March 20, 2007

"Socrates is a real drag, I don't know how in hell he ever got tenure. He makes students feel bad by criticizing them all the time."

Student evaluations for Socrates. (Via A&L Daily.)
He pretends like he's teaching them, but he's really ramming his ideas down student's throtes. He's always taking over the conversation and hardly lets anyone get a word in.

He's sooo arrogant. One time in class this guy comes in with some real good perspectives and Socrates just kept shooting him down. Anything the guy said Socrates just thought he was better than him.

He always keeps talking about these figures in a cave, like they really have anything to do with the real world. Give me a break! I spend serious money for my education and I need something I can use in the real world, not some b.s. about shadows and imaginary trolls who live in caves.

He also talks a lot about things we haven't read for class and expects us to read all the readings on the syllabus even if we don't discuss them in class and that really bugs me. Students' only have so much time and I didn't pay him to torture me with all that extra crap.

If you want to get anxious and depressed, take his course. Otherwise, steer clear of him! (Oh yeah, his grading is really subjective, he doesn't give any formal exams or papers so its hard to know where you stand in the class and when you try to talk to him about grades he just gets all agitated and changes the topic.)
Much more at the link.

42 comments:

Tibore said...

Next post: Faculty council minutes recording the discussion of Socrates' required penance.

Faculty member Socrates: Free lunch at the Union buffet!

Faculty council: DEATH!

Suceeding post: Recipe for hemlock cocktail...

B said...

Okay, here goes (warning to the politically correct sensitives) . . .

We have a friend that decided later in life (mid-40's)to teach. He is now an assistant professor of English at a University of California Campus. Always being the timid sort, he schedules dinner with my wife and me twice a year for us to open and share with him his evaluations and scores from his students. He always ranks highly in the students comments and scores, always above the department mean and average. In fact, the lowest evaluations always come form one area.

He is required each quarter to teach one remedial English course. This course is for those Freshman students who are accepted into the University of California, except that they do not speak or write basic English well enough to attend the University of California. These students are given 3 attempts - that's 3 quarters) to pass the class in order to stay in the University (political correctness prevents me from profiling his remedial class's make-up into the one ethnic group that it has completely and only been the previous 11 years).

The comments on the student evals in these classes for our prof friend are always about 40% in the "excellent teacher, he helped me range". The remainder are always full of unbelievably bad grammar(this is an English class, for goodness sake)and unintentionally humorous comments.
The sad part is that the majority of the discontented unleash anger at the teacher in their comments for:
a) not understanding the students' original language better and insisting on conducting the English class in English.
B) obviously not caring about the plight of those who could be kicked out of the University if they can't pass by their third taking.

The University of California: We'll lower the standards until we can get the job done!

P.S. Among my favorite responses (our friend lets me write down my favorites)is the one below. This is exactly what was on the paper. Again - this person was let into the University of California in the first place - taking someone else's spot:

He (prof -------)was mo afective at alll. This is my third tim. Not good

Sloanasaurus said...

Socrates served in the military and in combat. How can modern day professors even relate to that.

Elizabeth said...

Socrates wore a toga. How can modern day professors even relate to that?

Sloan, I suppose in your question you're excluding the modern day professors who have served in the military, perhaps in combat?

And just for the hell of it, what on earth is your point?

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Wonderful post. Great comment by B.

John Kindley said...

"I spend serious money for my education and I need something I can use in the real world, not some b.s. about shadows and imaginary trolls who live in caves."

I was a philosophy undergrad and have an appreciation of learnin' for learnin's sake (my senior thesis was on "The Metaphysical Nature and Cause of Moral Evil" -- hint, it's caused by the "non-consideration of the rule"). When it comes to law school, however, the clincher is that students are required by the government to obtain a three-year J.D. if they want to practice law, and so the hypothetical criticism of "Socrates" above can be an eminently valid one. Even so, when I was in law school I would have liked to have written a thesis comparing and contrasting natural law jurisprudence, textualism, and constitutional evolutionism, which would not have been the most "practical" of topics for everyday practice. I also chose of my own volition to take some more "philosophical" law school courses, though in retrospect I probably should have taken a tax course instead (the demands of other law school obligations had something to do with this decision to take what I thought would be the less burdensome course).

