ramble through the bronx

yes, this here is ramble through the bronx, the continuing musings of a graduate student* who should be writing her dissertation, but honestly, living in new york city there's really so much else to do...

* and her commenting friends. And guest blogger.
[welcome to ramble through the bronx | bloghome
[I wish I was a mole in the ground]
Meredith [>] (NYC/Toronto)
Emily [>] (Brooklyn)
Emily's music site[>]
Jeremy [>] (Bronx)
Ryan [>] (Bronx)
non-NYC people I miss
Jennifer [>] (Toronto)
Tokyo Tintin[>] (Tokyo/Toronto)
Dawn [>] (Ottawa)
Caitlyn [>] (Ottawa)
CBC [>] (my true love)
del.icio.us/janeyjane [>] (my social link collection, alas, not updated lately. I am apparently not delicious)
The Keeper [>] (try it, you'll love it)
comics sites that I check every day
Newsarama [>] (check out the 'blog' section especially)
When Fangirls Attack [>] (women in comics links)
politics, media, and gossip
AlterNet [>]
'Fuddle duddle' incident [>]
The Nation [>]
Catholic stuff
America Magazine [>] magazine of US Jesuits
Commonweal Magazine [>] biweekly magazine of lay Catholics
Karl Rahner Society [>] site dedicated to awesome 20th c. theologian
Liberal Catholic News [>] blog for progressive catholics
Pacem in Terris [>] Pope John XXIII's 1963 encyclical
music - mostly folk music and banjo links
The How and Tao of Folk Music [>] Patrick Costello's podcasts & banjo & folk guitar instruction
Back Porch News [>]News, Commentary & Links for the folkie community
E-Z Folk [>]Folk music instruction and tabulature
amuse yourself
Piled Higher and Deeper [>] (comic about grad student life)
Cat and Girl [>] just what it sounds like
The Onion [>]
Sluggy Freelance [>]
The Boondocks [>]
Eric Conveys an Emotion [>]
Society for Women in Philosophy [>]
the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy [>]
The Hegel Society of America[>]
North American Fichte Society[>]
Journal of Neoplatonic Studies [>]
Women Philosophers [>]
Brian Leiter's blog [>]
Harper's [>]
Neil Gaiman [>]
Charles de Lint [>]
Making Light [>]
McSweeney's [>]
WFUV [>]
Anti-pedantry page: Singular 'their' in Jane Austen [>]
places I miss
Cafe Diplomatico [>] (Toronto)
The Red Room [>] (Toronto)
The Free Times Cafe [>] (Toronto)
Sneaky Dee's [>] (Toronto... aka Sneaky Disease, best nachos in town)
Kensington Market [>] (Toronto)
College Street [>] (Toronto)
Perfection Satisfaction Promise [>] (Ottawa - formerly the Painted Potato)
Piccolo Grande [>] (Ottawa)
The Market [>] (Ottawa)
Stray cats of Parliament Hill [>] (Ottawa)
other nonsense
Mozilla [>]
Abebooks [>]
Alibris [>]
Metafilter [>]
and thank you
Thanks to Haloscan for blog-comment-ability

Saturday, March 26, 2005

As in, anyone against the war is on the "Far Left," and these uppity professors must be censured

Spurred by the ridiculously-named Students for Academic Freedom and conservative (former lefty) David Horowitz, several states are considering bringing in an "Academic Bill of Rights," including Florida and Ohio. Georgia already brought one in, March 2004. Oh, and Penn State University's Student Senate passed one. Check it out:

The Florida bill: (article abbreviated)
Capitol bill aims to control ‘leftist’ profs

Alligator Staff Writer

TALLAHASSEE — Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.

The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.

The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.

While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.

[...]The staff analysis also warned the bill may shift responsibility for determining whether a student’s freedom has been infringed from the faculty to the courts.

But Baxley brushed off Gelber’s concerns. “Freedom is a dangerous thing, and you might be exposed to things you don’t want to hear,” he said. “Being a businessman, I found out you can be sued for anything. Besides, if students are being persecuted and ridiculed for their beliefs, I think they should be given standing to sue.”

During the committee hearing, Baxley cast opposition to his bill as “leftists” struggling against “mainstream society.”

“The critics ridicule me for daring to stand up for students and faculty,” he said, adding that he was called a McCarthyist.

[...]“The big hand of state government is going into the universities telling them how to teach,” she said. “This bill is the antithesis of academic freedom.”

But Baxley compared the state’s universities to children, saying the legislature should not give them money without providing “guidance” to their behavior.

“Professors are accountable for what they say or do,” he said. “They’re accountable to the rest of us in society … All of a sudden the faculty think they can do what they want and shut us out. Why is it so unheard of to say the professor shouldn’t be a dictator and control that room as their totalitarian niche?”

In an interview before the meeting, Baxley said “arrogant, elitist academics are swarming” to oppose the bill, and media reports misrepresented his intentions.

“I expect to be out there on my own pretty far,” he said. “I don’t expect to be part of a team.”

