My Email Exchange with a Childish Professor

I am an editorial writer for my school newspaper at Ole Miss, and I wrote this article about a week ago. It discusses how the Democrat and Republican Parties are disregarding the express constitutional limits placed on them by Article I Section 8 of the Constitution. My article focused primarily on the current debate over the public option for healthcare.

Evidently, what I had to say angered a certain professor of modern languages at Ole Miss.  He soon emailed me expressing his discontent.

Professor

Click “Read more here” to read the email exchange that followed: (If you want to read the full story, click on the link to my original article at the top of the post)

Professor of Modern Languages:

Justin,

In today’s piece, you say there are 18 powers given to the
legislature, but you neglect to list them. It would have been much too
cumbersome to do so, but the 18th reads thus:

“[The legislature has the power t]o make all Laws which shall be
necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers,
and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of
the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

The founding fathers knew they couldn’t anticipate all needs of the
country as it went forward, and so this catch-all phrase–open to
interpretation, of course–is there to provide flexibility.

You can interpret it differently from me, but the issue is not nearly
as cut and dry as you assert it to be in your piece today.

Professor XXXX

My response:

It is very cut and dry. The Constitution says in the 9th and 10th amendments that any power not granted to the government by the Constitution is left up to the states and to the people. A public option for healthcare is not listed as a power, and neither are a lot of other powers that our government is using these days, therefore they are not allowed to legislate on them. It is not open to interpretation to anybody but lawyers and others who wish to assert their will onto others or vote themselves benefits. 

Also, there are not much more powers listed in the Constitution other than those 18. A great deal of it is procedure for elections and so forth. Then you have the amendments, which mostly put restrictions on government. So it is rather cut and dry. The necessary and proper clause gives the government the ability to do what is proper to carry out the powers granted to it. It, therefore, may not do anything that allows it to carry out other powers not listed. 
And the founders did realize they might not have had all the knowledge for governing the country, that is why they wrote Article 5 laying down an amendment process. They did not write the necessary and proper clause because they felt they could not anticipate the needs of the country, they created a separate article for that. 
Also, by reviewing the records of the Constitutional Convention, it is very clear the necessary and proper clause was not meant for what you say it was. Gunning Bedford actually proposed a clause that would do just what you said the necessary and proper clause does and it was rejected. George Nicholas told the Virginia ratifying convention that the necessary and proper clause, quote, “only enables Congress to carry into execution the powers given to them, but gives them no additional power.” Alexander Hamilton held the same view in the Federalist No. 33. Besides, if they intentionally put a phrase in the Constitution that gave the government full power to legislate on things not listed in the Constitution without amending the Constitution, what was the purpose of the Constitution then?
It is very clear the Constitution severely limits the powers for the federal government. And, as you said, it would have been too cumbersome to list all 18 powers. I also only have so much room in my columns and I have to use space wisely. Hope that clears a few things up. 
Sincerely, 
Justin Head
2nd response from Professor of Modern Languages:
Justin,

I think you are naive, and I am not taking advice on constitutional
law, if you’ll excuse me, from some undergrad. Learn some humility,
because otherwise you come across as some know-it-all, who really
doesn’t know nearly as much as you think you do.

Sorry, but someone had to say it.

My 2nd response:
First off, I’m not an undergrad, do some research and grow up yourself. If you don’t want the input from “some undergrad” then stop writing email’s attempting to sound like some intelligent professor to students who appear in the school newspaper. Your argument was cliche and something I would expect from a freshman. I’m sorry that I decided to write a column in the paper and my opinions don’t happen to sit well with you. My editor wants editorials from me so that is what I write.  
 
And thank you for falling into the category of adults who blow off arguments of those younger than them by calling them naive. If reading books and doing research on topics that I write about qualifies me as naive, then I’m sorry. I was told when I was younger that reading was a good thing. My arguments on the Constitution do not come directly from myself, but from authors schooled on the subject. They are historians, economists, and lawyers. Perhaps it would behoove you to read some of them too.
 
It’s really saddening that a professor at our university would write an email to a student disagreeing with them and then make an absurd ad hominem attack on the student for deciding to engaging in the debate. I’m sorry you feel my arguments are not worthy of consideration because I happen to have been born after you were. But I feel as if you are the one acting childish in this situation. Next time try retaliating through subject matter and not emotional absurdities. Good day.
3rd response from Professor of Modern Languages:
Justin,

Upon rereading my response, I need to apologize, because what I meant
to write or should have written was “You are BEING naive,” not you ARE
naive. So you have my apologies for that slip, much like your typo.

Reading books only gets you so far, my friend, and believe me, I’ve
read many, many more than you. I have also twice as much life
experience than you which includes living in several states and
countries.