The point I guess is that law school has a particular, special obligation to be very practical in its requirements (just as M.B.A., engineering, and medical programs do). UW Law School does a good job of this with its clinical programs. Within the special obligation of the law school to make its core requirements of direct practical benefit to students, there is room for students of their own volition to pursue legal interests that may be more philosophical or more practical. Encouraging or allowing all students to submit law review-submissible "theses" for academic credit would seem to be a step in the right direction.

Fen said...

The sad part is that the majority of the discontented unleash anger at the teacher in their comments for:
a) not understanding the students' original language better and insisting on conducting the English class in English.
B) obviously not caring about the plight of those who could be kicked out of the University if they can't pass by their third taking.


I noticed something similar in a remedial math course I was a TA for. AA Students promoted to 2d tier school they weren't qualified to attend.

Fen said...

I suppose in your question you're excluding the modern day professors who have served in the military, perhaps in combat?

Can you name them?

Ron said...

You have to wonder what scut work for his advisor Socrates had to perform to get tenure!

tiggeril said...

Being Socrates' TA must have been horrible.

Beth said...

Can you name them?

What an odd question, as if there are, in all the universities across this nation, only a small list of names of veterans who now teach in universities.

I have colleagues who served in WWII (most of those are now emeritus), Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Eastern Europe, you name it. The ones I can think of off the top of my head are in English, Philosophy, History, Political Science, Business, and Engineering. And that's only people I've had the opportunity to work with personally or had reason to look at their CV.

I guess some conservatives think it's funny to stereotype academics as sissy Marxists, but their inclination to do so doesn't make it so, or funny for that matter.

Peter Palladas said...

I blame Plato. Always happens - star pupil sets out oh so subtly to diss his esteemed teacher.

Bet Ann gets that all the time: "Oh that Althouse woman, always so variable in her opinions" said Supreme Justice X on the day of his inauguration; "Never learnt a thing" says Y, head of chambers [what we call them] of second most successful constitutional law firm in the country...etc., etc.

Modern Socratic Method in practice:

"Kill the bear, why not?" says German nutter.

"You kidding me?" responds Socrates.

"You wanna a drink of this yeah?"

"Bitte?"

"Darn right it is!"

...usw

Fen said...

I guess some conservatives think it's funny to stereotype academics as sissy Marxists, but their inclination to do so doesn't make it so, or funny for that matter.

Its a fair question. Its so difficult to find a conservative in academia these days, so I imagined the vets you were speaking of were also token.

John Kindley said...

Peter Palladas said...

"I blame Plato. Always happens - star pupil sets out oh so subtly to diss his esteemed teacher.
Bet Ann gets that all the time"

Ann, as I recall, was an excellent and lucid professor, though I would probably be better qualified to say that if I had been a better pupil and attended her 8 a.m. class more often. John Kidwell stands out as another favorite.

But I stand by my remarks on this thread and others that in general law school and law school professors should re-focus.

tjl said...

Socrates' partygoing habits, as described in the "Symposium," were enough to earn him a dose of hemlock from any modern academic committee. Imagine their outraged reaction on reading Plato's report that Socrates slept off that philosophic drinking party on the same couch with his most attractive student.

Beth said...

Its so difficult to find a conservative in academia these days

No, it isn't. Unless you're very narrow in your definition of academia and don't include the thousands of state universities and community colleges throughout the nation. It's even less difficult to find people in academia who simply do a fine job teaching their subject and whose politics aren't a major factor in their work.

Roger said...

I was a Viet Nam vet and assistant professor of public administration at a small liberal arts college in Washington State for 17 years before I moved on to public health.

Steven said...

During my first several years at my current job one colleague was a combat veteran of the first Gulf War and the other served in the military, I think during the Korean War era, but I do not recall if he saw combat ( my guess is no). The department was Political Science.

I know of several other veterans at my university.

bill said...

There's the excellent I.F. Stone book The Trial of Socrates, (1988). Or you can read this 1979 New York Times Magazine Interview with him. A couple from the Q&A:

How do you account for his condemnation?
I believe the case against Socrates was political and that the charge of corrupting the youth was based on a belief – and considerable evidence – that he was undermining their faith in Athenian democracy.

