The only explanation for Ron Srigley’s recent article in the Los Angeles Review of Books is chagrin. His own, or his hope to lather with chagrin the parents of university students, his fellow teachers — in particular those he refers to as “not scholars but employees” — and even students themselves. His voice comes off the screen acerbic and self-satisfied, and the nakedness of his spite for current trends in education (“student-centered learning”, YouTube lectures, and the veering away from a tradition of classic texts, grade- and professor-centered university culture) is so palpable it’s a feast of bile.
I am not trying to shame or malign or even chide Ron Srigley. What would be the point of that? To respond to him in kind would be to agree with him. I do not agree with him; most particularly, I don’t agree with what his argument evidences of his pedagogy, namely that learning happens through shaming, maligning, chiding. For I think we can make no mistake in his intention: his article is not meant as just a testament or epistle — it’s meant to teach. To teach us and the rest of his audience about the insolence of today’s educators, the erosion of the ivy-covered tower, and to remind us about the inevitable laziness of college students. And he teaches through scorn. It’s that scorn I disagree with.