House Bill H-837 can be viewed online at www.flsenate.gov.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, they have a wacky definition of the "far-left":
Another leftist professor, who teaches OSU’s Introduction to Peace Studies course is Basil Kardaras, Sociology and Psychology professor at OSU’s main campus. Kardaras is a speaker for Central Ohioans for Peace, a group dedicated to “generat[ing] effective ways of making [their] voices heard,” and “hold[ing] leaders accountable for advancing peaceful solutions to conflicts.” To this end, the organization promotes such far-Left groups as Not In Our Name, Veterans for Peace, and MoveOn.org.
And they're beating up on a philosophy professor, Joseph Levine:
Levine’s own concept of “higher education” is to include students in pro-Palestinian campaigns on the OSU campus. An unabashed anti-Israel activist, Levine’s predominant focus at OSU is calling for the university’s divestment of Israel – and enlisting students in his cause. Levine is the faculty adviser to the Committee for Justice in Palestine, a pro-Palestinian group that joins forces with other radicals in condemning Israeli security measures, while failing to denounce Palestinian suicide bombings. Although an atheist, Levine affirms that it is his “Jewishness that drives him to scrutinize Israel so closely.”

Levine took part in a June 14, 2002, protest against Bush, when the President came to speak at the school’s commencement ceremony about voluntarism and community participation. While only one individual was reportedly ejected from the grounds for disturbing the peace, Levine exclaimed, “There was no need for them to clamp down on free speech. They [security officials] knew pretty well what was planned. There was nothing especially disruptive about that. This was an attempt to really put a chill on protest activity.” Levine went on to say, “The president is pushing an agenda, one that is antithetical to the goals of higher education. His agenda includes a redistribution of resources toward the wealthy, while the function of public higher education is in large part to level the playing field and enable redistribution in a more egalitarian direction.”

However, it appears that providing an alternate viewpoint to their students on these vital topics would be too “egalitarian” for this crew. It may well be only passing State Senator Larry Mumper’s Senate Bill 24, the Academic Bill of Rights, can solve such a problem – and guarantee Ohio’s college students receive an education instead of an indoctrination.

What can be made of all of this? This blog entry seems to sum it up best. (please go look at it; the pictures are priceless). (To be fair, here's Horowitz's rebuttal -- make of it what you will).

Here's a link to Horowitz's magazine, Front Page, behind which is the organization Center for the Study of Popular Culture, which gets its funding from all sorts of nice people. The center's purpose is, "according to one of its recent direct mail appeals, is to 'change the leftist, anti-American, elitist culture that is dominant in the entertainment industry [and to expose] the idiocies and the viciousness of the radical leftism in universities, the media, mainstream churches, and everywhere else this modern plague is found.' The Committee on Media Integrity (COMINT), leader in the de-funding attacks on public television, is a project of the CSPC." (from the Media Transparency site, just linked). On the CSPC's website right now, Theresa Heinz Kerry's philanthropist is described as "radical left" (!!!!), and folks are invited to hear about America's future from good ol' Newt Gingrich, who "he disrupted the status quo by moving power out of Washington and back to the American people." (YES, this is a direct quote). Oh, and it gets better. There's also a link to The Individual Rights Foundation, which "is the legal arm of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, designed to respond to the growing threat to constitutional rights." RIGHT... because the LEFT wants to fuck with constitutional rights these days... sorry, I was confused...

Here's how the students are supposed to measure liberal bias. Because clearly a registered Democrat is unfit to give a nuanced, balanced, academically rigorous account of their subject matter, and clearly every registered Democrat should be matched by a registered Republican, in order to ensure diversity. 'Cause that's obviously what diversity means. And you should read the complaint list, as it's unintentionally hilarious.* (I'm actually surprised that no one has reported our beloved Jim Marsh, given HIS Rate My Professor.Com ratings, but that's OK... good old Marsh).

Here's Horowitz's most recent defense of the project, which still doesn't answer Graham Larkin's criticisms from September 2004. (Larkin is the Vice President of the California Association of American University Professors. The AAUP, obviously, thinks the whole thing is just nasty).


* Check out this one -- it's a class in American National Politics, in the Political Science department, and the student is outraged that they had to read the Federalist Papers, which
were a series of articles written under the pen name of Publius by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Madison, widely recognized as the Father of the Constitution, would later go on to become President of the United States. Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Hamilton would serve in the Cabinet and become a major force in setting economic policy for the US.

The entire purpose of The Federalist Papers was to gain popular support for the then-proposed Constitution. Some would call it the most significant public-relations campaign in history; it is, in fact, studied in many public relations classes as a prime example of how to conduct a successful campaign.
(The Wikipedia information on the Federalist Papers, noting their opposition to the Bill of Rights, which at the time was highly controversial. Good read.) The student's complaint:
Nature of Complaint: Singled Out, Mocked Political/Religious Figures, Other, Challenged conventional thinking
Description of Complaint (please be as detailed as possible, including quotes from your professor where applicable):
Took issue with the truth that corporate influence in politics is a benevolent enhancement of the democratic process. Suggested President Bush is a bit of a dork. Exposed the media's lack of backbone. Actually made us read some of The Federalist Papers.