How do you account for the deep and enduring prejudice against Socrates in his native city?
To understand this, one must touch on a damaging fact few historians have explained, or even mentioned, so great is the reverence for Socrates: Socrates remained in the city all through the dictatorship of the Thirty Tyrants.

Why do you put that in italics?
Because that single fact must have accounted more than any other for the prejudice against Socrates when the democracy was restored. The thirty Tyrants ruled only about eight months, but it was a time of terror. In that period they executed 1,500 Athenians and banished 5,000, one-tenth or more of the total population of men, women, children and slaves.
When the Thirty Tyrants took power, they murdered or drove out of the city all who were of the democratic party. A few months later, the moderates who had originally supported the Thirty Tyrants began to flee, especially after Critias murdered their leader, Theramenes. He, who had been one of the original Thirty Tyrants, was executed without a trial when he began to criticize the Thirty Tyrants for their brutality.

Socrates was neither exiled with the democrats nor forced to flee with the moderate oppositionists. He did not suffer at the hands of the thirty Tyrants unlike his chief accuser, Anytus, who lost much of his property when he fled and joined the fight to free the city. Socrates, in Plato’s "Apology," calls himself "the gadfly" of Athens, but it seems his sting was not much in evidence when Athens needed it most.

So what conclusion do you draw?
When Xenophon discusses the charge that Socrates used certain passage from Homer and other poets to teach his pupils to be lawbreakers and tyrannical, he had to be referring to teachings which continued after the restoration of the democracy. Athens felt that Socrates was still inculcating disrespect for its democratic institutions, and feared an attempt to overthrow the democracy again.

Do you think this justified the condemnation of Socrates?
No. the 510-man jury itself was deeply troubled and reached its verdict of guilty only by a narrow margin. But these fresh insights give us a glimpse of the political realities and extenuating circumstances which Plato, who hated democracy, did his best to hide – and which his "Apology" has so successfully obscured for 2,500 years.

ShadyCharacter said...

Yeah, those faculty lounges are just crawling with vets like a VFW hall. Every other professor is a WWII flying ace former POW...

Of course the reality is that in past generations you had a strong cross-over between the military and all branches of civilian life (including the academy), especially following WWII and the GI Bill. This is undeniably not the case today, when your average grad student (tomorrow's professors) are about as likely to have served in the military as an NBA player is to have grown up among the pygmies... That's not to say there are no exceptions, but generally I don't think anyone would argue in good faith against this point (though I have no trouble imagining arguments being made regardless...).

The defensiveness of Beth and a couple of others on this point sure sounds a lot like "some of my best friends are ________"

Sloanasaurus said...

Elizabeth said: And just for the hell of it, what on earth is your point?

No point really, I just think it is an interesting observation considering that the standard view of Socrates is a fragile guy in a Toga. I wonder if he was scared of the Spartans or if he thought they were going to win....

On the military front, I don't believe many colleges today have classes on military history. Too bad. There is much more to learn about how humans react to stressful situations from military history than most other subjects.

Maxine Weiss said...

It was the hairdo.

All of the really successful teachers put some variety into their hairdos. A new extensive hairdo creation each day of class.

Teaching is about entertaining, and the hair, makeup, and costuming is paramount.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

Teaching is performance art. It's theater.

A bunch of failed actors. Didn't quite make it to Broadway, so a stage of a different sort.

Peace, Maxine

Elizabeth said...

I just noticed the shift in topic: Sloan referred to veterans being scarce in academia, Fen changed that to conservatives. More simple-minded assumptions from the right: military service equals conservatism. Now, apparently one is either a vet or a mincing little figure in a toga. Yawn.

Sloan, you don't have to just "believe" that military history isn't taught. You can investigate it, and either confirm or refute your belief. But your believing it means very little to me.

Fen said...

Beth: More simple-minded assumptions from the right: military service equals conservatism.

I never said such a thing. I merely noted that academia is hostile to both.

shady: The defensiveness of Beth and a couple of others on this point sure sounds a lot like "some of my best friends are ________"

Indeed. Their over-reaction is odd.

Revenant said...

The I.F. Stone book on Socrates sounds interesting. I'll have to add it to my Amazon list.

delagar said...

Calling Fen on his ignorance is over-reaction. That's interesting.

From Inwood said...

