2-13-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Sad State of Campus Debate

Via Randex, I encountered an example of students reacting to an op-ed that, if typical, bodes ill for the state of higher education today:

A student at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) who published an article in his school's paper criticizing the Department of Feminist Studies has received hostile criticism from his peers, including an online death threat.

Jason Garshfield, an opinion writer for the Daily Nexus, argued that any sort of feminism department must necessarily be biased because it is explicitly attached to a political movement. As a result, Garshfield concluded that feminism departments are unworthy of a place in academic institutions, especially UCSB, which bans any field of study that advances partisan interests. [link in original]
Even the students who did not threaten the author showed a poor grasp of how to argue for or against a position. In at least one case, the fact that the author took only one course in Feminist Studies was excuse enough to dismiss what he said, as if one needs a doctorate in a discipline in order to be able to offer criticism.

That last reminds me of an interesting phenomenon I recently saw Zachary Johnson describe as "subjectivist distancing," which is "a tactic for avoiding engagement with particular facts and arguments by dismissing them as 'merely based on personal experience' and therefore irrelevant to anyone other than the speaker."

Weekend Reading

"A major loss is not something you ever fully get over." -- Michael Hurd, in "Still in Mourning" at The Delaware Wave

"Apparently, smiling can unleash the power to self-fulfill a happy prophecy." -- Michael Hurd, in "The Health Implications of Smiling" at The Delaware Coast Press

"[R]egulations cause creative people to misdirect their efforts in costly ways." -- Gus Van Horn, in "In a World Without Regulations, Imagining Our Prosperity" at RealClear Markets

"The most frustrating part of this Republican primary process is that I have yet to find even one conservative, at least not by [Ayn] Rand's definition." -- Michael Hurd, in "True Conservatives Must Make Case for Capitalism" at Newsmax

A Word of Thanks

I thank my wife and reader Steve D. for their comments on earlier versions of the above column.

I'd Blame Mirroring for "No Worries," Too

I have long noticed that when people engage in conversation and like each other, they frequently will adopt similar phrasing and mannerisms. If I recall correctly, this behavior is called, "mirroring." I also tend to notice when new words or phrases start becoming popular, such "like" as a verbal filler back in the '90's, and "Thank you so much," back in the aughts. I sometimes like these the first three or four times I hear them, but then they grate on me and I avoid using them altogether. "No worries," is a good example, and I am glad that others have noticed:
Crocodile Dundee was a serious box office hit in 1986, when the Paul Hogan flick was the second best-grossing film behind Top Gun. "Hogan's catchphrase was 'No worries, mate.' The wide appeal of those movies made the phrase something of a vogue expression," wrote Bryan Garner is his American Usage.

While we're on the topic of movies, the full-length musical number "Hakuna Matata" in Disney's 1994 animated feature The Lion King, normalized "no worries" for an entire generation of US kids. (One can't help but wonder if the Swahili phrase, which translates into "no worries," might have been picked up by Aussies on a surfing safari in Africa a long time ago.) At any rate, usage of the phrase got another bump in the 1990s. And more recently, American broadcasters covering the Sydney Summer Olympics in 2000 took to sprinkling it into their commentary, popularizing it further. [links in original]
This all reminds me of my first reading of a poet back in college, William Blake, if I recall correctly. He struck me as hackneyed until it occurred to me that perhaps he'd invented the various turns-of-phrase that were making me wince.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

Along the same lines, the first time I saw Hamlet, I kept thinking, "So that's where that came from". Apparently, I'm not alone on that front.

In 1945 the tireless anecdote collector Bennett Cerf included a thematic joke in his compilation titled “Laughing Stock”, and Cerf also reprinted the jest in his syndicated newspaper column:

Guy Williams, of the Omaha World Herald, had his ears pinned back by a nice old lady to whom he had urgently recommended a volume of Shakespeare’s plays. “I can’t understand why you all make such a fuss over that man,” she told him after she had looked over the book. “All he’s done is string together a whole lot of very old, well-known quotations.”

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Hah! Her thinking was ALMOST critical enough!