Pedagogy of the Offended: Mr. Bib Responds, Rants, Reviews (Helpfully, Politely, Patiently)

Categories: OC Bookly
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Mr Bib enjoys, appreciates, tries to live up to the gift--not to mention its responsibilities--of a forum featuring his interpretations, recommendations, critiques of books. It's discouraging, if perhaps not unexpected, to find readers who either don't understand or don't get it. Don't like my rhetorical flair? Fair enough. I have no problem with negative critiques of my writing, including not taking to the purposeful and charming wise-assery which delights so many others.The construction of a persona, both of a writer and, here especially, of a composite imagined audience (in the case of the all-too-real and silly people assembled in last Sunday's post, "Don't Tell Dad and Mom") is a much-used and highly successful rhetorical strategy.  Perhaps readers who don't know that need to, well, get out more. Even infrequent readers of the OC Weekly will expect, even appreciate, some bad attitude, some style. Newbies might want to orient themselves to the particular tone of this magazine's writing.  Hey, how about taking a look at the excellent work of other columnists, bloggers, reviewers, "The Mexican" of ¡Ask a Mexican!, sex advice guru Dan Savage and, yes, Mr. Bib's other own recent posts?  It couldn't hurt. Or maybe it could.  Either way!

So, here, I respond sincerely (or try) to specific comments by some readers. Not to brag, but I received lots of kudos via Facebook.  Thanks for reading, by the way (except to those who didn't).  Now, please catch a clue. First, pal, my post was not a "sloppy article." It wasn't, strictly speaking, even an article. It also wasn't sloppy. It offered a clear thesis, and irony too. It presented the books chosen by teaching professionals just now, which carry with them certain assumptions and a worldview. It had pictures, and jokes, too. What more could you want?  But, just to make sure you get it, Guinea, it was a clever way to point out the obvious, that a liberal education involves encouraging literacy, developing a conversation or discourse, reading challenging books, considering a worldview - as against affirming the prejudice and national chauvinism and ahistorical magical thinking required by, well, who exactly?  Dinesh D'Souza, sweetheart of the conservative intellectual crowd?  It elevates problematizing as a teaching and learning strategy. So, no Dinesh D'Souza on a book list modeling these. (I just like saying that, over and over.) In his classic Pedagogy of the Oppressed, education activist Paulo Freire writes, famously, 

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Teacher's pet
"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality an discover how to participate in the transformation of their world."

Dig it.  A couple of you write that I am very "negative." I can't imagine what that even means. You mean that I locate a problem and try to understand, respond, explain it? Is Freire, above, being negative?  Is James Loewen, in Lies My Teacher Told Me, being negative?  How about education thinker and all-around Bitchin' Human Beings Jonathan Kozol, Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Swift, George Orwell, Lenny Bruce

But, hey, If you want more "positive" or perhaps affirming - yet ever so charming, angry and somehow still elegant - prose from Mr. Bib, do take a look at recent heartfelt reviews of some amazing books recommended by The Bibliofella, including one on Orange County baseball (of all things), Marty Smith's excellent consideration of the revenue stamp for hunting (The Wild Duck Chase), and Ben Fountain's brilliant Iraq novel, Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk. Just for starters. Again, would you call a revisionist history of the racist politics of OC baseball "negative" for pointing out a system of purposeful segregation?  Would you accuse Smith of being "negative" because he takes care to explore and document the ironic difficulty of funding conservation programs through the selling of duck hunting licenses?  Would you give Mr. Fountain grief for pointing out the hypocrisy of our national amnesia about war and empire, not to mention our duplicitous and pathetic treatment of combat veterans as against the dumb-dumb mob spectacle of football? Well, maybe you would. Still, if you can't say anything nice, I believe, you ought to perhaps say instead what's true.

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Singer, teacher, activist. Signer.
As regards people who can't get past my first paragraph, who don't like writers who "come out swinging" and identifying assholes as, well, assholes, my rhetorical effort is not to capture the "goodwill of my audience," no, not if my audience is humorless and can't bother to read on. Sorry. Life is short. Again, you need to get out more, cf00. Another hero of mine (to be, somehow, both negative and positive at the same time), is the late folksinger, Industrial Workers of the World activist and people's movements historian Utah Phillips. "You've got to mess with people," he explained often. Is his homemade sign at right "negative"?  Is he not showering you with goodwill?  Don't like his funny hat?

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Anti anti-intellectualism
As regards name-calling. No, dear readers, identifying and locating "anti-intellectualism" is not calling people names.  It is not only a label for someone who in this case disagrees with me, author of a terrific blog and kooky radical teacher.  It is a documented and much-considered phenom of American history, and a part, sadly, of the character of our complicated and yet fascinating nation. Read some of it in Richard Hofstadter's Anti-intellectualism in American Life or Susan Jacoby's most excellent, mean, funny The Age of American Unreason. (You're welcome.)

