Readability

Inferiority's Children

Over a decade ago, when I was a stu­dent at a com­mu­nity col­lege, I took a gov­ern­ment class, taught by one Pro­fes­sor Cohen, as an elec­tive. I asked around about him and received a flood of answers; the word was out that he was tough and it that was dif­fi­cult to earn an ‘A’ from him. Most advised me to drop his class and choose an eas­ier pro­fes­sor. I didn’t and earned an ‘A’ in the course. (Those who have read my novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, will rec­og­nize this scenario.)

Since tak­ing the course, I’ve long pon­dered Pro­fes­sor Cohen’s alleged tough­ness. All he required was that a stu­dent read dili­gently – exam­ple: read the US Con­sti­tu­tion in its entirety once a week – and regur­gi­tate those read­ings and lec­ture notes in essays and on tests. Hav­ing been in the mil­i­tary and, there­fore, hav­ing taken many mil­i­tary courses, this was an easy thing for me to do. It’s notable that the only other per­son in my class who received an ‘A’ from Pro­fes­sor Cohen was an Army vet­eran. We were both used to high and objec­tive standards.

But even back then, it was becom­ing plain that most other stu­dents were not used to them, hence the idea that Pro­fes­sor Cohen was so tough. Now, how­ever, high stan­dards are not only some­thing to be avoided, expect­ing stu­dents to meet them is it is an act of vio­lence and, of course, racism.

Cur­rent and for­mer stu­dents in the Grad­u­ate School of Edu­ca­tion & Infor­ma­tion Stud­ies expressed their sup­port for pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus Val Rust fol­low­ing a demon­stra­tion in one of his grad­u­ate classes last Thursday.

Stu­dent demon­stra­tors alleged that there is a “toxic” racial cli­mate in the grad­u­ate school, includ­ing in Rust’s class­room. Orga­niz­ers told the Daily Bruin last week that they decided to host the demon­stra­tion after a recent report exam­in­ing racial dis­crim­i­na­tion among the university’s fac­ulty stated that UCLA’s poli­cies and pro­ce­dures do not suf­fi­ciently address racially moti­vated instances of discrimination.

[…]

In a let­ter sent to col­leagues in the depart­ment after the sit-​in, Rust said stu­dents in the demon­stra­tion described gram­mar and spelling cor­rec­tions he made on their dis­ser­ta­tion pro­pos­als as a form of “micro-​aggression.”

[…]

The demonstration’s orga­niz­ers said they are aware of sev­eral exam­ples in the grad­u­ate school where minor­ity stu­dents claimed they faced chal­lenges and “micro-​aggressions” from professors.

Empa­sis mine.

This is what decades of indoc­tri­na­tion – rather than edu­ca­tion – and enti­tle­ment hath wrought. In this case, the enti­tle­ments which such stu­dents have already received are as fol­lows: high school diploma, under­grad­u­ate degree, and accep­tance into a grad­u­ate pro­gram. They expect to accrue their next enti­tle­ment – a mas­ters degree and/​or a Ph.D – on sched­ule and this pro­fes­sor won’t gift wrap it for them unlike most of his pre­de­ces­sors. Such stu­dents have been told overtly and sub­lim­i­nally that these cre­den­tials are their “just due” – due to them not because of their abil­i­ties, but because of their very existence.

More­over, these stu­dents – and the sys­tems which have pro­moted them – have inter­nal­ized the alleged infe­ri­or­ity of blacks. I knew even before I read the story, that the pro­tes­tors were black because I’ve seen this type of rea­son­ing all my life. It’s pro­duces the same phe­nom­e­non in which black K-​12 stu­dents who attend schools with majority-​black stu­dent bod­ies and who excel aca­d­e­m­i­cally are teased by their peers for “act­ing white.”

Here’s how the rea­son­ing works: black per­sons are genet­i­cally unable to mas­ter cor­rect gram­mar, so it’s point­less to attempt to teach it to them or expect it from them. And if a teacher, pro­fes­sor or boss expects such, that per­son is guilty of per­pe­trat­ing “micro-​aggression” on a people.

This wide­spread mind­set does not exist by acci­dent. It’s a plan, I say; one which makes igno­rance not only preva­lent, not only cel­e­brated, but fecund. And, regard­less of your color, if you don’t think this way, you are not “of the body” and must be scorned.

The plan: the hol­low­ing out of edu­ca­tion, insti­tu­tions, and, most impor­tantly, a people.

Juli­ette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was pub­lished in 2009; the sec­ond edi­tion in 2012.

Over a decade ago, when I was a student at a community college, I took a government class, taught by one Professor Cohen, as an elective. I asked around about him and received a flood of answers; the word was out that he was tough and it that was difficult to earn an ‘A’ from him. Most advised me to drop his class and choose an easier professor. I didn’t and earned an ‘A’ in the course. (Those who have read my novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, will recognize this scenario.)

Since taking the course, I’ve long pondered Professor Cohen’s alleged toughness. All he required was that a student read diligently–example: read the US Constitution in its entirety once a week–and regurgitate those readings and lecture notes in essays and on tests. Having been in the military and, therefore, having taken many military courses, this was an easy thing for me to do. It’s notable that the only other person in my class who received an ‘A’ from Professor Cohen was an Army veteran. We were both used to high and objective standards.

But even back then, it was becoming plain that most other students were not used to them, hence the idea that Professor Cohen was so tough. Now, however, high standards are not only something to be avoided, expecting students to meet them is it is an act of violence and, of course, racism.

Current and former students in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies expressed their support for professor emeritus Val Rust following a demonstration in one of his graduate classes last Thursday.

Student demonstrators alleged that there is a “toxic” racial climate in the graduate school, including in Rust’s classroom. Organizers told the Daily Bruin last week that they decided to host the demonstration after a recent report examining racial discrimination among the university’s faculty stated that UCLA’s policies and procedures do not sufficiently address racially motivated instances of discrimination.

[…]

In a letter sent to colleagues in the department after the sit-in, Rust said students in the demonstration described grammar and spelling corrections he made on their dissertation proposals as a form of “micro-aggression.”

[…]

The demonstration’s organizers said they are aware of several examples in the graduate school where minority students claimed they faced challenges and “micro-aggressions” from professors.

Empasis mine.

This is what decades of indoctrination–rather than education–and entitlement hath wrought. In this case, the entitlements which such students have already received are as follows: high school diploma, undergraduate degree, and acceptance into a graduate program. They expect to accrue their next entitlement–a masters degree and/or a Ph.D–on schedule and this professor won’t gift wrap it for them unlike most of his predecessors. Such students have been told overtly and subliminally that these credentials are their “just due”–due to them not because of their abilities, but because of their very existence.

Moreover, these students–and the systems which have promoted them–have internalized the alleged inferiority of blacks. I knew even before I read the story, that the protestors were black because I’ve seen this type of reasoning all my life. It’s produces the same phenomenon in which black K-12 students who attend schools with majority-black student bodies and who excel academically are teased by their peers for “acting white.”

Here’s how the reasoning works: black persons are genetically unable to master correct grammar, so it’s pointless to attempt to teach it to them or expect it from them. And if a teacher, professor or boss expects such, that person is guilty of perpetrating “micro-aggression” on a people.

This widespread mindset does not exist by accident. It’s a plan, I say; one which makes ignorance not only prevalent, not only celebrated, but fecund. And, regardless of your color, if you don’t think this way, you are not “of the body” and must be scorned.

The plan: the hollowing out of education, institutions, and, most importantly, a people.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012.