ability to look critically at evidence and conflicting interpretations and make their own sense out of them. If the student thinks that’s asking too much, they should be studying something else

  • Anonymous

    I started typing up a long reply, but decided to save some time here.

    Your assertion leads logically to the assertion that professors are extraneous, and that colleges should be replaced with a pile of textbooks and a study guide. It is also founded in the assumption that there is some neutral, purely objective stance from which it is possible to write a history textbook, and that the textbook will be written in that way.

  • rm

    Well, careyjamesbond, I typed a long reply to you that got lost, which oughta learn me to try and use the internet on an ipod. Shorter is probably better anyway.

    In short, what I said was:

    (1) Ask the Missouri state legislature whether facts are facts.
    (2) There are few or no disciplines where academic freedom isn’t a necessary protection from political or other irrelevant interference. I think it’s naive to think otherwise. The issue isn’t whether abuses would happen routinely, it’s whether there is any protection from abuses.
    (3) I agree it’s bad teaching to push one’s non-relevant opinions on a class, but most schools monitor teaching quality in some way, and these things have to be judged in context. Sometimes a teacher is really unprofessional and self-indulgent, but sometimes a fact sounds to students like an opinion, or a professional opinion is a legitimate if arguable subject to bring up. So, abolishing academic freedom would not be the right solution to this.

    Tenure probably isn’t the only imaginable way to protect academic freedom, but I don’t know of any other in practice. It’s not a scam. It’s not given to everyone and one has to spend years working for it. Teachers trade money and advancement for the security of not being fired for doing one’s job conscientiously. It does not protect anyone who fails to do his/her job.

  • MaryKaye

    I’m not particularly talking about academic freedom in terms of what to say in class, though that’s important too:  obviously I could not possibly teach in my discipline (evolutionary biology) without some immunity to insistence that I be “fair” to creationists.

    I’m concerned about the teacher’s need to give honest grades, enforce fair disciplinary policies, and resist pressure from outside.  Last time I taught I got a very threatening phone call from a ROTC major demanding that I set aside my exam policies for one of his cadets.  I refused and he went over my head.  Luckily my department backed me up.  If I’d thought they might fire me instead–how could I possibly teach well?

    Tenure’s not the only way to be safe, and it’s not even sufficient if the administration doesn’t have your back.  At the school Fred is describing the administration *clearly* does not have the teachers’ backs.  It is not a safe place to work, and I would advise anyone who could possibly afford to leave, to leave.

  • MaryKaye

    Disclaimer to my previous two posts:  I teach at a large public university.  For reasons of career path I do not have, and likely never will have, tenure.  But I benefit from the university’s policies insuring academic freedom for all faculty, and I feel fairly secure that I will not be fired for doing my job, even if I have to give an F to the star quarterback.

  • TryFacts

    Your use of the ugly term you used might make some sense if your understanding of the facts of the case were at all accurate. However, your judgment about the school is completely unfounded. If you had bothered to read the facts about the case (try http://www.scotusblog.com; the briefs are all there) you might have discovered:

    * No one *can* send their kids to the school today — the school closed down years ago because of financial difficulties.

    * The school provided Perich with *much more* support than she was entitled to under both the law and her contract.

    * Because the school provided her with that support, neither Perich nor the EEOC ever claimed that the school fired her because of her disability. 

    * Instead she brought what is called a “retaliation” claim instead, which means if an employee states that she might sue, and then is fired, the employee can sue solely because she threatened to sue.

    * Since there were only 7 teachers at the entire school (which had 80 students in 9 grades), when she became sick the school had to hire a contract replacement teacher to fill her position for the 2004-2005 school year. 

    * Perich showed up halfway through the school year and asked to be immediately reinstated, which would have required firing the contract replacement teacher. The school told her that they could not immediately reinstate her because of that, but that they might be able to reinstate her for the following school year. Her response was to threaten to sue (something she was almost certainly coached to do by her attorney, whom she had already retained).

    * Perich knew that when she did this she was breaking every rule in the Lutheran book.  She was a commissioned minister who had to complete years of study and pass an oral theological examination called a colloquy before qualifying. (If you want to see what this means within Lutheranism, take a look at the LCMS amicus brief at the Supreme Court.)  Commissioned Lutheran ministers may not haul their church into court, at least not until they have gone through the Synod-managed reconciliation process (which sometimes decides for congregations, and sometimes for ministers). She blew off this process entirely. (By the way, she also called herself a minister and took an IRS tax break that is available only to ministers.) 

    * And that was why she was fired. Instead of making any attempt to reconcile, she said “I’ll see you in court.”  She thumbed her nose at everything the Lutheran church teaches about how Christians are supposed to interact with each other. 

    If you are going to accuse someone or some group of being evil, why not take care to read the facts first? Condemning a church based on an understanding of the facts that appears to be based entirely on press reports is unfair and intellectually dishonest. The church went above and beyond what they had to do and Perich repaid them by flouting Lutheran doctrine and dragging them through 7 years of litigation. 

