A Father’s Pride in His Deviant Daughter February 3, 2010

A Father’s Pride in His Deviant Daughter

Richard Wade here.
Let me take a moment of indulgence to boast about my daughter. She’s 24 and studying Sociology in college. Yesterday morning she texted me from class, and I got into a phone text conversation with her. Her entries are in italics and mine are in regular font, just as we typed them in textese:

I’m really annoyed and upset right now cuz my english teacher is discussing god and how the philosopher nichee is wrong and all this other bullshit

Deep slow breaths. Most people have this lunacy to some degree. Fight only the important battles. Patience, time is on our side.

He’s pretty much saying right now that people who don’t believe in god are why our world has gotten bad and fearful.

People killing for their loving gods is a big source of that fear lately. 911 was not caused by atheists.

I know I’m just upset cuz this is an english class not a philosophy or religious studies class or debate class and I find his antics to push his beliefs or reasoning on us is unprofessional

Other students may secretly agree but they are the minority. They want the good grade. I am proud of you.

I know! I lose complete respect for people like him! I feel that he bashes atheism because of his own personal fear of not really knowing or the possibility of being WRONG!


I spoke out it was really uncomfortable because of the reason of being the minority I said that some of the reasonings he had mentioned were a copout because people didn’t just want to deal with it and didn’t’ have a real answer and like two other people agreed with me

Good for you! I’m impressed. Ur braver than me. So proud of you!

According to the terms of our society I guess I was behaving deviantly! LOL!!! 🙂

lololol!!! Go deviants! Every well accepted idea was originally a dangerous, deviant, minority opinion.

Very true! Okay well I love you and send mom and grandma my love too! Have a good day! 🙂

Her English class is studying Hamlet and also Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. How the teacher can get from there to a trashing of Nietzsche and atheists for all the ills of the world is anybody’s guess, but I suppose that’s the magic of irrationality. You can link anything to anything.

The joke we shared about “behaving deviantly” was referring to the other day when she described another class she’s taking, “Sociology of Deviance.” She explained that “deviance” does not automatically mean something that is bad, it is any opinion or behavior that doesn’t fit cultural norms in a given society at a given time.

As you can hear in my first response to her, my immediate reaction was to want her to be cautious, and “fight only the important battles.” In my own fiery college days, long, long ago, I was outspoken and would most likely have objected to an English teacher standing on his porta-pulpit and inappropriately turning what is supposed to be a secular class into his private church.

But as a dad, my first impulse was to be protective of her, and to imply that she should patiently sit there and let it go. For once, I’m glad that she didn’t listen.

So I’m swelling with pride at my daughter’s courage to stand up and speak “deviance” to power, knowing she might not have any allies in the room, and only a couple if she’s lucky. She later told me that the teacher had conceded partially to one of her arguments, and he acknowledged that he probably should not have “gone off topic” in class.

She has just taught me that “the important battles” aren’t only the ones with big social consequences. Sometimes they’re the battles that have big inner consequences for how we’re going to see ourselves. This battle was not about protesting her teacher’s improper classroom sermon. This battle was about becoming a person who stands up to say the truth as she sees it, and who objects to objectionable behavior.

Thank you, Sweetheart. This time you have been the teacher, and I have been the student.

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  • Kate

    Good for her for speaking up!! It seems like she had some influence on the professor as well, and caused him to reconsider what he was saying.

    Total side note…she should stop texting in class. It’s hugely disrespectful to the professor. It always blows my mind when students think it’s okay to text in class.

  • Tony Boling

    My first thought reading this is all of the (mainly) Christians who speak negatively about college due to the atheist professors and here we have an example of the other side doing it as well.

  • Angie

    I’m very proud of her for being brave and true to her principles.

    Here’s to thought deviants everywhere!

  • Ron in Houston

    Well, no one bats 100.

    You’re advice is pretty good most of the time. 🙂

  • Good for her!