Action Taken:
Reported offender to the Thought Police

Response from Professor or Administrator (If Any):
Called our efforts "dishonest rubbish"

Time of Posting : Saturday, April 03, 2004
Oh no! "Actually made us read"... heaven forfend you learn about your country's political history! What the fuck. (By the way, here's an article about why it's important to teach the Federalist Papers).

OK, another one. I'll just quote it. It's too ridiculous:
Complaint Lodger Details : Anonymous
Class: Culture quebecoise
Subject: French
Professor: Anne McConnell
College: St. Michael's College

Nature of Complaint: Mocked Political/Religious Figures,
Description of Complaint (please be as detailed as possible, including quotes from your professor where applicable):
Encouraged students to try to understand the point of view of the Quebecois separatists. Mocked Maurice Duplessis.

Action Taken:

Response from Professor or Administrator (If Any):

Time of Posting : Tuesday, April 06, 2004
How dare anyone be encouraged to "try to understand the point of view" of anyone that they disagree with. That's like being with the terrorists!

OK, but this one makes it all better...:
Complaint Lodger Details : Anonymous
Class: finance courses
Subject: finance
Professor: all finance faculty
College: texas tech university

Nature of Complaint: Required Readings, Introduced Controversial Material, Mocked Political/Religious Figures,
Description of Complaint (please be as detailed as possible, including quotes from your professor where applicable):
All of my finance faculty have consistently backed Bush policies on tax cuts and SS reform. They have downed socialism in the netherlands in favor of the ever so lovely capitalism. They think that there should be a flat-tax, so that poor persons can pay their fair share too. I have even had profs support the Iraq war, which is not related to finace at all, unless you're trading oil and gas futures (that's why they care, now I get it. These ideas all differ from mine and have been forced on me.

Action Taken:
NONE. I act like an adult and realize that each has their own opinion. I cannot change that. I am strong enough in my beliefs that their views do not bother me. Believe it or not, I have learned a thing or two that has shifted my fiscal viewpoints a little to the right (a very small shift) by listening to the other side. I realize that I don't know it all.

Response from Professor or Administrator (If Any):
NONE. Did not make a fuss. I acted like a man. Students should realize that an education is not soley in the hands of a professor, but that they may take responsibility for reading outside material and discovering things on their own. GROW UP. I will be surprised if this makes it on the forum

Time of Posting : Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Basically, this is the deal

It's inappropriate for any professor to go on & on about their political/religious/moral beliefs, and wrong for any professor to grade a student poorly MERELY because of a political/moral/religious disagreement. But it IS appropriate to grade a student based on the quality of their argument, whether or not it "looks like" you're grading them for their opinion. Further,it IS appropriate to discuss current issues/politics in class, if the class deals with social and political thought, history, issues, etc. Why the fuck else would the students be in the class? Further, it's reasonable to correct a student for having certain facts wrong (or, at least, to suggest alternate ways of looking at facts), and certainly reasonable (why else have universities!?!?) to bring up viewpoints and ways of looking at the issue that are certainly NOT represented in the mainstream media (see my earlier blog post today, with the blog entry about the Schiavo case).

SO, good discussion, with encouragement to students to THINK FOR THEMSELVES = GOOD.
Mere ranting = BAD.

Professors are human. Our opinions will slip out. That's fair (I think). It's up to us to make sure that the general tenor of the class veers toward the good-think-for-yourself model, rather than the ranting model. But occasional criticisms of figures in power? Fuck. The powerful figures can take it. If you've done the work of providing a fair environment for students to learn, then by all means criticize powerful public figures in a university classroom. Your students, if you've taught them properly, will be able to argue for/against your position with actual *arguments*, and everyone will learn something.

OK, I'm rambling... sometime when my head hurts less, I'll try to write this out more clearly. All I can say is, I'm a radical liberal and old-biddy feminist, by the standards down here, and I LOVE my conservative students. They say the greatest things. Things I would only bring up as a counter-example. They help jump-start great discussions, in which we are then able to highlight the problems & tensions within moral philosophy & moralizing in the world. I wish I could slip my conservative students $20 each time they made a good point, since it spares me having to play devil's advocate. I'll ask them how they can justify such a position, and take them through the steps of their argument, the same way that I ask my liberal students how they can justify their position & get them to examine their argument. I'm sure the conservatives can tell I disagree with them, but I encourage their participation in class, and the comments I make while grading are clearly focused on the merits of their argument & their exposition of the philosopher in question. (I actually felt bad grading one of their papers once, because it was so badly written, and I was worried the student would think that I graded it down just because I disagreed with it... but based on recent work, I'm less worried - his arguing style has improved, and he doesn't seem to be sucking up to me. Good!)

Ramble, ramble, ramble... I just wish that everyone would write clearly, honestly, with good grammar, and good argument. That's all we need, and the so-called "culture wars" would be over. We could have honest social and political discourse. Sigh.

I really will try to rewrite this sometime. I'm sorry it's so disjointed. Just the whole thing bothers me, and I'm worried about it.

jane 11:33 AM [+]

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?