Typical passage from a paper WSJ writer Joseph Rago wrote for lit-crit course. The subject: MTV's "Pimp My Ride." The grade: A. But "Pimp My Ride" is a text of inescapable complexity that undermines and subverts received notions of what constitutes a ride!
Rago rags on Priya Venkatesan — who is supposedly going to sue somebody she's holding responsible for the "hostile working environment" she encountered as an English teacher at Dartmouth College.
"The remarkable thing about the Venkatesan affair, to me, is that her students cared enough to argue," Rago says. Why bother? It's so much easier — and more deviously useful — to figure out what the teacher wants and give it to her — keeping any contempt that you have to yourself.
Now, there's arguing and there's arguing. It's so easy to laugh at Venkatesan — especially when she threatens to sue. But there is a kind of disrespect that can be very wrong in the classroom and that is not about arguing with the ideas. And it can come from race or sex-based hostility to a teacher. So I'd like to hear how the students argued with her. A good teacher should want debate, and it's disrespectful to the students to squelch it.
Rago rests heavily on the notion that lit-crit analysis is stupid and pointless. Why take the course then? If your school offers it and you take it, you can't appropriate the classroom for your destructive antics. I don't know exactly what the students did. Venkatesan seems like an unsympathetic, litigious whiner who's been demanding that students hold still while she indoctrinates them. Because she's suing, she makes it very hard for us to want to try to see it from her point of view.