succumbing to peer pressure

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Great Return! (or something like that)

Back from 10 wonderful days on the beach, trying to catch up on some thoughts...

In the good news category, the first person ever has survived rabies, which is, well, neat. The doctors are still hesitant to call what they did an effective treatment (they'll have to save more than one life before they call it that), but it's amazing that this teenager survived with no vaccination (either before contracting rabies or before exhibiting symptoms).

In the food for thought category, there's this article about conservative students complaining about liberal professors. This is something I've mulled over before, and as usual, I offer two disclaimers - as a liberal, it's obviously difficult for me to always see a "liberal bias" and as a student of statistics, there aren't many opportunities for a prof's personal opinion to bleed into a lecture ("Well, technically Bayes' Theorem says that the probability of B given A equals the joint probability of A and B divided by the marginal probability of A, but I think Bayes' was a moron, so I like to use the value of 6 instead"). What worries me in this debate, and what gets lost all too often in the politicalization of the debate, is that many of the legitimate complaints coming from students have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with bad teaching. And by couching the argument in liberal versus conservative crap one loses the somewhat objective opportunity to discipline (or attempt to improve) a mediocre teacher and instead we get stuck saying, well, that's their opinion and they have a right to it. For example, one Israeli student claims that a professor asked him "How many Palestinians did you kill?" Which, I think, we can all agree, is wildly inappropriate (and remains wildly inappropriate independently of one's political leanings, or at least, it should). On the other end of the spectrum, teachers should tell us things that piss us off, things with which we vehemently disagree. And, in an appropriately tolerant academic environment (the ideal to which we are supposed to aspire, up in our ivory towers), we can discuss and debate and change our minds (or not) and stretch and grow and learn. That is, after all, why we came to college, right?

In the makes me sick, but really, by now I shouldn't be surprised, category - "...inaugural planners organize a $40 million pageant for President Bush this month." In contrast, "The fourth inauguration [for FDR] was conducted without fanfare. Because of the expense and impropriety of festivity during the height of war, the oath of office was taken on the South Portico of the White House. "

Ok, I have other thoughts, or rather, I want to float my Dad's thoughts, on social security, for the peanut gallery's comments, but it's time for me to get cleaned up and run out to the airport to pick up andy, so you will all just have to wait on that one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, can you send me the link to Carrie's blog again? I seem to have lost it over Break...

8:55 PM  

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