honor among profs and links to articles to read

Usually when I rant it’s about discourtesy, incompetence and lack of education I run across in people, But today I’m thinking about the idea of honor.

This comes about from reading “Honor Among Scholars” by Steven Kellman, The Chronicle Review, Oct 3, 2010. [link]

Although I haven’t finished the article yet, several sections have caused me to stop and think.

Kellman says that “.. [I]n Book 9 of The Republic, Plato has Socrates divide humanity into three classes: “lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, and lovers of gain.”

This immediately made me want to go back re-read The Republic. Previously I have a bad taste in my mouth because of Plato’s attitude toward music and other concepts in this work like developing entire classes of workers and soldiers to serve the Republic.

I figure I am mostly a lover of wisdom. But on reflection I think honor is also important to me. Gain, not so much.

Kellman goes on “In his new book, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (Norton, 2010), Kwame Anthony Appiah answers Falstaff’s question by defining honor as “an entitlement to respect.” An entitlement, to be sure, is not the same as respect itself

“One can conclude from Appiah’s definition that to be honorable is not to subordinate everything to reputation but rather to act so as to be worthy of respect, regardless of whether anyone actually grants it.

After reading this last sentence, I realized that I spend a great deal of my life attempting to be “worthy of respect” in my own eyes while at the same time noticing but trying not to take into account the fact that few people outside of my nuclear fam “actually grant it.”

I don’t exactly verbalize this way to myself. I think more that I do things for their own sake,whether that is being polite to people who are rude to me or sweating over preparation of music that will be largely ignored by people in the same room I perform. I try to be philosophical and stifle my own immature reaction when people do not “grant the respect” to me that I try to give them until they prove me wrong.

This relates to and leads to me often being underestimated in a time when people are much more concerned about appearances and perception than actual content and competence and education.

Lack of education in others arouses my compassion a bit because I think that I have witnessed a plummeting of the quality of education in the USA from bad to worse. Lack of competence is harder to forgive. But ultimately I work at trying to understand and mildly tolerate or at least be polite to  people who can’t function and/or seem to not understand me or even see that I am there.

As long as I don’t see them doing serious damage.

This is where honor comes in.

More Kellman: “While we are appalled but not shocked to find fraudulent bankers and deceitful politicians, disgraceful behavior within a university is especially distressing. It is a betrayal of the trust that is essential to a community of scholars.

Ah yes. The “community of scholars.” There’s actually a book by Paul Goodman by this title.

click on the book to go to Paul Goodman's Wikipedia article

Would that the reality come closer to this man’s vision. Instead in the many colleges and universities I have had contact with I am afraid the bad stuff often drowned out the good.

I hasten to add that the good for me was usually very good and has contributed to my abilities and my quality of life. Not a day passes that I don’t think in fondness and gratitude of some teachers I had in college. They taught me a great deal about music and also about how to live.

Ray Ferguson, a teacher who taught me a lot. Now deceased. RIP, dude.

But I also have watched professors act in a way that was embarrassing and unethical.

I have witnessed numerous incidents in the six colleges I have been associated with (four attended, two employed by).  Here are some succinct incidents with the names changed to protect the dishonorable.

A professor who humiliates his wife at a dinner with colleagues.

A professor who neglects to hand out student evals and mysteriously later is given tenure and even promoted to chair of the department.

A professor who openly hates other colleagues and works to undermine them.

A professor who professes tolerance even as he privately talks trash about the group whose repression he supposedly champions.

A professor who admitted to copying research for his published work in my presence.

If I wasn’t trying to disguise these a bit I could make them much more colorful. Indeed experiencing each of these incidents took my breath away as I witnessed the calumny.

And these are just the extreme cases.

I would imagine anyone who attends or works at a college for any length of time could probably tell similar stories.

I recommend reading the Kellman article linked above.  If you have much experience with college education it will probably provoke thought. I know it is doing this to me.

Besides the Kellman article, I have bookmarked several other online articles I plan to read.

Here’s a list of links.

Benjamin Franklin on American Happiness by Jerry Weinberger, City Journal 21 September 2010

This one’s self explanatory.

The Japan Syndrome – By Ethan Devine | Foreign Policy

This article is actually about China. Devine apparently contends that China is making the same mistakes that Japan made.

