So, a couple of weeks ago one of my students in my current class, Campaigns and Elections, hands me an Op-Ed in the student newspaper about a “biased professor” and says, “I know this is either you or Cobb.” I laughed, and laughed more when a quick perusal revealed me to be the callous, impervious-to-fact, liberal indoctrinator. Much of the column extensively relates an incident from my Intro to American Government class last Spring (clearly, it really stuck with this poor, misguided columnist):
For example, my introductory political science professor decided he would give a lecture and argument about the questions people raise about whether there is racism involved in the death penalty. He showed statistics and slides, but decided he would conclude the lecture with, “My examples are proof that the death penalty doesn’t work. Just look at Texas; they are gung-ho about the death penalty and yet they have one of the highest crime rates in the United States.” As a student who has been taught never to simply take just anyone at their word, I made sure I checked his information before I commented. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C., counted among the states, has the highest crime rate in the U.S. Texas is at No. 16. I show him my data, after which he bellows through the classroom, “I don’t care!”
This kind of behavior was both immature and unnecessary. Being in position 16 on the list may not be an excellent crime rate, but it’s certainly not top 10 and certainly no Washington, D.C. When someone is so wrapped up in their side of the argument they can’t even look at data, then they are simply impossible to persuade or even argue with.
Wow, sounds like an awful professor, huh? Of course, in reality, only an idiot (and most definitely not a social scientist) would ever make a statement like, “”My examples are proof that the death penalty doesn’t work.” Anyway, Ms. Kelly quickly googled state crime rates, though I don’t have to tell you I mentioned homicide rates. Regardless, she kept pointing out that Washington, DC has the highest crime rate “of all the states.” Again, I don’t have to explain to you why comparing DC to actual states is not a meaningful comparison, but I did quite calmly explain to the class why you would not want to do so. In fact, it was a nice “teachable moment.” Alas, Ms. Kelly insisted that we consider DC a state, because “it’s the District of Columbia” and damnit, the website listed it as a state!. To this last point of hers, I did, in fact respond, “I don’t care.” Doesn’t quite come across that way in her column, does it? If she had actually mentioned my name, this might actually be a case of libel (not that I ever plan on suing my students). Another of my current students who was in that class had a nice response in the paper. Anyway, pretty interesting example of education going awry despite my best efforts. I blame Fox news.