Acute Losses of Self Control (and Blood Splatter)

This morning as I was teaching I sneezed and blood sprayed out of my nose and onto the whiteboard. Not just a little, a good amount. As I turned around there was collective horror and snickering so I quickly retorted “Sorry I was up all night snorting prescription drugs.” Then a nice student gave me some tissues to mop up the blood, but really, it just sort of created a large splatch of red on the board.

It’s nearing the end of the semester and it’s around now that I generally lose all powers of self control that I pretend to have reigned in otherwise. I sometimes vent my frustrations with students, I mostly ignore my colleagues (but mutter things to myself about how much I hate them when they walk by) and stop worrying about getting places on time (you know, like, um, meetings–for some reason I consistently get to class early). In fact, I have nicknames for most of my colleagues to help me remember them, but they are completely offensive and mean. For instance: I secretly call one of my colleagues “bare anus.” Don’t ask. Oh, and my use of off color examples and deployment of curse words increases tenfold, but is Immodium AD really off color? Really, that’s in heavy rotation from the start of the semester actually beginning with Euthyphro.

I was teaching Spinoza the other day, which by the way is causing some of the students all sorts of problems (did I learn nothing from the Leibniz debacle of ’07?), and one annoying know-it-all thinks he’s so smart starts trying to argue with me that Spinoza (and I) were wrong to think that he was actually providing deductive propositions at all. After a rather heated exchange in which I was defending Spinoza, his argument–at bottom–was that Spinoza doesn’t understand what science actually is so we should just not pay attention to anything he says. I like when students ask productive questions, but this was very unproductive so I politely indicated as much and attempted to move on. Yet, the students persists. At this point, the class is completely disrupted and I’m getting kind of annoyed. Then, here’s the kicker, the student actually accused me of being a fascist because I don’t allow for any kind of dissent. But really, the frustration driving this was that my students want to know my positions: “How can you defend each philosopher week after week?”


Here’s IT:

Groan, I think. Oh no, I’ve become a human being. Crap. They think I have a position on things. And it upsets some of them. Oh no! This is awful! I want to tell them that I couldn’t care less whether they believe in the God of Chips, or Buddhism or killing ducklings, or whatever. Christ, how wrong it is that I am on the other side of pedagogy, and how I should just quit and stroke leaves for a living or something, not that that would pay any money at all because that’s not actually a job, but something like that, maybe. Growl, and I think that what we think is teaching is not teaching at all but an intricate form of pointless crowd-control for crowds who don’t even need controlling, and that the resentment that students have is the general kind of resentment you get when you think that someone should know better than you but it turns out that they don’t and that they’re just as crap as you are, if not more crap, which is probably likely in the case of philosophy lecturers especially. And I feel bad, and I wish I were a hardcore Christian so that I would at least make some of my students a bit happy, if not the rest who would probably be unhappy anyway.

Delightfully precise! All my students just assume I “totally, like, hate God.”

Anyhow, back to the charge of fascism. I responded by saying my job isn’t to give you my positions on things, that indeed, I’m just a philosopher-machine trying to present the history of philosophy in a way to help you make sense of the texts and clarify your own positions about the texts. Groans. “You just spit back whatever philosopher we’re reading and then the next week you defend something that contradicts what we’ve studied exclaims my student. Ridiculous!”

I told the student that perhaps the fundamentalist Church service or even better, an Al-Qaeda training camp, would be a more comfortable and amenable place to hang out in, rather than the philosophy classroom. Much more single-minded in those parts…Very clear positions.

Like I said, losing self control (but it did allow me to move the discussion back to Spinoza). In fact, given some recent events, it’s probably not so great for me to post this here, but I can’t help myself.

7 thoughts on “Acute Losses of Self Control (and Blood Splatter)

  1. I do like the strategic location of the penguin’s knob, but otherwise what is with the giving away of personal details this morning? Next this you know, people will be recognizing us on the street…

    Shahar, it would be cool if the blood was blue, you know? You’d have to explain how you come from a long tradition of noblemen who became impoverished and were reduced to being simple university professors. Such a shame for the clan…

  2. I’m sure you’re an awesome teacher. Some of your students would tell you that, but they aren’t sure that “You’re awesome” is an appropriate thing to say.

    You kind of have to admire Al Qaeda for taking an explicit stance against Socrates, and philosophy in general. No doubt where they stand.

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