So this pops up in my Facebook feed, this morning. Go read it first.
There’s a question this guy has to ask himself, one that doesn’t seem to have crossed his mind. If it had been a white student instead of a black student, would he have done the same thing?
If the answer to that question is yes, then he has nothing to reproach himself for.
There’s two points here. The micro point and the macro point.
Going to college, or university, is nothing like buying a new car. You’re not buying a product, but a service. What use you make out of it is up to you. As I noted earlier, what you get out of education depends – very much so – on what you put into it. Paying out vast sums of money to go to a university is nothing more than a waste, if you spend your time having parties instead of actually studying. The tutors are there to help you, but you’re the one who has to do the work.
Now, lectures are rarely one-on-one. A lecturer has to give a talk to a large group of students, who need to focus on his words. A student who comes in late, plays with his iPod or chats merrily in the background is a distraction. Their actions will make it harder for other students to learn. Maybe allowances should be made for a student who is late once (although, by the law of averages, there’ll be a late student every class) but a lecturer has every right to question the commitment of a student who is repeatedly late.
Being on time, believe it or not, is a valuable skill. Employers do not, as a general rule, take an employee’s circumstances into account when they are repeatedly late. If you turn up for your 9-5 job at 9.30 or later, regularly, your employer will eventually sack you.
I’ve heard that a number of diversity training officers (a profession that makes traffic wardens look decent) are pushing the idea that being late is part of black culture. That is simply not true – it is merely making excuses for people who are pushing the limits, not doing anything to actually tackle the problem. Being late at university may have no consequences, but being late in the workforce can result in early and permanent unemployment.
The problem here is that tutors are being deprived of the ability to give feedback – or punished if they do give honest feedback. Students who are allowed to slide because they can claim ‘victimhood’ status are in for a nasty surprise, when they enter the workforce. Reprimanding a black student (or any student) for being late is not racist, but simple practicality. If nothing else, the student will be distracting other students from learning.
There’s a difference, an all-important difference, between picking on someone because of their skin colour (or whatever) and reprimanding them for their behaviour. Students in America and the West are growing increasingly unable or unwilling to tell the difference, unable or unwilling to recognise that their own behaviour gets them into trouble. And political correctness makes it impossible for tutors to stand up and actually tell their charges the truth. They are physically adults, but mentally children.
Academia can only work when it is solidly focused on a culture of merit. Skin colour does not matter. Gender and sexual orientation does not matter. The only thing that matters is being able to do the work.
The macro point is a little more complex.
People who are unwilling to come to terms with the true cause of a problem – let alone cope with it unflinchingly – have a habit of making excuses. In this case, the writer excuses his students by asserting that they are the victims of systematic discrimination. Leaving the validity of that point aside, does that excuse their behaviour?
It is unfortunately true that people who are treated badly at one point in their lives often treat other people badly as they grow up. Victims of child abuse often become victimisers themselves; the bullied often become the bullies. This happens for several reasons, ranging from a belief that this is actually normal to a burning hatred against society or a simple desire to exert a little control in their lives. A person who has been bullied savagely will often lose the ability to empathise with others.
I can – I do – feel sorry for a person who has been victimised. But I don’t think that excuses their behaviour towards others.
Severus Snape is a good example of precisely why this sort of behaviour is so toxic. Snape is a great character, but a horrible teacher. He was bullied relentlessly by Harry’s father, which drove him towards the Death Eaters (who else was going to protect him?) … but he takes his anger out on Harry. James Potter was an unrepentant bully, yet Harry – despite his flaws – is nothing like his father. And yet a great many fans excuse Snape for his behaviour.
The author asks what perspectives [non-white students] bring to the class. This is one of the core arguments in favour of ‘diversity,’ but it is badly flawed (particularly in the hard sciences). The laws of science work exactly the same for black people as they do for white people. Two plus two is always four, regardless of who’s doing the counting. Science is a constant process of discovery; a theory is proposed, tested and then either kept or discarded. Science demands merit, not social justice.
And even the soft sciences (should) have the same requirement. The law should be blind. Murder is murder, regardless of who was killed, by whom. A black man being killed by a white man is as serious as a white man being killed by a black man. The law should not be interpreted differently, depending on who is involved. And even gender studies and religious studies require a certain ability to comprehend and contextualise that is often alien to their students.
But social justice proponents have systematically undermined the whole concept by introducing so-called ‘diversity’ into academia and the workforce. In teaching students (and everyone else) that they have no control over their lives, that they are the victims of racism or sexism (or anything else along the same lines), they have undermined the concept of personal responsibility – and personal improvement. The idea that a student should be held accountable for his failings is impossible for them to grasp when they are too busy making excuses for their behaviour. Instead, they want sympathy for First World Problems.
The blunt truth is that sympathy has its limits. Someone who wallows in their own victimhood is going to receive less and less sympathy as their life goes on, as people who are forced to listen to them lose patience. That someone went through hell does not automatically provide an excuse for bad behaviour – and victimhood is not, in a rational world, an excuse for anything.
In education, the only thing that matters is merit. What you get out of education depends, very much, on what you put in. That’s a simple fact …
… And far too many students don’t even begin to understand it.