Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You're a riot. I just incited you.

So the book I was going to rant about:

The other day I went to the library at lunch because I'm still the nerdy kid who spends her lunch break at the library. I wanted to find a nice word-related book to talk about, but all they had in the dewy decimal neighborhood was a book about starting a book club and this book called ProFessors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. As you might expect, it focuses only on the most dangerous liberal professors, Bob Jones professors and the like are apparently perfectly harmless.
The author brings a bunch of academics up on charges ranging from actual dangerousness (rapists and the like) to liberal extremists to a bunch of folks he declares Marxists (usually with no substantiation), to professors who don't like Columbus day and professors who don't support the war in Iraq.
The book was surprisingly reassuring in a way. It was written in the days just following the start of the Iraq war, at a time when opposing the war was actually considered dangerous by a lot of folks.
The book, though, despite being really, really silly, actually got me thinking. Is it possible for a professor who imparts his or her opinion, however wrong his or her opinion may be, to be dangerous? If I oppose a war, can it possibly pose a real danger? The dictionary says that dangerous means something like capable of inflicting serious bodily injury, and several of the profs in the book actually did meet that definition. Most don't. There's an earlier definition for the word that means difficult or arrogant, and really, that applies to most college professors. But I digress as usual.
Anyway, the author is right in one thing: academia is overflowing with extreme liberals. Anybody who has been to college has likely had a Marxist or two (unless they went to Bob Jones). Liberals are over-represented, and that's not a good thing: it's unfair to conservative students who are expected to conform to their profs' world views to get good grades, and it's not good in that students are getting a one-sided view of the world
But dangerous? I suppose a Marxist prof who happens to be really, really charismatic, like Jim Jones charismatic, probably poses somewhat of a threat. I doubt, however, most profs profiled in the book are Jim Jones-ish. I was thinking about all the teachers I have had though... if you count my having repeated Kindergarten and my two years at Ursuline, I went through 15 years of Catholic schools, and all those years of Catholic educators couldn't keep me from leaving Catholicism. My anti-feminist gender law professor certainly didn't make me an anti-feminist - if anything, she challenged me to get better at arguing my side. All my years of peace-nick educators failed to make me oppose gun rights, and despite all of my English profs' best efforts, I do not look at every poem ever written as a metaphor for sex.
Further, my mom opposed the war in Iraq; anyone who has ever met my mom will promise you there is nothing dangerous about my mom. Unless you consider her relentless quest to make you chicken soup when you're sick dangerous. 
The book did a good job of capitalizing on the culture of fear at the time, and it had to be pretty freaking easy to write considering how easy it is to find liberal professors, and how even easier it is to make claims without backing any of them up with evidence. So kudos to him. But dangerous? Yeah, no.

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