FIRST SKETCH: THE WORD is THE POINT (cont.)
“I do know how to take off my proverbial capitalist hat when I walk into HWC. . . .”
This quick fix solves many problems – it makes Realist, 10KSB, and 10KSB’s participants more alike than unalike if only everyone would agree to take off their hats upon entering HWC – but this is only a metaphor. Nor does this statement inaugurate any demonstration of Realist’s critical thinking skills. Moreover, the metaphor reflects a deep naiveté. No one can stop participating in reproducing the values and beliefs of a society as easily as removing a hat. In a sense, we are always “marketing a name” – a religious belief, a political ideology, an unwritten social norm – even if we say that we do so in the name of opposition or empowerment. College professors and their classrooms are no more neutral or value-free than any other human being or institution. Degrees of bias – either intentional or unintentional – will vary from professor to professor and from discipline to discipline (this latter in the sense that some disciplines simply must make the examination of ideologies a part of their curricula while other disciplines do not and need not) and those who live in a democratic society must be able to detect that bias and respond to it responsibly. The goal of argument is communication, not confrontation. Polarizing rhetoric inhibits the multi-faceted debate that informs a healthy and vibrant democratic society.
There is a much more refined way of discussing questions of consent versus coercion under capitalism when it comes to the influence of ideology than can be addressed here; for the moment, it is enough to make clear that the hat-removal metaphor that Realist offers is not it. Equally empty is the assertion that 10KSB participants are some kind of mindless automatons that have been “used” and “insulted” and deserve pity from people like Realist. There are important issues here that cry out for debate, but Realist does not foster debate, only a reductive and simplistic bias. Ultimately, the best and most practical way to guard against bias – especially bias borne of malice or incompetence – is to learn the basics of how to recognize it. (For more on bias and/or the “culture wars” in American college classrooms – from a conservative point of view – see Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind or almost anything for which Harold Bloom writes prefatory remarks. Read against the Blooms to generate a more liberal point of view. For a more reasonable reflection on the ever-increasing rush to reinvent college, see http://chronicle.com/article/The-False-Promise-of-the/136305/.)
Realist writes, “GS is doing nothing more than investing capital to produce more capital (and we are their factory). Again, nothing wrong with doing that, I just ask that they do it in their corporate environment and call it what it really is: a capital gains project.” Should this be read literally? It does not seem that readers have been provided enough information about 10KSB’s daily business operations to read this literally. Perhaps Realist means that 10KSB blurs the lines between for-profit and nonprofit educational institutions? This line of inquiry could have been productive, but this cannot be Realist’s point because Realist has already asserted that 10KSB has no educational value, even though Realist has not demonstrated that 10KSB is academically unsound, illegal, or even Un-American. Maybe Realist’s purpose is to demonstrate that 10KSB is engaging in the use of god and devil words in order to deceive CCC as to its true intentions? This line of inquiry also could have proven fruitful, but this isn’t Realist’s purpose at all: Realist is far too busy engaging pigheadedly in a tug of war over words to develop any moderately objective response to the topic.
What, then, is the larger argument Realist is getting at?
There isn’t one.
Realist’s June 21 rejoinder to Don Laackman’s June 15 response goes to great lengths to emphasize this: “Not arguing transformation of lives. . . .The point of my post was the disagreement with the word ‘graduation’ being abused as it was.” Realist writes that the 10KSB graduation activity “pollutes and dilutes the educational system,” and assures Laackman that the negative impact of this activity is indeed “what I want to argue. But that’s tangential to the focus of this post. Perhaps another day we can return to this.”
As of this date there has been no return. The rejoinder attempts to identify several fallacies committed by Laackman, but identification of those fallacies still doesn’t constitute any evidence to support the assertion that the activity “pollutes and dilutes the educational system.” Additionally, including links to definitions of fallacies does not demonstrate the application of any critical thinking skills to the topic at hand. (In fact, the inclusion of the links and the way they are used demonstrates that Realist is operating at the lower tiers of Bloom’s taxonomy in the cognitive domain – knowledge and comprehension – while the meta-cognitive, critical self-reflection that makes critical thinking possible is simply absent from Realist’s posts.) Apply a rubric and you discover that Realist does not engage with the topic of the 10KSB graduation in a way that goes beyond subjective responses. Careful analysis with supporting evidence is lacking; more telling, the links to fallacies are themselves a red herring that uses “academically sounding words as a disguise.”
This is a poor showing for an educator exhorting all to “Truly educate in the academic and scholarly definition of the word.”
(next: the conclusion)