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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2007

Rate Your Professor: Socrates

By Thomas Cushman
Teaching evaluations have become a permanent fixture in the academic environment. These instruments, through which students express their true feelings about classes and professors, can make or break an instructor. What would students say if they had Socrates as a professor?

This class on philosophy was really good, Professor Socrates is sooooo smart, I want to be just like him when I graduate (except not so short J). I was amazed at how he could take just about any argument and prove it wrong.

I would advise him, though, that he doesn’t know everything, and one time he even said in class that the wise man is someone who knows that he knows little (Prof. Socrates, how about that sexist language!?). I don’t think he even realizes at times that he contradicts himself. But I see that he is just eager to share his vast knowledge with us, so I really think it is more a sin of enthusiasm than anything else.

I liked most of the meetings, except when Thrasymachus came. He was completely arrogant, and I really resented his male rage and his point of view. I guess I kind of liked him, though, because he stood up to Prof. Socrates, but I think he is against peace and justice and has no place in the modern university.

Also, the course could use more women (hint: Prof. Socrates, maybe next time you could have your wife Xanthippe come in and we can ask questions about your home life! Does she resent the fact that you spend so much time with your students?). All in all, though, I highly recommend both the course and the instructor.

I learned a lot in this class, a lot of things I never knew before. From what I heard from other students, Professor Socrates is kind of weird, and at first I agreed with them, but then I figured out what he was up to. He showed us that the answers to some really important questions already are in our minds.

I really like how he says that he is not so much a teacher, but a facilitator. That works for me because I really dislike the way most professors just read their lectures and have us write them all down and just regurgitate them back on tests and papers. We need more professors like Professor Socrates who are willing to challenge students by presenting materials in new and exciting ways.

I actually came out of this class with more questions than answers, which bothered me and made me uncomfortable in the beginning, but Professor Socrates made me realize that that’s what learning is all about. I think it is the only class I ever took which made me feel like a different person afterward. I would highly recommend this class to students who want to try a different way of learning.

My first thought about this class was: this guy is really ugly. Then I thought, well, he’s just a little hard on the eyes. Finally, I came to see that he was kind of cute. Before I used to judge everyone based on first impressions, but I learned that their outward appearances can be seen in different ways through different lenses.

I learned a lot in this class, especially about justice. I always thought that justice was just punishing people for doing things against the law and stuff. I was really blown away by the idea that justice means doing people no harm (and thanks to Prof. Socrates, I now know that the people you think are your enemies might be your friends and vice versa, I applied that to the people in my dorm and he was absolutely right).

An excellent class over all. One thing I could suggest is that he take a little more care about his personal appearance, because as we all know, first impressions are lasting impressions.

Socrates is bias and prejudice and a racist and a sexist and a homophobe. He stole his ideas from the African people and won’t even talk to them now. Someone said that maybe he was part African, but there is noooooo way.

For someone who is always challenging conventional wisdom (if I heard that term one more time I was going to die), Professor Socrates’ ideal republic is pretty darn static. I mean there is absolutely no room to move there in terms of intellectual development and social change.

Also, I was taking this course on queer theory and one of the central concepts was “phallocentricism” and I was actually glad to have taken Socrates because he is a living, breathing phallocentrist!

Also, I believe this Republic that Prof. Socrates wants to design — as if anyone really wants to let this dreadful little man design an entire city — is nothing but a plan for a hegemonic, masculinist empire that will dominate all of Greece and enforce its own values and beliefs on the diverse communities of our multicultural society.

I was warned about this man by my adviser in women’s studies. I don’t see that anything other than white male patriarchy can explain his omnipresence in the agora and it certainly is evident that he contributes nothing to a multicultural learning environment. In fact, his whole search for the Truth
is evidence of his denial of the virtual infinitude of epistemic realities (that term wasn’t from queer theory, but from French lit, but it was amazing to see how applicable it was to queer theory).

One thing in his defense is that he was much more positive toward gay and lesbian people. Actually, there was this one guy in class, Phaedroh or something like that, who Socrates was always looking at and one day they both didn’t come to class and they disappeared for the whole day. I’m quite sure that something is going on there and that the professor is abusing his power over this student.

Socrates is a real drag, I don’t know how in hell he ever got tenure. He makes students feel bad by criticizing them all the time. He pretends like he’s teaching them, but he’s really ramming his ideas down student’s throtes. He’s always taking over the conversation and hardly lets anyone get a word in.

He’s sooo arrogant. One time in class this guy comes in with some real good perspectives and Socrates just kept shooting him down. Anything the guy said Socrates just thought he was better than him.

He always keeps talking about these figures in a cave, like they really have anything to do with the real world. Give me a break! I spend serious money for my education and I need something I can use in the real world, not some b.s. about shadows and imaginary trolls who live in caves.

He also talks a lot about things we haven’t read for class and expects us to read all the readings on the syllabus even if we don’t discuss them in class and that really bugs me. Students’ only have so much time and I didn’t pay him to torture me with all that extra crap.

If you want to get anxious and depressed, take his course. Otherwise, steer clear of him! (Oh yeah, his grading is really subjective, he doesn’t give any formal exams or papers so its hard to know where you stand in the class and when you try to talk to him about grades he just gets all agitated and changes the topic.)

I don’t know why all the people are so pissed at Professor Socrates! They say he’s corrupting us, but it’s really them that are corrupt. I know some people resent his aggressive style, but that’s part of the dialectic. Kudos to you, Professor Socrates, you’ve really changed my way of thinking! Socs rocks!!

Thomas Cushman is a professor of sociology at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

This article first appeared in the March 16, 2007 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Reprinted with permission.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily CAUT.

Commentary: CAUT welcomes articles between 800 and 1,500 words on contemporary issues directly related to post-secondary education. Articles should not deal with personal grievance cases nor with purely local issues. They should not be libellous or defamatory, abusive of individuals or groups, and should not make unsubstantiated allegations. They should be objective and on a political rather than a personal subject. A commentary is an opinion and not a “life story.” First person is not normally used. Articles may be in English or French, but will not be translated. Publication is at the sole discretion of CAUT. Commentary authors will be contacted only if their articles are accepted for publication. Commentary submissions should be sent to Liza Duhaime.

Les opinions exprimées sont celles des auteurs et ne reflètent pas nécessairement la position officielle de l’ACPPU.

Commentaires destinés à la rubrique Tribune libre : L’ACPPU invite les lecteurs à soumettre des articles de 800 à 1 500 mots qui portent sur des questions d’actualité liées directement à l’enseignement postsecondaire. Les articles ne doivent traiter ni de dossiers de griefs particuliers ni de questions d’intérêt strictement local. Ils ne doivent pas comporter des allégations non fondées ni des propos diffamants, calomniateurs ou offensants envers des personnes ou des groupes. Les articles doivent être empreints d’une objectivité totale et aborder des sujets de nature politique plutôt que personnelle. Un commentaire est avant tout l’expression d’une opinion et non pas le « récit d’une vie ». Il convient normalement de le formuler à la première personne. Les articles peuvent être soumis en français ou en anglais, mais ils ne seront pas traduits. L'ACPPU se réserve le droit de choisir les articles qui seront publiés. La rédaction ne communiquera avec les auteurs de commentaires que si elle décide de publier leurs articles. Les commentaires doivent être envoyés à Liza Duhaime.