Monday, May 29, 2017

Why writers should treat fans the way teachers treat students

I was once in a flamewar where, to my astonishment, people were angry that I was disagreeing with them as though they were my equals—they behaved with the curt rudeness that's common in heated arguments, but they expected me to treat them the way good adults treat ignorant youths, with a gentleness that hides the awareness the person being addressed simply hasn't a clue. I mention that now because the phenomenon's described at Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog: Funny--On Academic Bad Manners:
Philosopher Tad Brennan at Cornell writes with an explanation:

Journalists are surprised that academics can be short with them because they last met academics in the classroom, and most professors are kind and generous when dealing with students. Serious academics save their scathing put-downs for colleagues and equals--I doubt that those quotes from Fodor and Sterelny document interactions with students.

Instead of feeling pained and affronted, the bloggers and journalists should take it as a compliment: 'hey, those academics are treating me like an equal!' That can help to salve the bruises, anyhow. And it also shows why a sharp-tongued critique directed at a non-student is no betrayal of the "tone" appropriate to an "educator". If you are my student, then I have an obligation to be your educator; if not, not.