  • Anonymous

    You have the most ironic handle in the history of ironic handles.

    I might as well call myself “TotallyNiceRockWhoNeverFliesOffTheHandleAtAll”

    * Instead she brought what is called a “retaliation” claim instead,
    which means if an employee states that she might sue, and then is fired,
    the employee can sue solely because she threatened to sue.

    This is an outright falsehood.  A lie.  You know who tells lies?  Liars.  You are, therefore, quite possibly, a liar.  (It is also possible you are stupid, lazy or functionally illiterate, in which case I apologize for calling you a liar, and there is ample evidence against item 3, and evidence for both items 1, and 2, so…)

    The only situation in which you can make a retaliation claim is when you can prove that that you were fired for exercising your rights under statute.  Considering that they put EXACTLY THAT into the the explanation of why they fired her, I’d say she has a strong argument.

    Yep, they’re still assholes, and they’re being defended by liars.  Quite pleasant company!

    I’m not saying this wasn’t a case of Asshole v. Asshole exacerbated by lawyers and the fact that nobody can ever back down ever in the US, but c’mon – out of eight points you’ve got ONE that’s not either completely false or totally irrelevant.  Not a good ratio.

  • Anonymous

    Dude, that’s the second time you’ve given the same post. Are you trying to troll or are you just trolling by accident?

    She thumbed her nose at everything the Lutheran church teaches about how Christians are supposed to interact with each other.

    Um, and the Supreme Court cares about this part *why*, exactly?

  • P J Evans

    She thumbed her nose at everything the Lutheran church teaches about how Christians are supposed to interact with each other.Which also misses that they fired her because she was disabled, not because she wasn’t sufficiently Lutheran.

  • P J Evans

    There was a professor at the college I went to who was so bad that even the freshmen wouldn’t take classes from him more than once, and his sections were always open, even as others had large waiting lists. Heck, the department secretary was unhappy with him – he was always in making changes to his file, to make himself look good. They were about to give him tenure (for some reason no one outside the faculty understood) when he quit, greatly to the relief of everyone else.

  • Anonymous


    Disclaimer to my previous two posts:  I teach at a large public university.  For reasons of career path I do not have, and likely never will have, tenure.  But I benefit from the university’s policies insuring academic freedom for all faculty, and I feel fairly secure that I will not be fired for doing my job, even if I have to give an F to the star quarterback.

    And….there you go.   That’s my answer to “How do you guarantee that people won’t be fired for saying what they believe?”  Teach at universities that, you know, respect the basic rights of academic freedom.  
    cjb, your assertion leads logically to the assertion that professors are extraneous, and that colleges should be replaced with a pile of textbooks and a study guide. It is also founded in the assumption that there is some neutral, purely objective stance from which it is possible to write a history textbook, and that the textbook will be written in that way.

    Not in the slightest- although there are plenty of people who DO get quality education that way- what do you think online courses are, at core? I’ve taken a few, and they’re not my favorite way to learn, but they do work. University of Phoenix just added a PhD program, I believe, and they’re a full on, accredited uni, despite students mainly having “a pile of books and a study guide.” Professors make the material more accessible. At higher levels (like the one I’m at now) their research and experience serve as a way to teach the next generation. At the undergrad level, there are good teachers and bad teachers, just like there are anywhere else, and a good teacher can make a class fascinating and wonderful.  But, at the most fundamental level- what they’re doing is imparting knowledge- and very, very rarely is that knowledge something they created. And yes, I’m very aware that there is no neutral way to write a history book.  The history degree helps with that. There are explanations that are more academically credible, however, and any good professor will tell you when you reach a controversial area, and give you the alternate interpretations. Or just tell you we don’t know. 
    And that’s why hapaxspouse is constantly questioned by the university administration about whether he has to include “all that evolution stuff” in the Intro to Physical Anthropology course. 

    Well, not to be rude but- what backwards ass podunk university is your husband teaching at? Jesus, I thought I went to a conservative university- one that was, until about ten years ago, actually associated with the Baptist church, and anyone asking that question would be laughed out of town. Hell, the university I attend/teach at is currently associated with the AME church, hardly the most progressive group around. I teach a course where students are REQUIRED to attend chapel. And  there too, anyone asking that question would be laughed out of town. And, my bio courses in undergrad were taught by a non-tenure track professor, and when we came to the evolutionary stuff, he just said: “Look, you may not believe it, but this is the way it’ll be on the exam.”  So, you know, he didn’t seem to be too scared for his job.
    What do you call union jobs with seniority rules, then? 

    Something that was incredibly useful 80 years ago, and may be useful again soon, but that in its current form is vastly corrupt and bureaucratic and needs reform almost as badly as the institutions it was created to oppose. Best example? The NYC public schools “Rubber Room” where bad teachers are kept on salary despite not doing anything, because union rules make them impossible to fire.http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_brill 


    But you had a professor you disagreed with, so of course you know all about the pressures that academics have to deal with.