    Kate – doesn’t sound like this prof deserved her respect

  • Matto the Hun

    @ Katie

    It seems like she had some influence on the professor as well, and caused him to reconsider what he was saying.

    Don’t get too excited about the prefessor “reconsidering”

    “he didn’t have a real answer” sounds more like he tried to give a week rebuttal but had nothing of substance.

    I was happy to read that there were 2 students who were thinking pretty much the same thing she was and felt free to speak up after she had the balls to do so.

    I hereby nominate Richard’s daughter for the position of President of the League of Wicked Cool Bad-Asses.

  • Robert

    She should take notes on his actions and report him to the department chair. She should also include this inappropriate lecture in her instructor evaluation at the end of the semester.

  • First, way to go Richard’s Daughter!
    Second, Thanks Richard for sharing this with us, it’s inspiring to say the least.


    Matto the Hun said:
    I hereby nominate Richard’s daughter for the position of President of the League of Wicked Cool Bad-Asses.

    I second!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Your daughter is using class time to send text messages and you’re proud of that?

  • Ron in Houston

    Your daughter is using class time to send text messages and you’re proud of that?

    Awe, come on. She was angry and upset and she texted her father.

    If only every father had such a relationship with their kids.

  • JulietEcho

    Yeah, it’s pretty common now for many/most students to have laptops out for taking notes, or phones that record (like iPhones) out for recording lectures. Tech in class isn’t the distraction it used to be, unless you make it, and profs don’t get upset about it.

    It’s still rude to have your phone *ring* but there’s no difference between texting someone during a lecture and doodling on your notes, or writing a non-class-related thought down to tell a friend later. And in this case, she was specifically fed up with the lecture and it didn’t relate to the subject. If he’d been speaking about Hamlet, I doubt she’d have been texting.

    If you think having phones and computers out in class is rude, then 90% of some student populations are “rude” by definition.

  • marco

    @Reginald: If the alternative was listening to the prof proselytizing, I think texting is a really good use of her time.

  • Wait, I thought universities were that place where the evil atheists spend their time pushing their nihilistic anti-God attitudes on unsuspecting God-fearing Christians. Gasp! Could that be wrong?!

  • Going from “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” to a discussion of philosophy and atheism and such is a relatively easy step.

    Worth a read if you haven’t read it before.

  • Wait, I thought atheists had no sense of purpose, no moral compass, no courage…I’m confused!

  • The next time a teacher goes off on a religious rant, it would be fun to capture it on video… then have it posted to You-tube.

    Perhaps with the concern of negative “exposure”, proselytizing tending teachers will be more tempered and disciplined to stick to the subject matter of the class.

  • flatlander100

    Richard, I think you may be doing the professor involved a disservice. One of the things that saddens me about students entering universities from HS [I teach them history at a megaversity] is the widespread conviction among them that they must never disagree with a professor because their grade will suffer if they do. [Students whose judgment I have some reason to respect tell me this is true, in their experience, more often than not in their high schools, which is really sad.]

    Most of the professors teaching in the humanities that I know at all three universities at which I’ve taught welcome disagreement, encourage challenges, and are delighted to have that rare student willing to say “I think that’s wrong.” They’re absolute gold in class because they are so appallingly rare.

    I notice that your daughter did not say the Professor involved was going to mark her down for speaking up. She only said other students were timid because they were afraid he would. If his comments relate to the works the class was reading and supposed to be discussing [not impossible with “Hamlet” or “R&G are Dead”], and if they triggered a discussion among students and between students and the professor… well, that seems to me to be more or less what we’re often hoping will happen in class.

    What I find a particularly disturbing is your daughter’s whining that he shouldn’t be discussing any of this “cuz this is an english class not a philosophy or religious studies class or debate class.”

    I don’t know how they taught college lit classes when you were a lad, Richard, but when I was in college, the very best of the humanities classes I took regularly touched on philosophy and religion as reflected in the works we were reading. And debating [discussing] the resulting questions that arose was very much the point.

