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September 27, 2008

Comments

Anna

"[F]rankly, I feel increasingly compelled to look beyond my syllabuses and to devote myself more to teaching “wakeful” political literacy: the skills needed to interrogate all cultural messages."

Teaching French not good enough then? Why has no-one fired this woman -or sued her?

David

“Why has no-one fired this woman -or sued her?”

Why indeed.

One CT commenter says, “It seems to me that voting in the upcoming election for Obama/Biden over McCain/Palin is pretty close to a moral requirement.” Well, okay, that’s one way of looking at things. But if I employ a plumber or electrician, I don’t expect them to corner me with a protracted monologue on their political views. And if I’d employed someone to teach my children French, I wouldn’t be pleased to learn that their lessons were being interrupted with lengthy screeds on the alleged evils of capitalism, “imperialism,” “hegemony,” etc. In fact, I’d be inclined to sue the university for failing to supply what had actually been promised, and paid for.

The assumption of an entitlement to indoctrinate (and bore) in this way will only be curbed when students and parents start taking legal action to the fullest possible extent. One or two expensive settlements and some high-profile firings should be enough to encourage a little probity.

John D

"Students describe professors who became "red in the face and shouting" when discussing the Mideast conflict; they recount how professors Saliba and Dabashi abruptly canceled classes in order to attend a pro-Palestinian rally."

http://nymag.com/nymetro/urban/education/features/10868/

The Thin Man

There are I think, two things that are required to redress the sickening and dangerous political imbalance in our academic institutions. The first is the we should FORCE universities to accept that if diversity is one of their goals then political diversity should be considered along with race, sexuality and the other usual suspects - otherwise how is their diversity based on principal and not simply political nepotism.

Secondly, we should mount cameras in every classroom and film the lectures - any who use their position as political platform should be fired for gross moral turpitude.

Wayne Fontes

I can remember an exchange I had with a professor on the internet who asserted that the government was close to locking up leftist faculty. What struck me wasn't the paranoia but the massive ego it required to believe that any government would find some Cultural Anthropology prof so threatening that he needed to be thrown in prison.

In order to be on the cutting edge of opinion in many academic fields faculty have to move so far out of the main stream that they become caricatures. They're more objects of derision than fear.

David

Exactly. “Radical” academics aren’t driven to greater extremes and grander, more lurid claims because society is becoming more sexist, racist or whatever. The caricatures they become are a result of their own narcissism and a need to be oppositional, or be seen as oppositional. As mainstream society in general becomes less fixated by race, gender, sexuality, etc, so peddlers of grievance and victimhood must search out - or invent - something to oppose. Overstatement and escalation are all but inevitable.

TDK

David says

"One fairly common assumption among left-leaning educators is that academia should be some kind of “corrective” to capitalism, bourgeois values and mainstream culture:".

The problem is, as Fabian Tassano and others point out, that mainstream culture has by and large become culturally leftist. The default position in any argument is leftist. Look at the cross-Atlantic Reaction to the latest bank crisis. Overwhelmingly the media and the politicians talk of the solution in terms of a growth of state powers. It's not so long ago that the same people were berating banks for denying credit to "marginalised families" and encouraging people to stretch for that first rung on the housing ladder. An anti-establishment view would challenge the government not seek to give it a greater role.

"Secondly, we should mount cameras in every classroom and film the lectures - any who use their position as political platform should be fired for gross moral turpitude."

Well no disrespect but I disagree. Who would police such actions? Those who propose greater state powers always assume a benign state sharing their political prejudices. I doubt that in this case but even so I would oppose it.

David

TDK,

“The problem is, as Fabian Tassano and others point out, that mainstream culture has by and large become culturally leftist.”

And, as tension must be maintained between the righteous and the bourgeois, escalation and overstatement are required. Cue sightings of phantom racist subtexts and “invisible knapsacks of privilege.” (I’ve just updated the post with an example of how such claims can escalate.)

“Who would police such actions?”

I’m told young people have these things called “mobile phones,” some of which have tiny “video cameras” in them. Perhaps those would come in handy?

Anna

"One or two expensive settlements and some high-profile firings should be enough to encourage a little probity."

And a few sack beatings, David. :)

David

Yes, of course. We mustn’t forget the sack beatings. I have a list prepared. It’s laminated and everything.

