I covered Harry Frankfurt’s famous paper, “On Bullshit” in my ethics class this semester–ironically, at just the time when the Trump controversy over the celebration rumors broke out. Here was one of the quiz questions, in True/False format. The quiz was just intended to ensure that they’d done the reading.
Near the end of the article, Frankfurt discusses the views of St. Augustine. According to Frankfurt, St. Augustine was the person who first coined the term “bullshit.” True or false?
Thirty percent of the class answered “true.”
Interestingly, this is one of those questions that didn’t really require having done the reading; a bit of E.D. Hirsch level cultural literacy would have done the trick. But when reading comprehension and cultural literacy fail….
The future of America, folks.
You know you’re in trouble when you encounter a sentence like this in a paper for an ethics class:
After reading both Powell’s and Zwolinski’s articles, there are definitely pros and cons of sweatshops.
The hyper-conscientiousness of having read “both articles” is laudable. Trouble is, Powell and Zwolinski are the co-authors of a single article.
P.S. Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit” is the last reading of the course.
We’re covering issues at the intersection of race and criminal justice in my Phil 250 class (“Making Moral Decisions”) via Michelle Alexander’s 2013 TED talk, “The Future of Race in America,” and Heather Mac Donald’s 2008 City Journal article, “Is the Criminal Justice System Racist?”
Two representative vignettes from class:
Section A: A black student tells the story of how he was accosted by the police this summer on Felician’s Rutherford campus. Why? He was walking down the street while looking intently at his phone; the officer who stopped him worried out loud that he was taking pictures of buildings on campus–a worry made salient (the officer said) by the possibility that he might be affiliated with ISIS. The officer then asked to see the student’s ID, and demanded his name, address, and phone number on the grounds that it would be beneficial for the Rutherford Police to have this information in case the student ever lost his wallet in town.
Section B: On watching the Alexander video–which asserts that the American criminal justice system has come to replicate a twenty-first century form of Jim Crow–a white student asks, in exasperated bewilderment: “What the fuck is ‘Jim Crow'”?
I swear to God I’m not making any of this up.
Unfortunately, the formatting dropped out, but the original says:
Presented to: Irfan Khawaja
for the successful completion of: Drug Free Workplace Program
course completed on: October 15, 2015
The original document can be inspected at the Bureau internationale des poids et mesures, Sevres, France.
For my next project, I’ll be pursuing yet another certification, Preventing Discrimination and Sexual Violence: [Compliance with] Title IX, VAWA and the Clery Act. And then it’s back to the old grind–perusing Jobs for Preventers of Discrimination and Sexual Violence, sending the old portfolios out there, attending the APDSVA smoker, etc. etc.
I am very happy to report that my institution’s bid for university status has been successful. Though there are still some bureaucratic hoops to jump through before we can start acting like a university, we are now officially Felician University, not Felician College.
Our acronymic predicament reminds me of a really stupid rhyme once recited to me by my graduate school buddy Michael Byron, who despite being a really good philosopher, recited it as a joke intended to elicit laughter. “Ever hear the Norfolk University cheerleaders’ cheer?”–Norfolk U being a well-known women’s university.
We are the girls of Norfolk U
We don’t smoke, and we don’t chew
Norfolk U, Norfolk U
We all laughed when he recited that. We were in our 20s.
It’s been a long week. Really long. It’s Friday evening, and I’m going home before I do any more damage here.
Actual snippet of conversation with a nursing student in the college parking lot:
Khawaja: So have you decided on a specialization in nursing?
Student: Oh, anesthesiology, definitely. Starting salary is $160K. Cannot wait to make that much.
Khawaja: So you’re in it for the money?
Student (earnestly): No! No! I mean, right now my residency is in Trauma. Would I go into Trauma if I was just after money? I go into it because I love it. I love Trauma. Like, half the time I’m covered in blood. It’s awesome.
Khawaja: You like being covered in blood?
Student (puzzled): Well, yeah. Except maternal blood, like during a C-Section. Eww.
She’s a former student of mine. Ethics.
Another gem from a lunchtime conversation with a colleague, this time from the professor of Religious Studies responsible for teaching “Introduction to the New Testament.” Her vote for Question of the Semester in that class, three-quarters of the way through the term:
So wait, I don’t get it. St. Paul’s teachings are based on…Jesus?
Did I mention that Felician College is a Catholic liberal arts institution that describes itself (yes, oxymoronically) as “The Franciscan College of New Jersey”?
The Apostle Paul, reached for comment: “Why do they persecute me?”
Actual comment by a colleague of mine over lunch, not intended as humor:
I firmly believe that every citizen of this country should read Thucydides.
Frankly, I’d regard it as a major accomplishment if I could get 100% of my own students to pronounce “Thucydides.”
I don’t think my colleague has heard of Bryan Caplan. Honestly, I was afraid to ask.