"Fogey" is a funny word, perhaps problematically ageist, but it suggests brilliantly the kind of cartoon person so many former students (now adults) seem intent on portraying in what passes for real life: looking for some atavistic pretend-land, staying purposefully out of touch, living in some memory of their own now faded engagement and, yes, embracing politically and culturally conservative positions. Indoctrination? Into what, critical thinking?  Yes! I plead guilty as charged, Mr. Whitesides. It's not, by the way, "my syllabus" for Christ's sake. If, as Coelebs helpfully points out, you "read more carefully," not to mention read the entire delightful post, you'd perhaps understand that I did not choose these books, and maybe get the joke that they were chosen by others because, presumably, they represent some of the best of what is out there by way of teaching college reading, research, critical thinking, social problems, politics, like that.  Did I mention that it does not include, because it does not take seriously (and shouldn't) Dinesh D'Souza, or the Chicken Soup for the Fill in the Blank inspirational books, tired self-tomes, anything at all by the annoying Thomas Fried-
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Bestselling self-help author
man, corporate success biographies, Tuesdays With Morrie, Eat Pray Love, Deepak Chopra, just to mention a few of my favorites of the worst.

Regarding my "bias." Yes, it's clearly for anti-corporate values, which is an awkward but kind of great phrase.  "For anti." Hmmm. Nice to be positive I guess. Isn't that your bias, friend, against corporate hegemony and in favor of democracy?  Please, please, please explain to me how "corporate values" (WTF?) have a place in serious learning besides to point out their sadistic and dehumanizing and necessarily selfish ethos and practice, and how antithetical they are to a liberal arts education built on fairness, skepticism and - well why not? - let's say it together: liberation.

If I wanted corporate values, I'd turn on the TV. But if I turned on the TV I'd want to be able to develop a critique of what I was watching.  I'd want to have taken a class like mine or as taught by the many excellent instructors at UCI, many of whom begin their classes by suggesting to students that they take the fun online Political Compass test.  Just to help them see the world, and where they might be in it. Hey, what a great phrase, Mr. Bib, you handsome and clever guy. That's part of the mission of higher ed.

Also, "Don't tell your parents" was ironic. Get it? Of course, the whole point is for students (and everybody) to tell their parents. And their boss, their fellow students, co-workers. Again, as regards my tone, in what world exactly do you people dwell? (Besides Orange County, I mean). I am truly, genuinely confused here. Really. Do young people not play symbolically violent video games, watch all sort of wonderfully sarcastic and irreverent news and fake 
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Little Mitt
analysis shows (Colbert, Daily Show, Maher) not to mention insulting and stoopid (sic) "legitimate" news reporting?  Do they not watch the brilliant The Simpsons, Moral Orel, The Sarah Silverman Show, whose beautiful and super-smart by the way star just released a brilliant bit of political video voter education, designed to yes, offend if you are anti-democratic and to delight if you are a liberationist, beyond only the hilarious and filthy humor. What's more "offensive" here? The attack on voter turnout by the party of Dinesh D'Souze or tongue-in-cheek (or who knows where) blue (ha ha) humor? You decide. No, on second thought. I'll decide. And I vote for Sarah.

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Role model. And not Dinesh D'Souza
She and other alternative media, entertainment, analysis and reporting are welcome relief from the never-ending menu of panem et circenses from professional media nonsense-makers, last week offered in the Shuttle landing and a new I-phone. Students (and others)  might mistake this for reality.  They might not understand they are being assaulted. The idea that they and their parents cannot handle Mr. Bib's tiny rants ignores the fact that they are targets of every kind of purposefully demeaning, self-disregarding, pandering, deceitful, anti-social advertising, corporate advertising, propaganda and underwriting, not to mention outright lies by campaigning politicians. Are they not more familiar in fact with the "negative" critiques of, in no particular order, poor people, ethnic minorities, gay and lesbian people, women (see a beautiful, smart, talented one at right), workers, teachers, and even themselves by the likes of Messrs. Limbaugh, Beck, Prager and the other poltroons of the Right? And a GOP candidate right out of the failed financial mismanagement class who wants to manage our national financial life and has defined 47% of the American people as, well, you know, well, not so much. 

Thus concludes my jolly and thoughtful rebuttal.  Ha!  Teacher said "butt." The Bibliofella loves our little talks, and welcomes your 
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Object lessons not role models. Get it?
comments. Even better, I welcome your reading suggestions, for Orange County books and beyond. 


Andrew Tonkovich hosts the Wednesday night literary arts program Bibliocracy Radio on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California.

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4 comments
Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young

Well, I tried, I really tried. But reading this dude is going clam digging at Pismo -- a lot of slogging through mud to reach what is held out as a reward. Unfortunately, the reward here is quotations from 'thinkers' whose schtick was already hackneyed in the 1990s. As for the other columns here -- just reading Dan Savage makes me think I've contracted an STD, and 'Ask A Mexican' jumped the shark long ago.

 

No, this blog, esp. the crime posts, are about the only thing of value at this VVM site. (BTW I believe VVM is a corporation too.

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