Project for Open Voices: “Dear Professor”

The Thrill is proud to feature personal narratives courtesy of the Project for Open Voices. Today’s essay is titled “Dear Professor” and was authored anonymously. POV is always accepting new submissions, so if you want to share your story, email openvoicessubmissions@gmail.com. If you would like to remain anonymous, you can submit by signing into a second email account: projectopenvoices@gmail.com (password: kenyoncollege).

via appstate.edu

Dear Professor,

Stop calling cultures primitive

Stop assuming we share the same history

Stop name dropping Buddha in a pitiful attempt to diversify the class

Stop justifying Eurocentrism with the statement “We are in the West”

Stop ignoring the beauty of the East

The genius of Arabia

And the wisdom of Africa

Stop stripping them of their magnificence

Stop reducing their philosophies to simplistic understandings

Stop ignoring the philosophy of the world

It is not Our Western European History

It is your Western European History

Stop assuming that your fundamental truths

Are mine

Stop assuming that philosophy has always belonged to the West

That philosophy originated and can only live in the west

That those who fail to share a “Greek history” can’t philosophize

The rest of the world is not waiting for the genius of the West

Sitting at the edge of its seat to be liberated from its primitive understanding

You aren’t impressive

You aren’t cute

Stop with the bullshit

Buddha isn’t the only philosopher who ever lived in Asia.

Female genital mutilation is not the sole characteristic of Africa

I googled for five minutes and found proof that non-westerners can think

And some of them are brown

Oruka Odera, Gayatri Spivak, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Feng Youlan

9 responses

  1. complaining anonymously about a person who shall remain anonymous will not change anything. this is a good first step, but the next step is to do something about it.

  2. Goes to a school in Ohio, gets offended that some of its professors tend to focus on the civilization that produced that school.

    Kenyon invites and financially aids people who are never satisfied with its gestures of outreach, who then portray Kenyon as insensitive. Ironic.

  3. The central argument of this “poem” is that Kenyon over-emphasizes the teaching of dead white European men and devalue other races, genders, cultures, etc. The author suggests that students at Kenyon should be taught the merits of the East and the oppressiveness/shallowness/injustice/unjustified dominance of Western thought.

    From the perspective of a foreign student, this wouldn’t make any sense. Young people from all over the world come to the American university system to be educated. Yet wouldn’t it be strange to reply to them “our civilization, our culture, our philosophic tradition has nothing to teach you” and that their homelands/home cultures deserve the highest praise, for no reason other than that they simply exist and are different (and thus have a de facto value that doesn’t depend on the merit of their thought/art/values/morality/etc.). I highly doubt a professor would call another culture “primitive” or actually only believes that Buddha is the sole source of Eastern wisdom.

    I wager that this is a screed against the Political Science department at Kenyon, particularly the Straussian influence. However, Leo Strauss, the supposedly evil emperor of Western thought, treats Al-Farabi and Maimonides with equal seriousness to Locke, Hobbes and Nietzsche. The enterprise of the Kenyon political science department is to give students a firm understanding of the current political situation in America (Western Liberal Democracy) and to teach them to investigate it. This investigation allows, and even encourages, thoughtful criticism. Yes, Plato is used as a guide of sorts, but his brand of philosophy functions by raising questions and criticisms without providing concrete answers. If this is regarding Prof. Shutt, I am sure he would be mortified of this opinion and would value the author’s input.

    After reading and learning from “Oruka Odera, Gayatri Spivak, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Feng Youlan,” why not approach the professor in office hours and discuss what they contribute to understanding the human condition? Instead of writing a complaint piece, why not do some extra work and have a productive conversation with your professor? An anonymous poem is far less likely to move a professor than an honest conversation with a hard-working student.

    • I’m not sure the authors have Strauss in mind, but if they did they’d be mistaken to take him as a Great Satan. He’s portrayed as such–and Straussians make a big deal of reading weighty Western texts and acting with mild skepticism towards liberalsm–in order to mark the rightmost boundary of acceptability and keep authentic conservatives and right-wingers out of the discussion.

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