Tuesday, April 04, 2017


The reference in this post, in case you don’t follow the Chronicle of Higher Education is to behavior standards on campuses.  http://www.chronicle.com/article/Eyewitness-to-a-Title-IX-Witch/239634?cid=trend_right_a

My undergrad degree is from Northwestern University, a “BS” in Speech Education which was a cover for what I was really taking: theatre and some religion courses.  My biggest failure was getting along with roommates, a flaw in my character finally solved by avoidance, living alone most of my life.  That solution gives me plenty of time to read and enough room for plenty of bookshelves.  It’s a bonanza for computer work, providing security and freedom to work at all hours.  Even so do we shape ourselves.  Nearing eighty, I’m glad I live this way in a small Montana town close to the first place I taught: the Blackfeet Reservation.  

Actually, I’ve only taught in one off-rez place, a “white” town not far away where I resigned in a few months.  I could have been sued for this breach of contract but it would have meant making public some embarrassing conduct on the part of a student who was a valued athlete.  Teaching was not the core of my lifepath, which I can see quite clearly in terms of what I’ve “done”, which was mostly what I had to do to make a living.  The meaning of life is no clearer in analytic terms, but I feel it and I mean it.

One of my former roommates sent a letter after a long gap.  A poet, she had made a living by editing, the same job since graduation.  Now she was retiring and provided a little essay about herself.  She wanted to brag about her highest undergrad moment: being regularly schtupped on the floor of a faculty office by a famous professor.  She wanted me to be impressed, and when I couldn’t even recognize the professor, she was irked.

There were three of us rooming together in university housing.  The third, a woman with an IQ of 180, got pregnant and left.  Women who got married were automatically expelled.  There was another occasional roomie who was the poet’s lover, female.  The poet was notoriously AC/DC and required by university authorities to get therapy from a female university psychologist who turned out to be sharing a male lover, VERY handsome, with the poet.  The house mother had been told to get this room under control and used “bed checks” after the technical curfew of ten PM.  Men were forbidden to come in farther than the parlour even in daytime.  I don’t know what kept my roomie from being expelled.

It’s curious how we think people only interact surreptitiously at certain times and places.  Crossing back and forth over these boundaries was considered intellectual entitlement.  Not only did the defiant wear black turtlenecks, my roomie wore black underwear. 

I was busy doing other things, going places in small groups bonded by our work in the theatre.  We didn’t want private lives — we wanted access to human experience on the grandest and most dramatic terms, always governed by truth.  Grandiose narcissism, but it mostly kept us out of trouble.  The concern was not about sex, but about enough talent and discipline (yes, discipline) to carry us through a lifetime of acting.  “What is the spine of this character?” we asked and in order to answer we had to identify our own spine.

Therefore this roomie, her lovers, her shrink and our housemother were all pretty much irrelevant.  A wall of tolerance and disregard kept me from wasting time on them.  Therefore, the most recent scandal over Title IX issues (what is the proper sexual relationship between faculty and students) was to me quite laughable.  All about the amoeba theory of personality, I guess.  Unless vengeance is a spine.  So much furor over basically nothing but stupidly acting out television series behaviour.

When I was actually teaching high school in the Sixties, a baby-making craze swept through the girls.  On a trip somewhere for something I recall sleeping in the same room with three students, female, including one in the same bed, so I could grip her wrist all night to keep her from sneaking out for sex.  (She had announced she was going to.)  I would not even consider sleeping in the same room these days, since the assumption would be that I was the authority figure having sex with her.  (She got pregnant anyway, but not on that trip.)  Restraint and interference are now as much of a crime as the original misbehaviour, ignoring the chaos and emotional pain of going outside the guidelines at the expense of an innocent child who will need lifelong support.  This is justified on philosophical grounds.  Clever arguments.  No reality.

Going back to Northwestern in the late Fifties, the investment was in at least the appearance of propriety.  By now, if you look at the website  https://www.communication.northwestern.edu 
you’ll find daring architecture, Broadway extravaganza, reduced course requirements, a young faculty that includes dark people (as long as they are exotic) and courses of study very much influenced by Foucault, Derrida, et al.  Few people around here could figure out what they are really about.  That includes me.

I have a very strong suspicion that there is so much emotion at NU around sex that it is hiding something, like Trump being outraged at whistle-blowers to keep people from thinking about Russia.  (Look!  A squirrel!)   I think that “higher” education at this university and probably many others (U of Montana?) the scandal is really about corporate wealth.  Someone else will have to chase that fox because I don’t have the right skills or any interest.  I just smell rank musk.

When I got to seminary, I was forty.  (’78-82)  I’m shocked to realize that was thirty-five years ago.  Again, I was outside the pattern that formed later.   Sex had nothing to do with it.  Philosophy and denominational prestige were the focus at the Div School and in the smaller seminaries.  Philosophy was the pelt and sometimes the source of the sheepskin, and the denominations were the flock.

Philosophy insisted that minorities should be honored and included in political opposition to the old white men who dominate organizations of all kinds in “modernity.”  (Some like this term better than “Western Culture.”)  Okay.  But the next step was that quota hiring, minority preference — esp. if the general population of the territory belonged mostly to that supposed minority — meant that positions with power (or imagined power rather than service-obligations) MUST be given to people in those minorities.  We have that law on the rez.  It has produced a whole new array of problems — and some improvements, to be fair.

This justice-based claim, like claims of sexual freedom for everyone (even those who can get pregnant), has mostly resulted in confusion and a President of the USA with no moral boundaries but an avaricious appetite for control.  This lack of character was evidently invisible to people caught up in social revolution, claiming virtue.  But what a fertile source of drama, writing, research, and laughter!  I just think philosophers should be excluded unless their feet touch the ground.

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