    Yeah, sure. That’s it. Because I’ve never taught at the college level, or spent the past seven years in academia, or been pressured by my superiors.  I know nuzzink! 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Part of the reason why teacher unions are so adamant about keeping crap teachers from getting turfed is because of the thin edge of the wedge problem. The hostility to teachers in the USA is at the point where if the teacher unions start caving on borderline goldbrickers the pressure to weaken those unions to basically nothing will be unstoppable.

    You know and I know politicians who smell blood around a union won’t hesitate to exploit that weakness for all they can, especially if it means getting to figure out how to fire a teacher just for looking at the principal wrong.

    Look, I don’t like the fact that the teacher unions seem to almost act with negligence in terms of any pro-activeness about turfing the deadwood and teachers who act inappropriately aroujnd students. But the very fact that they dig their heels in so damn hard is a direct consequence of politicians using teachers as a cheap brownie point gatherer and punching bag for the last 30 or so years.

  • Anonymous

    That’s my answer to “How do you guarantee that people won’t be fired for saying what they believe?”  Teach at universities that, you know, respect the basic rights of academic freedom.

    Here’s the thing about tenure in my field: Tenure is only earned after spending a half-decade working your ass off, neglecting your personal life in order to spend twelve or fourteen hours a day focusing on your research and teaching. Tenure is the reward that you get after all of that — permission to relax (a bit) and actually settle down and enjoy the things that everyone else could do a decade ago.

    Are there problems with this? Yes. Tenure was designed in an era in which the average lifespan was probably about sixty-five, there was little divorce, and the vast majority of upper-middle-class families were single-paycheck families. Tenure was also designed in an era in which women, as a rule, didn’t pursue faculty positions — and the women who did generally didn’t marry.

    But the problem with tenure isn’t that we can’t fire bad teachers at any stage in the game. Tenure is actually pretty good at weeding out the bad professors, at least from my experience. What’s it’s terrible at is getting the *older* profs — the ones in their 80s who haven’t done productive work in a few decades — to leave, because that initial commitment means that many of them are divorced and estranged from their children.

    Here’s the other lovely part about academic freedom: it means that professors feel comfortable speaking out about things they disagree with. At UW-Madison (my graduate alma mater), a number of the profs participated in the protests last year — because they knew a Scott Walker-run review committee couldn’t fire them.

  • hapax

    That’s my answer to “How do you guarantee that people won’t be fired for
    saying what they believe?”  Teach at universities that, you know,
    respect the basic rights of academic freedom. 

    How do you guarantee that people won’t be sexually harassed at work?  Why, only take a job at companies that, you know, respect the basic rights of personal integrity.

    How do you guarantee that people won’t be refused a marriage license on the basis of their sexual orientation? 
    Why, only live in states that, you know, respect the basic rights of marriage equality.

    How do you guarantee that people won’t be tased by the police for the crime of driving while black? 
    Why, only get behind the wheel in jurisdictions that respect the basic rights of racial equality and the use of appropriate force.

    We don’t need no steenking institutional protections!  The magic of the free market will save us all!

    Not in the slightest- although there are plenty of people who DO get
    quality education that way- what do you think online courses are, at
    core?

    All of my friends who spend sixty-plus hours a week creating, conducting, and interacting with students while teaching online courses would like your hair to catch on fire now.

    Well, not to be rude but- what backwards ass podunk university is your husband teaching at?

    Well, you failed at not being rude, asshole.  (<– word chosen with deliberate precision).  But more to the point, you failed at demonstrating that you have any actual knowledge of the pressures placed on researchers and course creators by administrators constantly trying to please legislators and donors. 

    But yeah, I was pretty clueless about university politics when I was a T.A., too.

    Because I’ve never taught at the college level, or spent the past seven
    years in academia, or been pressured by my superiors.  I know nuzzink!

    Well, when the only evidence you proffer to support your assertion is “I had this teacher once?  And he was mean to me?  But I was so totally cool that I stood up to him anyways!”; when you dismiss the years of hard work and dedication required to gain tenure by treating it as something awarded in a CrackerJack box; when you airily wave away the three specific examples at two separate major universities of administrations trying to interfere with academic research with, “Gosh, why don’t you go somewhere else, then?” you have empirically demonstrated that you know nuzzink — or at least you don’t bother to demonstrate that you have been paying attention.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Well, not to be rude but-
     
    Someday, I’m going to witness someone say that and then ACTUALLY NOT BE RUDE immediately afterwards.

  • Matri

    Someday, I’m going to witness someone say that and then ACTUALLY NOT BE RUDE immediately afterwards.

    And I’m going to win the national lotteries from 7 different countries on the same day!

  • Matri

    Someday, I’m going to witness someone say that and then ACTUALLY NOT BE RUDE immediately afterwards.

    And I’m going to win the national lotteries from 7 different countries on the same day!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NR2MMC4EJXJWJMLH6IF457XL64 Alex B

    Too late! According to a this email I got from Nigeria yesterday I already did that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I got one from Qaddafi’s Finance Minister a few days after he died.  I had to salute their timeliness at least!

