You Won’t Get Wise With the Sleep Still in your Eyes [Guest post]

[The following is a guest post from my sister, an ME student at the University of Alabama and itinerant intern/co-op/resident smart person.]

November 9th, 2015. 23:15

I’m sitting at my desk tonight with a hot cup of cocoa (courtesy of my awesome grandmother who sends me delicious care packages) ostensibly studying for a test tomorrow. Instead, I’ve decided to take a break to document an interesting happening from a few weeks back that sparked some pondering.

As any good story needs a setting, we’ll start with a little background. It was a run-of-the-mill Monday morning in my mechanics of materials class. The professor for this class, we will call him Dr. A, has a Ph.D. and is, once you get used to his thick Indian accent, generally a good communicator. Overall, I have been satisfied with his course. He sets clear expectations and has a no-nonsense way of approaching assignments and grading. He even has some fairly positive reviews on the infamous “rate my professor” site. This particular Monday, however, he did not live up to my expectations.

We started off the lecture normally, beginning with a brief overview of the day’s topic of beam deflection. I’ll spare you the super technical details, but in layman’s terms, we were discussing what happens to solid structures when specific loading and constraint conditions are applied. Usually, Dr. A will work through an example problem before sending us off to, ideally, complete the three assigned homework problems on our own before the next class period. The example for this topic was a man on a diving board. We were basically trying to find how far the board would bend, given the shape of the supports and the weight of the man. We got about halfway into the problem before Dr. A wrote an equation that did not seem to be true. I stopped writing in my notebook and elbowed my neighbor. I pointed to the equation I had written down and asked if she thought that was right. She shrugged nonchalantly and went back to finishing up the homework that was due at the end of class. I turned to the girl on my other side and she looked at it, then looked at his notes and frowned saying uncertainly that it seemed off to her, but then continued copying down his notes.

I continued to stare at it, still fairly convinced that it was not correct. I finally came to the conclusion that I was going to have to be that kid that everyone hates: I raised my hand in the middle of lecture.   Dr. A stopped writing and asked what my question was. I directed him back to the offending equation and tried to articulate what I thought it should be.   He listened briefly, then jumped into an explanation of why he had written what he had. I listened, frowning, still unconvinced. He finished his explanation and started to move on. Two guys in the row behind me, however, had started muttering to each other as soon as I asked the question, and they had apparently come to the same conclusion that I had. They jumped in when he began to move on, and asked the same question that I had, this time phrased in a slightly more accusing manner. He once again began to explain his equation using much the same explanation he had just finished moments before, this time with interjected arguments from the two guys behind me. They finally acquiesced after a few minutes of back and forth, and he once again moved on.

At this point, about ten minutes had passed and class was nearing the end. I was still not satisfied, and the guys behind me were now angrily muttering to each other about him being wrong, but we had all given up after hearing him explain it the same way 3 or 4 times.   I heard the guy in front of me complain to his neighbor that we wouldn’t even be able to finish the example in class today. The professor hurried through the rest of the problem and we were dismissed. I left with a large X through the equation in question and a big “?” next to all the work after it which was based on that conclusion.

Not two hours after the class ended, we all received an email with the following:

Please find attached correction in Boundary condition (B) of Problem 7-3-7 solved in the class today. Slope of deflection for v1 and v2 at a X = L are equal but not zero for roller support in this particular problem(Check Table 72 page 469).  On that basis corrections are made in page 3. Sorry for inconvenience.

Ah, the mass apology.   This sort of email must truly be the bane of any professor’s existence. He carefully avoided directly saying that he had been wrong, but still at least did correct himself and in a relatively timely manner.

The following lecture, he went back and worked through the offending problem again with the corrected equations and I was much more satisfied with the result.

This incident left me with much to consider. You’re probably expecting this to turn into a rant about terrible professors who only teach because they cannot do. Although my immediate reaction was to be frustrated at Dr. A and his refusal to admit his mistake, in the end I cannot really fault him for getting a little flustered at the accusatory remarks and sticking to his guns, annoying as it may have been. I do appreciate how he eventually handled it and redid the problem instead of trying to cover up the fact that he did it wrong.

It was not only a test of Dr. A’s teaching, however. This was also a test of the students in the class, and I have to say, many of them failed. From the guy sitting in the front row copying homework solutions from the internet in the middle of class, to the guy sitting near me complaining that other students’ questions made us unable to finish the example, I am left with an unsatisfactory view of my classmates.

