Tag Archives: Literature

Friday night movie: Moby Dick (1956)

Here’s tonight’s movie:

IMDB rating: [7.4/10]


This classic story by Herman Melville revolves around Captain Ahab and his obsession with a huge whale, Moby Dick. The whale caused the loss of Ahab’s leg years before, leaving Ahab to stomp the boards of his ship on a peg leg. Ahab is so crazed by his desire to kill the whale, that he is prepared to sacrifice everything, including his life, the lives of his crew members, and even his ship to find and destroy his nemesis, Moby Dick.

If you’re interested in reading about the real Ahab in the Bible, you can find it in 1 Kings 16:29 to 1 Kings 20:43.

Happy Friday!

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English professor decries the radicalization of the liberal arts on campus

From Pajamas Media, a post by a Canadian English professor at the University of Ottawa.


When I finally landed a tenure-track position at a Canadian university, I was ecstatic and full of hope — exhilarated by the opportunity to teach students about literature and ideas and to have conversations with colleagues equally in love with literature and ideas. I didn’t realize that my experience as a university teacher of English would have much less to do with these passions than with the distortion of the university’s core mission in the name of pedagogical and political orthodoxy.

To begin with, the student writing that came across my desk left me aghast. I had taught before, but I was unprepared for the level of illiteracy, the stunted vocabularies, near-complete absence of historical knowledge, and above all the extraordinary apathy of many English majors. The most basic of expression rules — the difference between it’s and its, the incorrectness of “would of” for “would have,” the role of the apostrophe or semi-colon, the fact that “a lot” was two words — were beyond the grasp of the majority, no matter how often I reviewed grammar or devised mnemonic devices. And the sheer sloppiness and muddled thinking in the essays, where the titles of poems and authors’ names were frequently misspelled and dates were wildly inaccurate, suggested a fundamental indifference to the subject matter.

Not only was my students’ writing appalling, but I soon encountered their resentment at being told about it. “Who are you to tell me I can’t write?” was the attitude — once expressed in those very words. More than one student insisted that her other teachers had always rewarded her with high marks for her “creativity.” Most believed themselves more than competent. After sitting with one young woman explaining the cause of her failing grade, I was befuddled when her only response was a sullen: “This doesn’t exactly make me feel good.” When I responded that my job was not to make her feel good, she stood haughtily, picked up her paper with an air of injury, and left my office without another word. In her mind, I later realized, I had been unforgivably cruel.

I was up against it: the attitude of entitlement rampant amongst university students and nurtured by the utopian ideology that permeates modern pedagogy, in which the imposition of rules and identification of errors are thought to limit student creativity and the fostering of a hollow self-esteem takes precedence over the building of skills on which genuine self-respect might be established. In the Humanities subjects in particular — and in English especially, the discipline I know best — such a philosophy has led to a perilous watering down of course content, with self-validation seen as more important than the mastery of specific knowledge.

With this philosophy has come a steady grade inflation. The majority of students in English courses today can expect a B grade or higher merely for warming a seat and handing in assignments on time. The result, as I soon discovered, was a generation of students so accustomed to being praised for their work that when I told them it was inadequate, they simply could not or would not believe me. They seemed very nearly unteachable: lacking not only the essential skills but also the personal gumption to respond adequately to criticism.

I wonder what will happen when these students find out that the jobs they feel they are entitled to have have been shipped off to some country where young people don’t have all of this attitude, and where business owners pay a corporate tax rate less than half of what American businesses pay. My guess is that they will blame the very capitalists who warned them not to do what they did.

What should you study to prepare yourself for a career?

Here’s an interesting post from the Chapman Kids blog. The father is a software engineer like me, and he’s serious and intentional about how he is leading his children.

In a recent post, he talks about one of the adventures that the two kids are having with a community college professor of English writing. The post is entitled “Continued conversation with the kid’s commie teacher”.

He writes:

As many already know, Kelly and Christian take a “writing” class at the community college where the dear leader of the class lectures on the evils of all things Christian, the beauty of communism and atheism, and the righteousness of drug legalization and abortion.  Today’s topic was Christianity.

[…]At the point when he made the claim that Adam and Eve could not have existed because of the scientific evidence for evolution, Christian raised his hand and said, “There is just as much scientific evidence against macroevolution as there is for it.”

“You don’t believe in evolution!” exclaimed the professor incredulously with a look of disdain and horror.

“We DO believe in microevolution.  It is grossly arrogant for you NOT to question your own beliefs when it comes to evolution” said Kelly.  “That is what you are demanding from us.”

The professor said, “Evolution is established scientific fact” and used several of the standard canards (fossil record, etc.) to establish his point.

Then they were off to the races.  Fortunately, during homeschool, Christian and Kelly had read books like The Victory of Reason:  How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark, Understanding Intelligent Design:  Everything You Need to Know in Plain Language by William Dembski and Sean McDowell, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl, and Intellectuals by Paul Johnson.  The professor was armed with shibboleths about the truth of macroevolution and quotes from John Shelby Spong about the virgin birth.  John Shelby Spong!?!!  You have to be WILDLY out of touch with both current scholarship and reality if you quote John Shelby Spong about virtually anything.  He quotes the likes of losers like Noam Chomsky and Bertrand Russell, too.

