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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

from Facebook: college students who refuse to read books

posted in:
easter eggs
  • LaSargenta

    This story has been pissing me off so badly.

    If I had to read all that Ernest Hemingway and that goddamn Catcher in the Rye book, not to mention The Bible for my humanities class, they can read one lousy book about some-who-is-not-them’s life.

    And, hey, I went to university for an engineering degree. I consider reading literature to be part of a well-rounded human, no matter what said human does for a living. Engineers need literature just as much as historians need science or philosophers need physics.

    I’m wanting to find a bunch of these close-minded morons and bash them over the head with Paradise Lost.

  • RogerBW

    Yes, it’s become a box to tick. (In the UK, a university degree works much the same way.) Tick the box, and you may have a chance to get a job above entry-level some day; don’t tick it, and you probably never will unless you’re the sort of person who can start your own business, which most people aren’t. I don’t blame the students for being uninterested in the subjects they’ve been forced to “choose”; they don’t want to be there at all.

    And that’s why there’s so much plagiarism, too. They don’t want to learn about things, and they wouldn’t be there if they had a choice in the matter; they want to get the box ticked and get on with their lives.

  • Education is no longer about producing well-rounded human beings. It’s about producing obedient corporate cogs.

  • Danielm80

    And when a supermodel or musician or reality star or self-made billionaire becomes world-famous without a college education, the profiles make sure to point it out, without noting how high the odds were against it, and people think: That could be me!

  • RogerBW

    It’s even more pernicious than that: not only “you can make your life better if you work hard enough, so don’t riot”, but “all those people who haven’t made their lives better just weren’t working hard enough, so they don’t deserve your sympathy or help”.

  • Danielm80

    Yep. Just a few days ago, someone named “Frank” used that argument to explain why the Where are the Women? project is unnecessary. A guy in my neighborhood thinks that people on welfare shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

  • Nathan

    My uncle believes that military service should be mandatory for full citizenship. He’s never served…

  • Danielm80

    And now we have this:


    There’s a line between “I want to live according to my values” and “I don’t want anyone else not to live according to my values.”

  • Bluejay

    Characters who “solve problems using violence” aren’t allowed on lunchboxes? I’d like to see what the school says to a kid who brings in a lunchbox with an image of David from the Bible. Or George Washington.

  • helnhwest

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  • Well, to be fair, even most people who do acquire advanced degrees don’t become world-famous.

  • LaSargenta

    Of course he didn’t.


  • Jess Haskins

    The New Inquiry has a pretty interesting dissection of how this story propagated and got to be a major media conversation: http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/against-students-stories/

    In short, it looks like one lone student posting on a closed Facebook group about how he would skip an optional entry on a suggested reading list because of his religious objections to graphical depictions of nudity got spun into a story about a critical mass of organized students boycotting a required assignment.

    All of that stuff about consumer-minded students only interested in acquiring their job tickets and not engaging in critical thought or confronting intellectual challenges is all still happening and a very concerning trend, of course, this just doesn’t appear to be a particularly salient example of it.

    (I’m not criticizing MaryAnn for posting or commenting on this story, to be clear… I just thought a look at the story’s origins and the journalistic practices behind it was interesting.)

  • Bluejay

    Thanks for pointing this out. This kind of distorting, inflammatory journalism (the general media reporting, not MAJ) really irks me. It’s important to criticize problems, but it’s equally important to make sure that specific instances of the problem are accurately reported (to determine, for one thing, if the incident in question is actually part of the problem at all).

  • Tonio Kruger

    I know I’m dating myself by mentioning this but I can’t help but wonder what the school would have made of the Hogan’s Heroes lunchboxes that were so popular when I was a kid.

  • David

    You know what this is right? There have been hundreds of stories in the last few years of leftist students trying to ban, not even just rightwing, but anything that’s not hard left from campuses around the US. So, in order to make it not seem like an exclusively leftwing totalitarian impulse they blow up the few stories of rightwingers trying to do the same thing. Anybody who’s paying attention clearly sees that it ain’t people on the left who need security guards to give lectures on many campuses today.

  • David

    Google “speakers banned on college campuses” and you will find article after article talking about instances in which people who did not adhere to leftist dogma were prevented from giving lectures at universities around the country. When colleges DO allow conservatives to speak they have to have security guards to prevent violence.

    Check out the FIRE’s website for more info. They go after conservatives who try to sensor also but even the head of the organization, a Democrat, has admitted that most of the totalitarianism is coming from the left.

  • prevented from giving lectures

    Sorry, is there a right to give lectures to a particular audience that I’m unaware of?

    When colleges DO allow conservatives to speak they have to have security guards to prevent violence

    Citation needed.

    Also: I don’t think you know what “totalitarianism” means.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I seem to recall a young woman getting beat up at a Rand Paul rally a few years back and the chief response to that incident by right-wing cheerleaders like Ann Coulter has been to either downplay it or else portray the woman as some kind of wild-eyed Squeaky Fromme wannabe.

    So much for the conservative attitude towards free speech.

    Not all conservatives think like Ann Coulter, of course, but enough of them do that it seems a bit disingenuous to act like the left has a monopoly on the impulse to suppress free speech.

    Mind you. I still find it a bit Orwellian to note how few people seem bothered by the tasering of a political protester at an Al Gore rally a few years ago before that. The “don’t tase me, bro” guy might not have been the most likely candidate for MENSA membership but he still had a right to confront a political candidate in public without being tasered, and the fact that many people found it easier to just laugh at the dude rather than question why he was tasered seems a tad ominous to me.

  • I believe I have commented many times on how tasering is not funny. I do not like seeing that in movies.

