Monday, April 18, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Learn to Teach Philosophy

Dear Dr. McAdams,

Golden Eagle’s reply is one of the most risible bits of light comedy I’ve enjoyed recently. Dr. McAdams “bullied” the feminist, vegan philosopher about as much as the current Marquette Philosophy Department threatens the prestige of Princeton’s department. It was Ms. Abbate who, in an ideological pique, bullied an undergrad student into relinquishing his university’s guaranteed right to a free exchange of ideas. It was she who misled her class by presenting ideological name calling (“homophobia!” “racist!”) as authentic philosophy. The student had every right to defend the Roman Catholic use of natural law arguments against the moral integrity of gay marriage. At least one would think so at a Roman Catholic university. Were we dealing with one of those, the outcome might have been different.

If Ms. Abbate wasn’t qualified to deal with the natural law tradition in either its classical or newer forms, that’s nobody’s fault but her own and the department. Why wouldn’t Ms. Abbate have used this as a teachable moment to illustrate a natural law critique of Rawl’s notion of fairness? This was a perfect opportunity, provided by students themselves, to explore the contrast between two ethical theories. This is how the Socratic Method works, as opposed to an indoctrination of students according to the ideological preferences of the teacher. As a feminist, one might think she’d have shown more of an ethic of care or empathy toward the undergraduate student.

Since she did not do that, and did not act in a welcoming and inclusive manner towards his Catholic moral concerns, she surely violated the “values” trumpeted by Dr. Lovell.

Having been bullied by Ms. Abbate, the student sought fairness and justice from a department which uses a nose of wax approach to principles like these. He tried, in vain, to enlist support for the notion that philosophy should be what is done in a philosophy class. Having been effectively bullied at each point as he worked within the proper channels, he took his concern for the integrity of free speech at Marquette to Dr. McAdams. On his private blog he correctly supported the student’s right to contribute to a free exchange of ideas at the university. Dr. McAdams took no position on gay marriage, nor on homophobia, nor on the privileging of homosexual behavior. His concern was the student’s: teachers ought not to be bullies who impose ideologically driven censorship on their classes.

For openly questioning Marquette’s integrity related to its stated “values” of encouraging vigorous discussion of controversial issues, Dr. Lovell and his administrative cohorts attempted to bully Dr. McAdams into submission to the party line. To put it concisely, the university failed miserably in its fool’s errand. In media nationwide, Marquette is now a laughingstock. It’s an embarrassment to alums, like me, who have earned doctoral degrees in its Philosophy Department. The university's ongoing panegyric on Ms. Abbate and her penchant for censorship has not endeared Marquette to those interested in an authentic liberal education. Meanwhile, Dr. Lovell continues to compound his spectacularly poor treatment of Dr. McAdams. Dr. Lovell, with a determined commitment to inept self-justification, has reduced a substantive discussion of free speech to the bathos of a dime store novel. We are repeatedly regaled with the tale of a hapless, victimized ingenue.

The bullies in the long running comedy of administrative errors at Marquette are Ms. Abbate, Dr. Lovell, and the their accomplices in the bloated bureaucracy of lockstep diversity.


Ron McCamy, PhD
Philosophy Department
Moorpark College

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