Apologist shovels more BS on the elite pile
This week, one of Boudinot’s former students wrote a follow-up article for the same publication, I Was the MFA Student Who Made Ryan Boudinot Cry. The follow-up agrees that Boudinot’s original comments were wrong, at least in so far as they might represent what teachers privately gripe about among themselves about their most disappointing students but should never say in public. And they were phrased unkindly.
I provide a direct link to the follow-up because it feels as if the former student is sincere in their comments. But their attempt to defend or rationalize Boudinot’s original article is both misguided and wrong.
The former student alludes to Boudinot’s acrimonious departure from the teaching job just before writing the article as a possible explanation for how ungracious the article was. Boudinot’s teaching style is excused as being the kind of “tough love” portrayed most recently in the movie Whiplash. Finally, they point out that Boudinot is reportedly a very loving father to his two kids.
None of that changes the clear, irrefutable fact that most of Boudinot’s article was pure assholery. And now that we know that even students who admire him describe his teaching style as “contemptuous,” “ruthless” and “merciless” we can safely conclude that the article was hardly an aberration.
I’ve had enough experience with various kinds of jerks, jackasses, and other abusers to recognize the pattern. Every single abusive person who has ever breathed has also had any number of people who would swear that the person actually meant well, they’re just blunt. Or their communication style is simply argumentative; if you give as good as you get, they’ll respect you. Also they clearly love their own spouse/kid/dog so much that it is simply impossible that they are the kind of mean-spirited, angry, judgmental dickhead that their recent actions might be construed to imply.
And I say that while confessing that there have been times in my life when I was exactly that kind of jerk or jackass.
Being angry makes you do stupid things, obviously. Being angry about how one lost a job (or how one felt forced to leave) is going to leave you prone to say unwise things about that job. But the problem with this excuse is that none of his vitriol was aimed at the school or the program. The people who have agreed with him act as if he was leveling an indictment at the system that determines which students get into the program.
While it is possible to infer that underlying message, he doesn’t ever say the graduate admissions system should be scrapped—he says he wished some of his students had suffered more. He places all of the onus for students being unprepared on the students not being “serious” or “not the real deal” or not being talented.
When you’re angry with a specific person with whom you have a shared history, you will sometimes say things that you do not really mean or that you don’t believe are true because you want to hurt that specific person. Sometimes. More often, what you say is stuff you’ve believed all the time, but have refrained from saying for one reason or another.
When you’re not yelling at a specific individual who has hurt you, you never say anything you haven’t always believed to be true. Being angry doesn’t make you spout random thoughts that never entered your head before that moment. All being angry does is remove your filters. You say things you have refrained from saying not because you were trying to be kind—you refrained from saying them because you didn’t want to deal with the consequences of speaking your true opinion.
And as far as him being a good father? Maybe he is, I don’t know. But it makes me think of those virulently anti-gay politicians who suddenly understand that gay people are human, too, but only after their own child comes out. If they were a genuinely nice person, they would have had the empathy to see that when the victim of the hatred wasn’t someone they have a vested interest in. Similarly, I’m not impressed by a person who is able to be nice to his own family while he is so mean and nasty to people he no longer believes can do anything for him.
I’ve quoted before the saying, “If you meet one asshole in the morning, you met an asshole. If you keep meeting assholes again and again all day long, you’re the asshole.” If you get a bad student who isn’t interested in learning or becoming better at the craft, you got a bad student. If you keep meeting bad students again and again in ever single class you teach? You’re a bad teacher.