Friday, September 28, 2007

Truth hurts

I am a philosopher--at least I teach philosophy for a living, and I take pretty seriously the importance of living an examined life, thinking rationally, preferring truth to pleasant belief, the power of dialectic and argument to get us a better picture of the world. And I tell my students, when they are paying more attention to me than they are to their cell phones or iPods, that they should really take seriously the role of TRUTH in their lives, that they should strive for the truth, that they should be skeptical and question.

Yet, when a student acts as I would want him to, challenges authority, questions, asks for reasons, is slow to accept what he is told, it still raises my hackles, at least when I am the authority in question. That's a sad statement about my own intellectual virtue.


Anonymous said...

does your little amount of hair stand up like a porcupine's?

I remeber when I did that in my Political Science 6C class at Irvine and Professor Petracca took the opportunity to lambast me during his "office hours". I can be a bitch, because I can't stand incompetence when I see it - just ask boys from the football league

Tyler Hower said...

No disrespect intended, of course, by but in the general case students are not capable of judging whether their professors are competent or incompetent. It's the problem with the universe not being democratic in quite the appropriate ways.

Johnny B Animation said...

I don't think that is really fair t...making a blanket statement like that belittles students intelligence. Example, I am not a politician, yet can still see when one has been incompetent in their jobs. No need to cite the obvious example.
Mr. Butternut Squash

Tyler Hower said...

It all depends on which sort of incompetence they are "spotting". If they are spotting incompetence at conveying material, sure, that they can do. But a student is almost never going to be able to say whether his math professor is an incompetent mathematician or his physics professor is an incompetent physicist, because the student won't know what the standards of competence are in those fields; he won't have the necessary expertise. The other way in which students often think that they are wiser than their professors is in knowing what's really important or what they really ought to be learning. But, from my own meagre experience, I realize that I am still figuring out what the important things I learned in, for instance, college really were, Mr. Pumpkin.

Anonymous said...

The word "incompetence" used in my post above was a total non sequitar. I don't know how I drifted off the subject in the next sentence.

Unknown said...

Truth Hurts, but Humility and Time Will Allay the Pain.

At least you have the ability to abstract yourself from your beliefs and try and consider there relative value, merit, and applicability in any given situation. That characteristic alone should be something that allows your to be seen as a higher authority. So, while your some of your students have taken you to your challenge for intellectual improvement, thank them for cyclically contributing to your own. I certainly thank you for holding me to the same task.