    Is it possible your daughter thinks an English lit class should consist merely of a professor lecturing, her copying down, and nothing more? I sure as hell hope not. Or was she expecting to hear only professors who repeat what she already thinks to be so? Again, I hope not.

    And, Richard, next time she texts you from an ongoing class, tell her to stop it at once and text you when the class is over. While she’s whining to Daddy, she’s not paying attention to the class, or the discussion.

    You did not serve her well this time, Richard. You did not serve her well.

  • absent sway

    I respect your daughter’s boldness but I must admit I’m disappointed with her low expectations for an English class–religion, philosophy, and debate frequently come up in English classes, and were part of making chinks in my religious armor during college. I know that humanities folks don’t have the same reputation for skepticism as the scientific crowd but there’s plenty of opportunity to debate and learn in these sorts of classes. I hope that her professor appreciates what she adds to the discussion and refrains from other inappropriate comments.

  • Ron in Houston

    You did not serve her well this time, Richard. You did not serve her well.

    Your post was so long that I don’t want to say hogwash to your whole post, but I do say hogwash to that last statement.

    It’s called a “bully” pulpit for a reason. While I’m sure there are progressive college professors that want to encourage a lively discussion there are also arrogant narcissistic pricks who wouldn’t have any problem at all with downgrading someone who embarrassed or disagreed with them.

    Sure didn’t sound to me like this guy was encouraging “discussion.” It sounded more like a lecture to me. We weren’t there so we don’t know. But saying he did not serve her well is hogwash.

  • Deviant Daughters unite!

    I doubt you’d want your daughter discharging the degree of deviancy I did, though.

    Hey! I alliterated! (that was for her “English” teacher…because I don’t make sense either).

  • Meghiliz

    How is discussing Nietzsche, and by extension atheism, not relevant to Hamlet? I have a hard time to imagining a class dealing with Hamlet never jumping ahead to existentialism – I think it would be weird if it didn’t come up.

    If you can’t discuss philosophy in an English class what are you going to discuss? Plot and character development – in college? Of course she should speak up and disagree, and I doubt it will negatively impact her grade (If it does, then she can, of course, appeal it.)

    The great thing about college is no one is forcing her to be there. If she doesn’t like the professor, she should drop the class. And if she wants to spend her time texting, she shouldn’t go to class. It is rude and distracting for the other students.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    1. No doubt Nietzsche’s name would be easy to misspell while texting, but Nichee? Makes me think she’s never heard of him and would not be in the best position to defend his work.

    2. Texting in class does seem rude, even for a culture obsessed with techno-crap. I wonder how Hemant feels about students texting from his classes.

    3. English is not a box, and to believe that the religious or philosophical implications of literature should not be discussed in the classroom is absurd. Of course any decent teacher would avoid using the classroom as a soapbox for their personal beliefs, but a little personal bias might be expected from anyone. An atheist teacher would naturally examine a given work from a different perspective than a Christian teacher. Neither should be expected to withhold all of their personal beliefs from the discussion, since their understanding of the work is no doubt influenced by those beliefs.

  • Revyloution

    You dastardly deviant of debauchery! Disconnect yourself deliberately from distracting the devotion dedicated by the duderheads demanding difference denied them! Dammed dogs dying, denied dignity, defend delicious delusions.

    Well done Richard. Watching my little girl enter first grade this year, I hope she is as strong and wonderful as yours when she grows up.

  • @ Revyloution.

    show off 😉

  • Hamlet was mad (but north-north-west) and Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown. Nietzsche spoke of a master-slave morality and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern were slaves to the will of the king and to their own fate as was Hamlet in a way. Personally I think it is something of a distraction and would be more interested in the word games used in both plays and the fact that R & G were always getting confused with one another. The latter to comic effect in R & G are dead.

