Idiotic Courses

Unfortunately, some of the conservative criticisms of higher education in the US make a lot of sense. Here is one course a conservative website is criticizing:

In what must be an attempt to add insult to injury for its debt-laden, unemployed alums, Rutgers University has decided to offer a course called “Politicizing Beyoncé.” We hope the university doesn’t actually think the course furthers its supposed mission of educating young people, enriching their minds or preparing them for life.

In the early days of this blog, I ridiculed a scholarly conference on U2, and I stand proudly by the opinions expressed in that post. That was a conference, though, not a course for which students are expected to pay good money. I love Beyoncé because it’s impossible not to love her but aren’t the Departments of Women and Gender Studies enough of a joke already without filling their curricula with this kind of sorry stuff?

And there is more:

Lest you dismiss it as an outlier, the article also points to Georgetown’s course “The Sociology of Hip-Hop: The Theodicy of Jay-Z.” Add that to “Is Harry Potter Real?” and “How To Watch Television” on the growing list of courses it should probably be a felony for colleges to offer in exchange for student loan money.

I have been teaching college students for 12 years now, and I insist that this need to attract them to courses in the Humanities with sexy, catchy course titles exists only in the minds of educators who don’t believe that their disciplines are attractive enough without these silly, childish tricks.

I am yet to meet a student who would hate and fear any discipline as much as many professors detest their own fields of study.

Democratic Supporters Look Stupid

If you think that the following is a collection of money to help Sink get elected, then maybe you are not ready to vote at all:



I’d be too ashamed to post this story as an “Oh, those evil Republicans” narrative. If anything, it makes Democratic supporters look stupid.


At first, I was very puzzled by the following news item:

A student was riding the Red Line from the Central Square MBTA stop to Park Street around 11 p.m. Friday when an unknown passenger involuntarily kissed the student, according to Carole McFall, a spokeswoman for the college.

I tried to imagine how this unknown passenger could have kissed the student without wanting to. Since the definition of “involuntary” is “1. not done or made consciously; 2. not done by choice”, it seemed like the passenger lost consciousness and still somehow managed to deliver a kiss. This made no sense at all because non-intentional kissing does not seem to be possible.

Then I realized that “involuntary” was used in lieu of “by force” or “against the student’s will.”

Sexual Harassment at CU-Boulder

I know that a philosopher’s life is tough, but is it really necessary for professors and grad students to get drunk together and go to mountain retreats as a group?

Here is a witty and powerful discussion of what is happening at CU-Boulder by Rebecca Schuman. Just a little quote:

 A large portion of the faculty either were “not knowledgeable about the harms of sexual harassment,” or were “not sufficiently familiar” with university policy, state law, or federal law.

And those who were? Not to worry, they used their sharp analytical minds for the noblest possible purpose: to employ “pseudo-philosophical” discourse, in a valiant effort to comply with the harassment policy’s letter, but not its spirit. If a hand smacks an ass, but nobody in HR hears it, does it make a sound?

I know it isn’t right to find any aspect of this funny, but it’s Schuman’s fault I’m laughing right now.

I’m in Hispanic Studies, and I’ve been to quite a few of these alcoholic bonding feasts. The worst thing that happened to me was getting followed around by a very drunk luminary in my field, telling me very insistently that I’m fat. I’ve also met some grabby profs, but the body part of mine that people always want to fondle is my hair. This is better than getting other body parts fondled, but it’s still unpleasant.

I have also seen quite a few senior faculty members make themselves look really ridiculous as a result of imbibing huge amounts of alcohol. There was this prof whose eye-glasses ended up sitting in a very crooked way on his nose, so he kept asking everybody why he couldn’t see right. Everybody was too mean (or too scared of him) to tell him the truth.

In my experience, what contributes a lot to creating an intolerable environment is the obnoxious habit of those male grad students who are total losers and who never publish anything or even have anything interesting to say in class to spread vicious rumors about people (especially women and gay male students). These idiots try to soothe their vanities by telling everybody that the only reason why their female and gay male colleagues are more successful is that they have been sleeping with everybody in sight.


Barbarity in Quebec

Don’t get me wrong, I love Quebec but it has this tendency towards weirdness that often gets disturbing. Consider the following news item:

A local sex shop hoping to be allowed extended hours of operation because it sells “hygienic or sanitary” products has been rebuffed in Quebec Court.

This sounds very confusing until you remember that stores have to close by 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and at 9 p.m. on weekdays. This creates constant annoyance to people who want to buy something after 5 pm on a week-end.

As a result, store owners have to go to great lengths to demonstrate that what they are selling is crucial:

The company argued it was entitled to the legal dispensation for businesses that principally sell products that are pharmaceutical, hygienic or sanitary.

Psychologist and sexologist Dr. Michael Campbell, testifying for the defence, said the word “sanitary” means health and can apply to merchandise that contributes to sexual health, including magazines and erotic birthday cards.

Truth be told, what Dr. Campbell said is incontrovertible. But Quebec is turning towards puritanism, which is why this was the court’s response to the sexologist’s convincing argument:

Justice of the peace White said that, while the law didn’t specify the products covered by the exemption, she didn’t think the broader interpretation was “plausible” and in line with what lawmakers intended. . .

“Even in 2014,” it’s doubtful that most people would consider sex toys a product that needs to be available outside of regular commercial hours, she said.

She conceded her ruling against the store could have an impact on its financial health, but “the court does not believe that public health will be any worse for it.”

Maybe Justice White should hop into her time-travel machine and go back to her Victorian era where “most people” are as terrified of sex toys as she is.

I Don’t Want to Look Kooky and New Agey

OK, I know I have blogged about this on numerous occasions but this really, really, really bugs me, and I have reached the point of complete saturation with this topic in everybody I know in RL.

So my department has decided that we will proceed with the name change in a way that will mollify both the PC idiots and the Anthropology losers. We will now transform from a nobly and beautifully named “Department of Foreign Languages and Literature” to the idiotically and kookily named “Department of World Languages.”

I can’t imagine introducing myself as somebody from “World Languages.” I also fear that signing an article submission with this departmental name will make people decide I’m an idiot from a department of New-Agey fools who do nothing but create language textbooks.

If somebody has two identical job offers and one is from a “Department of World Languages” while another one is from a department with a normal name, would anybody choose “World Languages”? I wouldn’t have even applied to this university if this had been the departmental name in 2008!

This will be an expensive change at a time when we constantly have our funding for legitimate research and teaching expenses frozen. We couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas-time pizza to show our gratitude to our lab workers. But servicing people’s weird PC needs can always be funded.

Yes, PC police exists but it is located exclusively inside people’s heads. And I guess I’m just too foreign ever to stop feeling annoyed by this sad fact.