Tag Archives: staudenmaier

The History Man – a polemical story

The anthropopper was taken aback, not to say disappointed, that the good Herr Doktor Professor Peter Staudenmaier thinks that I cannot tell the difference between his polemical and his scholarly writings:

“And a whole lot of Steiner fans, alas, have no idea how to make basic sense of different kinds of texts. Like a lot of other anthroposophists, Smith is simply confused about how academics work, indeed about what sort of article he thought he was reading in the first place. This sort of confusion is widespread among Steiner’s followers. That is a big part of how they manage to mistake an essay like “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism” for an academic treatise.”

Although some might be tempted to say that in Staudi’s case there is no essential difference between the two – because if he’s writing, he’s lying – that would be unfair and I reject such an outrageous slur on a respected academic.

Wikipedia tells us that: “Polemics are usually addressed to important issues in religion, philosophy, politics, or science… typically motivated by strong emotions, such as hatred…”

Well, Staudi certainly brings hatred to his polemics – he clearly hates Steiner, anthroposophy, Waldorf schools and biodynamics. Would it be unreasonable to assume that he brings the same feelings to his academic writings, although taking a certain amount of care to appear more even-handed?

But the anthropopper is always keen to learn, and so has given himself a little exercise in polemics by writing the opening of a story that draws upon the techniques of the master. It is called:

 

The History Man

Staudenmaier was feeling trapped. Here he was, in his 50s and desperate to leave his mundane teaching job in an undistinguished university (ranked only 157th in the Forbes listings). What was worse, he was stuck in an ugly rustbelt town with a declining population right in the middle of what one of his students had called “bumfuck nowhere”. Everything about the place, the job and the students was beginning to get to him. Only the other day, a student had published the following about Marquette on a “Rate My Uni” website:

“You can get the same education at a state school for a much lower price… The campus area leaves a lot to be desired. The air literally stinks much of the time. Milwaukee’s weather is windy, damp, overcast, and cold. Drinking and basketball are the two primary sources of entertainment. There are a lot of nouveau rich (sic) kids who think they are the shit. There are many other students who went to Marquette b/c they thought they were too good for State U, but possess average intellects and often below average social skills. In retrospect, I wish I had gone elsewhere.”

Another student had written: “Marquette is a brand-name, that is all. Our facilities aren’t particularly nice with exception to some of the specific programs like law, dental or engineering or the like. Our gym is old, the cafeteria food is limited, and especially in comparison to the nearby state school, student resources are pitiful. Anyone not affiliated with Marquette will be treated as such. Basketball players are known to get preferential treatment (especially when it comes to work load, and financial disbursement). Marquette University shows little to no mercy when it comes to school payments resulting in many students (even good students) removing themselves based on the inability to pay semesters upfront.”

Even worse, another student had written: “This area is so filthy and disgusting, with Negroes always panhandling and demanding money from you, if they dont (sic) rob you at gunpoint which I was, other students were beaten and robbed or raped, and we have police reports and news articles to show. FU Jesuits!!! The area is full of crime and is unsafe, which the university wants to cover up. Go look it up yourself.”

And one particular student comment had come dangerously close to himself: “From top to bottom, I simply think Marquette University is a bit of a joke, from faculty, to public safety, to office of residence life, and to students. In terms of academics here at Marquette, I’m not very impressed. It’s sad when I’ve taken a total of 16 classes and have only had two teachers that I can say were solid teachers. I even took a history course this summer at a local community college and am willing to admit that he was better than any PHD professor that Marquette has to offer.”

And now the local newspaper had picked up on a recent scandal:

‘ “Be the difference” is the motto of Marquette University, the generally not-very-newsworthy Jesuit university in Milwaukee.  Marquette is in the news now for reasons that it cannot be very happy about.”

“First a teaching assistant at the Catholic institution, Cheryl Abbate, a doctoral student in philosophy, was caught on tape earlier this year giving a very un-Catholic answer to a student who wanted to write about his objections to same-sex marriage in a course titled, “Theory of Ethics.”  The student complained to an associate dean and to the chairman of the Philosophy Department, neither of whom saw a cause for concern. The student then played the recording to a Marquette professor of political science, John McAdams, who after listening to the recording, blogged on November 9 about the incident, making some pointed criticisms of Abbate’s refusal to countenance the expression of opinions counter to her own.  The story began to attract significant public attention, including an article on Inside Higher Ed, November 20, which reprised the story and gave links to accounts supporting McAdams’s views and others attacking him.”

This was all too embarrassing and Staudenmaier knew he had to get out before the last of his options closed down around him. He was pretty sure his supervisor had noted the following typical comment from a student on the “Rate My Professor” website:

“In Staudenmaier’s class all you do is READ. READ READ READ. The books he chooses are SOOO dry and completely uninteresting that it is almost impossible to pick them up. He was very animated but VERY REPETITIVE. Personally, if you want an easy history requirement class, don’t take him.”

How could he get out from this hellhole and find a job in one of the Big Ten universities before it was too late? Staudenmaier‘s private assessment of himself was that by rights he should be widely known for his groundbreaking research and radical views, and like the celebrated economist Paul Krugman, be invited to contribute polemical op-ed pieces to the New York Times. But he was also clear that this was never going to happen while he was stuck here in this run-down mid-west town known only for beer and motorcycles. He had to find a way to establish some sort of high profile academic reputation (and hence a potential escape route) by choosing a niche area for research where his supervisors were unlikely to know the territory and thus wouldn’t pull him up for any liberties he might take with sources and selective quotations. And then it came to him in a flash – anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner! Yes, that was it… (to be continued)

 

The anthropopper should add that all the italicised quotations in this story are genuine, although his use of them and the context in which they are placed may bear only a tangential relationship to the truth – which by a strange coincidence is how he experiences Staudi’s own polemical writings.

Greetings to all, as Staudi might say.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf critics