We're well overdue for another rant on Amairikuhn edgykayshun, and I was beginning to wonder when we'd have another one, when Mr. V.T., a regular article contributor here, found this one and passed it along.
I have to blog about this, because it hits close to home. It seems that a Purdue University engineering "profuzzilator" (sorry, I just can't call him/her/it a "professor") is saying that academic rigor is - you guessed it - racist and sexist and another example of "white male privilege." Why does this hit close to home? It's because my father was an engineering alumnus of Purdue, when it was still a respected engineering university.
But you can kiss that distinction goodbye, after you read this:
Sorry dad, all your hard work and sacrifice and education are now up for grabs. Academic rigor, according to Profuzzilator Riley, is really not about academic rigor, but about reinforcing white heterosexual male privilege:
“One of rigor’s purposes is, to put it bluntly, a thinly veiled assertion of white male (hetero)sexuality,” she writes, explaining that rigor “has a historical lineage of being about hardness, stiffness, and erectness; its sexual connotations—and links to masculinity in particular—are undeniable.”
Hence, Riley remarks that “My visceral reaction in many conversations where I have seen rigor asserted has been to tell parties involved (regardless of gender) to whip them out and measure them already.”
Riley also argues that academic rigor can be used to exclude women and minorities, saying, “Rigor may be a defining tool, revealing how structural forces of power and privilege operate to exclude men of color and women, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, first-generation and low-income students, and non-traditionally aged students.”
She claims that rigor can “reinforce gender, race, and class hierarchies in engineering, and maintain invisibility of queer, disabled, low-income, and other marginalized engineering students,” adding that “decades of ethnographic research document a climate of microaggressions and cultures of whiteness and masculinity in engineering.”
She evens contends that “scientific knowledge itself is gendered, raced, and colonizing,” asserting that in the field of engineering, there is an “inherent masculinist, white, and global North bias...all under a guise of neutrality.”
The last bit of foamy blither might be news to Dr. Michio Kaku, Dr. Sylvester Gates, Dr. Shirley Jackson, Dr. Elizabeth Rauscher, Chen-Ning Yang, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and a very long list of other people who apparently had no problem learning their disciplines, suffused as they were, with white male privilege. And I have to wonder just exactly what a lesbian-gay-transgendered version of Foucault analysis or Bernouilli's equation or the Euler identity might look like. One shudders to think what an LGBTQXYZGHK interpretation of E=Mc^2 might result in when the terms of the equation are defined by such kookery.
But wait, there's more. While you're trying to wrap your brain around LBGTQXYZGHK versions of any number of outdated white heterosexual male mathematical theorems dating back to Euclid, that Procrustean bed of white male privilege, ponder for a moment what profuzzilator Riley's "recommendation" is to fix this dire state of affairs:
To fight this, Riley calls for engineering programs to “do away with” the notion of academic rigor completely, saying, “This is not about reinventing rigor for everyone, it is about doing away with the concept altogether so we can welcome other ways of knowing. Other ways of being. It is about criticality and reflexivity.”
“We need these other ways of knowing to critique rigor, and to find a place to start to build a community for inclusive and holistic engineering education,” she concludes.
Somehow, I can't see profuzzilator Riley getting a job any time soon actually engineering anything for anyone. Just for kicks, imagine such nitwittery presenting itself for a job interview with the design and engineering division of Airbus in Toulouse, or Mitsubishi in Tokyo, or for an engineering faculty position at the University of Moscow. None of them would let such nonsense through the door - much less on campus - for an interview. Imagine, too, just for real laughs, the curriculum vita of such an individual. Imagine, too, the state of mind of someone actually thinking such idiocy would be taken seriously by any self-respecting university, anywhere...
...except, of course, in Amairikuh, the exceptional nation, which is indispensable to everyone.
Bottom line: if your son or daughter has talent for engineering, don't send them to Purdue. Paying two cents for tuition there would be paying two cents more than any engineering education there would be worth.
See you on the flip side...