    There is also that famous line from Hamlet “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. The line changes meaning depending on the emphasis that the actor places on “your philosophy” and this could lead to a discussion of nihilism.

    Incidentally I firmly believe that plays should be seen as well as read. I’ve only seen the film version of R&G are dead with Gary Oldman and Tim Roth and would recommend it to anyone interested in the play or just interested in fantastic acting. There are so many great film versions of Hamlet but the recent one with David Tenant is a good one to talk over.

    As for Richard’s daughter I’d say to challenge her lecturers. Challenge them with everything that you don’t understand, everything that isn’t clear and everything that you disagree with. She and other students will learn as much from her challenges as from the lecturer’s responses. If she can’t see a connection between Nietzsche and Hamlet then says so. I’ll bet the rest of the class can’t see the connection either and if it is irrelevant because the lecturer has gone off at a tangent then pointing that out will get him back on track.

  • Meghiliz

    Off topic: I once had a teacher insist that Nietzsche couldn’t have been an atheist because for god to be dead, he had to be alive first.

  • Cherilyn

    Good for your daughter. I am also studying sociology in college 🙂 I dont think the problem was that her professor was discussing religion (it comes up alot in all kinds of classes, and if shes studying sociology then I am sure she is used to it and if she isnt she will be soon enough!) it’s that the professor was using his classtime to bash those who do not believe in god, which is not right under any circumstances. Of course its ok for everyone to express their opinions but thats just being disrespectful.

  • christopher

    loved the post, enjoyed the thread, hope some day to experience the same with my girls

  • qwertyuiop

    The next time a teacher goes off on a religious rant, it would be fun to capture it on video… then have it posted to You-tube.

    Perhaps with the concern of negative “exposure”, proselytizing tending teachers will be more tempered and disciplined to stick to the subject matter of the class.

    On top of that, give the evidence to his superior and see to it he is removed from the classroom.

  • Richard Wade

    My daughter has never texted me from class before, and is not in the habit of “whining” to me or anyone else by any method, nor does she tolerate whining from others.

    She is an assertive, aggressive and serious student who often initiates engagement with her professors in class. Currently, her GPA is 4.0. She fully understands that class subjects imply related topics that can range widely and should be explored, and she welcomes and participates in such discussions. She respects her teachers but does not cower from them either.

    For her to text me in that way said two things to me, one, that the teacher had gone on long enough to have been inappropriately harping on his personal views, and two, that the content had become solely his own rant rather than something that was beneficial to the class. Not having been in the room, I can only assume from my daughter’s track record of being very patient yet challenging with divergent views from teachers or fellow students, that the teacher had gone too far for too long.

    Since she’s young, her self confidence can be incomplete and have thin spots. I think that this particular subject, with all its social context of intolerance and reactionary irrationality swirling around it, made her feel insecure about speaking out either about the teacher’s content, tone or direction, or perhaps even to disagree with him on a philosophical point. So she contacted me to explore her own feelings about responding.

    I agree that I did not initially “serve her well” by not immediately encouraging her to speak up, but fortunately she did anyway. Since you, as do I, approve of students and teachers actively discussing and even disagreeing in class, you should be happy to know that she took confidence just from contact with me but disregarded my tone of caution, and she did speak up. I’m sure that the ensuing debate enriched the class’s experience, and if the teacher is one like those you have described, then he was pleased.

  • espresso!

    I’ve experienced this before. We were discussing the AP test in my high school AP English class and my teacher showed us a question that referred to a Bible passage. He actually made us copies of the Bible passage!! Separation of church and state, anyone? (It’s a public high school.)

  • muggle

    Note her second text message which she appaarently sent to clarify to Richard how serious the situation was. That’s not just discussing philopsophy and disagreeing. It’s a pretty bigoted statement overgeneralizing nonbelief and it sounds as if she’s summarizing so it probably was going on a while in this vein.

    She was right to speak up and Richard rightfully has bragging rights. He raised her well. 🙂

    Way to go!

