February 02, 2005

I Love College. Really.

So, I've got a history essay due on Friday. My professor provided a handy guide for writing papers. Check out a couple choice excerpts:

When talking about the United States or the “American people,” do not refer to it or them as “we” or “us.” [Incidentally, “United States” is singular; this is a philosophical and ideological, as well as grammatical, truth.] Plural first-person pronouns are not only historically inaccurate (e.g., were you really there when “*we* beat the British in the Battle of New Orleans”?), but they smack of jingoist nationalism, as well.
Be conscious of the pitfalls of ethnocentrism, sexism, class bias, and so on—and strive to avoid them. Not all Americans were—or are—male, white, middle class, native-born, Christian, etc. And not all people are Americans. Do not, for instance, refer to females by their first names (“Jane” for Jane Addams); would you call F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Scott” (or “F.”)? And PLEASE avoid arbitrary use of male denotations for people generally. [In response to those who believe that “man” and male pronouns are “generic” terms, consider the implications of the following: “We want to hire the best man for the job”—or the statement (correct by “traditional” standards of usage) that “Some believe that it is up to each individual to decide whether or not he should have an abortion.”] In short, do not assume or assert homogeneity or consensus where it does not exist—and do not ascribe your attitudes, gender, identity, or beliefs to the world at-large.

I find the second one rather interesting, as the topic for the essay is this:

How did white Northerners, white Southerners, and African Americans understand the concept of freedom during the era of Reconstruction?

How exactly does one answer this question without asserting homogeneity or consensus?

Posted by CD on February 2, 2005 11:34 PM
Category: College
Semi-Intelligent Comments

"Well, we (white Northerners) and them (white Southerners) couldn't get it together earlier, so we had us a war. Abe led us to victory, and there was much waving of Old Glory. The men of the South had to set their blacks free, because, you know, slavery is bad."

Did I miss any stupid rules?

Posted by: Army NCO Guy at February 3, 2005 08:37 AM

I'm not used to public speaking... WE THE WHITE, GODFEARING CITIZENS OF ROCK RIDGE wish to express our extreme displeasure with your choice of sheriff. Please remove him immediately. The fact that you have sent him here just goes to prove that you are the leading a**hole in the state!

-Harriet Johnson, 'Blazing Saddles'

Sorry, that's what i thought all through reading that second excerpt.

Seriouly, i hated doing all that stuff, the 'This columnist/editor/writer believes that the white, technophile northerenrs severely oppressed the rights of the rights of the Agrarian white southereners..." Boy, now woundn't THAT raise an eyebrow as an opening sentence, especially one comparing slavery to abortion..... sorry, mind wandered a bit, need to turn off cynicism mode.
But yeah, that is one messed up writers guide. Almost makes me glad i'm an engineer.

~note, i do not condone slavery in any sense, i was just atempting to make a parallel using today's language and politics to try to point out a fallacy in logic~

Posted by: tommy at February 3, 2005 01:04 PM

I don't condone slavery either, but it sure beats infanticide. You gotta at least be alive to be a slave.

Posted by: Army NCO Guy at February 3, 2005 02:10 PM

true dat.

Posted by: tommy at February 3, 2005 04:52 PM

I don't think your prof was suggesting that you can't ever assume some sort of homogeneity-- cultural relativism is a terrible idea and only the most bizarrely detatched of minds would think that we wouldn't be able to judge other cultures. He just means that you shouldn't assume concensus between yourself and a given population for the purposes of writing a paper. In less politically-charged terms, just be objective and view yourself as an outsider. Clearly your prof wants to avoid both the subtle gender-bias (and don't go off on whether it actually affects anything or not-- there is a bias and it won't kill us to use "their" instead of "his") that shows up in a lot of undergrad writing as well as, like he said, jingoistic nationalism, which anyone should agree is a bad thing. The Nazis were jingoistic nationalists too. Pride in ones country is one thing, fervent nationalism quite another.

But seriously, what exactly bothered you so much about the writing guidelines? Were they simply too "PC" for you, or did you find something stifling about them?

I've been reading these posts every now and again and you guys have some interesting stuff on here, but it's clear that the absence of counterpoint can gradually soften arguments over time (for an example, see the President. Ha ha! I knew I could get one liberal zinger in before I left!).

Posted by: DJ at February 11, 2005 11:50 AM
< MTCloseComments old="10" >