  • Matri

    Someday, I’m going to witness someone say that and then ACTUALLY NOT BE RUDE immediately afterwards.

    And I’m going to win the national lotteries from 7 different countries on the same day!

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Well, not to be rude but-
     
    Someday, I’m going to witness someone say that and then ACTUALLY NOT BE RUDE immediately afterwards.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Well, not to be rude but-
     
    Someday, I’m going to witness someone say that and then ACTUALLY NOT BE RUDE immediately afterwards.

  • C Drury

    So as soon as I read about Jane having a teacup terrier, I thought, wait, is this the same lady from the spiders-in-the-airport story? Commence furious googling to get back to this: 
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2010/09/19/jackie-at-the-crossroads/ , which I love, one of my favorite parables. Although, alas, it was Jackie, not Jane. I could so see Jackie with a teacup terrier. 

    And on to the idea that professors don’t need to bring their ‘personal ideas’ into teaching: what? Have you ever taken theory classes? Critical thought is intensely personal.

  • Anonymous

    I was just down at my apartment complex’s fitness center. While I was there, I saw part of a documentary about recent revelations of the bloodshed in Iraq.

    They talked about American military lawyers deciding that insurgents can’t surrender to aircraft, so it’s okay to shoot men who are raising their hands.
    They talked about how 13 year olds were being trained to become insurgents.
    They talked about the death squads and Abu Ghraib and the murder of civilians by NATO forces.

    And then I come back here to find people fussing over the use of the word “asshole.”

  • Anonymous


    A good teacher could be a Marxist or an Objectivist or any darned thing else, but she won’t assess her students on parroting her own ideology, but on the coherence with which they make their own arguments and their ability to look critically at evidence and conflicting interpretations and make their own sense out of them. If the student thinks that’s asking too much, they should be studying something else

    Actually, a GOOD teacher is one who doesn’t raise their own ideology in class. Mainly because, I, as a student, shouldn’t be going: “Oh man, is this professor a good one who won’t hold my ideas against me, or a bad one who will?” 

    One of the better professors I ever had was a master of the Socratic method and spent class driving us to the very edge of our beliefs.  At the end of class, the religious kids would’ve sworn he was an atheist.  As it turned out, he’s an ordained Baptist minister-  something that none of us would ever have guessed in a thousand years. 

    THAT’S a good professor. Because a good professor is focused on challenging and teaching you, not spreading their own beliefs.


    Look, I don’t like the fact that the teacher unions seem to almost act with negligence in terms of any pro-activeness about turfing the deadwood and teachers who act inappropriately aroujnd students. 

    Ah, good. We’re paying teachers who molested their students up to 100K a year so that politicians won’t have an excuse to fire them. 
    http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state 

    There isn’t a state in the union where teachers make less than 25K a year starting salary. (Except for ND: 24,872 a year starting.) For a job with about 4-5 months of the year off before vacation and sick days.  For a job where summer school offers a choice of either “Get paid more money or take the summer off”

    I like teachers. I freaking LOVE teachers. I’ve had some wonderful teachers who have changed my life. I think that teachers starting salaries should be even higher, and I think that we should work on making classrooms smaller.

    But they aren’t exactly getting a raw deal as it is.  Personally, I’m strongly considering getting into teaching, despite the fact that I don’t like it much, because the pay and bennies are so incredible.  To contrast- if I’d taken that job I was just offered down at the local manufacturing plant, running a drill press for 8 hours on the third shift, I’d be starting out at 14 an hour- about 28k a year before taxes. 


    I would bet you a significant sum of money that if history teachers had said “Here’s what happened in Gaul in the 5th/6th centuries CE” at 20 year intervals between 1912 and 2012, they would have said six entirely different and often contradictory things, and their students would have learned very little worth knowing – at best a crude chronology, likely inaccurate. 

    The same would be true of pretty much any discipline. Hell, 1912 is pre-theory of relativity, so your physics students would’ve still been learning about the luminiferous aether. God only knows what they were teaching about the structure of the atom. 
    And, yes, history is often a subjective profession.

    Has any professor, anywhere, been attacked because of their views on, oh…who Philip the Arab really was?  Or questioning the popular interpretation of Caligula as a madman, which we only really have from Suetonius? 

    History is often fuzzy.  Anthro and other subjects even more so. But teachers aren’t going to be threatened with firing for teaching an unpopular view of the Roman Empire, and lets not pretend they are.

  • P J Evans

    There isn’t a state in the union where teachers make less than 25K a
    year starting salary. (Except for ND: 24,872 a year starting.) For a job
    with about 4-5 months of the year off before vacation and sick days.
     For a job where summer school offers a choice of either “Get paid more
    money or take the summer off”

     I know teachers who don’t get paid during the summer. Their salary is for a year – but the work isn’t. So during the summer, they take short-term jobs. (And they have to pay for transportation from their homes to their jobs during the school year, and that’s forty or fifty miles. Each way.) Heck, I knew a school principal – either elementary or middle school – who had a second job as a house painter (and a good one). Because the pay in that district was a little low, except for the superintendent. I don’t think the teachers there started at 25k a year, because most of the city employees were making less than 40K.

