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Controversial Essay Topics: How Not To Offend Your Professor
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it” Aristotle
At Academic Composition, we offer a variety of academic services and it is our mission to support your throughout all of your classes, regardless of how basic or sophisticated your courses may be. Whether you are majoring in engineering or communications, you will have to take a healthy dose of “general education” classes. Typically, you will need to complete a number of English courses, a few on cultural studies, some on history and your university will probably require you to complete a number of seemingly bizarre classes that probably do not belong in a university. Do not be surprised if the professor seems to be pushing a political agenda instead of teaching you how to think critically, indeed, it is not unheard of for an English instructor to lecture students on Maoism instead of teaching them how to analyzing literary themes. In this day and age, many professors of literature believe that most of the classical authors such as Shakespeare, John Milton, William Butler Yeats and other giants of English literature were sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and so on.
Recently, a number of Berkeley (https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/oct/24/berkeley-protesters-form-human-chain-stop-white-st/) students staged a protest asserting that a “White man’s Canon” will never do justice to the oppressed people of color and LGBTQ. These students demanded for the classical texts to be replaced with books written by transgender authors. For example, they demanded for Shakespeare’s Hamlet to be removed from the curriculum and replaced with “Transgender Warriors: Making History, from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman”. In his timeless poem, the
“Invictus”, William Ernest Henley famously wrote “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” and self-determination is an inalienable human right. There is much to be said for a person who aspires to be true to themselves, irrespective of their gender, race, ethnicity or socio-economic class.
The desire to control one’s destiny is a noteworthy human drive, perhaps even the most commendable of them all: this is the desire that liberated Europe from the dark ages and ushered in the Enlightenment era. Indeed, a person can only be praised for their desire to live their life in their own way, as long as they do not infringe on the freedom of others to do likewise. Tolerance is a lofty social value and deserves to be guarded with the utmost ferocity, as it is the cornerstone of a civilized society. Societies that are truly free can survive only if an open debate and an uncensored exchange of ideas can take place, and it is our civic duty to refrain from silencing others who wish to express a view that we disagree with. However, tolerance has its limits and one modern Italian writer put it well, “Tolerance reaches the limit of mutual respect, then it is surpassed!”
Indeed, most Americans are tolerant and the overwhelming majority of college students are willing to engage in a respectful conversation with a person whose views they do not share. While they may respect the freedom of choice of a transgender person, they can also appreciate the point of view of a religious person who disapproves of such freedom, but tolerates it, nonetheless. Indeed, the meaning of tolerance is to get along with a person whose views we do not share, regardless of how strongly we may disapprove of them. This appears to be a little more than common-sense and you may be wondering why on earth we are lecturing you on tolerance. If everybody understands what it means to get along with people whose views we do not share, what is the point of discussing tolerance in the first place?
Be that as it may, not everyone shares the majority view of Americans who may self-identify as moderates who are either right-leaning or left-leaning. The American citizenry is famous for its centrist tendencies, but the elites of academia do not approve of this position. In most departments of social sciences across America, liberals outnumber conservatives by a staggering ratio of 30 to 1 (https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/03/21/the_most_politically_intolerant_americans_139810.html).
In some universities, that ratio is as high as 60 to 1 and the more elite the university is, the higher that ratio becomes. Furthermore, professors of elite universities are more likely to self-identity as the “far-left” and over 25% of them consider themselves Marxists.
Surveys have repeatedly shown that professors are unlikely to support the tenure of a conservative colleague, irrespective of their skill-level or value to the organization. The modern social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt has extensively researched the rise of intolerance in American university campuses and devoted much of his career to promoting the diversity of viewpoint on campus (https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/jonathan-haidt-6-ways-universities-can-fight-intellectual-intolerance/). His conclusion is unequivocal: there is very little tolerance across college campuses for even the centrist viewpoints that are at odds with the politically correct ideological orthodoxy.
In light of these troubling developments, empirical evidence has repeatedly shown that even the brightest of people often tend to succumb to the fallacy of the strawman. In other words, we tend to routinely misrepresent the nuances of a point of view that we disagree with. We then engage in the cognitive mechanism of “substitution” and respond to a simplified version of our opponent’s point of view (https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp/0374533555/ref=sr_1_2?crid=304FPL9I5EAXK&dchild=1&keywords=daniel+kahneman&qid=1596652779&sprefix=Daniel+Kah%2Caps%2C246&sr=8-2). In “Thinking: Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman addressed the substitution problem in detail and evidence has conclusively shown that the exceptionally bright people are sophisticated when it comes to finding good arguments for their position, but they struggle as much as everyone else when it comes to finding support for views they disagree with.
To be absolutely certain, the “my side bias” is pervasive in academia and while professors love to pay lip service to tolerance and at the same time strive to avoid offending the most sensitive person in the class, this is an incredibly difficult balancing act to pull off. At the end of the day, they will err on the side of political correctness rather than tolerance because their career depends on it. Countless professors have lost their jobs for making seemingly innocuous remarks that no reasonable person can be offended by (https://nypost.com/2016/10/30/nyu-professor-who-opposed-pc-culture-gets-booted-from-classroom/). The recent termination of the NYU professor Michael Rectenwald is the case in point, who cynically summarized his predicament as “Academic freedom is great, as long as you don’t use it!”