Beth said

“I guess some conservatives think it's funny to stereotype academics as sissy Marxists, but their inclination to do so doesn't make it so, or funny for that matter.”

If I may be allowed to guess, I’d guess some academics think it's funny to stereotype conservatives as over-testosteroned, mean spirited, gun-toting, war-mongering, anti-environment, laisser-faire capitalists, but their inclination to do so doesn't make it so, or funny for that matter. Or make for serious larnin’.

Fen said...

Calling Fen on his ignorance is over-reaction. That's interesting.

No, the over-reaction was to Sloan's throwaway comment at 11:03

Please try to keep up.

Elizabeth said...

Notice the level of discourse here: make overstatements and a big show of bravely slaying strawmen, then say "Aha! You're defensive! I really hit you where it counts" when someone calmly and clearly points out how lame your statements are. Thanks for a bit of levity in my evening; I love an oldie but goodie.

Sloanasaurus said...

Sloan, you don't have to just "believe" that military history isn't taught. You can investigate it, and either confirm or refute your belief. But your believing it means very little to me.

Good Point Elizabeth. I KNOW that military history is not being taught at Wisconsin at least. I recall an article a few years ago about Stephan Ambrose. It was interesting because I went to some of the classes Ambrose taught while I was in Law School.

Wait, here is the article.

I am biased of course, being a sucker for military history.

Fen said...

Elizabeth: Notice the level of discourse here: make overstatements and a big show of bravely slaying strawmen, then say "Aha! You're defensive!

Level of discourse? Sloan made a harmless remark and you went all apeshit over it, even hijacked the thread to "correct" him. What gives? Why are you so touchy about vets in academia?

Thanks for a bit of levity in my evening; I love an oldie but goodie.

No prob. You obviously needed some levity...

From Inwood said...

Sloan

Why do so many liberals seem so spoiled when it comes to discoursing in Blogdom? Is it me or do they really try to get away with statements which can be checked on the internet immediately as you did with Elizabeth?

(1) They're spoiled, being used to relying on the NYT for all their info & they don't realize that some others have a broader scope & will search for the truth. Of course, a truth is not a truth until the NYT reports it, so Elizabeth has us there, I guess.

(2) They don't realize that one no longer has to sputter when they, the Liberals, make a statement. That one can, rather, come up with evidence instantaneously on the net. Again, a truth is not a truth until the NYT reports it, so Elizabeth has us there also, I guess.

(3) They still feel safe in discounting any source other than the NYT. Here you cite the National Review, gasp, & since Liberals are subject to the False Consensus effect, a/k/a the Pauline Kael effect, they don't know anybody who would rely on NR.

(4) Even though you have immediately come up with an example of "here we no teach Mil Hist" she does not have to come up with any examples of "here we teach Mil Hist", because, well, because.

(5) You're just "mak[ing] overstatements and a big show of bravely slaying strawmen, then say[ing] ‘Aha! [Liberal site hijacker]You're defensive!’ ”

(6) You’re just a hateful, over-testosteroned, mean spirited, gun-toting, war-mongering, anti-environment, laisser-faire capitalist.

Anxious Conservative

Elliott said...

396 Military History of the United States. 3-4 cr. The founding and growth of the military establishment, the exercise of the military art, and military policies treated in connection with relevant political, social, and economic factors. P: So st.

UW's catalog is available on the Internet.

From Inwood said...

Eliott

The Nat Rev article from last year cited by Sloan is au courant in that according to the U Wisc Online official site, its Ambrose chair-to-be remains vacant. Even at this late date the job offer is still open & the course in the 600 area is listed as tentative. Your showing that Sloan went too far in claiming that Wisc had literally no Mil Hist courses, is a nynnh, nynnh, nynnh, & it’s Sloan’s Bad for not checking the U Wisc catalog, which is easily accessible on the web, but it’s not a refutation of Sloan’s main point [admittedly a sidebar to this thread] which is that

“On the military front, [he doesn’t] believe many colleges today have classes on military history. Too bad.”

And when Elizabeth challenged him, saying that what he believed was not important, perhaps, um, believing that he could not back up his belief since he does not have the time or the resources to prove what he said, he went to the web & found a Nat Rev article chock full of facts to bolster his belief. Elizabeth now has the choices I set forth in my e-mail & it’s no longer his belief against her belief.