  • hapax

    For a job with about 4-5 months of the year off before vacation and sick
    days.  For a job where summer school offers a choice of either “Get
    paid more money or take the summer off”

    Did you seriously type that?  Do you know ANY teachers?  Or are they too busy lounging around on their yachts all summer to pass the time with you?

    The teachers I know put in sixty to eighty hour weeks, preparing classes, teaching students, doing one-on-one tutoring, andgrading assignments;  they spend their summer “vacation” (about eight weeks) attending workshops, taking courses, conducting their own research (yes, even at the secondary and primary level), and preparing for the upcoming year — and that’s on TOP of the second jobs they take to pay the rent.

    Please caryjamesbond, DON’T go into teaching.  Our children deserve something better than a teacher who thinks they’re heading into a cushy position larded with high pay and benefits.

    Has any professor, anywhere, been attacked because of their views on,
    oh…who Philip the Arab really was?  Or questioning the popular
    interpretation of Caligula as a madman, which we only really have from
    Suetonius? 

    History is often fuzzy.  Anthro and other
    subjects even more so. But teachers aren’t going to be threatened with
    firing for teaching an unpopular view of the Roman Empire, and lets not
    pretend they are.

    And again you demonstrate your ignorance.  Look at the history of the theories of Afrocentrism, or deconstructionism.  I don’t personally hold with most of the conclusions of these ideas, but I do think they were valuable contributions to the scholarly discourse;  and I personally know adherents of both who were protected only by tenure from administrative threats.

  • hapax

    For a job with about 4-5 months of the year off before vacation and sick
    days. 

    Oh, and I forgot to note your disgusting conflation of “sick days” — in a high-stress profession whose practitioners are routinely in intimate contact with every contagious disease that passes through the community — with “time off.”

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Y’know what, I’ll see your 7 seven years, raise you my 20, and tell you that you don’t know nearly as much as you’ve decided you do.

    Everything you say cuts the legs out from under something you say elsewhere. Basically, you sound like a libertarian adjunct faculty butthurt that you’re not tenured. Which of course you’re not, which means you have no dog in the fight anyway.

    You say you want to get into teaching? Part of me says, “NO! Do not fucking do this to any potential student.” Another part says, “Go ahead, dipshit. I give you three years, tops, before you crawl away with your tail between your legs, bleating about how everyone but you sucks.”

    I mean, “the pay and benies are so incredible”? WTF? That explains why my bank account empties itself out every month and my kids are on state health insurance. Who the fuck are these $100k teachers? Can you show me that even 1% of districts max out that high (after 25 years in the district and a PhD, mind you, as that’s the only way to get tot that corner of the pay schedule)?

    All those awful teachers, pushing their beliefs over educating their students, punishing the ones who won’t conform? They don’t exist. Like black helicopters piloted by welfare queens, they’re dog whistle boogeymen. Find me 100 teachers, you won’t find 5 who objectively fit that description, or I’ll eat my hat.

    “But oh”, you say, “I get those teachers all the time.” Ask those teachers why you struggled in their class, here’s the answer I’ll bet you a cookie you get:

    “It’s not that hir ideas didn’t match up to mine. It’s that hir ideas weren’t well formed or well supported. Not surprising – zie was, of course, a college student. But the problem was, zie was so insistent on the rightness of hir ideas, that zie didn’t need a rigorous proof, that zie kept pushing them in every assessment. Zie was unwilling to demonstrate any understanding of what I was teaching, nor was zie willing to do the work to better support hir position.”

  • FangsFirst

    Find me 100 teachers, you won’t find 5 who objectively fit that description, or I’ll eat my hat.

    I was about to say, “Ooh, I know one!”
    But then I remember one is less than five. And he was relegated to English 101. Which, inexplicably, he used to disseminate his political views…

    (wait, there was another, but I heard less direct relation of that one’s behaviour…just about having to appeal to his or her department head and doing so successfully.)

    TL;DR (really?): Uh, nevermind.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Y’know what, I’ll see your 7 seven years, raise you my 20, and tell you that you don’t know nearly as much as you’ve decided you do.

    Everything you say cuts the legs out from under something you say elsewhere. Basically, you sound like a libertarian adjunct faculty butthurt that you’re not tenured. Which of course you’re not, which means you have no dog in the fight anyway.

    You say you want to get into teaching? Part of me says, “NO! Do not fucking do this to any potential student.” Another part says, “Go ahead, dipshit. I give you three years, tops, before you crawl away with your tail between your legs, bleating about how everyone but you sucks.”

    I mean, “the pay and benies are so incredible”? WTF? That explains why my bank account empties itself out every month and my kids are on state health insurance. Who the fuck are these $100k teachers? Can you show me that even 1% of districts max out that high (after 25 years in the district and a PhD, mind you, as that’s the only way to get tot that corner of the pay schedule)?

