A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

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A FORUM FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND VIGOROUS DEBATE, CORNERSTONES OF DEMOCRACY
[For the journal (guidelines, focus, etc.), go to www.theamericandissident.org ].
Encouraged censorship and self-censorship seem to have become popular in America today. Those who censor others, not just self, tend to favor the term "moderate," as opposed to "censor" and "moderation" to "censorship." But that doesn't change what they do. They still act as Little Caesars or Big Brother protectors of the thin-skinned. Democracy, however, demands a tough populace, not so easily offended. On this blog, and to buck the trend of censorship, banning, and ostracizing, comments are NEVER "moderated." Rarely (almost NEVER) do the targets of these blog entries respond in an effort to defend themselves with cogent counter-argumentation. This blog is testimony to how little academics, poets, critics, newspaper editors, cartoonists, political hacks, cultural council apparatchiks, librarians et al appreciate VIGOROUS DEBATE, cornerstone of democracy. Clearly, far too many of them could likely prosper just fine in places like communist China and Cuba or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia.

More P. Maudit cartoons (and essays) at Global Free Press: http://www.globalfreepress.org

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Jack Conway

The Unspoken Mantra of U Mass English Professors: Just Say NO to Criticism!
When one reviews the corruption pervading the American academic intellectual world in the 1990s with regards teaching and research, the political corruption, the personal corruption, the institutional financial corruption—it is difficult not to believe in a destructive force at work, a fatal hubris. The one thread that seems to link all these corruptions is the intellectual arrogance of the players, their sense of being superior, their tendency to view others with disdain. That thread is a shameless breaking of the ordinary rules of society, as if, somehow, the breakers of the rules were earthly gods, incapable of being called to account...
—Martin Anderson, Imposters In The Temple

Unsurprisingly, the critical blog I’d recently addressed to University of Massachusetts English professors was essentially ignored by them (see October 16th). Ad hominem was the knee-jerk response of Professors Nelles and Skerrett. If you don’t know what ad hominem means, definitions and examples from, amongst others, U Mass English professors, are online at www.theamericandissident.org/AdHominem.htm.

In any case, several months ago (September 9th), I received an email from Jack Conway, a Bristol Community College and University of Massachussetts (Dartmouth) English professor. Conway was apparently angered, to say the least, that I’d actually dared criticize a rather lame statement he’d made on poetry (see below). Apparently, things like that just aren’t done at U Mass, where the proper thing to do is self-congratulate, backslap and praise ones colleagues and superiors.

Evidently, something is wrong at UMass, where professors are likely evaluated not in terms of truth telling and integrity, but rather sycophancy, collegiality, connections, and other lubrication of the machinery. The waves such professors will likely make, if any at all, will certainly not be made against the inherently corrupt university, but rather in line with “Waves of Scandal Rattle Beacon Hill” (article appearing in the Sunday Globe). Indeed, Conway ran for selectman this year!

The following is Professor Jack Conway’s email and my response to it, which Conway never answered.

