Monday, March 26, 2007

Outrage at Starbucks

I should have known better. I rushed through the Starbucks drive-through (or drive-thru, as they call it) this morning and didn't pay attention to my vente mocha until I got in to school. As I was turning on my computer and going through my mail, I took my first sip. Then I happened to notice the word "Darwinism" on my cup.

I looked more closely. In a quote filling up the side of the cup from "Dr. Jonathan Wells, biologist and author of 'The Politically Correct Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design,' are these words: "Darwinism's impact on traditional social values has not been as benign as its advocates would like us to believe. Despite the efforts of its modern defenders to distance themselves from its baleful social consequences, Darwinism's connection with eugenics, abortion and racism is a matter of historical records. And the record is not pretty."

Bear in mind I was on my way to work at THE UNIVERSITY, where we face ignorance and assaults on the whole notion of science and the validity of evidence, every day of our working lives.

I'm outraged and disheartened that this quote appeared, unwanted, on my Starbucks cup. I immediately called the local Starbucks to complain, and, taking the measure of my heated attitude, she gave me the customer service number (1-800-STARBUCKS). There, I vociferously explained to the young man that I do NOT want to read a quote like this on my coffee cup, and that, more to the point, the use of an excerpt like this, without context, without opportunity for real debate on a very complex issue, is offensive.

He said the quote is part of a plan from Marketing (whom he said would not talk to me) to "stimulate debate." I said this method trivializes the way meaningful discourse occurs. I said that's just what's wrong with the way my students think: they get their supposed "truths" in disembodied bits and pieces: they don't know how to judge. Deprived of context, of background, of actual research and discussion, they remain clueless. I said if Starbucks is really interested in meaningful discourse, they should endow a University chair, or fund a nationwide series of debates.

I didn't want this debate to begin (and end) with my coffee cup. I just wanted a cup of coffee. I should have known. Now back to trying to teach my students how to think, in a world where irresponsible corporate "coffee cup" fallacies are what pass for "stimulating debate." Starbucks should let its stimulation begin and end with coffee.

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