How many of them were blindly copying without bothering to try to follow along or understand why? How many of them were even listening at all and not just playing on their phones or copying homework solutions? What does it say that finishing the example is more important than doing it right? Is this the kind of mindset that our future engineers will have once they start designing our bridges and airplanes and elevators?

It is a common complaint that “grades are more important than learning” but the problem is bigger than that. It is easy to blame the universities and the professors themselves for creating classes where good grades are the most important things. It is even true that some professors would rather have all of their students pass than have all of their students understand the material. And yes, there is a problem with a system that acts like all students deserve to get an A.

But we also must find fault with the students themselves who are so easily trapped by this mindset. They are led astray by methods that promise instant gratification without any sort of effort, and they see no issue with that. They truly believe that they deserve the A and the fancy job offer and whatever else they set their heart on for no other reason than the fact that they want it. They have no sense of pride in their work, no desire to earn the things they want. As long as they get what they want in the end, it doesn’t matter to them how they got there. They take no responsibility for their own success, but expect that it will simply come to them because they desire it. In their minds, the world is a place where everyone simply deserves the best just because. After all, if someone else can get an A or a nice job offer, then obviously I deserve it too!

This is what really bothers me about my classmates at school. Obviously, not all students are like this, and I am happy to have found many students who think like me. But there are more than a few who refuse to see reality. They act entitled to the world simply because they desire it. The worst part about it is that no one will call them on that behavior. I used to think that there would be a point where they’d all have to face the music and realize that the real world is not such a fantasy land where you never have to work to get what you want.

But I’m starting to think that maybe they won’t. The way the world is going, it seems like these fantasy dwellers will be able to get all the way through life without ever landing in reality. And that is what really scares me.

You Can Fight Without Ever Winning, But Never Win Without a Fight — A Review of ‘How to be Right’

December 21st, 2015. 22:56

As someone who regularly watches Fox News (shocker!), I’ve become fairly familiar with their anchors, hosts, and contributors. One of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite, among them is Greg Gutfeld. For the uninitiated, Gutfeld got his start on Fox via Red Eye, a sort of off-the-wall satirical late-night program that looked like it had about the budget my elementary school’s TV studio. Years went on, and when Fox needed a replacement for the increasingly unhinged Glenn Beck, they started a new show in his time slot: The Five. Gutfeld is one of the six (wait, that’s not right) hosts of that program, which was how I got introduced to him. I’m now an avid viewer of his more recent program which airs on weekend nights, which retains the comedic elements of Red Eye with a little bit more of a newsy angle a la The Colbert Report or The Daily Show — just not full of liberal twits. To the unfamiliar, he’s perhaps best described as a more level-headed Glenn Beck, with Dennis Miller’s wit, Bill Cosby’s love for sweaters, my four-year-old cousin’s love for unicorns, and my love for plaid shirts.

At any rate, as a follower of Gutfeld’s and supporter of his work, I of course had to buy his latest authorial escapade: How to be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct.

gutfeld

As a young conservative college student with the onerous daily task of navigating the masses of thick-skulled, thin-skinned, Bernie-loving, Christian-hating, white-guilting college students (forgive my redundancy) I had hoped Gutfeld’s book might perhaps shed some light on possible argumentative methods I might employ, as well as offer some amusement via Gutfeld’s trademark sense of quirky (read: weird) humor. To my delight, How to be Right delivers on all fronts.

While it is essentially a how-to guide for successfully instigating and carrying on discourse with the Left, it reads more like an entertaining blog post which wouldn’t be unwelcome on a website like Breitbart.com. Gutfeld smartly walks the line between informative and entertaining, and while I laughed out loud at almost every page, I also felt compelled to take notes on some of his tips (I didn’t, which could explain the quality of this review).

How to be Right is a fairly comprehensive guide in addition to a funny one, and while some chapters offered me advice that I felt I already knew, others seemed to be especially geared toward helping me deal with problems I find myself struggling with on a daily basis. Chapter 6 is titled “Discarding your Outrage,” for instance.

Each chapter focuses on a central theme, expounded upon with a wealth of timely examples, ranging from explaining the necessity for humor by way of debunking the concept of white privilege, to the differences between Ben Carson and Donald Trump (turns out there are at least five). Gutfeld injects these examples with reminders of what the ultimate goal of the book is: to help conservatives like myself learn how to persuade others that their views are, in fact, the correct ones. He gives us examples of some of the primary arguments used against the Right and different ways to approach the answer without coming off as shrill, stupid, or any other way of saying “not persuasive”, in addition to maintaining a greater sense of satisfaction and deriving more pleasure from the debate than your opponent.