John D

KC Johnson's Punchline:

"Barnett chastises Duke for not seeking out additional guidance from "feminist scholars on its faculty or staff." Of course."

Yeah, screw things like evidence and due process. We need more feminist theory. Sorry – "additional guidance"

Andrew_M_Garland

Idealogues begin with argument and reason. When that isn't effective enough, they follow with lies and emotion. They accuse the unconvinced of being too dumb to see the light. Next is winning elected power, which justifies a few untruths in order to do so much good.

Education is a natural battleground for ideas, and it gives an advantage to those teaching a hopeful message of rebellion. Why teach reality and limits when you can teach revolution and a glorious future? "They have it, and we want it."
Terrorists such as Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn became interested in elementary education after they were prevented from more bombing.

See more at EasyOpinions - Leading the People
http://easyopinions.blogspot.com/2008/08/leading-people.html

Alice

The more independent youngsters naturally rebel against such classroom oppressors and tyrants. The dullards will go along, of course, but then without the dullards academia would never have sunk from education to indoctrination in the first place.

Anna

"The dullards will go along, of course"

And if they go on to teach, do the same to others.

Pat

"[F]rankly, I feel increasingly compelled to look beyond my syllabuses and to devote myself more to teaching 'wakeful' political literacy: the skills needed to interrogate all cultural messages."

Interesting. What would Professor Garelick's reaction be if one of her students were to say, "Frankly, I feel increasingly compelled to punch Professor Garelick in the face"?

Feeling "compelled" to do something is not a blank check, or a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

If Professor Garelick's compulsions prevent her from doing the work that she was hired to do (namely, teaching French and Italian), she should take a leave of absence and undergo treatment to cure those compulsions.

carbon based lifeform

"...she should take a leave of absence and undergo treatment to cure those compulsions."

Sack beatings!

TDK

"The more independent youngsters naturally rebel against such classroom oppressors and tyrants. The dullards will go along, of course, but then without the dullards academia would never have sunk from education to indoctrination in the first place."

I don't think it's as straightforward as that. Some people in such a position will note the absurdities and rebel but others will judge that the prospects rebels is poor whereas the prospects for keen supporters is better than average. They will see opportunities for self advancement and actively support "the cause".

The Soviet Union had no end of very clever people inside and out that supported the system. Many inside enjoyed the relative status that the academy conferred on them. Vavilov was the exception. The same occurred in Nazi Germany - research shows that the professoriate were willing accomplices (not the Jewish ones of course).

My view is that these people subscribe not to the ideology of the day - socialism as defined by post modernism daily grows further away from the socialism of Aneurin Bevin - but to the older creed of Philosopher Kings as describe in The Republic. It's no wonder that the academy supports statism in all its forms.

David

As I said in the post, one of the major issues is whether the professor-student relationship is sufficiently equal and reciprocal to ensure a lack of coercion, dishonesty or improper leverage. It seems to me pretty obvious that it very often isn’t. An 18-year-old away from home who knows relatively little against someone twice their age who thinks they know everything?

Cynics among us might wonder if the appeal of such an unequal exchange is a kind of political “grooming” – thanks to which tenured ideologues get to vote vicariously many, many times.

hermeneutics

I wonder how home-schooled kids fare in college these days. If more than 2.5 percent of American kids are now home-schooled -- a conservative estimate? -- surely the next generation of free-thinkers will come from this cohort.

My oldest is in college. I told her to lie, if necessary, to get through classes. Just give them what they want to hear. Amazingly, I've met several of her friends and they all take a jaundiced view of their professors, expecting them to be out-of-touch and left-wing. They all routinely lie on exams or papers, just to please their profs.

And then they graduate and get real jobs.

There's hope, folks.

TDK

Of Vavilov "the exception" was the clever rebel. Lysenko was a clever son of a peasant and of course the establishment figure.

Big John

Sack beatings? Sounds pretty effective. Bar of soap in sock works pretty good too. Amazing what an "attitude adjuster" it was in basic training.

DensityDuck

David, have you ever read Hoffmann's "The True Believer"? He makes much the same point you make here; namely, that adversarial role-play is more about narcissism and the desire for attention.

R. Sherman

Tsk, tsk, Professor Furr! Straightway to "Diversity Training!" Chop, Chop!

