Just a thought

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Fri Jul 12 13:27:32 MDT 2002

>When you start to look at the quantitative picture like that, it seems
>rather silly and puberal to denounce Anderson or Brenner for their
>lecturing ability. Anybody who is seriously interested in the growth of
>American socialism would presumably argue we need more Andersons and more
>Brenners, and for that purpose denouncing them is not going to help !
>Just a thought,

Nobody is "denouncing" Brenner or Anderson. I thought that the student
ratings were funny. Just like Albion Urdank's smelly dogs. They have the
same thing at Columbia. I may have crossposted some disrespectful views on
Gayatri Spivak here--I can't remember.  In contrast to the rarefied world
of New Left Review and Verso books, the rude, misspelled comments of
undergraduates bring these kinds of people down to earth. Furthermore, I
honestly don't care if somebody is a good teacher or not. My beef with
Anderson and Brenner is over Marxist theory not whether they inspire
students or not. The best teacher I ever had in my life was Heinrich
Blucher, who was Mr. Hannah Arendt. From him, I learned to distrust
Marxists. Great. For my views on Brenner, go to:

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

Response (Jim C): On the one hand I agree with Mark Lause that student
evaluations should come after completion of a course and should be done by
those actually present; often student evals are a form of "payback" by
losers and ideologues who can't handle the action in the course and also
can't have their own self-inflated egos and deficiencies exposed by being
required to actually perform or go beyond sitting around and waxing
philosophical or reading only what they feel like reading.

But, on the other hand, there are also student evals that are very fair,
measured and useful; there are also "teachers" who are not that at all and
shouldn't be teaching. Some of what was written in the book "Profscam" was
quite true: insulated arrogance of some academics; publish-or-perish
(esoteric, narcissistic and irrelevant shit) and teaching as some kind of
interlude between the faculty club and the next sabbatical; testing
modalities that are entirely subjective and are designed to preserve the
power of the prof and perhaps even elicit opinions or responses in line with
the prof's proclivities; grad students doing the lion's share of research
appropriated by the profs with grad students getting a mention as a footnote
somewhere; courses, course titles, designed and marketed under one label
winding up to being renditions of the prof's favorite subjects and sources
and/or being used to advance research interests of the prof; profs leaving
the "basic" courses to grad students or part-timers while those with fewer
students dealing with more esoteric stuff reserved for the elites profs;
ideological tests and networking critical in hiring and tenure decisions;
etc etc.

And in all of these abuses I have seen so-called leftist profs involved
along with the right-wingers. To be a Marxist means a burning desire not
only against capitalism but FOR serious radical change; this means a desire
to be relevant and effective. Marxists in academia, therefore, should care
very much about their effectiveness and the quality of their teaching--if
for no other reason than not to become like all the arrogant, abusive and
elitist assholes they had to endure as students. It is not enough to do
"quality research" with teaching as some kind of sideline; teaching is often
where the real action is.


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