I appreciate Ben Stroup’s response, though it does bring much of what I meant to point out in my article into still sharper relief than I could ever have managed to myself.
Readers of that article will note that I named nobody and singled nobody out for any kind of personal attack. My name, on the other hand, graces Mr. Stroup’s headline. Nor were the unnamed people I made mention of ‘enemies’ of mine, former or current. Two of the four students quoted are friends I speak to regularly, one is an acquaintance from a class and the other has since graduated but attended a reading group on Saturdays with me.
In the name of “love and respect,” Mr. Stroup spends a third of his article imputing to me various sorts and degrees of ill will and even misanthropy (!), after a very substantive first two thirds in which he waxes poetic about “kindness”—surely the same kind of “kindness” he goes on to display in that masterful last third. It’s plain to see the liberal arts have worked their subtle charms on Mr. Stroup.
I must, however, point out that Mr. Stroup’s views on “philosophy,” which I don’t mention in my article, have certainly progressed in his time here. It was just two years ago in an ancient philosophy class (where I had the pleasure of being his peer reviewer) that, instead of writing a five-page essay on Plato, he submitted to me and the instructor a two-sentence refusal. He was not, he wrote, “in the mood” to write about Plato.
In many ways, then, Mr. Stroup is the ideal person to have responded to my article. When I said that one does not have to read anything one doesn’t want to read at Carleton—that one never has to have one’s beliefs challenged in any way—I was speaking of the distribution requirements. In the singular case of Mr. Stroup, even as he was taking the class, he refused to engage with anything that did not comport with his moods.
What of anyone who disagrees with his obviously informed opinion? Why, they’re just a bunch of old men shouting from their porches. But there’s the rub: Mr. Stroup’s version of “kindness” has nothing to do with the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the term. For him “kindness” is reserved for those who agree with everything he says in every particular; everyone else is a bitter, angry, seedy sort of solipsist—with just a dash of misanthropy.
Nevertheless, I invite him and anyone else who disagrees with my article to approach me and have a real conversation. Supposing, of course, they are in the mood for it.