• Professor Wants to Drop “Rigor” in Engineering Education. Why? Because It “Reinforces White Male Heterosexual Privilege”

    Purdue professor, Donna Riley, has a great way to make the engineering profession more inclusive.

    No, my friend, it is not to recruit more widely and offer supplementary courses to bring everyone up-to-speed.

    No, it is not to offer mentoring to underrepresented groups.

    No, siree. (Ooops, sorry for that patriarchal phrase.)

    The leader of Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education recently declared that academic “rigor” reinforces “white male heterosexual privilege.”

    Defining rigor as “the aspirational quality academics apply to disciplinary standards of quality,” Riley asserts that “rigor is used to maintain disciplinary boundaries, with exclusionary implications for marginalized groups and marginalized ways of knowing.”

    “One of rigor’s purposes is, to put it bluntly, a thinly veiled assertion of white male (hetero)sexuality,” she writes, explaining that rigor “has a historical lineage of being about hardness, stiffness, and erectness; its sexual connotations—and links to masculinity in particular—are undeniable.”

    Hence, Riley remarks that “My visceral reaction in many conversations where I have seen rigor asserted has been to tell parties involved (regardless of gender) to whip them out and measure them already.”  –Donna Riley, Purdue Prof. of Engineering Education, quoted in Campus Reform (link here)

     

    If this kind of academic malpractice were rare, it wouldn’t be worth mocking.

    If this response to academic failure were rare, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning.

    In fact, these specious arguments, seemingly in favor of marginalized groups, are commonplace on campus. They need to be rebutted. They have also gained favor on among progressive politicians. Eric Holder’s Department of Justice made police and fire departments lower their standards–and pass students who had failed their competency tests–not because the tests were biased (they were not), not because the tests were irrelevant to performance (they were directly relevant), but simply because, in Holder’s opinion, too many of his preferred groups did not pass.

    Turning to the Purdue Engineering professor . . .

    1. Prof. Riley is not just any professor. She’s the head of the entire school of engineering education at a major research university, known for its science, math, and engineering.
    2. Notice the patronizing argument. The clear implication of Riley’s position is that “marginalized groups” cannot actually do difficult, mathematical work. Even if that were true, the right response wouldn’t be to lower standards but to remedy the underlying problem.
    3. Notice the ad hoc inclusion of different groups, mainly because they are part of Prof. Riley’s putative coalition. Is there any evidence that gays cannot perform engineering courses at the same level as non-gay students? I haven’t heard of any. Same for women. If they are underrepresented, then try and recruit them. If any other group is having problems–as a group–then figure out why and solve the problem. Don’t say, “Rigor is just too demanding for, say, brain surgeons.”
      • Btw, I just clicked on Purdue’s School of Engineering Education and the first picture is of a female student being named a prestigious Marshall School, a major national competition across all fields.
    4. “Whip them out and measure them already.” Is this Blazing Saddles or an academic journal? Moreover, ask yourself whether this phrase is itself a form of invidious sexism and even harassment. Ask yourself what would happen if any male professor made the same statement in print about women’s breasts? The over/under on that professor’s severe punishment and possible firing is 3 seconds.
    5. However laudable your aims, you marginalize your own position when your argue in favor of dangerously lowering standards. Moreover, you patronize the “marginalized” and offer ideological nostrums instead of real solutions.
    6. Finally, let’s assume that Purdue’s Engineering School does exactly what you say. How would potential employers cope? They would hire from other schools or demand real proof of competence beyond your degree. If every engineering school followed your silly advice, then employers would institute their own tests for competence and other schools would see a huge opportunity to enter the field and offer rigorous training.

  • Cambridge students given trigger warnings: Shakespeare plays may distress them

    The delicacy of these students pales beside that of theology students at the University of Glasgow. More on that in a minute.

    At Cambridge, one of the “distressing” Shakespeare plays is named perfectly: Comedy of Errors.

    According to The Telegraph (link here):

    English literature undergraduates have been advised that a lecture which focusses on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and The Comedy of Errors will include “discussions of sexual violence” and “sexual assault”.

    The trigger warnings were published in the English Faculty’s “Notes on Lectures” document, which is circulated to students.  –The Telegraph

    As is so often the case, the warning were included by the ubiquitous bureaucrats and administrations that now attempt to control academic life.

