Sunday, August 6, 2017

Public Philosophy Network boycotts Texas: Oh, the awful humiliation!

Hey you don't know me, but you don't like me
You say you care less how I feel
But how many of you that sit and judge me
Have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?

Streets of Bakersfield

Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens 

The Public Philosophy Network joined The Association of American Law Schools and the state of California in boycotting the state of Texas. The PPN announced that it is moving its 2018 conference from Denton, Texas to Boulder, Colorado.
  
 Why? The group opposes the Lone Star State's immigration policies and a new Texas adoption law, which, the PPN maintains, discriminates against gay people. "The basis of publicly engaged philosophy is the absence of barriers to participation," Robert Frodeman, a PPN spokesperson, explained. "Every person should feel welcomed regardless of their [sic] place of origin, sexual orientation or gender identity."

And besides, Frodeman might have added, the restaurants in Boulder are better than the ones in Denton, Texas.

I have a couple of thoughts about this latest boycott of Texas:

First, who gives a damn if a gang of knucklehead philosophers decides to hold its wingnut conference in Colorado instead of Texas? Philosophy programs are collapsing like aluminum beer cans at universities all over the United States. I say let these nerds nurse their delusion that what they say and do is important. 

And what exactly do the PPN professors say and do? Here's a sample of the group members' scholarly interests, taken from the PPN web site.

Wendy Lee, a PPN member and philosophy professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, listed her areas of scholarly expertise as follows: "philosophy of language (particularly later Wittgenstein), philosophy of mind/brain, feminist theory, theory of sexual identity, post-Marxian theory, nonhuman animal welfare, ecological aesthetics, aesthetic phenomenology, and philosophy of ecology." Total cost to attend Professor Lee's university for a year: $24,587.

Tadd Ruetenik, a PPN member and philosophy professor at St. Ambrose University in Iowa, described his interests to include pacifism, vegetarian ethics, and prophetic pragmatism. And what does it cost to take courses from professors like Mr. Ruetenik at St. Ambrose University? $30,000 a year, not counting room and board.

And then there's Maureen Linker, a PPN member who teaches at University of Michigan at Dearborn. Her academic interests: "Implicit Bias, Epistemic Privilege and Epistemic Injustice, Social Difference and Difficult Dialogues." What does it cost to attend Professor Linker's institutition? If you are a non-Michigan resident, it will cost you $29,000 for books, tuition and fees.

No wonder the discipline of philosophy is collapsing at American universities. Students have figured out they are paying too much to attend college to take courses from professors who specialize in vegetarian ethics and epistemic injustice.

And here' my second reflection on the PPN boycott. Although these kooky academics don't realize it, the boycott of a state based on prejudice is reminiscent of the Okie migration into California during the Great Depression.

As John Steinbeck chronicled in The Grapes of Wrath, California state police actually blockaded the state's highways and turned back Dust Bowl refugees at the California border. In the minds of many Californians, the Okies (who were actually from several Southwestern and Midwestern states) were a substandard class of humans who would pollute the pure and sunny atmosphere of the Golden State. 

My analogy is not perfect. The Californians of the Dust Bowl years were trying to keep disfavored people out of their state. Today's prejudice involves a refusal to visit a state deemed a pariah by political elites. But the prejudice is the same. And didn't Professor Frodeman, PPN's spokesperson, say his group believed people should be welcomed regardless of their place of origin?

On the other hand, the Public Philosophy Network's decision to boycott Texas may be a good thing. I'm not sure Texans would feel safe having a bunch of wacky philosophy professors roaming around the plains of North Texas, babbling about epistemic injustice, vegetarian ethics, and nonhuman animal welfare. 


Regional bigotry in the 1930s

References

Nick Roll. Philosophy Group Moves Meeting Out of Texas. Inside Higher ED, August 3, 2017, accessed August 5, 2017, 
https://umdearborn.edu/admissions/undergraduate/reasons-attend/cost-snapshot.













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