The new academic problem is the bad information spread by Peterson, Boghossian, Lindsay, that ilk. I suspect it wasn’t so bad when these ignoramuses just turned up their noses and ignored philosophy, but now they’ve decided that they completely understand it, and they don’t like it, nosir, so they’ve begun active disinformation campaigns that are infecting college-aged students. A professor writes in to Reddit to vent:
But in the past few months internet outrage merchants have made my job much harder. The very idea that someone could even propose the idea that there is a conceptual difference between sex and gender leads to angry denunciations entirely based on the irresponsible misrepresentations of these online anger-mongers. Some students in their exams write that these ideas are "entitled liberal bullshit," actual quote, rather than simply describe an idea they disagree with in neutral terms. And it's not like I'm out there defending every dumb thing ever posted on Tumblr! It's Simone de fucking Beauvoir!
It's not the disagreement. That I'm used to dealing with; it's the bread and butter of philosophy. No, it's the anger, hostility and complete fabrications.
They come in with the most bizarre idea of what 'post-modernism' is, and to even get to a real discussion of actual texts it takes half the time to just deprogram some of them. It's a minority of students, but it's affected my teaching style, because now I feel defensive about presenting ideas that I've taught without controversy for years.
Peterson is on the record saying Women's Studies departments and the Neo-Marxists are out to literally destroy western civilization and I have to patiently explain to them that, no, these people are my friends and colleagues, their research is generally very boring and unobjectionable, and you need to stop feeding yourself on this virtual reality that systematically cherry-picks things that perpetuates this neurological addiction to anger and belief vindication–every new upvoted confirmation of the faith a fresh dopamine high if how bad they are.
I just want to do my week on Foucault/Baudrillard/de Beauvoir without having to figure out how to get these kids out of what is basically a cult based on stupid youtube videos.
Honestly, the hostility and derailment makes me miss my young-earth creationist students.
I haven’t had to deal with this yet in my classes — post-modernism isn’t part of the biology curriculum, and since I address sex and gender from the ground up with genes and molecules and signaling in my genetics class, by the time we would get to cultural aspects (we don’t, they’ll have to go to the social sciences or humanities for that), they’re already accustomed to the fact that the biology is complex and plastic and variable. But I’ve definitely seen this intransigence and stupidity online. Peddling simplistic misrepresentations of science and philosophy seems to be a major money-maker for those who understand neither.
That last line, though…yeah, I’d rather deal with young earth creationists. The difference is that creationists, whether they’re aware of it or not, have a serious case of science envy. They’re all wanna-bes who are constantly trying to rephrase the Bible in sciencey-sounding terms, thinking they can explain the Flood with geology, or constraints on evolution with genetics. That’s the whole point of Intelligent Design creationism, to provide pseudo-scientific, rather than religious, justifications for their beliefs. They can’t, but it means their arguments can be spanked by somebody who understands the scientific discipline better than they do.
It’s their greatest weakness, actually. It’s why they don’t make greater inroads into academia, because everyone who is well-trained in the sciences can see right through them.
But these anti-philosophy gomers are taking a completely different approach. They don’t want to be philosophers, or sound like philosophers, because they hate philosophy and women’s studies and sociology and all those other disciplines. Rather than trying to learn just enough of what they’re complaining about to try and turn the jargon against them, they’re in flat-out denial and a total rejection of everything to do with, for instance, post-modernism. They’re engaged in simple-minded anti-intellectualism (creationists come out of a religious tradition that usually respects an intellectual foundation, or at least a pretense to one), and the know-nothings who eat that crap up won’t even listen to word one from someone who has the educational background to know what they’re talking about.