To think or not to think. That is the question.

Probing the vast unknown of the Internet out of painful boredom I happened across a site called Rate My Professor.Com that provoked some memories of my own academic days.

For those of you who have not see the site, it allows college students to rate their professors. You thought it was going to be about something else I bet. Like how to build a thermonuclear bomb in miniature.

No, for better or worse, it does what it says. I say for better or worse because I feel evaluation largely comes down to one of two criteria: You either like someone or something, or you don’t. I would only count on people I know — whose likes and dislikes and inclinations are familiar — to give me a reasonable critique of something or other. Even these people I know are going to largely base their findings on whether they like it or whether it makes them want to sit quietly in the corner in a semi-fetal position and gently rock themselves.

What was amazing was the take of these students on some of the same professors I had at Stephen F. Austin State University (Steve for short. Mascot: Lumberjack. So we’re okay.) Granted, there were only a few of the same professors who taught me listed on this Web site since I graduated 21 years ago. If anything these professors appeared to have maintained consistent approaches to teaching and had not undergone any radical personality change since I last left them.

But these ratings are still highly subjective. I look back at my own favorite professor as an example of how some like ya and some hate ya. I had Dr. Richard C. C. Kim during my first semester in college for an introduction to political science course. Later, he taught an advanced poly sci course called “Eastern Political Thought” that I also took.

Dr. Kim had written his own little book of musings called “Kimbrations,” which was required for the course. Between this book and his own story-telling, you would find out little personal information about the man. But I felt he was superb in making one see the world in more than black or white. That was problematic for some students. I actually heard some students remark that Kim was a communist. I don’t know if he was or not. He never once took a dogma for a daily walk that I could see. I suspect many of these students, suburban kids who came to the country party school, only knew what their daddies and mommas told them.

Kim was also very funny. I remember a multiple guess test in the intro course he gave that asked why many Americans were afraid of communism. I don’t remember the correct answer, but he always gave one answer that was so outrageous that even most morons would not select it. It was the throw-away answer that struck me so hard. It said: “Pavlov was a communist. He taught his dog to eat at the sound of a bell and it ate the Avon lady.”

He also told this long, strange story about Asians who became chicken sexers. In case you don’t know what that is, it is someone who determines the sex of baby chicks. Apparently, a lot of Asians got into this occupation and it was probably the sole reason for seeing most Asians in Nacogdoches, Texas, in the late 1960s or ’70s when Kim arrived at Steve U. He said local merchants would ask him if he was a chicken sexer. Kim told us he looked at the store people and indignantly asked them what they meant, as if he was being accused of molesting chickens. He also told the story with that little smile and twinkle in his eye that gave you no indication whether this guy was telling the truth or if this was bullshit. I loved it!

The Eastern political theory class was kind of disjointed. He had tried getting us to link Asian political behavior with art and it didn’t always translate, at least for me. I did write a paper on Asian poetry and political persuasion that made a little bit of sense. It didn’t make the connection with Japanese haiku very well. But it did okay on how Mao Tse-tung (or Zedong, or whatever he’s being called these days)used poetry to advance his communist philosophy.

Whether or not the Young Republicans liked Kim or not, I guess what I most appreciate about him is he made me think about weighty matters in more than one way. That is what college is supposed to do. That and provide a platform for partying your ass off.

6 Replies to “To think or not to think. That is the question.”

  1. Dr. Kim was the best professor I had. Provocative guy. Showed me Relativism. Not the easiest path!

  2. I know Dr. Kim. He lives in Florida and spends some time in Texas. On December 12th of 2023 he became 100 years young! We have corresponded yearly since his wife, my precious friend Frances, passed away.

  3. Sorry for being so late in answering, I haven’t written a lot lately. I talked with the secretary in the Poly Sci office at SFA, I don’t know how long ago. Maybe 5-10 years ago. She said he was living somewhere in Florida. He was definitely a gem!

  4. I had Dr Kim in the early 70s He was one of my favorite professors. I wonder what happened to him. Is he still alive. At that time he has a class on Political Philosophy.

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