    All those awful teachers, pushing their beliefs over educating their students, punishing the ones who won’t conform? They don’t exist. Like black helicopters piloted by welfare queens, they’re dog whistle boogeymen. Find me 100 teachers, you won’t find 5 who objectively fit that description, or I’ll eat my hat.

    “But oh”, you say, “I get those teachers all the time.” Ask those teachers why you struggled in their class, here’s the answer I’ll bet you a cookie you get:

    “It’s not that hir ideas didn’t match up to mine. It’s that hir ideas weren’t well formed or well supported. Not surprising – zie was, of course, a college student. But the problem was, zie was so insistent on the rightness of hir ideas, that zie didn’t need a rigorous proof, that zie kept pushing them in every assessment. Zie was unwilling to demonstrate any understanding of what I was teaching, nor was zie willing to do the work to better support hir position.”

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I’m strongly considering getting into teaching, despite the fact that I don’t like it much, because the pay and bennies are so incredible.

    On behalf of any student who might get stuck with you–don’t.  If you don’t have a passion for teaching and watching students learn then the education field is not one where you want to be.  Educators at every level spend a massive amount of time, money, and emotional energy on their profession for which they are not compensated. Without a passion for the job to sustain them, they either drop out or become those horrible teachers who do worse than just not teach a subject–they kill the student’s passion as well.

    Just don’t go there.

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I’m strongly considering getting into teaching, despite the fact that I don’t like it much, because the pay and bennies are so incredible.

    On behalf of any student who might get stuck with you–don’t.  If you don’t have a passion for teaching and watching students learn then the education field is not one where you want to be.  Educators at every level spend a massive amount of time, money, and emotional energy on their profession for which they are not compensated. Without a passion for the job to sustain them, they either drop out or become those horrible teachers who do worse than just not teach a subject–they kill the student’s passion as well.

    Just don’t go there.

  • Anonymous

    caryjamesbond:’But a christian theology professor should be presenting on: “Here’s what
    Aquinas/Bonhoeffer*/Lewis  etc. had to say.” A history professor should
    be saying “here’s what happened in X time period.”‘

    caryjamesbond:’History is often fuzzy.  Anthro and other subjects even more so. But
    teachers aren’t going to be threatened with firing for teaching an
    unpopular view of the Roman Empire, and lets not pretend they are.’

    Make your mind up, son. Are we saying “here’s what happened in X time period” or “We don’t really know who Philip the Arab was”? Because we can’t fit them both in the same comment thread.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ooh, you pissed off hapax!

    /gets popcorn

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ooh, you pissed off hapax!

    /gets popcorn

  • Anonymous

    Eh. I’m also a student, and professors who have and share their beliefs are not necessarily professors who punish students for disagreeing– in two classes the semester before last, I repeatedly argued various points with my profs, after class and as part of a discussion, and did alright in both classes. And years ago, in highschool, I remember respecting most the teachers who treated us like adults, and weren’t terrified to say “Well, personally, I feel this way, but arguments opposing are X, Y, and Z, and if you can defend it in your paper, by all means do.”

    A class in which the professor drones on the same pre-prepared slideshow for two hours while the class silently takes notes is a class which I will probably fail, badly. A class in which the professor actually cares enough about their subject to have an opinion is a good class.

  • ako

    A class in which the professor drones on the same pre-prepared
    slideshow for two hours while the class silently takes notes is a class
    which I will probably fail, badly. A class in which the professor
    actually cares enough about their subject to have an opinion is a good
    class.

    Yeah, most of my best classes had teachers who had enough of a passion for their subjects to form opinions, and weren’t afraid to let students know about them.  I had one great class on film where I completely disagreed with huge swaths of what the teacher said and let her know in detail.

    I ended up with an entirely fair A- (my big weakness was insufficient use of topic sentences in the writing assignments), and a great deal of knowledge of early twentieth century cinema. 

    One of the worst classes I had was with a teacher who taught math and never showed the slightest hint of personal opinion or preferences or interest in anything, just droned on for ages giving us the unadored objective information about the subject and occasionally boring students unconscious.  I can’t remember anything I actually learned in that class.

  • Anonymous

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on here.

    I *am* a teacher. I’m a high school teacher. I’ve jumped through all the hoops. I’ve got the certification. I know the pedagogy. I’ve never had a class of my own because I never found the job and honestly? I’m not cut out for it. I’ve seen the payscale. I’m a substitute teacher. I work in adult education as a professional education consultant. I have no idea what you’re talking about – getting into teaching for the money? You can’t be serious. There’s a school in Pennsylvania where the teachers aren’t getting paid at all to do their job, because the TEA bagger governor just carried out 9 million in state-wide cuts. They brought out sheep to mow their lawns because they can’t afford to actually mow them anymore. You do NOT get into this field if you want to get money. That’s the attitude that breeds the very same teachers you’re criticizing; especially when the Reality winds up with its stick and knocks you into the next zipcode.

    That 14 hours better be 14 hours *a day*, because that’s around what I worked as an intern. Up at 6:30, to school by 7, not out until 7:30 or even 8:00 on some days. And pay scale only improves as your education improves. So your summers are spent doing side jobs in addition to getting your Masters, while trying not to get overqualified.

