This semester I’m enrolled in a basic, required English class…a class in which I was shocked to have my professor unabashedly claim to be a Marxist despite the complete lack of relation between Marxism and the course material.
I haven’t confronted the teacher at this point, and as of right now, I don’t want to expose the teacher’s identity or otherwise do them harm. However, I haven’t ruled out making a note of this in the course evaluation at the end of the semester or even speaking to the dean about this misallocation of class time. But for this blog, I’ll refer to the teacher only as “Engels” and avoid using pronouns which would reveal Engels’ gender. Please pardon the awkward syntax.
Engels is not a good teacher. Unhappy with the room assigned for the course, Engels moved us to the library — but there’s no room there which Engels can regularly reserve. As a result, where we’ll meet each session is anyone’s guess, and there’s often inadequate seating or desk space. The lack of desks to write on doesn’t really matter, though, since Engels rarely teaches us things worth writing down. Instead, the course starts off with Engels attempting to guilt trip the class for tardiness, absence, or late assignments (keep in mind we don’t have a regular meeting location). Though some students do perform poorly, Engels doesn’t fail them but “compassionately” extends the deadlines ad infinitum.
A few weeks ago, Engels was scheduled to be evaluated in class by another professor. Engels told us about the scheduled evaluation more than a week in advance, jokingly threatening us while asking that we show up on time and perform well while the other professor was there. Engels later told us that the “jerk” evaluator had asked Engels if we had been coached. Apparently the evaluator smelled a rat.
But back to the topic at hand: Engels’ off-topic Marxism. For the first half hour of our 85 minute class on Thursday, we discussed things actually related to the class — like how due dates would be extended yet again. Then, as usual, Engels began to supplement the curriculum with personal stories. These included a discussion of the difficulty of Engels’ own schoolwork as a Ph.D. student at our school — particularly the difficulty of upper level classes like “Feminist Theory.” It was then that the Marxism came in.
As I’ve found out from discussing Anthropology and related disciplines like sociology with my wife, who also studies at my school, Marxism is foundational to the feminist movement. Nonetheless, I was angry that we were discussing feminism and Marxism is a lower level English course. So I asked, “What does Marxism have to do with the feminist movement? Isn’t Marxism a political and economic philosophy?”
Perhaps that was a mistake, because the rest of the class period was an onslaught of ever more off-topic discussion of Engels’ own philosophical leanings. It was during this discussion that we were swiftly and proudly informed that Engels is “kind of a Marxist.” I will paraphrase the rest of Engels’ rambling in the following quotes:
- “Karl Marx was way ahead of his time; a visionary.”
- “Who does Capitalism benefit? Only the top 1%. The rest of us are the peons who do all the work.”
- “What has happened as a result of Trickle Down? Mass unemployment. Our President, Obama, tried to fix this by taxing those wealthy people heavily [this is Engels’ exact phrasing] in order to fix the failure of Trickle Down, but of course everyone went for his head.”
- “The Bible actually follows Marxist theory, which is strange because most Christians are the ones opposed to Marxism.” [Perhaps Engels is referring to the Tea Party movement?]
- “CEOs don’t do anything really, they just show up and hold the titles while their Secretaries do all the work.”
Now I began to see the connection between feminist theory and Marxism: Women have been excluded from the workplace in the past, which is supposedly a flaw in Capitalism. Marxism espouses equal economic rights for all, so it is expected to create complete equality for women in the workplace.
Unfortunately for Engels and the success of Marxism, women currently have equal protection under the law in America. Therefore, the struggle of women’s rights now lies in educating society that they have an equal right and the equal potential to provide value in the workplace. Marxism, even if it had any value to begin with, is now irrelevant here.
I am absolutely disgusted by this abuse of power by my teacher.
That is not to say that Marxism should never be taught — far from it. Wrong though it may be, it’s philosophically important and should be addressed in appropriate history, political science, and philosophy classes at the very least. It would even be acceptable for a teacher, while staying on topic in such a class, to note their personal endorsement of the philosophy while not requiring students to agree.
But this is definitely out of line in a simple freshman English course, the goal of which is to teach students how to write a better paper. Marxism is irrelevant here, and Engels is using this class as nothing more than a soapbox for personal rants while doing a poor job of actually teaching this foundational course.
Engels should have briefly explained the connection between feminism and Marxism and then gotten the class back on topic. Instead, Engels did my small class of impressionable freshmen a huge disservice by promoting to them a flawed, immoral political theory inapplicable to the topic at hand. This wasn’t teaching; this was indoctrination.Published in