Thursday, March 24, 2011

 

In the Words of...

So Kennesaw State won't hire a strong candidate for provost because he once quoted Marx.

Where do I start?

I, too, have quoted Marx. And Nietzsche. And Will Ferrell. And Roseanne Rosannadanna. And Aristotle. And Sarah Palin. And Muttley. Also Paul Westerberg, Chris Rock, Homer Simpson, Max Weber, Tina Fey, Bill Cosby, Kristin Hersh, Roy Scheider, Monty Python, Fozzie Bear, Liz Phair, Jon Stewart, Ernest Hemingway, The Gospel According to Matthew, Sting, Steve Martin, Annie Dillard, Spinal Tap, Bob Uecker, George W. Bush, Lily Tomlin, Bill Murray, Miss Piggy, Stephen Colbert, Beavis and Butthead, Sen. Christopher Dodd, the Beatles, Eddie Murphy, Charlie Sheen, William James, SpongeBob Squarepants, Samuel Gompers, Richard Nixon, KC and the Sunshine Band, Bill Clinton, Joan Didion, Hegel, Duke Ellington, Thomas Jefferson, Arnold Horshack, Sarah Silverman, Howard Beale, and any number of students, colleagues, and family members.

Quoting someone does not necessarily imply agreement with everything they ever said or did. In fact, in some cases people use quotations ironically, or to show how deeply they disagree with someone. Sometimes it’s just a nice turn of phrase, or a sly bit of humor.

Hell, I’d be worried about anyone who only quoted people with whom he agreed. Too much inbreeding, whether physical or intellectual, leads to weakness. Sometimes, playing the devil’s advocate can be a valuable intellectual exercise. But that’s only possible when we aren’t playing “gotcha.”

The “gotcha” attacks do far more damage than the original quotes. They function to keep out people with lively minds. They restrict the range of acceptable discourse. They narrow fields to people who don’t have original or challenging thoughts. Then we wonder why some administrators don’t understand academic freedom.

It’s because we don’t have it.

I have far more respect for people who have come to a point of view having grappled with alternatives than I have for purebreds. Not only have the well-educated ones actually bothered to do some intellectual work, as welcome and necessary as that is, but they’re also had to develop the ability to see more than one perspective. That’s absolutely essential in any high-level role. Because the frustrating reality of these positions is that most of the time, you’re dealing with partial information and conflicts in which both sides are about sixty percent right. The ability to juggle multiple arguments, each of which is grounded in its own worldview, is crucial to reaching solutions that show respect for all sides. My own politics are basically social democratic, but I’d much rather deal with a sophisticated conservative than an idiotic liberal. At least with a sophisticated conservative, I’d have some confidence that the issue was understood, even if it got interpreted differently than I would have. With one-dimensional purebreds, I’m never sure they heard much more than a keyword.

Policing papers for quotes from suspicious characters is the rigor of small minds. It shows a basic inability to distinguish part from whole, or awareness from approval. I don’t want purists in power; they’re naive, and a little scary. Let me have people whose minds have some city miles on them. They might sound radical from time to time, but as Lenin put it, sometimes we have to be as radical as reality itself.

Comments:
Hey, wow, conservatives are still McCarthyists. Who could possibly have predicted that?
 
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have tenure.

Thank FSM!
 
Well, technically, they offered him the job, and he decided to withdraw from consideration because of the controversy. So "not hire" may be a bit strong.

Still, your basic point is accurate; many of us have written, in our dicsiplines, work that quotes other people whose ideas we find interesting and relevant (I myself have quoted Milton Freidman and Friedrich Hayek), even though we disagree with them. And I've quoted people (Keynes, for example) who would be considered suspect by some.

And, amusingly, blogspot's "secrte word" for this comment, is "truth." I am not making this up.
 
I've quoted Kim Il Sung (in a thesis about medieval monasticism). And I'm a Republican.
 
I’d much rather deal with a sophisticated conservative than an idiotic liberal. At least with a sophisticated conservative, I’d have some confidence that the issue was understood, even if it got interpreted differently than I would have.

This reminds me of my favorite Bertrand Russell quote: "Find more pleasure in intelligent dissents than in passive agreement, for if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter."
 
I . . . guess. My experience with "sophisticated conservatives" is that the falsehoods are just better hidden, and the racism/sexism/classism/heteronormativity is more cleverly denied.
 
I only quote people I agree with: Kropotkin and Chomsky
 
You would think that folks from a region that fought a war to try to maintain control of human capital would appreciate quotes like "Militarism ... occurs for the primary purpose of accumulating and protecting ownership of material wealth....".

Their view of his observations about "reparations" might, however, be a sticking point that could make living in that area physically dangerous for him and his family.
 
Bravo for Dr. Chandler and Kent State.
 
Click on the link to the IHE article that DD provided, and read the comments.
 
Welcome to America
 
there are a few radicals outside of cities, DD ;-)
 
Don't you wish that colleges could take away degrees from people who show such abject ignorance?
 
Yeah - And what about the person that is rejected because they believe in God, or are against abortion or happen to believe that marriage is between a man & a woman... It cuts both ways people. Deal with it!
 
Yeah, and what about the person who believes that black people are genetically inferior to white people, or that we should be ruled by a king chosen through divine right? Why are they discriminated against, too?
 
Also, what about discrimination against giant chickens? Who will cry for the lipless?
 
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