    Oh, yeah, there’s also the fact that if you teach the wrong subject, parents will be howling for your blood. For instance, evolution. Or the fact that the earth is older than 6,000 years. I knew a geology teacher who was reviled by a population of parents, and who’s children would do nothing but make his life hell as a teacher because he refused to bend to their warped and ignorant beliefs. Which is to say nothing of the poor biology teacher and the shit SHE caught.

    Frankly, sir, you don’t have the first fucking clue what you’re talking about. Come back and join us here in the real world, rather than Libertopia, land of the conceited, I know-better-than-you, because unless you did your teaching in some golden-gated community, what you say will always undercut what you claim.

  • P J Evans

     I had a part-time job where one of the other part-timers was a substitute teacher. It’s not an easy job: you have to be ready to work every day, and the school principals would, some of them, rather not have you around, so they’ll deliberately call too late for you to make the scheduled time and then blame it on you; the clerks who handle your paycheck don’t have any reason to get it done on the same schedule as regular teachers, so you may or may not get paid when you should. And there is no one you can really take it to; the teachers’ union is not that interested in subs.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    caryjamesbond:

    It may be instructive for you to realize that I considered high school teaching, but decided against it when our current provincial government started treating teachers like a political football. At that point, I decided it wasn’t worth the vagaries of finding out if I could even break into the profession without suddenly being laid off because someone down in Victoria was feeling his or her oats and decided to announce across-the-board pay freezes and hiring freezes because they needed to save a few bucks in the budget.

    Also, claiming a 4-5 month vaycay period for K-12 school teachers (as opposed to college or uni professors) at the very least shows you’re mixing up two professions and at worst shows you don’t know what you’re talking about*. Since you haven’t owned up to the mistake yet (a very basic fact, too; no K-12 school offers more than maybe 2.5 months off school in summer), I have to start questioning if the rest of your line of argumentation is perhaps unduly motivated by personal feelings as well.

    * Granted, nobody’s perfect and getting even a basic fact wrong is not the end of the world; however, when a debate is already somewhat acrimonious, it tends to reflect not as well on the rest of what you have to say.

  • Jenny Islander

    You know, I don’t know a single schoolteacher who actually takes their summer break as a break.   They go to remote sites without running water where they work 14-hour days catching near-shore fish to sell.  Or they stay in town and repair their own homes because they can’t afford to hire contractors.  Or they write in an attempt to make a little extra money.  Or they are working on their dissertations.  Or they grow and can much of the food they eat.

    And, yeah, it’s a 3-month break if they’re lucky, and there are never enough sick days to actually stay home all the days that they really are sick from being in a closed room full of runny-nosed kids, so.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I suspect caryb may be calculating the 2 months in summer + ~2 weeks around Christmas + 1 week spring break, but even that doesn’t hit 4 months.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I suspect caryb may be calculating the 2 months in summer + ~2 weeks around Christmas + 1 week spring break, but even that doesn’t hit 4 months.

    That’s what you get when elitist professors try to push their own biased version of math on you, Invisible Neutrino. I remember one time in undergrad when some smug radical algebra prof kept trying to push the whole “2 + 2 +1 = 5” canard on me, and I was all like, “That’s just your opinion, man” and then he threw me out of his class because he was afraid that my straight-talking truth would derail his indoctrination train.

  • guest

    I wasn’t going to weigh in on this, but I realised I wanted to share one particular story.  My ‘architecture as a profession’ course didn’t involve a lot of design as such, but I wasn’t shy about communicating to students what I thought made a good building and why.  One term one of my students chose for a building evaluation exercise a building I absolutely loathe (deliberately or not I’m not sure, probably not as I think he was just interested in the building) and wrote a paper which, though addressing the building’s shortcomings and drawbacks, concluded that the building was an historic landmark and an asset to the community.  He’d done such a good job of supporting his position that although I had to mark the paper down for being late I told him both on paper and in person that even though I flatly disagreed with him he’d earned a 100% grade.  On reflection I wonder if I’d actually given him a higher grade than otherwise just because he’d challenged my perceptions and positions.

  • guest

    I wasn’t going to weigh in on this, but I realised I wanted to share one particular story.  My ‘architecture as a profession’ course didn’t involve a lot of design as such, but I wasn’t shy about communicating to students what I thought made a good building and why.  One term one of my students chose for a building evaluation exercise a building I absolutely loathe (deliberately or not I’m not sure, probably not as I think he was just interested in the building) and wrote a paper which, though addressing the building’s shortcomings and drawbacks, concluded that the building was an historic landmark and an asset to the community.  He’d done such a good job of supporting his position that although I had to mark the paper down for being late I told him both on paper and in person that even though I flatly disagreed with him he’d earned a 100% grade.  On reflection I wonder if I’d actually given him a higher grade than otherwise just because he’d challenged my perceptions and positions.

