Boghossian quits! PSU students can celebrate!


The infamous ignoramus Peter Boghossian has resigned from Portland State University, and of course he does it with a long-winded tedious whine about how he was oppressed and his free speech abridged. You can read the whole thing if you want in an appropriate venue, the Daily Mail. I just want to single out one misbegotten complaint.

Over the last decade, it has been my privilege to teach at the university. My specialties are critical thinking, ethics and the Socratic method, and I teach classes like Science and Pseudoscience and The Philosophy of Education. But in addition to exploring classic philosophers and traditional texts, I’ve invited a wide range of guest lecturers to address my classes, from Flat-Earthers to Christian apologists to global climate skeptics to Occupy Wall Street advocates. I’m proud of my work.

I never once believed — nor do I now — that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.

Oh, bullshit. If you want to expose them to the full range of ideas, from the sublime to the ridiculous, just tell ’em to go browse Facebook. This is not how teaching works. Part of what you must do is act as an informed guide, who can show students the best ideas and help them to understand why they are good. What do they learn from bringing in a flat-earther? Nothing of value, except that they should follow the example of their teacher and accommodate madness and stupidity. I would never, for instance, give a creationist free reign in one of my classes to explain his bad ideas; I will instead use that time more productively to explain why those ideas are bad. If a student wants to discuss such ideas with me, I’m happy to do so and will treat them respectfully, but I will not and should not give such claims the benefit of my attention without ripping them to shreds.

If a student were to leave my classes without having been led to the knowledge that informs us about the shape of the world, the age of the Earth, or the patterns of our changing climate, I would be a bad teacher. Like Boghossian. But then, maybe he’s one of those namby-pamby feels-over-facts guys who doesn’t believe that some ideas are correct and others are not.

Now we just have to wait for the other shoe to drop. I don’t think he would have quit without some fall-back position already lined up. Which conservative think-tank will be paying his salary in the future, do you think?

Comments

  1. birgerjohansson says

    We had someone at Umeå University invite a bona fide swastika eyed nazi once.
    The consequences were, shall we say, “interesting”.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … from Flat-Earthers to Christian apologists to global climate skeptics to Occupy Wall Street advocates.

    I guess even college students can use a “one of these things is not like the others” refresher once in a while.

  3. consciousness razor says

    If a student were to leave my classes without having been led to the knowledge that informs us about the shape of the world, the age of the Earth, or the patterns of our changing climate, I would be a bad teacher. Like Boghossian. But then, maybe he’s one of those namby-pamby feels-over-facts guys who doesn’t believe that some ideas are correct and others are not.

    Ideas? Reality? There is only the constant grind and the desperation:

    I’ve been deluged with requests to appear on conversative media regarding my resignation from PSU. And yet, I don’t consider myself a conservative. I’ve received zero requests for interviews with liberal media. I’d enjoy having a conversation with you @maddow @npr @msnbc

    The conversative media are of course the ones which enjoy conversing so much that they’ll pay to hear some random asshole chat about why he didn’t like his cushy job.

  4. hemidactylus says

    Just to be a little contrarian if PB is teaching on science/pseudoscience, flat earth and climate skeptic advocates would be fair game. Did PB do Street Epistemology on them to get at how they came to the views they have in the classroom context? Christian apologetics I’m not sure how that fits. Occupy was a sorta political/economic position getting at how TBFT was applied while little people were left underwater in mortgage debt. Why are they in same breath as flat earthers? He did add: “ I invited those speakers not because I agreed with their worldviews, but primarily because I didn’t. From those messy and difficult conversations, I’ve seen the best of what our students can achieve: questioning beliefs while respecting believers; staying even-tempered in challenging circumstances; and even changing their minds.”

    How he taught his classes hardly seems the issue to me. It’s whether he applied his vaunted doxastic openness to the bugbears of critical theories and wokeism. What process resulted in his closure on these topics. Was it SE?

