The (Un)Socratic Method of Philosophy

“He was appalled by the examination system, when it was explained to him; he could not imagine a greater deterrent to the natural wish to learn than this pattern of cramming in information and disgorging it at demand.”
The Dispossesed by Ursula Le Guin (1978, p. 127)

Let us start with a story:

The new Jewish bride is making her first big dinner for her husband and tries her hand at her mother’s brisket recipe, cutting off the ends of the roast the way her mother always did. Hubby thinks the meat is delicious, but says, “Why do you cut off the ends — that’s the best part!” She answers, “That’s the way my mother always made it.”

The next week, they go to the old bubbie’s house, and she prepares the famous brisket recipe, again cutting off the ends. The young bride is sure she must be missing some vital information, so she askes her grandma why she cut off the ends. Grandma says, “Dahlink, that’s the only way it will fit in the pan!” [1]

While this tale, noted by some as a “Tale of the Bungling Bride” trope [2] and stereotype, has religious connotations (the bride, and it’s always a bride or a woman, is usually said to be Jewish) I want to use it in a way that, perhaps, it wasn’t intended to be used. Rather than use it to have a conversation about how to make roasts or the plausible implications of the parable on religious traditions and practices, I want to use it as a frame for a discussion on education.

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Ex-/Implication: What Mission Statements (Don’t) Say

When considering values, visions, and missions, universities and colleges are similar to people in that regard. Like people, they can establish their institution as interested or invested in a certain set of interests in the hopes of attracting students (and faculty) who share similar interests, values, etc. and who will help the institution achieve its overall goals and missions. Institution to institution, however, there can be both interesting similarities and differences with respect to the framing of the individual institution’s mission.

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Retrofuturist Twitter: A Ghost of the Present

Imagine the following: the Twitter accounts for the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other government entities belonging to the Interior Department suddenly stop tweeting and go silent. While, in this alternative present, we still know about some of their historical tweets, tweet battles (should they have had any), and other things that had been documented outside of Twitter itself, their Twitter accounts no longer tweet things about bobcats or bears. There is just the memory of what, historically, they had said.

While this is not, currently, the actual state of affairs*, I think we can engage in retrofuturist [retropresentist?] thought and critically ask questions about what such closures would mean. We can also take it a step further and ask the following:

If these Twitter accounts had been for community organizers, anarchists, or folks engaged in anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-____ist work, what would their closure have meant? What would it have meant for pedagogy intended to raise awareness about anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-_____ist work?

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