Dogpile on Tyson!

An Open Letter to Neil deGrasse Tyson

I mean, what the hell is that? I’ve been staring at this for a while, and really can’t find an angle from which it doesn’t look insulting to a whole bunch of people who don’t deserve your scorn. Are you trying to say that bad teachers are so common that every good student has had to work around them? That only bad teachers give A’s? That no student is so good that a good teacher would give them all A’s?

My most charitable interpretation is that a poor teacher is an obstacle — perhaps a student would not be as motivated, the student might have the conflict of misinformation from the teacher vs. knowledge gained elsewhere, or things like that, which could trip him/her up. A good teacher might not have so much heavy lifting to do with a talented student. But I’m working here — even considering the character limit of twitter, this seems like a dig at teachers.

As long as I’m piling on, Tyson hit another sour note recently, IMO. There’s also the one about unhackable systems, which is the sort of thing that happens to everyone from time to time, I guess: you aren’t familiar with the gory details, so you assume the hidden part is also the trivial part. It’s almost like saying “let’s build a perpetual motion machine to make some energy” (though I am unsure if they are impossible at the same level — does “unhackable” run into some fundamental problem, or is it just so hard to do that it’s transactionally impossible? I don’t know)

The larger point is that Tyson has a huge audience, and with great power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes. Most of the stuff he does is very good, but the mistakes have a large impact as well.