Jews for Satan

I shared with a colleague that my students don’t know who Jews are.

“Oh, mine do,” she said. “I asked them what they knew about Jews and they said Jews are the people who worship Satan!”

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What do you think is the most destructive force to mankind?

This was one of the blogging topics suggested to me by WordPress, and I found it to be very thought-provoking.

If I had to name one force, concept, or school of thought that has had – and still has – the most destructive potential for all of us, I’d say it has to do with wanting to force your understanding of happiness on other people. It’s the self-righteous benefactors of humanity who have been this planet’s greatest scourge.

The people who decided they needed to bring the word of Jesus and the benefits of civilization to the indigenous peoples of the Americas and ended up wiping out entire cultures.

The people who wanted to eradicate poverty and exploitation once and for all and ended up creating the repressive monstrosity known as the Soviet Union.

The folks who keep invading other countries under the guise of liberating them from whatever and imposing “freedom” and democracy onto them.

The fanatics who bomb abortion clinics to force unwanted, unloved, rejected kids to be born.

Such people are impossible to reason with and to combat because they are driven by the belief in their inner goodness and altruism.

Ayn Rand gets criticized a lot for saying that

If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.

I’m sure, however, that she’s right. It’s these compassionate do-gooders who know for a fact what’s best for you that do the greatest damage to others. A person motivated by selfishness at least doesn’t humiliate you while s/he exploits you by telling you this is all for your own good. A selfish person motivated by simple, honest greed doesn’t demand your eternal and abject gratitude in return for robbing you.

What do you think? What is the most destructive force humanity has ever faced?

P.S. For those of you who missed my post on helping people, here it is. It was very popular when it was first published but Blogspot ate all the dozens of comments it generated.

House Dress

Walking from class to our campus Starbucks, I ran into a colleague from another department.

“Oh, I can see you have acclimatized to the Midwest completely!” she exclaimed with a smile.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you are wearing a house dress to class,” she replied.

I don’t know what a house dress is, but I’m fairly certain I never possessed such a garment. I’m wearing my Jones New York dress. It’s expensive and beautiful. And I’m wearing it for the very first time today.

A house dress, my ass.

How to Read Accounts of Historic Events

In my Freshman Seminar, I’m teaching my students – among many other things – how to approach the reading of different kinds of texts. Today, we will talk about reading history and will then try to apply the rules I list in this post to Bartolome de Las Casas’s Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies.

Here are the basic rules of reading about history that I’m planning to offer to my students:

Things to remember when reading, watching or researching history:

a. There can never be a fully objective account of history

b. Don’t read accounts of history to find out what happened. Read them to discover what their author says happened

c. Only by accessing and contrasting different accounts can we figure out what took place

d. Every account of history is always ideological

e. There is always a hidden reason for why a person writes about history

Questions to ask:

  1. Who is the author?
  2. What do I know about this author? Country of origin, political affiliation, profession, etc.
  3. How does this knowledge about the author change my understanding of his or her text?
  4. What is the goal the author is trying to achieve with this text?
  5. What kind of data is used to support the author’s conclusions?
  6. What kind of attitude does the author have towards the readers of the text?
  7. What are the central concepts that organize the author’s thinking about this subject?

Is there anything else I should add? Feel free to offer suggestions (or dispute what I have written here, of course).

Affirmative Action, Part I

The battle for and against the Affirmative Action on American campuses continues:

Since California voters in 1996 passed an amendment to the state constitution to ban the consideration of race and ethnicity in public college admissions decisions and other state government functions, proponents of affirmative action have sought the help of federal courts to block such referendums.

Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right of public colleges to consider race and ethnicity in admissions (in some circumstances), but federal courts have been reluctant to block states from opting out of such considerations. In July, five years after Michigan voters approved such a ban, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that the measure was unconstitutional, handing supporters of affirmative action a major victory. But on Friday, the full appeals court vacated the July decision and announced that it would reconsider the case.

I have a few things to say about Affirmative Action but, to change things around a bit, I will let my readers speak first and will express my own opinion on the matter a little later.

So what say you, esteemed readers? Should public colleges be allowed to take race and ethnicity into consideration during the college admission process? Are you in favor of or against the Affirmative Action?

A Russian Student in an American High School

A Russian-speaking blogger I follow has recently moved with her family to the US. Her daughter has just started high school in California. Those of you who read Russian can find the blogger’s account of her daughter’s first impressions of an American high school here. Needless to say, they are far from rosy. The Russian blogger is especially shocked at how vigilated and controlled every aspect of the high school environments is. Students are babied and treated like helpless invalids to a shocking extent.

What really stunned me in that blogger’s account, though, is the following question that the students were given during a geography lesson:

“Which Russian Republic is the city of Kiev located in?” The answers to choose from (the stupid multiple-choice format again!) were: Poland, Ukraine, etc.

Now I know where the whole “Africa is a country in Latin America” thing comes from.

Cappuccino in the Midwest

N. has lived in the Midwest since 2003. Still, he doesn’t seem to understand what the area is about. Every time we go to a restaurant here, he asks for a cappuccino.

“A what?” a waiter asks, looking as mystified as if we requested blinis with caviar.

“A cappuccino,” N. responds, undaunted.

“Erm. . . we don’t have anything like that,” the waiter always says uncomfortably. “We might have some decaf, though.”

Time and again, I have tried telling N. that we are in the Midwest and all that restaurants serve is a strange, sad-looking liquid with a smell of burnt day-old coffee grounds they proudly pass for coffee.

N.’s faith in humanity is such, though, that he keeps looking for a cappuccino at Midwestern restaurants.