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How to Cyberbully Your Teacher (a Non-Fiction Narrative) Paperback – May 31, 2016
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"Prolific playwright, novelist and gay activist Daniel Curzon now applies his caustic wit and elegant prose style to knee-jerk political correctness on campus and grade-grubbing, semi-literate students making vicious online judgments of instructors, often without ever showing up in the classroom. Curzon taught two decades in the English department at City College of San Francisco. In a disclaimer, he insists that the corrupt "animal farm" where his beleaguered hero Professor Nathanael Tack teaches ("Shite College" in the city of "Santa Francesca") bears no resemblance to CCSF. But the details of Curzon's indictment are delicious nonetheless: wracked by "neo-puritan guilt," Tack's benighted colleagues-Charlotte Wiggley, Haywood Wire, Dean Calvin Visigoth, etc.-stumble around campus (where we find the comically named Helen C. Keller Visual Arts Building and the Lowe-Rankin Dining Room) petrified that the students they're supposed to be enlightening will rate them insufficiently malleable or meek. Curzon has a firm grasp of the absurd and an eye for telling detail that recalls Evelyn Waugh or Joseph Heller. Tack must endure the boy from Bahrain who wants to skip weeks of classes to oversee the "honor killing" of his sister; the nasty illiterate who thinks his "educashun" is imperiled by bigotry against Dutch-Americans, and a band of militant bicyclists who beat motorists with bicycle chains. At the heart of Curzon's funny, often angry, narrative are the perpetrators of a bogus campus website that excoriates and libels teachers they hate. One of the tamer posts: " . . . she carrie's a big chop on her shoulder." Tack is, of course, a central target of the witless cyberbullies. He is also gay, so he must withstand slurs and work tricky relationships with his unstable lover and his teenage son. At almost 500 pages, Cyberbully runs long, and Curzon's deep sense of grievance can be exhausting. But he's an eloquent social satirist, and this hilarious portrait of one man's battle against ignorance and folly is relentlessly entertaining." - Blue In Review
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As Curzon learned to his dismay, the laws against libel simply did not apply to online communication, leaving anyone free to claim, for example, that Professor A forced them to perform sexual favors or Professor B failed them because of their race. The author pulls no punches in expressing alarm at the law’s injustice, and contempt for his attackers’ sense of entitlement. In the current politically correct academic environment, students expect good grades on the basis of racial/sexual/socioeconomic identity, no matter how ignorant, illiterate, or downright lazy their actual class performance.
Even so, this novel is much more than score settling. Curzon’s fictional alter ego, Nathaniel Tack, is a deliciously flawed, multidimensional character whose unhealthy obsession with the website steadily erodes his precarious personal life. He’s caustic, vain, sometimes glib or petty, and given to monumental bouts of paranoia and self-pity. Nevertheless, his commitment to teaching, expertise in his subject, and essential fairness are never in doubt—and shouldn’t that be the issue?
The writing is witty, often hilarious, and unsparing as Curzon dissects the motives of Nathaniel and his colleagues and students on all sides of the issue. This is an utterly entertaining and ultimately alarming portrait of U.S. academic life at the dawn of the 21st century, where narcissistic rage and self-serving cowardice have made truth, justice, and the American way obsolete—a microcosm of our decaying republic.