I tweeted Kelly a link to the William Lane Craig vs John Shelby Spong. Here is part 1 and part 2 of that debate on Youtube. It’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it before.

Mr. Chapman continues his post:

It is frustrating.  Here is a writing a professor who fervently believes he is making students question their beliefs through these profoundly silly arguments.  The subject matter is objectionable, but this guy’s incompetence is even more objectionable.  He does not appear to understand the difference between scientific method and historic method (very important in discussion of the resurrection).  Neither does he understand that it is impossible to argue for the primacy of scientific method without consideration of its philosophical underpinings.  I guess I should be grateful he is incompetent with respect to his arguments–he does nothing to get the kids to question their faith or worldview.  Still, a lot of taxpayer money is wasted on professors like this throughout the land.

Well, the kids have to learn how to write, but I think it is important to note English classes are especially politicized. There is an awful lot of ideology in English classes, because that’s the easiest place for people who want to teach to go if they want to avoid being corrected by real life. In English, and other similar areas, it’s easier for a teacher to go on and on about their ideas without have to test them against the real world. It’s the easiest subject for teachers to force students to agree with your ideology without allowing them to be able to bring in facts to disagree. Basically, a secular lefty teacher can always find literature (usually modern literature, blech!) that casts Christians as brutes, Christian moral standards as outdated and harmful, and non-Christian behavior as praiseworthy. Because literature is necessarily made-up – it’s just opinion.

Even someone like me who gets courting and chivalry guidance from Shakespeare and Austen is cautious about taking courses in literature. Plus, you can can get into a lot of trouble for disagreeing with the teacher. I took English electives during my undergraduate degree and they do grade you on your viewpoint, something which is much harder for them to do in math, science, physics, chemistry, etc.

Another post from Mr. Chapman discusses how children should study STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics, even if those children intend to work in a non-STEM field.

He writes:

I found a great article in the Wall Street Journal this morning titled Generation Jobless:  Students Pick Easier Majors Despite Less Pay.  It had some startling statistics:

Workers who majored in psychology have median earnings that are $38,000 below those of computer engineering majors, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Georgetown University.

Wow.  The article tells a story about a student who switched from Electrical and Computer Engineering because her team stayed up past midnight in a lab to write a soda machine program.  They could not get it to work, so to keep from getting a bad grade, she withdrew from the course.  Then she switched from engineering to a double major in psychology and policy management.  Her grades went from B’s and C’s to A’s.  She said her high school did not prepare her for the rigor of an engineering degree.

So the upshot is that she is willing to work in a low-paying career for the rest of her life because she was unwilling to do what was necessary to pass a few hard classes.  I have had this discussion with people before.  If you cannot handle a specifc course, you can do a TON of things to make it happen. You can get a tutor.  You can take the class two or even three times if needed.  You can take a more remedial course, then try the tough one again.  Is it worth it to go to school for a year or two more to do something you like and that pays well for the next forty or fifty year?  It seems like a no brainer.

The crazy part is that even for those who want to do less technical jobs, it is best to prepare for that non-technical job with a hard degree.

Research has shown that graduating with these majors provides a good foundation not just for so-called STEM jobs, or those in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, but a whole range of industries where earnings expectations are high. Business, finance and consulting firms, as well as most health-care professions, are keen to hire those who bring quantitative skills and can help them stay competitive.

We joked about this quite a bit, but I wanted to get it into the kids head that, if they went to college (not necessarily a given–preparation for many careers–pilot, electrician, writer, and small business owner are monumentally better served through some type of preparation other than college), they could study their passion, but they needed to start with a rigorous degree.  We defined rigorous as anything that involves hard math.  The use of hard math and statistics is creating new breakthroughs in a lot of fields right now:  medicine, agriculture, sociology, etc., etc. etc.

I agree with Mr. Chapman. And I think that he is definitely going to raise successful, influential Christians, because he and the children are well prepared and engaged. He has a great relationship with his kids. They are definitely more advanced than I was when I was their age. It’s encouraging to me to see a Christian Dad who is focused and purposeful about having solid relationships with his kids, and preparing them for the dangerous world they are entering as adults. I think it’s important to admire the people who are getting it right (the parents and the kids together) and learn from their successes. I like that he is still involved with what his children are learning even after they are finished with high school.

I really do think that engineers make the best husbands and fathers. Engineers learn how to gather requirements, evaluate alternative solutions, and then implement. Engineers care about designing to support expandability, maintenance, security and unexpected emergencies. They are easy to argue with, because they believe in logic and evidence. They are pragmatic – they make decisions based on what works, not what sounds good or feels good. Good engineers also have training in project management, budgeting, leadership and resource management, too. The best engineers are the entrepreneurs, who understand business, economics, business law and politics. It really is an ideal skill set for marriage and parenting. Engineers try to build things, and those building skills can be re-used to build a family.