Hostile Student

A hostile student is harsher than a StubbornStudent (someone who stubbornly resists understanding your point even after both extensive explanation and extensive answering of questions; or they may have a hidden agenda that they are not discussing, such as not wanting to grant a point, because it would create a tactically weak position on a different topic); consider the latter possibility.

A hostile student is someone who acts as if they think you're their teacher without making a good faith effort to follow your explanations or accept known facts. For instance, asking for unreasonably complicated, time-consuming or exhaustive explanations. As a concrete example, someone who refuses to admit the sky is blue until you explain why it is blue.

I am uncomfortable with the above example. Many times, I feel it is appropriate to 'refuse to admit [a fact]... until you explain why.' The reasoning behind that explanation often helps to refine the student's mental model.

As a concrete example, I am taking an advanced physics course, and it is often hard to implicitly integrate many functions. I usually use Mathematica to tell me the solution; however, I don't accept the formula until I understand how it was derived. The process of deriving these formulas helps me practice trigonometry and calculus concepts that were not emphasized during the original courses. As a result, future problems are easier to solve and new concepts are easier to understand. Am I a HostileStudent (even considering that the teacher is a computer program)?

A hostile student is someone who will say PleaseDoMyHomeworkForMe ... OR ELSE!! ''

A hostile student not only disbelieves what you're teaching them, they are extremely hostile to it (possibly even hostile towards you), and are not willing to extend you the least benefit of the doubt.

Since you are supposed to be their teacher, they see it as your moral duty to convince them of the absolute truth of your beliefs, using formal logic, and going all the way down to fundamental metaphysical axioms. Further, you must convince them right here and now, even when references on the subject are widely available on google or at a public library. For example, there was a HostileStudent on one of the pages discussing civilization and consciousness who essentially wanted the entire contents of OriginOfConsciousness transcribed and defended for his edification.

Hostile students occasion responses of Read The Fucking Manifesto!

An extreme form of the HostileStudent, verging on the BlatantIdiot?, is someone who insults you at the beginning of a page for holding an opinion which you had already disproved later on in the same page. This happened on DefinitionOfLife by some AnonymousCoward.

People can be HostileStudents semi-accidentally, not noticing that that is what they are doing, but in general it should be a fairly objective rather than subjective issue. If it gets into shades of grey where it is a subjective judgement call, then the label doesn't apply. (But note that a true HostileStudent will always deny that they are one, since they're already denying pretty much everything you say.)

Best way to deal with a HostileStudent is to provide them references (specific enough to be useful) to the relevant literature. (Simply saying ItsInTheLiterature? isn't enough - though it isn't always necessary to give title, chapter, and verse).


Sometimes this isn't a hostile student, but a rationalist. These people have an inability to empathize; for instance, they might not realize that you do not care or that you are comfortable with a partial understanding of an idea because it's just an interesting or fun idea. Instead, they will legalistically hold you to anything you say because they see every word as being a pronouncement of Truth, even if you were hungover and your girlfriend just dumped you and you weren't thinking too clearly. This is because they see everything they write as a pronouncement of Truth, since Truth is the only thing worth living for in their view. Computer science is rife with these types as computers are the perfect realization of this perspective. Philosophy also has a lot of these types, and so you will often get into stupid discussions over the DefinitionOfLife which seem so incredibly important to them (as such a definition is a foundation of their world view) but are completely irrelevant to the rest of us who just think it's a neat idea to kick around.

You have no hope of convincing them of your feelings on the subject, and getting angry to them is only "proof" of your irrationality and thus a pronouncement of their superior logic. A foolproof way to test this is to ask them to describe love. If you get an overly scientific or philosophical treatment, you're screwed. You're even more screwed if they quote AynRand on the subject of love. However, don't actually ask them to do this because it will just get you into a flame war.

I've wondered if it is possible to get them to add to their axiom set the premises, "I do not empathize with other human beings," and "Emotions are more important to most people than logic," which seem rather "objective" and honest statements, but since their self-esteem often rides on the superiority of their arguments, these premises would basically mean they would have to admit they are always wrong. It's perhaps easier to admit that I am always wrong and that they have no hope in hell of getting the kind of intellectual stimulation they are looking for from me as I just am not smart enough. -- SunirShah

Well, Sunir, if you're not smart enough, then I am certainly not, and surely don't have a prayer.

What's worse, I still think such discussions are worth the engagement, but I hate the bruising and contusions that inevitably proceed. I find myself tempering what I say with phrases designed to deflect hostility, even though what I mean is quite simply "this is true, and I know it to be true, since I have lived it." The fact that I have been witness to some phenomenon clearly disqualifies me from meaningful opinion, since my observations a) are not quoted from some scholarly work, b) don't confirm some scholarly work, and c) often contradict some scholarly work, and therefore d) I must be brainwashed or hallucinating. I keep hoping to get through, even though common sense would tell me the effort is doomed. Sometimes it sucks to be an optimist. -- GarryHamilton

anecdotal evidence


Premature Presumption of Roles?