They say: “Your [political] party is sexist.”

They mean: “Explain to me you aren’t sexist.”

You say: “I’m not sexist. Some of my best wives are women!”

It’s easy to see that Gutfeld speaks from experience, and any conservative person who has spent time at a coffee shop, college campus, or public restroom will recognize several situations they’ve run into in the ones Gutfeld describes. Throughout the book are anecdotes and stories that at times help to drive his points home, and at other times are merely just well-written and entertaining breaks from the pseudo-lessons offered. Particularly amusing ones involve a gay bar for Muslims at Ground Zero and midgets at a magazine industry conference, but I’ll let you read the book for yourself. The stories help not only to maintain the balance of levity and depth, but serve to ground the book and show us just how much of an authority Gutfeld is on the art of persuasive correctness. He’s done his homework (another piece of advice he offers insistently), and it shows.

Because, as How to be Right demonstrates, persuasive correctness, particularly (or perhaps only) for conservatives, really is an art. It requires finesse, and the ability to simultaneously “out-compassion them”, “be Columbo”, and “say junk that people will remember”, all of which are chapter titles in Gutfeld’s book. Gutfeld really is a master at this, but his down-to-earth, conversational, and damn funny method of delivering his message makes his book not only impossible to put down, but surprisingly informative and helpful.

I honestly didn’t expect How to be Right to help me as much as it did. I still doubt that I’ll engage many of the liberals on my campus in lively debate any time soon (I’ve only recently managed to stop retching when I’m in the same room as one), but I feel far more confident now after having some of the tools offered by the book in my arsenal.

How to be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct is not only consistently entertaining, it’s surprisingly informative, and even more surprisingly accessible. I’d recommend this book for anyone like myself who has trouble keeping their blood from boiling with rage when met with Hillary-worship, or not knowing how to answer a question from a liberal, even if it’s only because it’s a profoundly stupid question.

Which, let’s face it, almost all of them are.

 

Bitterness Breeds Irritation, Ignorance Breeds Implication

December 13th, 2015. 23:39

Sorry, it’s been a while since I wrote anything that wasn’t … well, we’ll say incendiary.

Since last I wrote, I’ve finished my first semester of college, which wasn’t as exciting as I was led to believe it would be, but what can you do? Nothing. You can do nothing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — college is high school, but with dumber people. I wasn’t given too much trouble by this semester on the academic front (something I anticipate will change considering my chosen path of academia), but I did have to learn a few things about myself and how to successfully and positively interact with those around me. Given that you’ve made it this far, I take it you would like to know what those things are.

First and foremost, not everyone likes Rush, and while they are all wrong, it’s not something they’re going to change their minds about. That is a fact.

Perhaps more importantly, one does not win anything with anger or volume. That, too, is a fact.

For all that I enjoy my family’s proclivity to engage in yelling matches with one another on all manner of topics, be they music, politics, or apparently Star Trek (TNG is just better, I’m sorry), I must also understand, as must everyone else who partakes, that in doing so we’ve effectively ended the facade of engaging in polite, and thus productive, discourse.

Anyone who’s met me knows that I do have a tendency to speak loudly; I chalk that up to my experiences with the theatrical arts and my tendency to project my words rather than just say them. When this becomes yelling, I of course have necessarily admitted defeat. While the arguments among my family members have never reached any logical conclusion (at least not in my lifetime) I can say with some authority that those among myself and other (normal(?)) people have resulted in losses, and often on the part of he who deigns to yell or shout.

This isn’t to say that I ever try to argue about anything substantial or important with anyone at school, because I obviously don’t. It’s just not worth it. But even the small, unimportant arguments I’ve had with the friends I’ve made always seem to come down to the winner being declared by default and no real conclusion actually being reached. For instance, the girl across the hall from me lost the argument that The Flash is a television show worth spending any time on by becoming loud and emotionally invested in it (which is just beyond me), but I admittedly lost another when I became indignant about my perception of the genius of Neil Peart (which is completely well-founded, I’ll add). As a matter of fact, I can’t think of the last time I ever had a rational argument with anyone outside of my family and very close friends that wasn’t won purely on the basis of one side arbitrarily forfeiting the victory by raising their voice. And it’s a bit sad.