While it may seem tempting to chastise the intolerant professors, one must understand that their job is not at all similar to what one may face in a corporate environment. In a real job, you may leave and find another one and no-one will blame you if you do so after a year or even just six months. It also goes without saying that most of the co-workers who surround you now may not be there a year from now, so your whole livelihood does not depend on how well you get along with them. Yet, imagine if you were stuck around those same people for 20 to 30 years? You would be a nervous wreck: you would be on constant vigil for what you say, what you do in your spare time, who you are seen with, and most importantly, whose papers you cite
in a sanctimonious act of solemn worship. That is exactly what happens in academia: when a scholar of the humanities accepts a position as an “assistant professor”, he will be up for tenure within six years. At that point, he or she either gets the job for life or they are fired. If they choose to quit at any point, their prospects of finding work at another university will be extremely scarce: academia is a conformist and a tightly knit community where gossip carries even more weight than it does in small town of rural Alabama.
It is worth noting that the power structure of academia has been modeled on the medieval guild of the Catholic Church. Even the Catholic Church itself has been modernized and numerous members of that community enjoy certain freedoms of expression, no such reform has been possible at the university. Despite the progressive veneer of the academic milieu and the perfunctory tribute to tolerance academics like to pay, the university is one of the most archaic, reactionary and intellectually repressive of institutions known to man. You would be very well-advised to take that into consideration and to toe the party line. To do that, you will need to understand the unspoken rules of academic discourse and heed to them under all circumstances.
1. Always write from a left-leaning point of view: As a reasonable person with an open-mind, you may lean to the left, but you may not always agree with every progressive viewpoint out there. Save yourself the aggravation of having your work picked apart for the smallest of errors. If you simply write from a left-wing perspective, your work will be held to a much lower standard and you will get a free pass on all sorts of minor mistakes that would never have gone unnoticed, had you written your paper from a centrist or let alone a right-leaning point of view.
2. Brush up on your gender pronouns: Familiarize yourself with the work of Leslie Feinberg. Figure out how many genders your professor accepts and try to memorize
as many as you can. The transgender ideology is the holy grail of the civil religion of the academic left, do not blaspheme against it. If you name-drop Leslie Feinberg or reference any other scholars of similar ideological persuasion, you will score points with your PC professor.
3. Pay homage to Radical Feminism: Do not criticize a feminist point of view and never mention a feminist thinker even in a slightly negative light, that is a big “no-no” in academia. Do not praise the traditional feminine virtues such as compassion, politeness, nice social manners and so on. Never say that women value these things or that they should do so, such talk is completely out of place in a radical feminist environment and will never be tolerated. Feminists categorically deny the existence of gender differences and see them as “social constructs” that are a result of “oppressive patriarchy”. While some of them may engage in a behavior that may come across as “female chauvinism”, it is unclear how they can simultaneously assert female superiority while denying the existence of gender differences. While that may seem like an apparent contradiction, it is far too lofty and erudite of a matter for small minds like ours to ponder.
4. Genuflect at the altar of diversity and multiculturalism: Never criticize any culture at all. “Culturism” will not fly here. Do not make any remarks underscoring the differences between people of varying nationalities, culture, language or ethnicity. If you dare to make the slightest of comments on how this or that culture may be flawed, you run the risk of being accused of perpetrating ‘hate speech’, which could carry grave consequences. Some universities may expel you for that and even if you try to praise another culture, you will be accused of cultural appropriation, which is as
grave of a sin as demeaning another culture. That is why Yale students recently chastised their peers for wearing Halloween costumes. Avoid praising or criticizing any culture for any reason, no matter how well-intentioned your comment may be, it will most likely be taken out of context and misunderstood with the implication that you are “racist”. In light of the fact that culture itself is a taboo topic in academia, one may understand how the unholy alliance between radical feminists and radical Islamists has emerged. Again, this is another complex matter that is far too lofty for small minds like ours to ponder.
5. Pay close attention to the prescribed parlance of the politically correct faction that your professor may subscribe to. That is an evolving matter and the pantheon of the oppressed is home to many gods, that is why it is never clear which of them need to be worshipped at any given time. You can never be truly sure who has the upper-hand: the transgender elites, the gay rights activists, the radical feminists, the supporters of the otherkin or somebody else altogether. Pay close attention to the PC movement that your professor may identify with. If you are not sure where their sympathies lie, avoid commenting on controversial altogether: go to great length to avoid saying anything that could even remotely be misconstrued as a “micro-aggression” against a certain group. For example, the term “flip-chart” may appear to be completely innocuous, yet numerous scholars in the humanities deem it to be extremely pejorative because it appears to contain a “micro-aggression” against Filipinos. Although it is next to impossible to find a single Filipino person who takes umbrage to the term “flip-chart”, it is important to keep in mind that while the PC view represents the position of 3-5% of the population, it is enormously popular
among the elites of academia who see themselves as superior to us, the benighted heathens like ourselves. We will never reach the front porch of the heavenly gates that stand before the Ivory Tower, that is a place of solemn worship and we will never be worthy of being on par with the dogs who are to be starved at the gate (that privilege is to be reserved for the adjunct professors, many of whom earn less than the fast food workers and a sizable portion of them are either on welfare or homeless). In short, you are not among the “elect”, so do not question their judgment. Just as God reveals Himself in mysterious ways, the wisdom of the academic clerics is inscrutable to the mortal sinners and should never be challenged.
If you follow these five rules, you will stand a much better chance of doing well on your assignment. Of course, being on the “right side of history”, as Karl Marx used to say, will give you considerable advantages over those who were left reprobate and will suffer eternal perdition, you still have minimal standards of academic rigor to fulfill. Grade inflation is a crude reality of life in modern academia and standards continue to fall quite precipitously. However, you still have basic scholarly responsibilities to fulfill such as writing in a grammatically correct manner, avoiding logical fallacies, finding reliable sources and maintaining a flowing narrative. We will cover than in our subsequent discussions, but being on the right side of history is 50% of the battle. Once you off on the right foot with your professor, the rest is a matter of elementary academi