David

DensityDuck,

No, but you’re the third person to mention it to me, so I guess I really should. :)

Sparky

One problem is that students and those who are footing the bill, parents, do not approach the college education industry from a customer- vendor viewpoint. In fact, people don't even look at colleges as an industry. It is an industry, and one that manages to charge untold sums for selling many items of nominal, if any, worth. Yes, most parts of the modern liberal arts education are of little, if any, worth. It's astounding to me that people will spend and borrow astronomical sums of money buy something of such little worth.

The liberal arts faculty, paid handsomely for for their "brilliant knowledge" about a bunch of nonsense, then has the gall to think that they should be allowed to turn the classroom and the place of business, the campus, into one huge platform for their silly left wing rants.

Students, and the paying parents, should demand courses that teach things of real value. For most that would be business. For others math, engineering, and science would be proper. If people simply refused to pay for this liberal arts nonsense, the left wing clowns in the liberal arts would lose their platforms as there would be no demand for their services.

I graduated from a well regarded New York City university, with a BA, in 1970. I found most of that education to be absolutely worthless in the business world. By the time I was 27 I found myself having to price out and create proposals for multimillion dollar contracts. Then I had to make sure we fulfilled those contracts and made the expected profit. Believe me; English poetry and existentialist philosophy didn't do a lot for that work. When people ask me my opinion, I tell them that I view a liberal arts "education" as a total waste of time and money.

By the way, I paid $1100 dollars per year tuition less a $350 per year scholarship, Today the tuition at my former school is $28,000, almost a 28 fold increase. Meanwhile, the average starting salary for a college grad in New York is about $40,000 compared to $8,000 in '70, only a fivefold increase. The only reason that the school can get this money is that people are not approaching "education" as they would any other buying decision.

Dan Collins

I'm teaching a film studies course right now, two sections. One of the students, after class, in response to the terrorism aspect of the class discussion, wondered whether I meant to criticize the Bush administration by pursuing that line of inquiry. I told him that the topical application of the film was entirely outside of my purview, but that he was welcome to make whatever connections he liked.

I hate brown-nosing.

Dan Collins

Oops. Regarding Gilliam's Brazil.

David

Sparky,

“It is an industry, and one that manages to charge untold sums for selling many items of nominal, if any, worth.”

As the archives here demonstrate, I’m regularly taken aback by just how inadequate and absurd so much of the humanities has become. Setting aside the relentlessly tendentious nature of what is taught and how, it’s the sheer shoddiness that strikes me. (See, for instance, Barnett, above.) If more reputable subjects – say, physics or engineering – operated at the same standard, planes would be falling out of the sky on an all but weekly basis.

Anna

"Brazil" to BushHitler in one easy leap. :D

clazy

I wonder to what extent the extremism and activism of faculty stems from the difficulty of finding jobs in academia. The environment may select for outrageousness because untenured faculty must somehow distinguish themselves from their colleagues.

In the sciences, one works toward original insights and discoveries, but what does one do in the humanities? The social sciences might offer more scope for innovation, but being concerned with the study of people in groups, they are even more easily influenced by political ideas. At the same time, the actual usefulness of the humanities and social sciences, their practical value in the world, is not obvious; academics may feel the need to justify themselves by politicizing their activities.

Perhaps their insecurity provided the initial conditions; the campus, geographic isolation; and after 50 of natural selection, faculties have evolved to become a new, more politically extreme species....

clazy

50 *years*

Gort

"Cynics among us might wonder if the appeal of such an unequal exchange is a kind of political "grooming" – thanks to which tenured ideologues get to vote vicariously many, many times."

Not unlike sexual grooming?

David

“Not unlike sexual grooming?”

The dynamics can be similar.

Kirk Parker

Not to pick too fine a nit, but it's Eric Hoffer who wroteThe True Believer.

Ronald DeWitt

"The True Believer" was written by Eric Hofer.

Kirk Parker

Umm, while *I* believe in italics, it appears that Typepad does not.

David

“Umm, while *I* believe in italics, it appears that Typepad does not.”

I know, I know. I’ve been palmed off with some egalitarian comment software. No word or phrase can be made to feel privileged above any another. We’re all much happier that way, apparently. As you can see.

Jeffersonian

What is so dishertening is that formerly top-notch universities employ these mountebanks to spew this vomit at $50k a year tuition and fees, turning potentially bright kids into seething, unemployable hacks who then spin themselves into further lunacy. As the father of one college-age kid and three more who will be traversing the large intestine of the university system in a few years, I'm outraged that my children may be exposed to this gibberish from incompetents who would be more benefit to society if they were waiting tables.

