In Which the Prof Bites His Tongue

As part of Mondoville’s accreditation process, we developed a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), an effort to improve some aspect of  Mondoville education. In particular (and in keeping with our church affiliation), we are attempting to help our students develop skills and attitudes conducive to good citizenship. All well and good, and one would think this to be relatively anodyne — certainly I’d like to see our kids become thoughtful, active citizens; that’s why I try to teach them to think and express their thoughts clearly.

However, I found myself taking a darker view of the whole project this afternoon, with the arrival of a speaker/author whose visit was sponsored by the QEP committee. The fellow in question is Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen and The Impossible Will Take A Little While. I took a look at one of his promotional posters in the hallway earlier this afternoon, and saw that his blurb quotes came from folks like Howard Zinn, Bill Moyers, and Susan Sontag. Uh-oh.

Still, I figured I would continue to tend my own garden and wait for this to pass like a cloud or a kidney stone. However, such was not to be.

It turns out that Mr. Loeb was a guest speaker at our monthly faculty meeting this afternoon, chatting at us for an hour, in which he said that Hurricane Sandy was the punishment for global warming climate change (actually using the term “reap the whirlwind”), talked about the benighted attitudes of our students who might emphasize things like self-reliance, alluded to Diebold shenanigans in Ohio in 2004, and called for the National Popular Vote movement to replace the Electoral College. (I considered asking him if he also opposed the existence of the U.S. Senate, which also empowers some voters over others, but I decided to pass. Also, if it happens that Romney wins the popular vote this year, but loses in the EC — a genuine possibility — I wonder how long the NPV movement will last.). He also pointed out that the money Americans spend on pet food could eradicate world hunger (while neglecting to note that the problem isn’t American greed as much as it is corrupt governments using food as a weapon or source of wealth and power. Presumably, those governments are our fault as well.) He praised students involved in small-scale/feelgood “sustainability” initiatives, while shuddering at the Tea Party (although he begrudgingly praised their organizational skills.) Such betes noires as the Koch Brothers were mentioned as well, as suborners of Climate Deniers.

Even one of my leftier colleagues (who comments here occasionally as the Angels’ Legal Aid) was put off, and noted after the meeting that there is a difference between urging students to get involved and urging them to become advocates for a particular position, for which the political process is the default position. This, by the way, is why said colleague is a friend of mine. We may disagree, but I never doubt that he is intellectually honest.

I contented myself with blowing off a bit of steam on Twitter and trying not to be openly rude to a guest. I think I succeeded, and he drifted away for dinner and his scheduled lecture after his hour and a bit of the regular meeting’s business. I found myself wondering when we will invite speakers who encourage our kids to develop habits of independence, minding their own business, private charity, and a willingness to solve their own problems instead of approaching the Great White Fathers of government for succor. I suspect I may be waiting a while.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Education, Faith, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In Which the Prof Bites His Tongue

  1. Alpheus says:

    “…certainly I’d like to see our kids become thoughtful, active citizens; that’s why I try to teach them to think and express their thoughts clearly.”

    What I don’t understand is why so many teachers want to do something else–teach (a particular version of) virtue instead of teaching students how to think and write and speak. Most of the students I’ve met over the years don’t seem deficient in virtue–no more so than the rest of us, anyway–and if they are, I’m not at all sure I’m qualified to fix that. Mr. Loeb may have more confidence in his worthiness as a moral exemplar. But the students I’ve encountered still need somebody to explain how to organize thoughts, make arguments, present evidence, weigh alternatives….

    (BTW, I really liked the phrase “wait for it to pass like a cloud or a kidney stone.”)

  2. Jeff says:

    So how much did Mondoville pay this guy? It would be instructive, if not surprising, to compare how they value an hour of his time with how they value yours.

    When colleges and universities bring in celebrity motivational speakers, they’re either admitting that they don’t believe their faculty possess actual expertise, or revealing that they don’t know that faculty possess all the “quality enhancement” expertise the college ought to need.

  3. The Ancient says:

    “[Loeb’s] 2002 talk to the American Association of State Colleges & Universities helped inspire that association’s 200-campus American Democracy Project. In 2008 he created and ran Campus Compact’s Campus Election Engagement Project, which helped colleges and universities in 15 states engage their students in the election, and participated in the Department of Education’s 2011 roundtable on civic engagement in higher education.”

  4. The Ancient says:

    “Topics: Diversity / Education / Ethics/Values / Human Rights / International Affairs / National Politics Fee Range: $5,001 to $10,000”

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