FROM PROFESSOR JACK CONWAY:
Dear Mr. Bone [sic]: I am always inyterested [sic] when one of my many students bring to my attention any remarks regarding all my many publications. The follwoing [sic] was recently brought to my attention: “Jack Conway writes: ‘I teach my students at both Bristol Community College and the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth that the genre of poetry is a ‘big tent’ with room beneath it for many different forms and styles. I also teach them that there are many people with measuring tapes out there in the world of poetry today trying to measure American Poetry for a coffin and to beware of them.’ Perhaps Conway also needs to inform his students that poetry is, or at least should be, much more than “form and style.” It is, or at least should be, also substance. He needs to inform them which “substances” constitute taboos; for example, criticism of the University of Massachusetts and its creative writing professors. Conway needs to challenge his students to break those taboos. Moreover, he might inform them that that coffin is being measured perhaps because of the nation’s poetry professors, including Conway himself.” I presume it apperad [sic] in your blog or something. I am not sure. I find it hard to believe that you migth [sic] write something like this with so little information, including what I teach. Well, the Internet has been good for one thing: It has allowed people like yourself who woud [sic] not be published otherwise to try and feel some limited success. Good for you. As for me, I guess I'll get back to real publishing. Thanks for the comments. I's [sic] too bad you have it all wrong but I'm pretty sure your readers expect that. I kknow [sic] the student who brought this to my attention did. They said, "Look at this trite shit.." I had to laugh. When I sked [sic] who wrote it she said, "Some undereducated pig." Yikes. So there ya go. I guess the good news is that those of us who teach in colleges and universities reach far more people than stuff like this. In fact, I recently read a wonderful statement saying that blogs and self-publishing sites like I presume yours is, are now looked upon by t he current generation as vanity presses without the paper. Well, goodluck [sic] in whatever it is you do and I am sincerely glad that even without much of an education you can feel some limited success publ;ishing [sic] even if it is seen as pedestrian.

MY RESPONSE TO PROFESSOR JACK CONWAY:

To Professor Jack Conway: Come on, surely you can do better than making fun of my last name! And you really ought not to be encouraging students to engage in similar, childish ad hominem rhetoric (e.g., "Some undereducated pig."). With that regard, examine theamericandissident.org/AdHominem.htm. In fact, why not direct your students to that web page? It might actually incite them to think! All I did concerning you was simply examine with a sharp critical eye a rather vacuous statement you made regarding poetry (for the full context, consult theamericandissident.org/BookReviews-Rattle.htm). BTW, I do not blog, though admit I might like to try it in the near future. Vis-√†-vis publishing, why denigrate self-publishing, given the rather bourgeois nature of the publishing machine? Besides, since when did quantity (“all my publications”) indicate quality? Do you actually know any poets who haven’t published right and left and everywhere else? Indeed, being well-published today and vaunting that fact, as you do, is as banal as it gets. Since you’ve demeaned my record in that area without having any idea of it, I attach a partial list to this email. You note: “I am sincerely glad that even without much of an education you can feel some limited success…” But can you actually make such a broad determination regarding my “education” from five sentences? Or do you simply choose to perceive anyone apt to criticize you as automatically uneducated? If so, apparently you’re not the only one in higher education to do that. Indeed, it is as if an intellectual cancer has been spreading in the ranks of the professorate, rendering real critical thinking to the realm of improper manners, while lowering “education” to that of collegiality and general multicultural groupthink. For the record, I do possess a doctorate from the Universit√© de Nantes (France)… not that that makes me particularly “educated,” though through ivory-tower eyes it likely would. On another note, the plethora of spelling and grammar errors in your email ought to dumbfound, though given the state of networked-cronyism in Massachusetts, perhaps not. Indeed, reading your email reminded me of reading the worst of student papers. I suggest you consult my writing-well lecture (theamericandissident.org/DUWritingWell.htm), especially point #9 with regards proofreading and spell checking.

You note, regarding my five-sentence critique: “I guess the good news is that those of us who teach in colleges and universities reach far more people than stuff like this.” Good news? It would make me cry if not such old news. Those of you—not all, but perhaps as many as 99% of you—“who teach” have been disgracefully failing the citizenry relative to the importance of democracy. Far too many of you have proven to be frightfully terrible role models in your conformity (i.e., herd-like behavior), careerism, and spinelessness. You fail to teach the importance of questioning and challenging, not to mention vigorous debate, preferring instead to inculcate blind obedience to the canon and worship of its icons Pinsky, Collins, Dove, Angelou, Snyder et al. Finally, what you failed to do is examine my argument that for poetry to be meaningful, it should be more than simple forme, metaphor, and playful wit. In other words, it NEEDS to contain substance. These things said, why not consider subscribing to The American Dissident? Your students (well, perhaps not that female) would surely appreciate its refreshingly critical stance.

[No response]

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