Dave

It would probably help to get rid of the tenure system and get academics reacquainted with the real world. It's always amusing to see surveys of faculty voter registration - the percentage of Democrats varies inversely with the faculty member's employment prospects outside of academia, with sociology on one end of the spectrum and medicine on the other.

Mace

The real funny thing about the assaults on capitalism by the academic Lefties is that their precious little retirement pensions are only made possible by - Capitalism! If they truly feel that capitalism is evil incarnate, how can they even accept a dime of their retirement? Perhaps they need to publicly renounce their fruits of capitalism. I'd pay to see that and I would really enjoy it.

Kirk Parker

david

at least we still have capitals and punctuation marks i think

trailing wife

If the French professor feels compelled to share her political views with her class, it would no doubt advance along the syllabus she laid out were she to do so in French. Also, this would help prepare her students to argue politics with any French person they might meet, which would certainly advantage her students over others not so trained. She might additionally offer another class, perhaps titled, "What I think, and why you should, too", or "Good people vote for Obama, bad people burn in hell," which would have a high amusement value and could be appended to the Logic classes in the Philosophy department, thus adding a respectable tidbit to her CV.

Darren

Perhaps parents and students who are concerned about this should consult (and update!) NoIndoctrination.org's list of the very professors doing what is discussed in this post.

Claude Hopper

I bet those lefties don't spout their gibberish on mon's or dad's weekend (those weekends that include parents attending Friday classes).

Roger Godby

I'm an academic and work with a self-identified "progressive" who has shouted during a faculty meeting for the execution of a politician who expressed a nationalistic statement. Said progressive is remarkably Pavlovian with red-faced rage and profanity in responses to the mere utterance of "Bush," "Iraq," or "global warming." I pity its students and occasionally regret having chosen the liberal (f)arts where such idiots prosper because there's little or nothing empirical or objective to prove them wrong along the way. Oh, and (we) they're tenured and reproduce or clone while practicing employment eugenics to ensure a limited thought pool.

Apparently something similar is at work in the sciences, too, with increasing focus on theory as opposed to applied lab work. When your lab experiment blows up in your face, you Professor PhD look stupid or incompetent; when your theory is questioned, it's just another point of view that will require more funding to explore.

Ellen K

It would be "nice" if universities would listen to the concerns of students regarding professors on campus. I have three kids in college. In every case they have encountered a stereotypical liberal professor who indulged in the type of teaching I like to call "regurgitative learning". They like to hear THEIR ideas, THEIR opinions and THEIR political views written down as mantra by their students. Opposing views are not acceptable and can be cause for failure. While this isn't always the case, it happens often enough in such programs as journalism, anthropology, social work and other programs to be a type of immersion in political thought. I think in many cases these professors are naive about their impact. While on the tests students may respond in kind, many of them resent the actions of the educators and react in their personal political lives. Obama claims to have this huge college following, I know many college kids and few, if any, are voting for Obama. But then again, we are living in the flyover states and therefore, don't matter. So forget I said anything.

David

“They like to hear THEIR ideas, THEIR opinions and THEIR political views…”

In the film Indoctrinate U (see link below), one student sums up their experience: “Education becomes a spectator sport.”

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/02/what-to-think-n.html

Here’s a C-SPAN interview with the film’s director, Evan Maloney. It’s a large mp4 file, so it may take a while to download, but it includes clips from the film and a phone-in and it’s worth seeing:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tv-appearances/C-SPAN_Washington-Journal_2007-05-19.mp4

What’s interesting is just how feeble, emotive or irrelevant many of the callers’ arguments against the film are - which is actually one of the points the film raises. If students are spared serious and thoughtful contact with opposing arguments, their own views can easily become lazy, reflexive and glib. One can simply *feel* one is right, or ought to be, and that’s the end of the process. This should matter irrespective of a person’s political leanings. If someone wants to be right about a given issue, it helps to know *why* their ideas are sound, if indeed they are. And knowing why an idea is sound generally arises from that idea being tested.

rightwingprof

"Freberg’s students later admitted they’d known she was a “closet Republican” precisely because she didn’t use the classroom to air her political views."

That's exactly what my students said about me. Exactly.