Larry Summers and the Subversion of Economics – The Chronicle

Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Summers at the heart of mistakes over and over and again.

‘The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy,’ reviewed by Michael Dirda

I bookmarked this to get a glimpse of the inner life of Sofia Tolstoy and how she deals with solitude.

Mao’s Little Helpers | Standpoint

Mao’s little helper appears to be Western Intellectuals. In fact he was also helped at points in his “revolution” by the US government and US officials.

All of these are drawn from the excellent Arts & Letters Daily web site [link]. Recommended.

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0 thoughts on “honor among profs and links to articles to read

  1. This is not new to me, but it does remind of the problem with people in academics. Some are better than others. I too, remember with fondness, some of my professors in college. I also, remember which ones to avoid due to their incompetence. That exists still today and it is very irritating to me to see the same kinds of attitudes today. Tenure by the way was instituted to protect teachers due to school board elections which would put teachers on the block at every election. It is far beyond that now. I am not familiar with Kellman, but it does remind me of the book Civility which is currently being used in initial student orientation classes.
    I reflect on academic performance by students every day. I sit on a committee for Grand Rapids Public Schools (Academy of Design and Construction) which is trying to reengage students in the applied arts (architecture) area. I was appointed as the GRCC representative. I receive no pay for doing this. I also, represent a portion of faculty on the Academic Governing Council. Also, I receive no pay for doing this. I think that we must represent honor to our students.
    Veritas, Veneratio, Virtus, truth, honor, and courage are items that I try to live by. I also, provide to my students a communication link to solving every day problems. i.e. financial issues, family trouble. Of course I am not talking about a computer link. I am talking about being there to help them do the process. Even, making the calls and setting up the appointments. I would even attend with them their first appointment to help them get started. (half the issue is just getting started). I do believe that I am responsible for my students. But it is really more than that, it is being responsible to their posterity. Seven generations as my Mother would say. Sorry, seem to be rambling.

    However, I am made of people who taught me respect, honor,

  2. I figured this post would be right up your alley. Thanks for commenting. I know you are an honorable man and I do respect you even though I’m pretty sure we disagree on a few things. This doesn’t even trouble me because I do find people I disagree with interesting. This is why I easily follow as many US “conservatives” on Twitter as “liberals.”

    The idea of being “worthy of respect” also makes me think of how I experience being “invisible.” This happened today. I dropped off a bunch of bowls and utensils at the local thrift shop. Before doing so I always try to contact the people in the shop. I go through a back entrance marked for drop off. The door has an automatic bell that it rings.

    Today I walked in and nobody responded. I walked further into the back of the shop. On the far right were a group of elderly people who work at the shop quietly eating around a table. I couldn’t catch anyone’s eye. I turned on the left was a man talking on the phone. He also ignored me.

    I decided that was enough of an effort and went back and Eileen and I carefully put our stuff with the other stuff in the back room waiting to be sorted and put out for sale.

    As we were leaving another woman was coming up with some clothes. I told her that I couldn’t get anyone’s attention and that I just dropped my stuff off. She did not respond. She did not look at either Eileen or me but simply past us and walked through the door.

    I have to admit I was amused.

    Earlier at the farmer’s market a small child pointed me out to his parents.

    I told Eileen that I felt like a ghost or fairy only visible to small children and animals.


  3. I too understand that feeling. Of course my remembrances are of a time long ago. I do think children do not have the same inhibitions as adults. I am not sure that I understand it fully, but I think it is because you appear different to them. They only know you from appearance which is a shallow method of knowing people really. I have students with all kinds of looks (especially the piercing of body parts and extreme tattoos) which are sort of hard to understand why they do it, but then I remember too that they are searching for their identity in a very indifferent world. I made decisions about the conformance of my looks, but it was really after I gained responsibility in my employment and started having children. Conformance in society is first perceived by looks, after that shallow process, we begin to understand that we are all
    a the same planet and really not very different from each other. We all want generally want the same things, it seems to me. As JFK said in a speech, “we all live on this same small planet, we all breathe the same air, we want the best for our children and we are all mortal” or something close to that.
    You have demonstrated these principles of honor, respect, courage, and truth in your life and you have children who honor you for that. This is the greatest honor really. Your legacy is your children.
    You know what you need, you need a tattoo and a nose ring. This surely will make you more visible that should really make people pay attention.

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