Saturday, February 26, 2005

Three comments on academic bias from students:


The issue of academic freedom has been brought to the forefront in recent weeks. Apparently academic freedom is being extended so far, in some cases, that a professor in Colorado named Ward Churchill can replace his ethnic studies curriculum with radical, anti-American, anti-capitalist establishment propaganda.

Churchill describes with accuracy his feelings regarding the Sept. 11 tragedy. While he says he mourns for the losses of the individuals in the towers and planes, his mourning is coupled with rants on how so many of the victims had it coming, comparing them to Nazis at one point. He spends extended amounts of time rationalizing the terror tactics of those who hate America, demonstrating that he more fully understands radical Islam and the ideas that feed hatred than ideals such as democracy and justified military action against evil, perhaps even giving preference to the former.

In some disturbing cases, however, free thought is squelched so readily that the Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard University, cannot even mention the biological differences between women and men as a possible reason for women's under representation in the field of science without having several faculty members leave the room. Summers outlined a host of reasons why women do not often reach tenured professorships in science and math at a conference where such matters were a major topic. He offered inborn differences between the sexes among other factors in an informal and speculative discourse. Bear in mind, he was asked to consider all possibilities, and since his remarks, he has been repentant to the people he offended, something I could not do.

I liken the people who left the forum after Summers' remark, too offended to even ask him a question and discuss the issue further, with Churchill. These are modern fascists, secular-feminist-socialist operatives with a feeling of entitlement and self-righteousness so strong they can't even conceive of a person mentioning what Summers did, or being fired for teaching what Churchill has.

I do not know enough science to defend or refute Summers mentioning inborn differences. That is not the important point - Summers was doing what a learned person at a fine university should do: considering everything. He tossed into the ring a notion he did not say he believed to be completely veritable, but he paid for it, paid for trying to be a fair broker of intellectual discourse on the university scene.

That is a sad story. The neo-liberals who I'm discussing might, on a normal day, sound like the staunchest advocates of academic freedom, and they likely would come to the defense of people like Churchill. But I don't think that leaving a forum where issues are being discussed freely and provocatively is an example of tolerating another person's intellectual freedom.

It is clear that higher education is dominated by ideologues with their blinded vision of how and what young people should be taught. This is manifested in small things, like the limited credence granted to students who raise conservative or even moderate views in class, or who are at least pragmatic about the motives of "the learned" and detect plain-to-see bias. This fact also shows up in the curriculum of many courses, and especially the reading selections in courses at a public school like ours.

A good English course, especially at a private school, often revolves around a "Great Books" core of classic literature. My experiences to this point in two English courses have included a docket of new books where the majority of the content is driven by socialism and other radical interests but is treated as some form of enlightenment. Are academic elites really making a stand for open-mindedness and intellectual freedom when they only choose readings that reflect their views? I think not.

This is why academia is so troubled. A group of people who selectively enforce the rules of intellectual freedom, making it limitless for liberals and constricting it for others, dominate the university scene.

Think about this as you go about your schedule of classes, meet different professors and encounter different curriculums. Many professors are fair and have undetectable bias, but keep your eyes open for instances where academic freedom is restricted or abused. Even if you agree with a particular professor, consider the way that their argument is made and how they handle opposition. Usually teachers remind students to be politically fair and to keep an open mind. These days, however, it is often the teachers who need to be instructed.



I was at my seminar last week wasting my share of $328 and some change by not participating in the conversation going on, but rather doodling, dare I toot my own horn, some pretty hot stick figures.... So, at my seminar someone mentioned that Laura Bush would be working during her second term to try to reduce the influence of gangs on "at-risk young men" and wanted to know up to five suggestions we would make to her. I awoke from my deep, deep doodling slumber and my ears perked up. "This could be interesting," I thought, but was immediately disappointed when we went on a long tirade about what I consider Laura Bush-bashing. I mean, this went on for several minutes. We ended class, an opportunity for great learning wasted, after only three people had each suggested only one idea for Laura Bush.

Call me a weenie, but for crying out loud, can we go 20 minutes in a class that is not directly related to our current government and refrain from bashing the current administration? Yes, he is a Republican; yes, he is from Texas; yes, like all the 42 presidents that came before, he is - gasp - male and white; yes, he has an interesting smirk; yes, wearing a cowboy hat with an expensive suit takes away from the business attire look; yes, a red tie should not go with every suit he wears; yes, he has introduced words in the English language that we have never before heard a president say. Do you really want to tell me that in all your years on earth you have never created a word of your own while conversing with one or more people?

But is all that I've mentioned what you came to college for? To find elaborate ways to say "I don't like?" When exactly is the part when we grow up to realize that we cannot get everything we want, deal with the situation as it is, (the fact that Bush will still be president for yet another term no matter what you say in a classroom), and, note: this part is important ... move on.

I am not at Smith to learn about the political background of my professors or my peers. I am here to learn subjects that cater to a specific major so that I may go out in to the world and take the next step. Be considerate; refrain from discussing issues like the shortcomings of our current administration when it has nothing to do with class.