  • David

    First off, college is supposed to be a time when students are exposed to a multitude of ideas and viewpoints, not one entrenched dogma. More importantly, most of these incidents follow a familiar pattern: a group
    like the young Republicans invites a conservative speaker, another group of students protests and makes threats, the college then requires the group to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for security, the group then has to cancel.

    Totalitarianism from dictionary.com:
    1. the practices and principles of a totalitarian regime.
    2. absolute control by the state or a governing branch of a highly centralized institution.
    3. the character or quality of an autocratic or authoritarian individual,
    group, or government:
    Ex., the totalitarianism of the father.

    Citation needed? As you wish. Each of these links describe a Different incident:

    | http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/2009/may09/protesters.html
    | http://www.yaf.org/VTYAFLosesFundingBecauseOfTheirConservativeValues.aspx
    | http://www.westernjournalism.com/college-fire-shameful-treatment-conservative-speaker/
    | http://dailycaller.com/2013/11/22/the-death-of-liberalism-on-college-campuses/#ixzz2llJyqxeR
    | http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB124000847769030489
    | http://campusreform.org/?ID=6770
    | http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/016259.html
    | http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/coulters-u-of-o-event-canceled/
    | http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org/news/686/DHAssaultedSAFPressRelease040705.htm
    | http://wc.arizona.edu/papers/98/236/01_4.html
    | http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-graduation-speakers-20140514-story.html

  • David

    I’m going to need a source for that first story. Hillary Clinton is actually facing a serious backlash from the media for the dismissive way she treats them. There is also some of this on the right, see the flame war between pro-Trump and pro-Megyn Kelley commenters, but it seems like shouting down, heckling, and disruption is happening more on the left. Maybe that’s just because the left is in charge right now and it will change once the right takes back the White House.

  • Bluejay

    Okay, I’ve read all your links. They don’t support your argument. In most of the incidents described, it’s the administration that gets skittish and cancels the event, perceiving the student body as a threat when all the students are doing is (vigorously, loudly) protesting — which is their right, and which they’ve been doing since forever.

    Birgeneau, Rice, and Lagarde voluntarily withdrew from their commencement speeches simply because some students protested. If speakers refuse to come to campus and express their ideas simply because some groups of students will challenge them, that’s not the students’ fault.

    The article about Boise State University originally claimed that BSU failed to provide other examples of events with security, but then issued a correction: BSU *did* provide examples — including security for a Sandra Day O’Connor event and for the “Diversity’s Tunnel of Oppression” exhibit put on by Multicultural Student Services (inspired by the LA Museum of Tolerance and featuring displays of the oppression of marginalized groups). So security wasn’t limited to just conservative speakers.

    In the Daily Caller article, it’s pointed out that many of the radical activists who disrupted the event “weren’t even U-M students” — so, rowdy outsiders rather than the university community — and the protesters allowed Gratz to resume her speech (so no one was silenced).

    Re: the Campus Reform article about professors and their syllabi: Some of those syllabus pdf’s are inaccessible so I can’t verify if the quotes were taken out of context. However, Jon Streamas’ class is “Introduction to Multicultural Literature,” which is not a required class for all students, and clearly presents a distinct political view, which is not uncommon for a college course. Students know what they’re getting into and they have the option to disenroll after the first week if they’re uncomfortable with classroom policies. Also, “respecting shy and quiet classmates and deferring to the experiences of people of color” is absolutely a reasonable expectation in a class about the literature that depicts the experiences of non-white people.

    The course that requires students to recognize the existence of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism is for a course on “Race and Racism in U.S. Popular Culture.” Again, students know what they’re getting into. (Plus, recognizing that racism/sexism/etc exists is like recognizing that water is wet and rocks are heavy. There’s really not a credible argument to the contrary.) The statement “we do not live in a post-racial world” is for a class called “Hip-Hop Around the Globe,” about the origins, history, and evolution of hip-hop; again, you know what you’re getting into if you’re signing up for such a class. Accepting certain premises is necessary for certain classes; you don’t go into an algebra class and question the meaning and validity of numbers.

    I can’t speak for what the Canadian universities are doing. :-) But I *will* note that the students there were reacting to ANN COULTER, who’s basically a hate vomitorium and shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction she gets. The Canadian university administrators also pointed out that Canadian freedom of speech laws are different from U.S. laws.

    The article claiming David Horowitz was “assaulted”? HE WAS HIT WITH A PIE, in the tradition of egging and glitter-bombing and spraying fake blood on fur coats. It’s an old form of protest that does not actually threaten lives or silence speakers.

    And Ann Coulter got hit with a pie by student activists from “Al Pieda”? HILARIOUS. Also, nonlethal. Also, she was still able to speak.

    I don’t see a chilling effect here, except for conservatives complaining that they’re getting PUSHBACK when they present their ideas, and they’re gonna just take their ball and go home if the game looks like it’s getting a little rowdy. Well, welcome to being part of a loud, messy, argumentative democratic society.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I did not mean to imply that you were one of the people who thought the “don’t taz me, bro” incident was funny. I had hoped that much was obvious but apparently it was not obvious enough.

    My apologies.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I’m going to need a source for that first story

    Do you mean something like this?


    As for Hillary Clinton, it seemed obvious the last time she was mentioned on this site that she no longer has the sympathy of most people who post here.

    Nowadays I find myself being more skeptical about both the right’s and left’s commitment to free speech but if I mentioned every such incident that annoyed me, I’d be posting almost every day — and I post all too often as it is.

  • because the left is in charge

    Oh, for the love of…

    The “left” is not “in charge.” There is no meaningful “left” in the United States. Obama is center-right, at best.

  • If you think that students protesting a speaker amounts to totalitarianism, then we are not even speaking the same language or living in the same world.

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