    The best response came from David Crilly, artistic director of the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival:

    If a student of English Literature doesn’t know what Titus Andronicus contains scenes of violence they shouldn’t be on the course.

    This degree of sensitivity will inevitably curtail academic freedom. If the academic staff are concerned they might say something students find uncomfortable they will avoid doing it. –David Crilly, quoted in The Telegraph

    The Topper???

    You think the Shakespeare warning is bad?? Oh, you delicate soul.

    Wait for this gem:

    The University of Glasgow alerted theology students that they may see distressing images of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and gave them the opportunity to leave the room. –The Telegraph

    To assist these students, I have xxx’d out the discomforting parts of these images.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

  • Drowning in politically-correct language

     Quick tip on how to spot a university drowning in politically-correct ideology:

    ⇒ Your daughter’s acceptance letter calls her “they” so the school can avoid a gender-specific pronoun

    No surprise here, the school is Brown. (James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal)

    Other schools may be equally PC, but none tops good ole Brown. No, siree.

    There were labor camps in the Cultural Revolution that had more robust political differences.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Comment: Even tough-minded universities have succumbed. Alas.

    At the University of Chicago, where the Dean of Students sent out the famous “no safe spaces here” letter to incoming students, some Deans end their emails with a standard signature that explains “my preferred pronouns.”

    The last one I received was from a person named Stephanie, and I was shocked to discover her preferred pronouns are “she, her,” and . . . wait for it, yes . . . “hers.” That’s right. These administrators think you are so dumb, so clueless you need to be told the correct possessive. 

    Why? First, they are probably trying to show how oh-so-sensitive they are to people who are “gender fluid” and who, as a personal preference, use other pronouns. I am happy for folks to use whatever pronouns they want. Honestly. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. So, why not simply let them include that “preferred pronoun” thingy in their letters, without everyone else having to follow them like lemmings? Because, of course, it is crucial to display how sensitive and politically correct you are. Or, perhaps you simply fear your “sensitive” boss, who effectively demands conformity from underlings. That is an all-too-familiar type on campus: sensitive-but-tyrannical.

    Another group that might want to include preferred pronouns are people with names from other languages. Since I don’t speak Chinese, I wouldn’t know “Bojing” was male, “Bingwen” female. Again, if they want to include their preferred pronouns, that’s fine. In fact, I would find it helpful. 

    But don’t make everyone do it to display how earnest and sensitive they are.

    My name is Charles, and I’m going to make a wild assumption here that I don’t need to tell you  I prefer the pronouns “he, him, and his.” 

    As a special bonus, I won’t assume you are such a dunderhead that I prefer the pronoun “he.” An odd choice, I know.

    I will also assume that, knowing I’m a “he,” I gonna go with “him” and “his.”

    But I fervantly hope, dear reader, you could have figured that out on your own.

    Even if you went to Brown.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Thanks to James Freeman for the article and David Herro for sharing it  

  • Students hand out the Constitution at a community college; they are arrested because that violates the college’s rules

    These criminals were handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution, asking people if they like “freedom and liberty,” and seeing if anyone wanted to sign up for their student organization.

    The passing students not impeded on their way to classes or approached aggressively.

    They were simply asked the kinds of questions that campus organizations ask all the time when they recruit and try to spread their message.

    Officials of Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan, had these Constitution-flaunting criminals arrested.

    What was the university’s reasoning? That their students are idiots.

    Administrators told the activists that asking students if they “like freedom and liberty” was disruptive because students “don’t know that they can say ‘see ya later.”

    That’s right. The administrators assume their own students are too stupid and ill-informed to know that they can continue walking if they don’t want to answer that question or sign up for the organization.

    Of course, that reason is camouflage. The real reason was either (a) the administrators want to maintain total control over any activities on campus, or (b) they wanted to shut down the activities of a conservative student group, or (a+b).

    Quick tips to the Kellogg CC officials.

    1. If your students don’t know that they can keep walking rather than talk with people handing out flyers, then you should really check your admissions requirements
    2. If your administrators don’t know that handing out the Constitution is precisely the kind of rights our constitution was meant to protect, even at the snap, crackle, and pop of community colleges, then you are incompetent to handle the mop at your college, much less the mop and bucket.

    The students are suing, represented by a public-interest, pro-bono legal organization. (Campus Reform)