Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Is Columbia professor qualified to teach?

Peter Gordon, an assistant professor at Columbia University, interviewed by a writer for The New Yorker magazine used the term "Appalachian inbreeding" in a quote defending the intelligence of an Amazonian tribe.

The question now is this: Who is going to defend Gordon's intelligence? The quote was so stupid on so many different levels that it begs another question as well: Is Peter Gordon qualified to teach?

Columbia has a hell of a good reputation, but if it employs people of Gordon's caliber, that reputation might be in danger. Words cannot adequately express how colossally ignorant Gordon's statement was. And his non-apology ain't gonna cut it either. When called to account for what he said, Gordon stepped in the cow pie again.

Gordon told Lee Mueller of the Lexington Herald-Leader: "It was just a reference. I'm really sorry. I really was just talking about a tribe in Brazil." Since when does Appalachia have anything to do with South America? To make matters worse he said he would never intentionally offend Appalachians, noting that his wife lives in Northern Kentucky. Sounds an awful lot like the "some-of-my-best-friends-are-black" defense.

Don Imus just lost his job for using a racial and gender slur to describe the Rutger's women's basketball team, but it appears Gordon is going to get away with using an ethnic slur against Appalachians. Columbia's only response was that it doesn't censor its faculty.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I agree. Its a serious question about what the hell this guy was thinking.

Sam Adams said...

Thanks, Steve. No word yet from Columbia's provost about what -- if anything -- the university plans to do about this.

AaronBarlow said...

Well, we all do manage to say stupid things. Most of us are just lucky it isn't to New Yorker reporters.

That said, I am damned sick of joking comments like "So, your parents are cousins" when people find out where I am from.