Rich

“Why has no-one fired this woman -or sued her?”

Tenure.

Mike

I often wonder how much of this "indoctrination" survives the inevitable collision with the real world .
After a few years of working and paying bills I suspect that much of the nonsense falls away. Some of course attach themselves to the host (university system) because it is an easy way to stay in the comforting womb of academia - but for most the real world beckons.

I attended UC Santa Cruz - a bastion of indoctrination if ever there was one - and yet five years after graduation I had turned my back on the failed doctrines of the left without one backwards glance. In one respect I owe the university my thanks - they taught me how to think and how to think critically -- unfortunately for the left they were not able to pass the test.

Really if you stop and think about it it is somewhat amusing - Communism?? How... "Quaint"! The only communists left in the world are in Cuba and Berkeley. It's ridiculous.

David

“I often wonder how much of this ‘indoctrination’ survives the inevitable collision with the real world.”

I suppose that depends on how “real” the world is that students subsequently enter. For those that remain in academia - especially parts of the humanities, where an effective monoculture prevails - the effects of political grooming may be more likely to linger. And the effects of that grooming may then be imprinted on another generation of unsuspecting students.

But whether or not the attempts to indoctrinate are successful, or last “only” a matter of months or years, it seems to me that the principal objection is one of impropriety and overstepping boundaries. Why is it remotely acceptable for professors of, say, French to waste students’ class time with agitprop monologues? Who gave these people the impression that their job isn’t just to teach French but to indulge their own political vanities at enormous length? Just how arrogant and presumptuous are they?

If I hired a piano teacher for my children and found that a large part of each lesson was taken up by rants about capitalism or events in Iraq, that teacher would very quickly be thrown out on his ear. And he certainly wouldn’t get paid.

Rob

Coupled with the narcissism and competition for ideas is the 'arms race' of extremism amongst closed groups. In a group of people with very similar views, and which is extremely hostile to conflicting opinion, ideas have to become more and more extreme to get noticed.

This is my theory for many of the utterly barmy and ludicrous articles writen in the Guardian over the years. Opinions expressed at a Hampstead dinner party, perhaps during the second agreeable bottle of wine, went down quite well. When expressed outside of the closed group in an article in a national newspaper, it has an effect similar to transporting a puppy to the surface of Venus and expecting it to prosper.

David

“In a group of people with very similar views, and which is extremely hostile to conflicting opinion, ideas have to become more and more extreme to get noticed.”

I’ve just been emailed with a reminder that I’ve used some fairly extreme cases to highlight the broader issue. Well, yes, I have. Gasp. But it’s revealing that there are so *many* extreme and inexcusable instances of such behaviour, in which gross impropriety appears to have no consequences for the culprit or is even framed as a professional obligation. This suggests a broader, systemic dysfunction within the academic environment. (Just as the continued employment of the ludicrous Caroline Guertin tells us quite a lot about her employers and associates, and their expectation of probity.)

As many CT readers’ comments reveal, there’s a much wider assumption of an entitlement to steer students towards a particular political outlook, even if such efforts are done informally or in the guise of expressing one’s own views. I’ve had exchanges with a number of academics, all broadly of the left, who regard academia as “theirs”. To varying degrees, they viewed advocacy, subtle or otherwise, as part of what they’re supposed to do. I find this presumption extraordinary. When did the job description of, say, English professor include a license for political grooming?

m.kasper

My son, who recently graduated, had professors in a few of his classes who espoused their political views constantly. Fortunately his major was engineering, so there wasn't much opportunity for them to expound in his last two years. He also said he and his classmates played along to get along, not only with the professors, but with fellow students.

The left doesn't realize they ARE the conventional, commonplace and supremely boring, wearing their ideologies on their sleeves, vocally seek out reassurance from like thinkers. The insecurity is stunning.

One would think at some point the leftist's vacuous philosophies will turn around on them. But with indoctrination in education across the board, no generation coming up will have the critical thinking skills to know any different, and no body to disagree with.

Haven't a clue what to do about it.

I pretty much keep my mouth shut around friends and family these days. I belong to an investment club, and all others are teachers. I enjoy the group, but they do have Democrat talking points down. However, when it comes to potentially making a buck on their investments, "principles" go out the window. Its hilarious.

Jeff

is this the same Grover Furr who published a defense of Stalin?

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