    “Doxastic openness, as I use the term, is a willingness and ability to revise beliefs.6 Doxastic openness occurs the moment one becomes aware of one’s ignorance; it is the instant one realizes one’s beliefs may not be true. Doxastic openness is the beginning of genuine humility (Boghossian, under review).”- From A Manual for Creating Atheists

    The grievance studies thing didn’t come across as humble at all. Way too cocky. More like chest thumping over trumpeting the worst case in one’s opponent. Kinda how evolutionary psychology is treated here. Not quite the friendly nonconfrontational approach by Boghossian that I’ve seen masterfully done in Anthony Magnabosco’s SE videos. Boghossian instead comes across as an abrasive jackass. I wouldn’t judge SE itself based on that. Genetic fallacy.

    With the concept of doxastic openness, one could apply what the critical theorists call immanent critique to Boghossian’s own viewpoint closure.

    And what the fuck was up with the Sovereign Nations thing? That’s a strange optic for a derivative figure from the Four Horsemen of New Atheism.

    And didn’t this guy have Sargon at PSU? Who does that?

  5. hemidactylus says

    And here is the crux of my
    grievance worthy of further study (my emphasis bolded):

    “I decided to study the new values that were engulfing Portland State and so many other educational institutions — values that sound wonderful, like diversity, equity, and inclusion, but might actually be just the opposite. The more I read the primary source material produced by critical theorists, the more I suspected that their conclusions reflected the postulates of an ideology, not insights based on evidence.”- Boghossian

    Which critical theorists? Habermas, Honneth, Adorno, Fromm? Crap such as that said above misled axe-grinding ignoramus Jerry Coyne into babbling about critical theory, a long-running field for which he had no clue. Seriously! And Boghossian’s colleague Lindsay has been on a unbalanced berserker rampage through cultural studies, pomo, Marcuse and who knows what else trying to prove his preconception that “woke” is bad. Sad and silly.

  6. raven says

    Peter Boghossian Pharyngula May 17, 2021

    People want you to think a certain way, but let’s be clear about something. I’m done playing, I think Douglas is done playing, I’m waging full scale ideological warfare against the enemies of Western Civilization. I am taking no prisoners. I have very large scale projects coming for the enemies of reason and science and rationality. These people are divisive neo-racist hatemongers, and there’s simply no…we must broker zero tolerance with this ideology, and the only way forward at this point is full-scale ideological war and I will take no prisoners and that is what I’m devoting my life to. I will…I seek the complete eradication and extirpation of the ideology from every facet of life.

    Boghossian is a crackpot that just babbles nonsense. If you try to figure out what he is saying you can’t. It’s just cliches strung together. No specifics on who or what they did or why it is wrong or what effect it will have on Western Civilization, which by the way, doesn’t even exist.

    Four months ago, he was going to destroy the enemies of Western Civilization. So far, all he has done is quit his job. Well, that is a start anyway. Maybe he looked in a mirror?

  7. raven says

    Just going to repost what I said In May. It’s not like Boghossian has gotten any better.

    As PZ implies, there is no such thing as Western Civilization.

    My northern California civilization has nothing whatsoever in common with Boghossian’s made up cis het white male fascist version of civilization. To even call his rantings and ravings a civilization is absurd.

    We are very diverse and cultures evolve rapidly in real time. The culture I live in now is very different from the northern working class culture I was born and raised in during the 1950’s. We’ve moved forward by a lot.
    Boghossian is just reviving the worst of old ideas and mixing them together with new made up horrible ideas.

  8. hemidactylus says

    @8- raven
    Full scale ideological warfare sounds nothing like the street epistemology thankfully in the hands of capable others. There is a stealth aspect to SE if one cloaks motives of subtle proselytizing for atheism or deconversion techniques. There are possible problems of insincerity or inauthenticity too. But that’s nothing like how Boghossian, Lindsay, etc worst case “critical theory”/“pomo”/“wokeism” and throw the principle of charity out the window. Red meat for right wingers.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    The name thankfully lends itself to the nickname ‘Bogussian’.
    I wonder if he might become a recurring guest at Fox News now that be has plenty of time on his hands.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Inviting flat-Earthers might possibly be tagged as “entertainment”… and so would inviting someone to explain the details about a certain “prophet” in the mid-19th century.
    Dum, dum dum dum dum.

