By Jon Cogburn
Slate continues to hit it out of the park with coverage of academic issues with today's piece on legalized concealed carry of firearms in Texas public universities. Somehow they got access to the PowerPoint presentation of the University of Houston faculty forum on how faculty should respond to the law. Please read it. It's about as appalling as you would expect. After describing the law, the presentation encourages faculty to censor themselves in all sorts of ways, not only not talking about the law with students (i.e. "It's in your interest and the University's to be very guarded and careful about this issue") but also not to say anything that might anger students. How does one do that? I teach formal logic and some students find it enraging.
Perhaps this is too perverse, but I have to wonder if inspiring fear in professors is part of the point of the law. Or is that just a convenient side effect? College professors are stock villains in a number of political narratives right now. We are part of a conspiracy to weaken the United States morally (Boo! relativism) and economically (global warming conspiracy, etc.). We look down on people like you (whenever "you" is not a college professor). We're the real elites who are ruining people's life options. Add this to the commodification of higher ed and many students think of us not only as incompetent waitstaff who it is OK to demean, but as waitstaff who are somewhere on the continuum between spitting in their food and poisoning them. With this kind of mentality, at best we are just part of an obstacle course towards the economic certification provided by a college degree. With most students you can make a human connection and get past this, but not all.
Also, there's this. The pre-frontal cortex of the average male is not fully developed until the age of 25 (for females it's 23). And this. Late teens and early twenties are a very stressful time in people's lives. And this. Bad stuff seems to percolate up from the American South and hit the rest of the country. The immiserating madness in Kansas in Wisconsin is not at all surprising to anyone who lives South of the Mason Dixon line. They just did some of the stuff that we've always done. Feh. If history is any guide, the above PowerPoint slide is a grim view into the future.