Thursday, May 8, 2008

World Science Festival

Since ancient times, men of learning (like the ones who gathered at last night’s congestion pricing debate) have recognized that to be well-rounded, one should know not only the ways of the Time Trapper and the Sith but also the laws of the natural world.

Toward that end, New York City will be overrun in three weeks by the 2008 World Science Festival, something well worth investigating if you want some highbrow fun from May 28-June 1 (though I’m thinking I may spend the entire final day of May watching Star Wars Episodes III-VI — count carefully, and you’ll know I’m right — plus rewatching this month’s major geek films and rereading Final Crisis #1).

My coworkers at the American Council on Science and Health are the sort of folk who also might attend the Science Festival, when they can take time away from maintaining HealthFactsAndFears, TheScooponSmoking, and the dread Riskometer, of course. I’m not sure any of them know who the Time Trapper is, though — not even our youngest staffers, Krystal, Krystal, and Crysthal (no joking, and the staff only has thirteen people) — which is why they need me.

But more about ACSH in tomorrow’s Retro-Journal entry, which will discuss the epochal turning point that was early 2002.

In the meantime, here’s a reminder from Reason about where deconstructionism and feminism — one a philosophy that denies the possibility of objective, scientific facts, the other a philosophy that merely denies certain specific facts — lead: to the greatest story in the history of the world about anything ever since the dawn of time.


DG said...

First, your description of the Dartmouth professor suing her students understates the journalistic importance of this story.

Second, especially because this is a story that involves discussion of the indeterminacy of interpretation, I would be interested in your evaluation of her claims about the meaning of the film title “Gattaca” in the interview immediately below.

PV: She was probably the most abrasive, the most offensive, the most disruptive student. She ruined that class. She ruined it. She ruined it. That class actually had a lot of potential, there were some really bright kids there, but every time she would do a number of things that were very inappropriate. For instance, I had basically gotten a hold of Blackboard technology, but I was making some mistakes too because I was new to the system, and every time that some link was wrong or some link wasn’t set up right, [girl x] in the beginning of class would point this out to everybody. Then what happened was, I was lecturing on morals and ethics and she just gave me this horrible look, and I was pretty disturbed. I just said what is going on here? The problem with [girl x] is that she can’t take criticism. She can’t take the fact that there is something wrong with her work. Now, some people are like that, a lot of people are like that, unable to take criticism, but the fact of the matter is that I have the PhD in literature, I make the assessment if someone has talent for philosophy, literary theory, and literary criticism. A student might say, well, the hell with you I’m still going to become a literary critic, I had to do that, there were people who criticized me while I was a student, you’re not a good writer or whatever, but I said well I’m still going to go ahead with my goals, but I never made any personal attacks on them or made life difficult for them or was rude to them. I just did the socially acceptable way of dealing with criticism, and [girl x] is the kind of student who does not know the socially acceptable way of dealing with criticism. She thinks the way to go about doing it is to go to my superior or to try to undermine my ability to teach the class. One of the things that she did, this is also really interesting, was that she would always ask me how to spell things. That was her thing. She would say how to do you spell this? How to you spell that? I mean—what am I supposed to do?—so I would tell her. One time Tom Cormen was sitting in the class, and she asked me, how many T’s are in Gattaca. This was the kind of question she was asking, “how many T’s are in Gattaca?,” and I was about to answer her and Tom Cormen pre-empted me, “two t’s.” I’ll leave you to interpret it.

TDR: No. No, I don’t understand that.

PV: I have to tell you: it means tenure track.

TDR: Oh, okay.

PV: Because I wasn’t tenured track.

TDR: Oh, okay, yes.

PV: They were trying to intimate that I wasn’t ready for tenure track.

TDR: Yes, okay, I didn’t realize that’s what that meant.

PV: I’m kind of making this leap because this is the kind of subversiveness that was going on in that environment. That [girl x] would ask how many t’s are in Gattaca and that Tom Cormen would respond, “two T’s” as if I had no grasp on tenure track. ..but with [girl x], something’s going on with her. I’m not a doctor, but she’s not all there.

Todd Seavey said...

Sadly, I must reluctantly conclude the poor woman probably suffers from some sort of paranoid schizophrenia if she’s reading so much into two letters — and paranoid schizophrenia + deconstructionism is a volatile combo, alas.

dave said...

I’d like to know how old this professor is. It just sound to me like ‘Millenium generation gone wild’. Instead of, a reasonable reaction of “this woman’s a bit inexperienced, let’s get her a mentor to handle difficult students”, somehow or other this is in the public light.

She says,”the fact of the matter is that I have the PhD in literature,” not, “I have 30 years experience teaching class…” or anything implying she’s made it out of her 20s yet.

I guess it’s what goes around comes around that she has no older professors with whom she has a respectful enough relationship to seek counsel.