Ignorant Teachers

I have realized that debates about the canon happen and the unpronounceable #disrupttexts movements arise because people are stunningly, painfully, incredibly ignorant.

I just read an argument by somebody who is an English teacher that until 50 years ago there were no novels with female protagonists.

Get this: an English teacher who never heard about Jane Eyre, Emma, Pamela, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, and so on and on and on. The European novel was written for an overwhelmingly female readership. It’s kind of really bizarre not to know this.

But wait, there’s more. The same person is arguing that there was no literature in South America until 50 years ago. Basically, there was nothing anywhere until she was born.

The purpose of the “Disrupt Texts” movement is to throw away real literature and teach nothing but inane “young adult” novels written by earnest if dumb SJW authors.

Once again, these are actual teachers who are arguing all this. Actual teachers of English who never noticed any female characters in novels written until the 1970s. Shh, don’t tell them there were actually female authors before that date. Poor darlings will not survive the cognitive dissonance.

33 thoughts on “Ignorant Teachers”

  1. The counter-argument against you is to employ the no true-Scotsmen fallacy. Jane Austen heroines are not “true” protagonists as they do nothing to disrupt the patriarchal status quo. Push this kind of thinking far enough and it will turn out that there were no genuine female protagonists until about five minutes ago. :p

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be one thing if these teachers knew about Jane Austen and created some casuistic argument as to why she’s crap. But I think they genuinely don’t know.

      It’s scary.

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      1. The other day, I was working with a student who had no idea who Jane Austen was. And this is a genuinely smart kid so I assume he really was not assigned Austen in school as opposed to him not paying attention in class.

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  2. I just read an argument by somebody who is an English teacher that until 50 years ago there were no novels with female protagonists.

    Doesn’t this tell you that maybe there should be a canon? If they are ignorant of this stuff, imagine how ignorant the general population is of any Spanish literature beyond Don Quixote or these books.

    I’m sure though, a defense and bibliography of Spanish books that should be in the canon, has been done to death. These things come and go in cycles, so maybe it’s that time in the cycle to publish it again?

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  3. The original article was behind a paywall but somebody published it here in full:

    Even Homer Gets Mobbed
    A Massachusetts school has banned ‘The Odyssey.’

    A sustained effort is under way to deny children access to literature. Under the slogan #DisruptTexts, critical-theory ideologues, schoolteachers and Twitter agitators are purging and propagandizing against classic texts—everything from Homer to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dr. Seuss.

    self-described “antiracist teacher” Lorena Germán complained that many classics were written more than 70 years ago: “Think of US society before then & the values that shaped this nation afterwards. THAT is what is in those books.”

    https://archive.is/AbDcb#selection-2369.85-2369.316

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    1. Yes, that’s exactly the debate I’m referring to. To my horror, I discovered that it’s based on nothing but a simple fact that these teachers of literature never read any literature. That’s all it’s about.

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      1. They don’t want to look stupid.

        I have experienced similar: Our homeschool curricula embarked on Plutarch this year: I have read very little Plutarch, and have never taught it. But we are wading in nonetheless and it’ll be a learning experience for me as well. I guess it’s less embarrassing if you don’t have any teaching credentials to defend…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Just discovered a huge elephant in the room of ‘studying YA rubbish instead of classics’.

    Rod posted about an English teacher, Heather Levine, who tweeted: “Hahaha – very proud to say we got the Odyssey removed from the curriculum this year!”

    Somebody made a great point:

    // Notice that not once did you mention the demographics of her school. It’s the first thing I looked up. It should ALWAYS be the first thing you investigate, and the first flaw you should find in any story if it doesn’t mention demographics. No race, no meaning, no story.

    Lawrence High School is 97% Hispanic. Its GreatSchools rating is 2/10.

    If you want to delude yourself that it matters in the slightest whether the almost entirely illiterate freshman class should be wasting their time reading Homer, feel free to fulminate. But you should at least let your readers in on the story, so they can either share your foolishness or, hopefully, laugh at you.

    It’s certain that the school decided they needed to focus more on texts that their kids could understand–relevant or not.

    Evin Shinn’s Seattle school is 50% Asian, 25% black, and if that Asian is Chinese then rest assured, no Evan Shinn is changing the curriculum to make the students less college ready. If Shinn is teaching the non-advanced classes, then see Lawrence High School. It is largely a matter of indifference whether they read Homer.

    The teacher you picture is an AP teacher, and I couldn’t find what school she is at, but if she wants her kids to pass AP tests, and that’s an issue with the parents, then she’s not ending her instruction on these texts.