  • Ron in Houston

    I agree that I did not initially “serve her well” by not immediately encouraging her to speak up, but fortunately she did anyway.

    Awe Richard, you’re always so nice. You served her well by just being a sounding board.

    Awe crap, I’ll do it for you. Hey flatlander f*** you and the horse you rode in on.

    (JK – Flatlander raised some very valid issues.)

  • Chrissy

    I had an English professor in college that liked to profess his views on religion also (like that evolution is just a silly theory and believing that the world was made in jsut a few days is sooo much easier than believing that we evolved over time). i wanted to shoot myself in the head every time class was done because i didn’t get out of there one time without him mentioning it. whats the deal here?

  • Demonhype

    My mother (who never went to college) was horrified that I would disagree with my professors, but my dad was always ecstatic about it.

    Though when the subject was about religion, I never called them in class and rather challenged them in my writing instead–the better to leave a paper trail and less oppportunity for the more unscrupulous to lie and put words in my mouth. When you’ve got a teacher who is claiming the Nazis were atheists when the class is actually studying the highly religous Nazi manifesto–well, needless to say I dont’ trust the honesty of such a person. Better to challenge the idea in my paper and cite the class’s own source material. IN YOUR FACE!!! 😀

    Sure, if you expect to only hear your own ideas tossed back at you, you don’t belong in collge. But this teacher sounds like he was more sermonizing, and a small, ugly, bigoted sermon it was too. Atheists are responsible for all the bad things in the world? Atheists are the same as Neitzche and all atheists are nihilists, blah blah blah. I had a few doozies in class besides the “Nazis were atheists” chestnut, but none of them approached the level of pure religious soapboxing this guy sounds like he was doing. Most of my situations involved a philosophy teacher who genuinely thought that Anselm’s Ontological Argument was unassailable and absolute proof that the Christian God reigns supreme, but everything he said was involved with Anselm’s argument and he never digressed into an “atheists are teh debbil” rant or anything else remotely like explicit religious posturing.

  • prospera


    Kudos to your daughter for speaking up and challenging the professor. No doubt that the other students in the class were encouraged by her example.

    I so admire the relationship you have with your daughter. What impresses me even more than the incident in question is the fact that you were the first person she thought of when she was conflicted. She knew you would be one person who would understand her frustration and offer her sound advice. That’s huge. All I can say is that it is apparent you also practice the wonderful advice about relationships you often give to others. 🙂

  • Annie

    Good for your daughter. It is critically important that we atheists speak up whenever and wherever this topic comes up. In the class she was in, maybe only 2 people agreed with her outright, but maybe 2 or 3 or even more were given something to think about. Some atheists imagine that we can win over theists by beating them with our superior data and logic but that’s not how people typically deconvert from religion.

    Deconversion is a slow process, one that starts with a seed of a question that cannot be answered by religion and will not be denied.

    Any opportunity to plant this seed should be seized. Any opportunity to correct believers who are making stupid statements based on faith and not facts should be taken (within reasonable bounds of courtesy). We can only win the battle against stupidity if more of us are willing to put ourselves out there, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be at times.

  • ahh guess my experiance on that kind of thing was somwat better heh admititly twas in an RE class and the teacher we had was always encouraging us to debate things, got through that class with the highist marks i could get whilst being honest to my beleifs (or lack thereof as the case may be seen hehe) good on ya daughter though ^_^ naughty naughty using a phone in class though, not that i ever did that *shifty eyes* go deviance! 😛

  • The professor needed an education in humility. Richard’s daughter gave it to him. Well done, young lady. Congratulations on a good job of parenting, sir.

  • Steven

    The professors I remember best, the ones who actually taught me something, are the ones who encouraged and even demanded original thought. It’s been over 20 years and I still recall how amazing it felt when my first-year English professor said with a smile “I’d never thought of it that way” in response to one of my comments.
    Other professors just want to hear their own opinions regurgitated ad nauseum – which leads to good grades but fails to develop critical thinking. I also hope that my daughters will not hesitate to speak up when they (hopefully!) attend university or college a decade or so from now.