[I am not your student. I am not hostile. If you don't want to discuss this, just be honest and say so.]

Agreed. If you elect yourself teacher and start acting that way without permission, you are inviting conflict. If you feel the other party is not familiar enough with a topic and you don't wish to take the time to present what you see as lessons, then politely say so and move on. Don't insist on a teacher-pupil relationship unless there is a mutual agreement. Otherwise, you've become a HostileTeacher.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. If you ask a question for purpose of seeking to understand the answer, you ARE a student. It's right there in the definition of student: someone who studies, a person engaged in learning. (You just aren't a pupil.) If you present yourself this way, by asking a question as though you're genuinely interested in the answer, but you aren't actually willing to hear the answer, then you're already a HostileStudent (even before anyone answers). This is true even if someone says: "You're an idiot!" and you ask: "Why?". Don't ask questions if you don't want the answers, unless there already exists some sort of mutual understanding on what constitutes a 'rhetorical' question. Otherwise, you've become a HostileStudent.

If somebody asks for more evidence of a claim, that alone does not turn them into a "student". Whether they don't "hear" the answer depends on the definition of "hear" being used. It's possible your presentation is lacking. Hopefully the other side is clear about where the gaps are.


(The middle of a heated discussion moved from MemeticsGenetics. It is unfair of me to yank this out of context. Sorry. The original authors are really quite reasonable most of the time.)

(Removed unnecessary insult)


A HostileStudent is NOT somebody who asks for basic science on large claims.

Good science does NOT include:

No, but a HostileStudent is someone who:


When a SocraticDialogue goes bad, often both sides view the other side as a HostileStudent. It's unfortunate that the SocraticMethod is so hard to do right.

What the hostile student thinks of their teacher is irrelevant. It's trivial for a sufficiently disinterested, or honest, third-party to tell who's responding to the other party and who's simply restating their own opinions.

I've read a few SocraticDialogues and I'm of the impression that Socrates is usually abusive to whomever he's having it with. Socrates usually has the "right" idea and he leads the lesser mind around through a lot of premises until he can say, "Gotcha!". I guess, though, that is different from the "modern" sense of teachers who let their students come up with the answer themselves, using thought-provoking questions. -- JohnDuncan I constantly question people and projects and this questioning can often lead to confusion, unfortunately. When I question someone, they may assume I'm looking for quick answers to solve my specific problem, when in fact I'm trying to solve their problems by posing questions that will lead them to answers (if they think hard enough about the questions I'm asking). Unfortunately rhetorical questioning and provoking questioning does not always go well in society. In fact it often goes wrong. I still use this method though, to help myself and help others (Eventually they catch on, maybe even after months, that I'm asking rhetorical questions or provoking questions.. and not that I'm looking for the questions to be directly answered for myself). Someone I'm questioning will often naively say "does that answer your question? Do you have any more things you want me to clarify?" as if the questions I am asking are something they assume I want answered directly. It almost seems to me Americans are worse off, at least with clients I've dealt with, in that they fall for the questions as if they are yes/no style questions that can be immediately answered in a quick one line response or phone call conversation. They don't catch on to the fact that they are provoking questions, and not direct questions that should be answered.

Often I'm not questioning someone to obtain answers for myself. A lot of society, unfortunately, has not been introduced to the practice of someone on the other side posing critical questions and rhetorical questions, or provoking questions.

Different cultures do indeed seem to react to such things differently. American-style capitalism pushes people to get-in-fix-and-get-out-fast. I've seen metric-based help-desk arrangements that try to quantify problems-solved-per-hour, etc. The East Coast is even more so in my experience. (Related: SovietShoeFactoryPrinciple)


Often can also be defined as "Lazy Student", these students don't want to work, and instead insist that certain concepts remain much simpler then the are. Also, there are those that choose to remain "ignorant", and even worse, insist on remaining ignorant. In both cases, these students seem to think that life is easier for them if they simply refuse to believe/acknowledge/understand/accept what they know is true, but that they do not want to work to understand. You know they understand that the concept/truth is real, because they come to you to solve this type of problem over and over, but refuse to personally acknowledge that the path/information/facts are true.


/Quando mi hijita loquita/ insists one of her teachers is stupid & she can't resist tripping her up. I reminded her of the words of Lt Worf: There is no honor in preying upon the weak.

The Ferengi's disagreed.


See also HostileEvangelist

EditText of this page (last edited November 19, 2014) or FindPage with title or text search