Ph.Ds are only worth the person backing them

This isn’t a WTHX. Rather, this is a cross-post of a friend’s Facebook note – one that has amused me greatly, and is a prime example of why a degree is only worth the person backing it.

In this case, being a programming instructor isn’t shite if you’re the sort of person inclined to get into long flame wars with your students because they decided that their stress levels and course load meant that your class gets axed from their schedule.

The funniest thing: later on, after the events of the below, he tries to brag by referencing Slashdot and ten Amazon reviews as a metric of how great his programming text is. Other commentators on her Facebook’s noted that his Amazon rank means that he gets around five actual sales a year…

Mainly, I’m posting this because I love schadenfreude, and Anna’s deconstruction of his hysteria-laced email exchange – which she did not initiate – warms my blackened little heart. For the sake of my readers, it’s all behind the cut – read if interested, pass by if not.

(also noted: given that later emails has him explicitly state that he doesn’t give a shite about whether or not she emails to others… sorry Professor Perry, it’s aaalllllll on the internets now. Welcome to the Cirque du Critique.)

(from Anna Mattinger)

The backstory: This quarter I was enrolled in an Intermediate C programming class as part of what’s proven to be a rather heavy course load.
For the most part, I was doing rather well in the class–my grades on labs initially ranged from 90-99%, and I got a B on the midterm while about 45% of the class flunked.
However, I couldn’t stand his class–he spent 30-70 minutes a day yammering that students cared too much about how professors treated them [“Never MIND if he grades things quickly and hands them right back; students just complain if I pull them aside and take ten minutes to tell them they need to shape up or choose another discipline!”], about how happy it made him that people thought he was a dick [“I LOVE getting negative feedback on Rate My Professors. Do you know who goes on that website? LOSERS.”], how good of a programmer he is [incidentally, I don’t believe he has any workplace experience with programming], how he “gets tons of people into grad school” [from community college?] and that he “doesn’t hand A’s out like candy, so employers at big companies know [his] students are the real deal” [again, because they check community college transcripts?], and how he used to be a psychologist [“And I was GOOD at it, too! I just quit because I discovered that people are all LAZY FAKERS.”].
When asked relevant, quick questions by the few students who bothered listening to his lectures, he’d spend five minutes berating them about how stupid their questions were and how they needed to reconsider their life choices.
Anyway, on two occasions I came in almost ten minutes late, as Speech and Debate meetings run into the beginning of Intermediate C. Apparently, my lateness rubbed him the wrong way, as I subsequently began receiving F grades on fully functional labs, with such helpful and specific comments as [and I relay these VERBATIM]: “Absurd!” “Choose another discipline!” “Come to class on time!” “Why kind of nonsense is this?”
The day before the drop deadline, I sat there trying to decipher his seemingly arbitrary grading as he spent over thirty minutes bitching about the lazy kids of today and making fun of a few poorly-performing students.
Realizing that he was making me hate programming, and that I wasn’t getting enough sleep trying to balance all my classes, I decided in an instant to drop the class. I had a multitude of better things to be doing, so I packed up and left. My professor saw me as I was just heading out the door, and called out, “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?” Not feeling it’d be prudent to explain myself, I merely saluted, then turned and walked out.
A day later, I discovered a treasure in my inbox. So, without further ado:

Subject: Goodbye, Anna


Here’s two quotes sent to me via email from a fellow CIS faculty member yesterday:

“What’s really interesting to me is the seeming trend that people have no shame any more.”

… and …

“If people have no shame in their failure, how are they going to improve?”

Your behavior this quarter consisted of chronic lateness and, as soon as the labs got challenging, horrible performance. That time you came into class late, dropped your stuff on a desk, and then marched right back out of class again actually had the entire class laughing at you. Without my saying a word, these people knew how UNCONSCIOUS you were about proper decorum.

No, Anna, it’s not ME that’s the problem, it’s YOU. I’ve still got 35 and 44 people left in
my other two classes but this CIS 15BG class will forever be memorable because it has the
highest-ever attrition in any class I’ve ever taught and the most horrifically uncommitted
students. Thank God I’ve still got several real scholars in that class. After all, they are the ones who keep any teacher sane and enthusiastic.

When young people like yourself listen to me, good things result. One young man several quarters back barely squeaked out a “B” in 15BG. But he knew he had the real deal by taking me as an instructor because he subsequently took Advanced C, Perl, and Advanced Perl and got three A’s. Unlike you, he understood the gravity of not living up to his potential.

The tragicomedy of your goofy departure on Wednesday is that I sense that you feel you’ve “won” something. Metaphorically, it’s like you took a pistol out of your backpack, shot your own leg off, and then smilingly declared victory.

Well, Anna, I don’t need your enrollment, your affirmation, or your attitude.

Read “The Commencement Speech You’ll Never Hear” by Jacob Neusner or an article of the same name by Neal Boortz. You definitely need some inputs from other people to begin to understand how spoiled you are by the freedoms of college and how certain indulgences you avail yourself of in college will NOT be available to you in your future.


John Perry

After some consideration, I abandoned my initial decision to just let it lie, and sent this heartfelt response:

Subject: Re: Goodbye, Anna


This is pure gold! I must say it’s quite an unexpected gift for merely choosing to drop a class in light of my rigorous course load this quarter. I have forwarded it to a few interested parties, including my father—one of those “elite C programmers” that you keep gibbering about who, incidentally, exclaimed weeks ago that the ignorance with which you enforce crude methods and unsound dogma makes it clear you have no professional coding experience outside of your “teaching” career.

I’m in total accordance with that second piece of advice: “If people have no shame in their failure, how are they going to improve?” Why, I once had an instructor [pretend] to gloat over receiving invariably bad reviews from students! Can you believe that?

I suppose your illustrious background as a psychologist prompted you to take time out of what must be your VERY busy life to compose such a diplomatic, highly publishable email, which of course shows no bearing of any personal injury endured by you due to the private educational decisions of some inconsequential nineteen year old girl. I’m just glad you’ve managed to console yourself, even if it’s made you a laughingstock to a multitude of strangers on the Internet. After all, who cares what they think?

All the best!

–Anna Mattinger


~ by Gonzo Mehum on November 12, 2009.

One Response to “Ph.Ds are only worth the person backing them”

  1. Great job standing up to the professor. You should file a complaint. The professor does not treat any of his students as winners. Grades mean little when it comes to finding purpose in life. Getting an A in class requires sacrifice. People who are able to make the sacrifice deserve the A. However, that doesn’t mean that people who are unable to make the sacrifice are any less a person. For example, that person may be the president of the United States, but he may fail a C programming course hands down. That professor will never be able to teach at Harvard. Prestigious universities treat students well because professors admire that the students have made it in the prestigious university. The professors are quick to treat the students as winners. The students in Stanford could be singing camp songs in class everyday for all their professors care. They’ll automatically get a good grade anyway because the professors know that the students are winners regardless. Steve Jobs could have sucked at calligraphy. But the shear notion of taking the calligraphy class changed his entire future. The thing to appreciate about education is: although one may not learn everything that has been taught perfectly from a class, he will discover something about himself which is more priceless than the subject the class teach itself. Harvard knows this and that’s why no student comes out feeling stupider coming out of ANY class.

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