    All this hyperventilation and no thinking. Teachers can’t do anything without the consent of the community. It is a legitimate question whether or not it makes sense to teach low skilled kids English literature when it’s far more important to get them reading and writing their thoughts. If you think otherwise, try teaching The Iliad or Antigone to highschool kids with 3rd grade reading skills and get back to me. English teachers in largely white or Asian schools aren’t getting anything removed without parent pushback, and any teacher of kids with some ability who have a chance to pass the AP tests isn’t going to remove them, either.

    The rest of it is Twitter posturing or they have the agreement of the community and you shouldn’t really care one way or the other.

    Stop fantasizing about some radical teacher takeover.

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/cancel-cult-comes-for-homer/#comment-5204674887

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    1. I have gone to great lengths to make sure that angry idiots don’t have access to my brain but you just have to bring them over and quote them, don’t you? 🙂

      This isn’t about what any particular class gets assigned in the ninth grade. That’s all completely irrelevant and unimportant. This is about a culture trying to destroy its entire civilizational foundation. Read the quotes about the cultural revolution that I’m posting. These teachers come to the classroom, brainwash the kids with their “anti-racist” sloganeering, and the next thing you know is the kids are trashing whole cities, burning down buildings and beating passersby.

      This isn’t about AP tests or college acceptance. This is about so much more and this commenter is either brain-damaged or a hypocrite.

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      1. We have somehow produced – and not at a 97% Hispanic school but in a college – a teacher who believes that there were no works of literature about women until 50 years ago. What can she possibly teach to anybody?

        Everybody who needs Homer can easily find a copy to read. That’s not the issue. The issue is that people who teach think that they are morally superior to Homer, Cervantes, etc. This moral superiority of the painfully ignorant is the real problem. Because the next step to “I’m superior to Homer” is “I’m superior to anybody I don’t like.” These are people who are revving themselves up to get violent.

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        1. I don’t assume the teachers themselves are going to get violent. One of the important lessons of the Cultural Revolution was the ability of officials, from Mao and his wife downward, to send signals to students that they could use violence and even murder and not only get away with it but to be praised for it. This is the part of the recent rise of BLM combined with cancel culture that scares me.
          Also one of the critical defenses of a liberal society is the belief that an intelligent and decent person can still get things badly wrong. Their right to be wrong needs to be defended. The moment that a person’s error because a judgment about their morals and intelligence, there stops being a reason to defend people we disagree with and we get cancel culture or worse.

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  5. The rot in US society has its roots in the colleges of education. Getting into graduate schools of education has the lowest admission threshold of any graduate school, and has for years.
    Many K-12 teachers, and not only in the US, are abysmally ignorant.
    I’m old enough (I graduated in the late 1980s) to remember that at Cambridge University we were not allowed to study for a BA in Education, as it was not considered of a sufficiently challenging intellectual standard. Such degrees were reserved for students at the local college of education (Homerton). I was appalled when in 2010 Homerton was admitted as a full college of the University.

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  6. This kind of thing happens any time there is a hierarchy of power. In politics, an easy way to explain it is to say that some people want for there to be the rule of law, where everyone follows whatever the law says, while other people who are tyrants and despots want for there to be the rule by law, where they personally climb into a position of power to decide when the law applies, when it doesn’t, what the law means etc.

    A year ago, the best example to use of that would have been China, where some people in charge, who were control freaks running the country using rule by law, would selectively charge their enemies with various made-up offenses like corruption, subversion, disturbing the peace etc. and so rule over everything using the legal system as a weapon.

    Today, a better example might be in the USA, where in the recent election, some of the ones in charge are similarly ruling by law via not applying electoral law to the obvious and massive electoral fraud perpetrated in the presidential election.

    Since history is full of evil characters like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao who ruled over others by law, everyone has little trouble understanding how rule by law is applied politically.

    What a lot of people neglect to consider is that power systems are not limited to politics. Academic institutions, corporations, committees, commissions, delegations of all kinds etc are similar in structure and so attract similar types with similar outcomes.

    I might be cynical or jaded, but I don’t see these #disrupttexts teachers as being an ignorant bunch of bumblers who are making a mess of things by accident or ignorance. Based on my experience, what I see are a group of quite evil people who want to be rulers within the academic power system, where instead of knowing about all kinds of literature and then rising or falling against their peers for position within the university, they simply want to declare that the kinds of literature they prefer or are best at is the only kind that counts so that they can be at the top of the hierarchy.

    Sometimes, they can be legitimately ignorant at the same time, but – importantly – that doesn’t matter. What matters is that they put their desire for power using rule by law first, and then everything else after.