Not just because we, and especially those by whom I’m surrounded at school, seem to no longer be able to partake in polite, dispassionate disagreements, but because, on a grander scale, it means fewer problems actually get solved.

For instance, when Donald Trump and John “Ohio” Kasich take up arms against each other on the debate stage, and the moderators allow them to do so, those who actually wish to discuss the important issues in the little time they have don’t get to do so; especially damaging considering the small amount of time allotted to the debaters, and the general padding of the GOP field in general, with people like Lindsey Graham and George Pataki somehow still bothering to show up at all. We also see our president answering horrifying acts of terrorism by raging about people in his own country who disagree with him, and the plight of the polar bears.

I could go on about this, but as Polonius says, “brevity is the soul of wit,” so I’ll keep my wit soulful and move on.

Another thing I’ve realized is that we can’t afford to be bystanders anymore.

Not just “we” the right, or the royal we, but we as a country, and perhaps even we as a race. I don’t mean this in regards to the climate, or anything, either, in case that’s what you thought I meant.

As I see these terrible things happening in the news every day, and I read about the growing strength of ISIS and how they’re recruiting people to come and join them over the internet, I can’t help but feel how easily preventable these things would be if we had the sense to stop worrying about offending people and get our shit dealt with.

Take the gun control debate. It’s going nowhere, and we all know it. Regardless of your stance on the issue, you know neither side will budge, and as long as we’re still listening to that pesky Constitution, nothing is going to change. So why do people still constantly bring it up every time something terrible happens? People are so quick to jump to the question of “how can this help me?” instead of “how can I help them?” these days, that it’s just embarrassing. Like when the president said that we could stop ISIS by working against climate change.

I’ve realized this within the scope of my college life, as well. So many of my fellow classmates are ignorant of the world around them. All they seem to know is “Trump bad, Hillary good.” They have no concept of what’s actually going on in the world, how the media is skewing things in favor of the left, or how even a cursory glance at an article or fact sheet would lead them to the truth. Because they don’t really care. All they want is free education, the unfeasibility of which seems to escape them.

There’s no sense in trying to convince them of what they’re not realizing, or getting them to do their own research, but rest assured — if we continue with our ignorance and navel-gazing, we’re just as responsible for the problems as those causing them.

The last thing I’ve realized is that I’m not a very happy person.

I don’t mean to be all “woe is me,” because to hell with that, so I’m going to be clear here — I’m perfectly satisfied, grateful to be where I am, have the things I have, and be a part of the family of which I’m a part, and I acknowledge and thank God for all the things I’ve had access to that the less fortunate do not — but I’m just not a very happy person. Sue me.

Actually, please don’t, because statistically speaking, I’d lose that lawsuit. Actually, that aside lends itself rather well to the next thing I was going to talk about, and I didn’t even do that on purpose.

Last month I became filled with bile and vitriol after the terrorist attacks in Paris, and I wrote a post that came off, even as I read it, as far, far too much. I did the same a few months back upon recalling my time in the toilet of the internet, Tumblr.com. Self-control is still very much a thing I work on daily, and I’m very glad that the link to this blog is still only shared with those closest to me. I’d like to to remain that way, because, simply put, I’m angry.

I’m angry at a president who is openly antisemitic and anti-America. I’m angry at the professors who give me extra points when I insult the Republican party in an assignment, solely because I know that they will. I’m angry at the students who protest against “hate speech” and “triggering words” while simultaneously berating and belittling those who dare to believe in God. I’m angry at the terrorists who senselessly slaughter hundreds of innocent people in the name of a violent faith, and I’m angry at myself for finding Donald Trump less and less crazy every day because he of all people is the only one who seems to care about the innocent dead.

Most of all, I’m angry at the media and cultural and environment that gives others every assistance to have their voices heard, while I have to remain silent and angrily write this blog at midnight for a handful of people to read.

That anger is on me to deal with, but it still seems unfair. Over the course of my first semester at college I’ve realized that the only healthy way to deal with anger is to ignore it. I can’t vent it anywhere, because it’ll be seen and I’ll suffer the consequences, so I have to pretend it’s not there.

Which, unsurprisingly, is really hard.

Hopefully, that’s something I’ll learn to deal with in my next seven semesters.

 

[Note: I’ve just read the liner notes for Rush’s album Presto, the second track of which (Chain Lightning) is the source for the title of this post. Evidently the actual lyric goes “Ignorance breeds imitation”, but I like my version better, so I’m keeping it this way.]