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?