    Based on that, in my opinion, it is a very bad idea to deal with these people only using logic and reason, because in my experience they will simply ignore every instance where they are proven wrong in a meritocratic fashion (as of law) and simply keep on screaming until someone caves in and gives them the position that they need to become rulers (by law).

    So if it were my job or institution or profession at stake, I’d treat these #disrupttexts like the mini Hitlers, Mao’s, and Stalins that they are. Smash them. Tell them directly that they’re ignorant, power hungry, unfit to be teachers, and then do whatever it takes to cancel them for being incompetent (as of law) before they cancel you for (insert reason here) (by law).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a very, very important point, George. Too many people are convinced that tyranny, censorship, persecution and ideological manipulation can only come from the government. If it isn’t secret police dragging people to the dungeons, it doesn’t exist.

      These are very scary people. They are right now, at this moment, in plain view and very loudly preparing themselves to do a lot of damage to people they will declare beyond the pale.

      This is not simply a dispute about books or monuments or grading systems. This is going to end in violence. There’s already been violence. We’ve had a whole summer of violence. This is a dangerous game we are playing when we coddle these #DisruptTexters and BLMers and give them the benefit of the doubt. These are poisonous people who are gearing up for serious violence.

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      1. @Clarissa: Yes they are, and they’re everywhere.

        Note: the following reply isn’t exactly in line with this thread. I’m typing it out and leaving it here because I think that some people will like it, plus I want it to exist somewhere for something later.

        One of the flaws in Western democratic systems, committees, conventions, institutions of all kinds etc is that they are not competent meritocracies, since they can be hacked with enough social pressure.

        To illustrate, what happens is that some despotically minded person who wants to be a ruler expresses an idea to an institution like a university, committee etc that is rejected. That idea might be, say, that the person proposing it be in charge of everything. Then, instead of modifying the idea to make it palatable to the institution, or marketing the idea to members of the institution so that the idea is accepted based on merit voluntarily, what the despotic ones do is to gather many people to their cause to demand that the idea be accepted because many people want it, or because some people really want it with great passion.

        Well, logically, a meritocracy that is competent would reject a bad idea no matter how many people want it, or how passionately a few people want it.

        But, since those meritocracies (especially small ones like school boards, soccer clubs, NGO’s, small charities) are staffed by human beings, quite often what happens is that those few human beings are unwilling to resist, or cannot withstand, the immense social pressure applied to them by many many people strongly advocating for an idea that is without merit.

        So, the institution that was intended to be a logical, reasonable meritocracy is overcome by sheer numbers and becomes an institution that is governed based on how many people want something, no matter how unreasonable or stupid, or that is governed based on how badly a few people want something.

        Well, if you set up an institution that chooses its rulers based on how passionate they are without looking at how intelligent they are, what you end up with is an institution that must be governed by extremists. No one else can possibly ever govern it, because things like logic, reason, merit etc were screened out of how the organisation selects for leadership.

        Once this happens to an institution, that’s it, it’s over. It’s corrupted beyond repair, so if possible, it should be destroyed immediately, because the only thing it can do or can be is malignant.

        After that what happens is that the institution that now only knows how to browbeat, pressure, and bully people, that thinks that it exists in isolation and is a totally illogical malignant organisation, does the only thing that it is capable of doing and tries to browbeat, pressure, and bully the entire public.

        Since the public is always more numerous, those attempts result in anti-institution elements or groups arising to oppose the institution, which is then followed by institutional and anti-institutional forces coming into contest or conflict with no way to peacefully settle differences. Since the first institution cannot – cannot – process logic, reason, or merit, it can not respond with logic, reason, or merit, but only in extreme social pressure which can easily or only degrade into violence.

        The above underlines the short term remedy for many people against upcoming systems failure, which is to gather around themselves other people of their own kind, who think as they do morally, ethically etc. since a larger group of similarly thinking people is safer against malignant groups of all kinds.

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  7. After thinking about it, I am most surprised American school students study The Odyssey (or even some parts of it) or Plutarch (even if in homeschool curricula).

    In Israel, only less bright high school students choose to study literature instead of sciences in depth at 5 point level.

    The rest, like me, study Hebrew literature at what is called 2 points level. It means studying a few Hebrew short poems and stories, a Hebrew play about Holocaust survivers in Israel, “Oedipus Rex” (play), a novel about a gentile woman during the Holocaust in Europe and Albert Camus’s “The Stranger” which my teacher didn’t have time to teach so she gave 1 lesson about it.

    2 Chekhov’s stories (“Rothschild’s Fiddle” and “Misery”), “Oedipus Rex” and Camus’s novel were the only works written by non-Israeli authors.