  • JohnK

    I am not a psychic, but I get this feeling that this thread is going to turn out like that other thread in which a libertarian tried to explain how deregulating everything would fix all sorts of different problems, despite demonstrably having no idea how any of the things he’s talking about actually work. And people are going to pile on him, explaining in excruciating detail how wrong he demonstrably is about all these different issues, pointing out his mistakes, his oversimplifications, and all his gaps in knowledge about (in this case) teaching and education.

    And it will have no effect.

  • Anonymous

    My thoughts on this are that hopefully someone will come along who doesn’t quite understand, or maybe someone who hasn’t put much thought into it and they’re not leaning either way, and if they read all of the responses, they’ll see which line of thinking is the most productive for society. It’ll be one less person to side with the dangerous deregulatory line of thinking that Libertarians promote and one more to see their responsibility for living in a society, and live up to it.

    One of my favorite lines of all time, and the one that frames every debate I get into when it’s with someone who I know I can’t get through to, comes from “Thank You For Smoking,” ironically enough. In that movie, he explains to his son that he’s not trying to get through to his son in a debate. He points out at the other people and then says “I’m trying to get to them.”

    I don’t care if caryb gets what I’m saying. I’m interested in people who will wander in, not really having an opinion or who are confused. I’m writing this for them. It’s made all the better, IMO, because unlike the fellow from the movie, I give a damn about facts, and I give a damn about the truth. The only horse I have in this race is trying to keep society from backsliding into the late 1800s. It’s a pretty big horse, too.

  • Tom

    I love it when people who are anti-gay and who support the restricting of rights to gay people deny being homophobes.

    I always ask them what they think the word means – surely they should be arguing that being a homophobe is a good thing rather than a doomed denial that they aren’t one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    You’re only a homophobe if you are literally a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Or a Ugandan legislator proposing anti-gay legislation. Anything that isn’t those specific things is ‘religious freedom’ or ‘values’.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Some homophobes reject the connotations of “phobic” — that is, they reject the idea that what they have is an irrational or otherwise
    unjustified fear. Which is not incoherent.

    They ought to stand up and cheer behind the “heteronormative” banner, though.

  • FangsFirst

    “Antigay” should also be a fair label for the way a lot of groups (maybe somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, though, before Westboro but after some others). Yes, strangely, they seem to dislike that nomenclature as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think they don’t want their entire religion and identity to be boiled down single-minded fanatic hatred of innocent strangers, but they don’t want to give up the psychological benefits of having an enemy to despise and the fundraising opportunities of their political advocacy.

  • FangsFirst

    It could be a single adjective! “We are anti-gay Christians, as we should be!” or what have you.

    Though sadly I think that overly cynical elaboration of yours definitely covers plenty of real people :

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > strangely, they seem to dislike that (“Antigay” ) nomenclature as well.

    That one is less strange to me, at least in principle.

    By way of analogy: I can imagine, hypothetically, believing that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that the “wealthy lifestyle” tends to corrupt those who embrace it, and that it’s a bad idea for schools to be run by devoted capitalists who teach our children to set aside other important values in the pursuit of wealth, or for our courts to be influenced by an undue consideration for the preferences of the wealthy, etc. … without necessarily wanting to be labelled, nor thinking of myself as, “antirich.”

    My objection to that label in that hypothetical situation would be, roughly, that it frames me as opposing individuals on the basis of a particular property, which is not at all the case… actually, many close friends of mine are rich. 

  • Ken

    Sorry about the double-post, I got a “Disqus system error” and other weird stuff.

  • Anonymous

    In my (anecdotal) experience, having a strong opinion on your subject has no effect on how good of a teacher you are. I’ve had fabulous classes and terrible classes by people with a big stake in the subject at hand, and some of my most memorable ones were from teachers who didn’t particularly care about the class but were just interesting people I could learn from in general.

    I read Julian of Norwich in two classes that didn’t believe a word she was saying – one from a militant atheist, one from a radical feminist. One of those classes was about three times as helpful, informative and inspiring as the other.

  • Hawker40

    Many years ago, before I left the Navy, I looked into teaching.
    I talked to a history instructor at a community college, which is about where you have to start to become a college professor.
    She made $35 an hour.  That’s excellent.
    She “worked” 12 hours a week.  Mondays, she started a Palomar, in North County San Diego from 12-3pm, then she drove to Chula Vista in South San Diego (about a hour drive) where she taught from 6pm-9pm.  So that was six hours, Monday and Wednesday.
    Tuesdays and Thursdays, she was in downtown San Diego in the morning, and El Cajon in the afternoon.  But that’s only a half hour drive.
    She was required to spend a additional 2 hours per class holding “office hours”.  These hours were unpaid.
    Since she was ‘part time’, she didn’t get any benefits.
    On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays she worked as a Fencing instructor.
    $35 an hour… for 12 hours, plus another 8 hours unpaid, plus driving time (uncompensated)… and if she did this long enough, hopefully a opening would be given to her at a university, then she could work on becoming a associate professor, then full proffessor, then tenure…
    You don’t go into teaching for the big bucks.  And you don’t try to start in your mid-40’s with a family to support.


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