AN OPEN LETTER TO MY AS-YET-UNINITIATED STUDENTS

Some university administrators, and a few of my colleagues, want to offer you a babysitting service, not for your children but for yourselves. And some of you got so used to it in high school that you want to be babysat.

Good babysitters are not to be disparaged. They provide a very important service. But it’s a service that can be provided by people with very little formal training. Most of your professors have a decade or more of post-secondary education. You figure it out.

More specifically, no, Virginia, you do not have a right not to be offended. You do not have a right not to be upset. You do not have a right to be excused from writing a paper on a topic that offends or upsets you. If you did, you could get a degree without learning a damn thing! In fact in the Humanities and Social Sciences especially, our job just is to offend and upset you. Yours is to lean into it. Health-wise a bout of high dudgeon is worth a full three laps around the track.

Each of you has at least one Precious. It’s called your Precious because, well, it’s precious to you. Be it your God, your creed, your most heartfelt moral conviction, your newly lettered sexual orientation, or whatever you think most defines you, by all means bring it to class with youBut leave its preciousness at the door. Because it’s almost certainly going to be ridiculed, and very likely without stint or mercy.

Is this sometimes cruelty for cruelty’s sake? You bet it is! This is boot camp, the first months of which are just to harden you up. You’re being taught the art of intellectual self-defense, which implies your having an intellect worth defending. Let’s see to it that you do. At the end of the day, I don’t care what you believe, just as long as you’re not just pulling it out of your ass. Or more likely, someone else’s. At the very least, give it a rinse before putting it in your mouth.

You have all kinds of stupid beliefs. We all do. Your professors are just better at passing theirs off as profundity. You’ll know you’ve graduated when you can see through their bluster and call them out on it. They won’t appreciate it. Neither will I. So discretion may prove the better part of valor. But that’s a judgment call only you can make.

We have a colleague down the hall who thinks any criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitism. And we have a university President for whom her say-so – after all, why would she lie? – is “Good enough for me!” I have a colleague who thinks global warming is more urgent than his having to pee, another who thinks quality of life can be measured by chicken scratches on an assets leger, and a third who thinks the validity of an ad hominem is indexed to the cause for which the argument is deployed. In short, like everyone else, myself included, my colleagues can be idiots.

Even in idiocy I’m competitive. So not to be outdone, I believe the world came into being five minutes ago, with all our pseudo-memories in our heads and all our pseudo-history books on those shelves where we find them. I hold that though space is infinitely divisible, the occupy-ability of space is atomic, and so rather than move, we jump from place to place. I deny that God could have given the world to Adam, because it never belonged to Him in the first place. The land we stand on no more belonged to the people indigenous to it than it did to the bison who once grazed on it. And, finally, I suspect that the Americans’ Second Amendment is all that stands between them and a return to the tyranny from which their ancestors escaped. I hold these palpably ridiculous beliefs because you’ve yet to disabuse me of them. I say “yet” because you’ve got the whole semester to repair this lacuna.

Here are your trigger warnings: At some point the Pro-Life lobby is going to set up its annual horror show, somewhere on your way from the parking lot or bus loop to this classroom. And like every other year, some of you are going to cry #MeToo, “My senses have been assaulted!”

Look, I know you’re a delicate flower, but these pictures haven’t been photo-shopped. What did you think an aborted fetus looks like? Babies are gooey. They inherit their gooey-ness from what they were before they came out. If this upsets you, how did you manage to dissect a frog back in Bio 30?

You’re also going to hear mainstream feminists trashing trans-activists over the bathroom issue, mothers who suspect their children contracted autism from the measles vaccine, and someone with a shaved head advocating we close our borders to Moslems. And maybe, if you’re very lucky, someone claiming the Holocaust is a Zionist myth. Nothing compels you to listen to these people. But then don’t be surprised when others turn a deaf ear to your angsting about global warming or fracking or Mossad’s involvement in 9/11.

Just remember this: Whatever’s keeping you up at night is keeping you up at night.

Don’t get me wrong. Doing your stint as an SJW is an important phase in your becoming the picket-fenced chartered accountant you’re probably going to be. But it’s a phase nonetheless. Think what you will, but your generation has nothing over mine. I grew up in the Sixties. We had Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Paul Simon. Who’ve you got? Oh yeah, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. It’s not the cause that counts. It’s the music that accompanies it.

Okay, I think that pretty much sums it up. Add/drop is coming up. Don’t say you weren’t given fair warning.

 

 

 

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