    Some schools study different novels like “To kill a mockingbird” or “Antigone” but the extremely low level of studying literature or history for most students (and 100% for our brightest students) remains.

    What I studied in 7th grade in Ukraine at literature lessons would be considered too hard in Israel for some reason.

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      1. // This is truly sad news about the People of the Book.

        Is the situation truly different in most American high schools?

        I thought it was closer to Israeli model than to FSU one.

        As for being the People of the Book, well , we have entire compulsory subject of studying this book at 2 points level.
        The same level and number of hours required to study the rest of literature.

        Btw, New Year is tomorrow. Hope you’ll share the festivities here too. 🙂

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        1. I’ve been cooking all day, what do you think? 🙂 It’s paradise.

          I will know a lot more about US schools when my kid goes to one. For now I know that expensive private preschool is amazing. Teachers are amazing. The pedagogy is superb. These are people who really know early childhood education. We all know that I’m a bit obsessed with the subject but these people really know what they are doing. This is what I know for sure. If you are ready to shell out a bucket of money, it all works. 🙂 Altogether, we’ve paid about $50,000 to this daycare so far. Worth every penny because otherwise I get neurotic.

          I’ll report whatever I find about the private school system faithfully.

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      2. I recommend Natalie Wexler’s Knowledge Gap. Part of what is going on here in the United States is that NCLB and the SATs emphasize reading in the abstract. This has created a situation where schools feel they need to teach reading even as, for obvious political reasons, they lack a well-organized curriculum to do so. This gives students the worst of both worlds. They get shortchanged in math, science, and history but do not actually become good readers. You cannot be a good reader in the abstract. You learn to read things in specific fields by reading a lot in that field. Jane Austen is not going to make a lot of sense unless you have already been reading romantic-era literature and know something about the customs of the period. I pity the student who goes enters Austen blind and has to explain what is actually going on at a ball. With Homer, you are going to need to know something about honor/revenge cultures. Of course, students are not going to be able to relate to it. The point of school is to learn about things outside your experience.

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        1. My philosophy of reading is the exact opposite. I read Homer for the first time at around 7, I think. I read the entire collected works of Tolstoy by the age of 14. We didn’t have Jane Austen in the USSR but I was reading Theodore Dreiser at 4. And I loved it.

          That’s how you become a reader. You just read. You don’t need to prepare for it. Just read.

          This is also the way we teach languages. We don’t prepare students to speak. We begin to speak in the very first class. They resist at first but then start figuring it out.

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          1. So you have read Tolstoy’s later Christian work. 🙂
            Part of the reason why I struggle with Tolstoy’s fiction is that I do not understand nor, in my heart, do I particularly care about the 19th-century Russian nobility. Perhaps the people behind the Crown could make Tolstoy’s fiction work for me.
            My mother played a critical role in my early reading by reading biographies to me. It then seemed natural to me, when I got into 2nd grade, that I should start checking out biographies of famous explorers from the school library. And that is how I became interested in history.

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            1. The only thing I like by Tolstoy is Resurrection. That one is OK. The rest, I don’t like. I had to read it because we had a limited number of books so we had to read whatever was there. But yes, I read the little Christian ABCs and all of his mealy-mouthed didactic stuff.

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              1. What I love about the Christian pacifist Tolstoy is that he is brutely consistent and shockingly unidealistic. He openly acknowledges that in a world in which his brand of Christianity was practiced, the “bad guys” would win and run the world but Christians should not care about that as their goal should be the other world. I am hard-pressed to find a religious thinker who does less twisting scripture around to suit his own ends. His combination of straight scripture reading with his utter contempt for established religious institutions, particularly the Russian Orthodox Church, is awe-inspiring. I would recommend Abraham Heschel’s Passion for Truth, which does not deal with Tolstoy but looks at Kierkegaard and R. Mendel of Kotzk in similar terms.

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          2. Can confirm Clarissa is not an extreme outlier here, nor is this a mercilessly tiger mom thing to do to one’s kid. Teach them how to read once they learn how to speak, and make sure there’s always more library available to them than they can read, and don’t try to control the library. Your kids will turn out fine.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I’m the opposite of Tiger Mom, I promise. I’m the most laid back mother possible. I don’t care about developmental milestones or a academic achievements. You should see other moms, with their 600-page volumes on potty training (for real) and 700-page treatises in how to teach your kid to read. And the organic snacks! And the cue cards with sight words!

              I’m way too lazy for any of that.

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  8. I am part of a minority-language literary scene and I’ve seen exactly this for years. The people who claim that ‘our’ classics are outdated and “have nothing to say” because cishet white males are, conveniently, the same ones who just have a YA novel out about a transgender, neuro-atypical, mixed-race character.

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