Monday, February 8, 2016

How to comment on an online news article about higher education: a helpful list of rhetorical tropes

1) Refer to everything outside of higher education as "the real world," with the implication that colleges and universities are somehow unreal.

2) Refer to all students who express opinions you dislike as "coddled." As nobody ever uses the word "coddled" any more to describe anything except These Kids Today, this is a particularly useful way to create the impression that their ideas can be discounted automatically.

3) Describe all professors as left-wing Marxist tenured radicals. (Unless, of course, the news story you are commenting on is about the latest "disruptive" innovation or technology, in which case it should be taken as read that all professors are hide-bound conservatives who refuse to change anything ever. In either case, their opinions can safely be dismissed.)

4) Mention Saul Alinsky a lot. Nobody has the foggiest idea who this is, so he can be used as a convenient shorthand for All Things Vaguely Menacing, and you'll sound super-smart while you're doing it.

5) Pick a random arts-and-humanities course with a normal title, such as "Existentialist Philosophy" or "Eighteenth-Century Literature," and refer to it as a "major." Demand to know where all the jobs are for the eighteenth-century literature majors, and express your sincere concern that they need to be saved from themselves.

6) Pick a random arts-and-humanities course with a somewhat odd title, such as "Taco Literacy," and hold it up as an example of Everything Wrong With Every University Ever. Do this in the comment threads on stories that have nothing whatsoever to do with this particular course. (Or, in general, cherry-pick the strangest and most extreme example you can find of anything, treat it as a typical example, and shoehorn it into the comments on stories that have nothing to do with that thing.)

7) Refer to all fields of academic inquiry that focus on people other than white men as "Grievance Studies," and declare them to be intellectually and morally bankrupt by definition. If you do this often enough, and loudly enough, you will be excused from having to explain how you know this.

8) Ah, hell, you might as well declare all fields that end with "studies" to be intellectually and morally bankrupt by definition. If you are feeling particularly generous, you might make an exception for Religious Studies, Classical Studies, or International Studies ... no, on second thought, you've never seen any job ads with any of those fields in the title of the position, so it's safe to say they're all equally pointless.

9) Assume that liberal arts colleges, liberal arts majors, a liberal arts curriculum, and political liberalism are all exactly the same thing.

10) Conflate "holding an unpopular opinion" with "being a member of a minority group," and, in general, fail to distinguish between categories-based-on-opinion-and-belief and categories-based-on-identity. This will allow you, for example, to accuse people who disagree with you of hate speech, or to call for affirmative action for people who do agree with you. If anybody calls you on this, mention look, a squirrel! Rachel Dolezal.

ETA: 11) When citing examples of wasteful university spending, be sure to mention climbing walls. Never any other sort of sports or recreational equipment. Always climbing walls.

... I need to stop reading the comments, don't I?


Bardiac said...

But you've categorized them perfectly! Especially #10! (Though it can also be holding a rather popular opinion that some people disagree with, say, belief in Christianity as the truth. Then you can also make the war on Christmas and Christians claim.)

This is genius, Quills!

Fretful Porpentine said...

Glad you enjoyed it!

heu mihi said...

Brilliant! Thank you.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Seriously. This is exactly what the comments sections are all like. Brilliant.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

That is -- you are brilliant, NOT the comment sections. ;)

Neon Anon said...

Regarding number 8 and classical studies: it's obviously true, otherwise the students in question would be taking *ahem* proper Classics, with Latin and Greek. *snort* (as if knowing Ancient Greek will get you a job either!)