So yes, you are being naive, and immature, but those are qualities
that many young men possess. Moreover, the fact that you don’t address
me in your replies might be interpreted as disrespectful–you did that
during our last debate as well. And I think I pointed it out to
you…or maybe not. I’d have to go back and look.

The point is, Justin, that when I or someone else raises an objection
to your argument, you don’t try to counter their points. You try to
overwhelm them with information from peripheral concerns or, if the
tone of your email is any indication, to shout them down.

With more life experience, more reading, and more thinking, your views
will mature and ripen.

Again, my apologies for my awkward turn of phrase. Much like during
our last debate, I’ll say now that I don’t intend to reply and will
leave the last word to you.

My 3rd response:

If I try to shout people out, you try to make their points seem null and void because of their age and experience. Perhaps I have more reading and experience in this area than you. Only perhaps, not saying I do. However, judging by your argument, I would have to say you don’t have a great background in this information. 

I’m sorry I’m being naive, I’m sorry I’m being immature. I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to do when YOU email ME. Perhaps I should respond with an agreement that you are right since you are obviously wise beyond my years, or simply say nothing. There is not much I can say to move you past this point. You use my age as an argument to somehow prove you are correct. If I overwhelm with information, you simply leave out any information that would seem to prove your point and attack people on personal grounds. Evidently, I should wait until I am in my 40’s to become involved in any type of debate. At least I did not engage in argumentative fallacies to get my point across. Also, the information I gave you was not a peripheral concern. It dealt directly with the issue at hand. An understanding of the history of our Constitution helps prove the language and intention of its clauses. I usually try not to counter with points of which I have no information to back them up. Not to mention, I brought up three instances as my examples. I would hardly say that is overwhelming.

Obviously, judging by this ridiculous argument, books have only gotten you so far. The fact that I sit here and defend myself, instead of my argument, shows that you have taken a debate out of the realm of fact and into one of personal attributes. If I am being immature for defending my point with too much information, I am sorry. I cannot find any instance where I showed any immaturity in my response. I simply countered your point with a few historical examples. I did not just throw out some information that serves no purpose. Also, I was not at all mad when I wrote that response. There was no shouting down going on. I simply stated my points. If I didn’t do it in a manner that was pleasing enough to you I am sorry. Yet, unfortunately, it is all too easy for a professor on a power trip to accuse a student of being immature. What exactly was so immature about my response? Was it immature because I gave too much information, or just because I decided to respond. I do admit the second response was obviously one with a little anger in it simply because instead of a counterpoint, I got a personal insult. Perhaps I am somewhat naive, but that is relative term, and one you have chosen to use in replace of debatable counterpoints. You show huge naivete by underestimating a human being you do not know simply because they have less life experience. However, I don’t write columns on all areas of life. I write columns on the political realm. And my information comes from those who have lived in other countries, and those that might even have more life experience than you.

It seems a quality older men possess is being stubborn and unable to listen to anybody who’s age is not competitive with their own. It’s no wonder our Congress is such a horrible representative body, most of them must be of your age and mindset. 

So after being accused of being naive, immature, a know-it-all, disrespectful, and incapable of showing humility, I sit at my computer defending my personality instead of my argument. Perhaps as years progress and I become as wise as you, I too will begin to argue based on the appeared shortcomings of those who disagree with me instead of using facts and information. Isn’t it a political rule to change a debate you have little knowledge of by bringing up something negative about the person who is better informed? Yes I am younger than you, yes I have less life-experience. Does that mean I’m wrong when it comes to the Constitution, and any defense I give of it must be a naive and immature one? I don’t know. But if that’s the line you want to use, I can’t stop you. It’s just the fact that you use that defense and have professor before your name that saddens me. But I’m sure this message will come with no merit to you whatsoever. Because, undoubtedly it is true that I am a student that has been educated by professors. And if the conversation I am having now shows the attitude that professors have toward their students and gives insight into who professors truly are, I haven’t learned as much as I thought I have. No doubt, professors with the mentality that students with opinions are naive and immature will produce nothing less of their students than what they suspect them of being. Therefore, if I am immature and naive in my information gathering, perhaps it is due to individuals, such as yourself, that have done nothing more than look down on me for being required to live through my 20’s.

I’m sorry if you disagreed with my article. Perhaps if you decide to email me again I can be less immature and you will actually provide facts instead of an ad hominem  fallacy. Perhaps then, we can engage in a debate. Until then, good day.

Final response from Professor of Modern Language
Justin,

I said I wouldn’t respond, and I’m not going to, not right now.
Frankly, it’s just been a crazy day and I’m pretty tired.

I just wanted to point out that your DM by-line says that you’re a
“senior accountancy major,” which lead me to think you were an
undergrad. So that’s where I got that info. Again, sorry if that was
an incorrect statement.

End conversation exchange. 
Perhaps I let him get under my skin. I should have ended the exchange when he decided to begin the ad hominem attacks. However, I felt it was worthy of sharing. 

 

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