Saturday, September 17, 2011

Who, exactly, made Sarah Grunfeld feel bad?

You might have heard about the recent Jewish scandal that wasn't wherein a professor at York University has been criticized for how he chose to illustrate a point that there is a difference between acceptable and unacceptable opinions in public discourse:

Reaching for an example, he settled on one that seemed beyond dispute.

"All Jews should be sterilized" is an opinion that is simply not acceptable, he noted.
A student in the class, Sarah Grunfeld, took umbrage at this "outrageous" idea (only the quoted part, apparently, not the part about how this is not an acceptable view...) and slapped the professor with a complaint of anti-Semitism.

She, and the B'nai Brith, are persisting in demanding sanctions, even though they have been told that a) Prof Johnston is Jewish, and b) IT WAS AN EXAMPLE OF AN UNACCEPTABLE OPINION!

Sadly her poor attention, flawed half-baked perception and unthinking irrational reaction are all reminiscent of the very prejudices that she claims to have suffered. She contends that her reaction was triggered by generations of inaccurate and unfair insults against Jews. So she adopts the loathsome behavior of her perceived oppressors and treats her professor to an inaccurate perception and an unfair complaint.

Rather than taking responsibility for her reaction to her own erroneous perception of his statement (um, maybe texting while listening to the lecture?), Ms. Grunfeld blames the professor for her dismay. According to the National Post article:
in a statement released wednesday evening [Grunfeld said] that it was Prof. Johnston's fault if she got the wrong impression and complaining that the university has failed to discipline him.
Alas, we have all done this at one point or another--heard with half a brain and reacted as if what we *think* we heard can "cause" us to feel pain. Some people believe that if you say something they find objectionable, it's your fault if they feel angry. Others think that if a person hears something they think is objectionable and they feel anger or shame or dismay, they produced their own reaction and could have reacted differently if they chose. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
I might amend that to "without your direct complicity via misplaced attribution of where your feelings come from!"

Seems to me that rather than attending classes on social sciences, which are clearly beyond her ability to follow, Ms. Grunfeld might want to start with some classes on critical thinking and cognitive behavior, where she might learn that how she "feels" about what others say is not "their fault", but rather her responsibility and hers alone. She might also learn to pay attention in class and learn to check her perceptions before reaching out to smack somebody else for her foolish and faulty interpretations.

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