  • joanna

    “…the important battles” aren’t only the ones with big social consequences. Sometimes they’re the battles that have big inner consequences for how we’re going to see ourselves.”

    I really like that statement. As a Sociology major, I remember how it felt to be a young college Freshman that rarely spoke up and mostly soaked it all in. By the time I was a Junior I felt more confident in debating a subject or disagreeing with a professor. It’s part of our growth as critical thinkers—if we’re allowed to grow in that direction. It’s learning how to ask the right questions…Like: “Am I understanding you correctly Professor X when you state that atheists are evil and that they are the cause of all the world’s suffering? I have a problem with that statement…can you elaborate what you mean by that?”

    If a professor doesn’t allow open dialogue–to a point–there isn’t an atmosphere that encourages critical thinking and students will not feel empowered to stand up for their principles. If college lecturers are using “bully pulpits”, like a previous poster mentioned, I hope students aren’t discouraged from taking them to task.

    A university should foster an atmosphere of open dialogue. I’m glad the professor in question admitted to going a bit “off topic”. We can all be accused of THAT once in awhile. But I think the power of a captive audience of young minds might have been getting the best of him/her! I’m so glad that your daughter became an active participant in the discussion and that she had the nerve to say something! Certainly braver than I was at that age!

  • cdo

    there is a distinct difference between a teacher prompting a class discussion, and a diatribe of his own beliefs. it sounds like the daughter is smart enough to tell the difference.

    i have attended many great classes where the instructor asked questions that prompted the students to debate ethics and morality…the instructor taking the position of “devil’s advocate” for any side at any time.

    if the teacher had taken this approach, the students would not have any idea what the instructor’s personal beliefs were, since the whole point is to get the students to question WHY they hold the positions they do and to consider other arguments.

  • Sive

    I am teaching in a major university this semester on the intersection of technology and society. And I think many people in the comments have missed several points.

    Yes it’s perfectly acceptable as a teacher to raise controversial issues. In my class we have discussed abortion, morals, values, determinism, etc. As the instructor it is important to be able to approach these issues with your class. Not talking about them just makes it more likely that they’ll be treated as taboo and therefore wrong in some way.

    HOWEVER, you have to approach them carefully in order to open a discussion fairly. Although I am pro-choice I spoke about the issues that both sides of the abortion debate have and how they use technology to support their argument. I try to fairly frame the issues so that students can talk, discuss and engage in important social questions. Unless directly asked I would not give my opinion on these issues. Even then I would probably say that my opinion doesn’t matter to the discussion.

    Professors have opinions. Even though we try to be objective we’re still humans with all the passions and flaws that humans have. It is the responsibility of the instructor to separate themselves as the teacher and the human while in front of the class. Firstly because lectures don’t make people think about information and question what information they’re consuming. Secondly because you are liable as a representative of your college and university in what you say during class. Making people think is okay but offending them with off topic personal opinion lectures is not.

    Richard, your daughter had every right to stand up and call that lecturer out. She has every right to take the issue up with the college and record her objections in the evaluation. I’m glad to see that she stood up to him, since so few students do. I think having the academic proletariat revolt more often would get some professors feet back into reality. 🙂

  • anti_supernaturalist

    Nichee is peachee.

  • Awesome! Super-kudos to her!!!

  • This post made my day. To live in a family where texting your dad is a totally normal thing is soooooo awesome.

  • Caroline

    Standing up in class was the right thing to do, but it does not end there.
    She really should report the professor. He probably gives similar lectures (sermons) in other classes. Classes in which he might be making people uncomfortable, but no one in the room is willing to stand up and disagree with him.
    She absolutely needs to speak with the head of the department about the professors actions, I would recommend that she get together with other students in the class who felt uncomfortable and go as a group to complain.

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