  11. Derek Vandivere says

    While you definitely wouldn’t bring in a flat earther to a geography lecture or a creationist to a biology lecture, I can see some value in bringing them in to a history / philosophy of science lecture. I really don’t see any problem with that (although a flat earther going into a university philosophy class must know that they’re a lamb being led to slaughter).

    Don’t know about the rest of his activities, but this particular complaint doesn’t seem very valid given what he was teaching.

  12. James Fehlinger says

    . . .I would never. . . give a creationist free reign in one of my classes. . .

    Aieee, the horror of metaphorical drift! I simply cannot allow it to
    pass mustard. ;->

    Miss Prism: Ripeness can be trusted. Young women are green. [Dr. Chasuble starts.]
    I spoke horticulturally. My metaphor was drawn from fruits. . .

    Dr. Chasuble: Were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism’s pupil, I would hang
    upon her lips. [Miss Prism glares.] I spoke metaphorically. My metaphor was
    drawn from bees.

    Your intended metaphor “free rein” was drawn from horses. Once upon
    a time, people rode upon them and steered them with reins.

    All-knowing Google sez:

    “Free rein, meaning ‘unrestricted liberty of action or decision,’ is often
    misinterpreted as free reign. … The misinterpretation of the set phrase
    ‘free rein’—referring to unrestricted liberty of action or decision—as
    ‘free reign’ is an eggcorn that writers struggle with all too often.”

    ;->

  13. consciousness razor says

    While you definitely wouldn’t bring in a flat earther to a geography lecture or a creationist to a biology lecture, I can see some value in bringing them in to a history / philosophy of science lecture. I really don’t see any problem with that (although a flat earther going into a university philosophy class must know that they’re a lamb being led to slaughter).

    I was going to be a little more charitable and say that’s turning the classroom into a petting zoo.

    But you think a slaughterhouse would be better?

  14. garnetstar says

    It’s also my job, as a teacher, to present some topics as facts, foregone conclusions upon which you aren’t supposed to “form your own ideas.” Like, that atoms are real.

    And, “critical” is now in the same category as “woke”: a meaningless adjective used to convey that something is “bad”, by which they mean “goes against my white male privilege”. Critical theory, critical racism, critical history, critical economics etc., etc.

    Soon RWNJ’s will be calling me woke for teaching supercritical fluid ideology.

  15. DanDare says

    I don’t know how PB arranges his classes.
    The conclussions are important but more so are the methods by which you arrive at them.
    Teaching methods of thinking and interrogating is a bit like teaching bike riding. You don’t ask your student to cycle across town at peak hour as part of their training. That seems to be what he is doing though. You really want to be sure your students are sound in their use of the necessary skill set and attittudes before exposing them to full strength looney.

  16. says

    I’ve been deluged with requests to appear on conversative media regarding my resignation from PSU. And yet, I don’t consider myself a conservative. I’ve received zero requests for interviews with liberal media. I’d enjoy having a conversation with you @maddow @npr @msnbc

    In Germany, we’re in teh middle of a general election campaign, and one tool that has been used for the last few cycles is an online portal called “Wahl-O-Mat”: They give you 30 odd political positions that they checked against the programs of all the parties running and you can vote from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. In the end it will tell with whose program your own views align the most.
    Some journalists from a pseudo intellectual right wing newspaper complained that the tool was broken because all they and their friends got was “you align with the extreme right”.

    +++
    hemidactylus

    Just to be a little contrarian if PB is teaching on science/pseudoscience, flat earth and climate skeptic advocates would be fair game.

    If his aim was to have his students test their reasoning skills on those people, he’d still be a colossal asshole, because people are not things. Sure, Pharyngula has a long tradition of having “chew toys”, people whose ideas and reasoning will be dismembered by the commenters, but PZ doesn’t go out to recruit those people to have them humiliated by his regulars.

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