And I stand by my e-mail [a sidebar within a sidebar]. Before the net, Liberals had it made: they cited the NYT & there was no place for anyone who doubted to go immediately to refute them; and when later some conservative publication debunked the NYT, Liberals got to say “What? That’s old stuff. We’re past that issue. Now let us tell you about….”

Of course, they still pull the Pauline Kael stuff…

And when you get a chance to stop patting yourself on the back, you might think about what the Nat Rev had this to say about why the Ambrose chair is open,:

“There may be another factor as well: Wisconsin doesn’t actually want a military historian on its faculty. It hasn’t had one since 1992, when Edward M. Coffman retired. ‘His survey course on U.S. military history used to overflow with students,’ says Richard Zeitlin, one of Coffman’s former graduate teaching assistants. ‘It was one of the most popular courses on campus.’ Since Coffman left, however, it has been taught only a couple of times, and never by a member of the permanent faculty.”


PS Personal story: I took a course in U.S. Mil Hist in college as part of the ROTC program. The Prof was an Army Lt. who was listed as a prof. of “Military Science” & who taught only that one history course, among other Army courses. He was not a member of the College’s History Dept, nor do I think that he ever was invited into their meetings or bull sessions. The University did not, so far as I know, ever offer the course to any non-ROTC guys. He was great & I enjoyed the course. But non ROTC History majors (& possibly ROTC History majors) sneered at me when I told ‘em that.

Elliott said...

No, my proving that Sloan spouts off without knowing his facts is not irrelevant nor is the fact that Ambrose was a prolific plagiarist irrelevant to the fact that his chair is empty.

From Inwood said...

Elliott

Now we're arguing a double negative? Or, not to be lost on a lower level of discourse, we’re in Litotes land.

I know that you are not so modest as not to be seeking irony points!

OK, I know that I am not unskilled in the art of public discourse, but I do not think that we cannot agree that it is probably not possible for anyone to prove that something is not "not irrelevant". Or, for that matter, not "not irresistible".

So?

Beth said...

Inwood,

I don't read the NYT. You sure use a lot of words to say the same thing over and over; repeating yourself floridly doesn't improve your point. I can google "syllabus military history" and come up with dozens of pages of references to courses in military history at universities around the country. That doesn't mean the discipline is less robust than it has been, but it isn't ignored.

Sloan, while I was terribly disappointed by Ambrose's plagiarism, I still respect him. He taught at my university for many years, helped found our Eisenhower Center for American Studies, which houses oral histories of WWII vets, and was instrumental in founding the D-Day Museum, now expanded and called the WWII Museum, in New Orleans. I hope you make time for a trip to New Orleans someday, and plan a day or two for that museum. Check out the Higgins crafts that landed our troops at Normandy. They were designed and manufactured here, and tested out on the lakefront my office overlooks.

Beth said...

that should read "isn't less robust"

Beth said...

Huh. I just re-read my comment above that ends "the lakefront my office overlooks."

I'm a low-ranking, non-tenure track English instructor and part-time administrator. I don't make a lot of money. But recently, I've acquired an office that overlooks a lovely lake. When a storm comes through, I can watch it approach over the water until it smacks against the full length windows. On nice days, I watch students playing soccer and hackey sack on the quad that stretches out from my building toward the lake. The other day, during Einstein week, Engineering students set up a trebuchet and I could watch from above as they competed tossing chunks of dry ice across the quad. Life is pretty sweet.

Sorry to change the subject, but I'm learning to make time to appreciate what I have.

From Inwood said...

Beth

I, knowing that I am not unskilled in the art of public discourse
(&, I suspect, Sloan), would still not want to argue with your Litotes to the effect that

"This doesn't mean that the discipline isn't less robust than it has been, but it isn't ignored".

Maybe that's because, unless I’m striving for irony or false modesty as in my previous sentence, I prefer to “put statements in positive form". See Strunk and White, "The Elements of Style", 3d ed, at p 19.

Regards

Beth said...

Inwood, where in your travels have you come across the notion that it's a good thing to nitpick other people's use of rhetorical devices on a blog comment thread? My meaning was clear, so your editing is superfluous. But thanks, I'm getting a picture of you now, and I realize I'm dealing with a bit of an eccentric. I'll make allowances for that from now on.