LETTER: Fight the rising tide of bulls–t

Though I welcome the attention drawn to BSing in Wednesday’s op-ed (“The seventh distribution requirement,” Sept. 15), I can’t agree that “mastering the art of bulls—ting” is a requirement “we all need to fulfill.” BS hinders the learning process. From my freshman DS days to the present, I have sat through so many classes dazzled, distracted and confused by the BS rattled off by my fellow students. But we didn’t come to Yale to be bamboozled by our peers; we came to Yale to receive a liberal arts education. It’s hard to learn when students purposely avoid answering questions posed by the professor or needlessly pepper their responses with words like “etiological,” “ontological” and “neuroendocrinological” (okay, maybe not that one).

Though it may be true that Yale’s graduates are “the best bulls–ters in the world,” this isn’t anything to celebrate. Our inability to address many pressing political issues, from the climate crisis to a struggling economy, is due in large part to an embrace of BS by media personalities and politicians. Socrates denounced the Sophists as BSers over 2000 years ago; if he sat in one of our seminars today, he would denounce us too.

But we must not fight BS with BS, as asserted in the op-ed. We must fight BS with truth. When a classmate attempts to muddy the conversation with a batch of rhetorical humbug, confront them and ask them to clarify. Teachers, too, have a responsibility to remind us that the goal of our discussions is to search for truth. After all, Yale’s motto isn’t “Lux et BS.” It’s “Lux et Veritas.” Remember that the next time you raise your hand in a seminar.

Hodiah Nemes

Sept. 15

The writer is a junior in Saybrook College.


  • ldffly

    When I was in graduate school, I learned that faculty are alert to this problem. Believe me, they are. The windbags get little or no respect behind the scenes.

  • River_Tam

    How do you know someone took Directed Studies?

    Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

  • River_Tam

    No, but in all seriousness, I agree with the sentiment expressed here.

  • River_Tam

    Caveat – (and I apologize for the triple post) – I don’t have a problem with any word, from “ontological” to “etiological”, as long as it’s used in a way that attempts to elucidate rather than obscure. “Ontological” is a fine word with a clear meaning, but it is abused endlessly by students seeking to cover their empty claims with misdirection of meaning.

    Other offenders include – “hegemony” and its derivatives, “paradigm” (I don’t think I heard a single use of the word “idea”, “model”, “concept”, or “world-view” freshman year), and “paradox” (hint – a dilemma is not a paradox).

    The word “heteronormative” is overused for other reasons entirely.

  • RexMottram08

    LOL @ “climate crisis”