So my girlfriend is taking a sociology class this semester. The professor's required reading list has included such authors as Dinesh Desouza and Mark Steyn, both highly recommended with blurbs on the back covers by Ann Coulter and Paul Ryan. Anyway, with the approaching storm tomorrow her college cancelled classes and he sent out this e-mail:
Hello students –
No doubt you’re happy that administrators decided school will be closed on Monday. I don’t mind a day off, now and then, myself.
Let me take the occasion, however, to point out a few things. This much-hyped “storm” is forecast by “wunderground.com” to affect our area Monday as follows:
"Overcast with rain showers. Fog early. High of 64F. Windy. Winds from the ENE at 30 to 40 mph with gusts to 70 mph. Chance of rain 100% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible."
Big deal. I guess New Englanders can’t be expected anymore to deal with a little rain and gusts of wind. Or maybe, it’s just government institutions with no revenue to lose, that can’t refrain taking a paid vacation. I bet the malls are all open tomorrow.
The whole federal government in Washington, D.C., has been known to close down under a whole inch of snow.
But maybe it’s our national character, as Steyn might argue. A few weeks ago, a major league baseball game was cancelled, not because of rain, but because of the “threat” of rain. It used to be baseball tradition to play in the rain until the ground got so muddy and visibility so limited, that the game would be suspended for an hour or more just to see if the rain would let up. I guess no more.
Anyway, see you Wednesday – if the authorities allow.
Well I've drafted this little response, and I'd appreciate any feedback you might have.
Your e-mail makes a remarkable argument in favor of government oversight and regulation in order to limit the irrational self interest of parties such as yourself.
I can appreciate the work ethic you convey in your implication that, were the decision to hold class in your hands, you would indeed require the presence of your students as outlined in your syllabus. I respect the belief that students should be able to make their own choice in regards to their safety when commuting to your class, weighing that of course against whatever penalties that may arise from failing to attend your lecture.
I have no doubt that, given the choice of learning the increasingly complex views of such relevant political mouthpieces as Ann Coulter or not contending with an even stronger gust of hot air potentially careening them off the road that any morally upstanding American do it yourself student would choose the former. After all, what is a 70 mph wind to the propagation of enlightening ideals from such visionaries as Mark Steyn?
As an emergency worker who will be working during tomorrow's storm (and I'll note, getting paid far less than you will to spout somebody else's ideas and funnel students' funds into wingnut authors and publishers), I can appreciate the state's decision to keep a largely commuting student body off the road. An injured person and a disabled vehicle present a significant drain on resources in many levels of government. Keeping people off the road where they won't potentially harm themselves, one another, or the infrastructure that keeps our economy running will allow personell and emergency vehicles to more effectively respond to actual emergencies, rather than those caused by self righteous professors demanding their students' presence.
I am truly sorry that you have witnessed the downfall of American character as so singularly displayed in the cancelling of a baseball game. To give a more relevant example of the degradation of this trait, I can recall an America where a college class had required reading teaching facts instead of the extremist and fear-mongering political views. I can recall an America where professors sought to provide students with knowledge that would be relevant rather than overtly attempting to filter their views with bias and misdirection.
I hope you're wrong that commerce centers will remain open, if only for the minimum wage plus commission earners that would be forced through the dangerous conditions to meet the demands of some petty manager (friend of yours?). I hope you're right that this "storm" is not as bad as they've made it out to be. We can't know for sure how it will turn out, but we can use the evidence that is available to us to make a reasonable and well informed decision on how to minimize its impact. I wouldn't expect that type of thought from a man who directly supports people who have made their money doing the exact opposite of that. Thankfully, we have a government in place that, while not always making the perfect decision, can use these methods to potentially avert a disaster.
Stay safe in the storm, Professor. If you feel the need to fit your definition of a good American by buying something tomorrow, try not to get in the way of the men and women doing necessary things like health care and power line work. They may not like you telling them you wish you could make their jobs more difficult with your arbitrary and reckless decisions.
Eater of Clowns