There was so much that we could have done with my classmate's question. We could have asked why gangs are on the president's agenda in the first place. Are there such serious gang wars taking place all over the United States that it takes away our liberty to walk to the nearest Starbucks to get our cup of coffee in the morning? We could have asked why he has given this task to Laura Bush. Can America's problem with gangs, if it exists, be solved by the president's wife "educating parents and communities on the importance of promoting positive youth development," as the White House website says? How exactly will they be educating these parents and communities?

We could have asked what is and will be defined as a gang. Is the KKK, for example, considered a gang? If so, does "KKK" shown at baseball games represent gang pride as the quintessential gangs we think of show off their gang colors? My point is that with the time spent Laura Bush-bashing we could have really come up with great insights and interesting observations.

I was not the only one that made a $329 dollar mistake in class; it seems to me that we all did. We missed a classic opportunity to be Smithies that analyze an initiative that will surely affect our generation and spent it making a jest of an individual who probably does not give a rat's behind that we were talking about her in our classroom. Squash the bug of inequality and open the jar of freedom, people! Take back your class time.



Regardless of age, we have all heard the phrase, "First Amendment Rights," bandied about. Free speech has been the rallying cry of the liberal elite since the 60s, and every time violent protesters are beaten back by police or cordoned off from a rally, the ACLU comes a calling. However, the same team of trial lawyers, rebel billionaires and Deaniacs turn a blind eye toward the abuses of their academic brethren. America's colleges and universities are anything but free speech zones. Contrary to their mantra of universal tolerance, Stalinist professors and administrators see intellectual diversity as a disease. Unpopular viewpoints, like a belief in absolute truth or the Republican Party, are actively discouraged.

The reality of liberal bias on campus is so overwhelming that columnists and commentators are forced to choose between countless illustrations. Whether examining the anti-Christian bent at the University of North Carolina, where one student was labeled a sexist bigot for asserting his personal belief that homosexuality is immoral and Alpha Iota Omega Christian Fraternity was derecognized as a student organization for refusing to admit non-Christians, or the age-old liberalism of Berkeley, where researchers found that conservatism is a disease shared by Hitler and Ronald Reagan, the bias is clear. Liberal professors see conservative beliefs as vermin and our universities as their own, private roach motels. Ideally, conservative minds check in, but they don't check out.

Our professors have at least four years to scare us Democrat, and they seldom waste an opportunity. Studies show that liberals hire liberals; the faculty at elite institutions like Duke and Yale fall to the Left of Hillary Clinton. More frightening, however, is the condition of our average campus. Along with the elites, most state schools are stacked with Democrats and Socialists. Perhaps conservatives are just too stupid for academia, as Dr. Robert Brandon, chairman of Duke's philosophy department, once asserted. Myself, I tend to believe that hiring committees prefer "fellow travelers." And as for self-selection, I think most Right-wingers are smart enough to see the "CONSERVATIVES NEED NOT APPLY" sign hanging beneath the ivy.

Of course, campuses are larger than the classroom and the message of liberal professors might be drowned out by inappropriate speakers. That's why our faculty and administrators are careful to allocate the lion's share of funding to invite still more liberals. After all, if not for men like Ward Churchill, how would students come to understand the innate evil of America? A true conservative would never think to compare 9/11 victims to Nazis!

However, unfortunately for our Stalinist friends, control over class time and tuition only goes so far. Outspoken students might still convince their peers that John Kerry and Karl Marx don't have all the answers. Darn that First Amendment. It was so useful for flag burning.

Some universities try to institute campus speech codes, limiting dialogue to their understanding of political correctness. Most just lambaste conservative students. At UNC-Charlotte, the resident College Republican chapter recently hosted their third annual "affirmative action" bake sale. Treats were offered at lower prices to traditionally recognized minorities, protesting how "affirmative action universities" accept minorities with comparatively lower academic credentials. Kristen McManus, UNC-Charlotte's Associate Director for Academic Initiatives for Mentoring Students, was quick to label her students as racist. Titling the communiqu‚, "Racist Practice at UNCC," McManus e-mailed the press and warned them of the College Republicans' "egregious methodology." After this slur, will members of the UNC-Charlotte College Republicans remain comfortable coming to McManus for academic assistance? Would you feel safe around someone who called you a racist?

All considered, however, campus conservatives shouldn't feel too badly. The Stalinists will even cannibalize a Clintonite for speaking out of turn. When President Lawrence H. Summers of Harvard University speculated aloud that "innate differences" between the sexes might explain why fewer women succeed in careers of math and science, he was attacked by feminists and academics alike. The former treasury secretary has been threatened with a vote of no confidence by Harvard's faculty and thus far, no one is willing to let him forget his flub. I find it ironic that the presidents of Stanford, MIT and Princeton are in an uproar over their colleague's mere speculation, when none of them were offended by the Berkeley study that labeled conservatives as mentally ill.

Perhaps this sentiment is just a product of my diseased, conservative mind, but I get the feeling that academia isn't even fooling itself anymore. After all, if professors pretend that free speech rights exist on campus, someone might try to exercise them.


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