Hate your TA? Now you have a home.
January 23, 2003 8:32 PM   Subscribe

When Kyle's teachers got too liberal, Kyle's mom launched this Web site
I laughed, I cried upon reading the Union-Trib article on student discontent with TAs at UCSD and around the country. Man, if I had a nickel for every time I heard, "Yes, I know that you think capitalism is evil, but will this be on the test?" Next time I'll jump in the box! (more)
posted by rschram (77 comments total)
 
Stirke up the band: Welllllll.... Kyle's mom's a bitch, she's a big fat bitch, she's the biggest bitch in the whole wide world, she's a stupid bitch, if there ever was a bitch...

:-)

(I'm a very, very liberal T.A.)
posted by stonerose at 8:54 PM on January 23, 2003


If this student thinks the lectures of and comments on Christianity by Theodore Lowi - whose "End of Liberalism" influenced the ideas of Reagan budget director David Stockman - are hard to take, he should really consider reading Nietzsche (who should be at least discussed in any introductory-level theory course).
posted by raysmj at 8:54 PM on January 23, 2003


"...with school and papers, you learn to write what the teachers want to hear."

Well, at least they're prepping the kids for the future. It works the same way with every boss I ever had, too.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:01 PM on January 23, 2003


How About Your Bias, Ms. Yang?

Dear Ms. Yang:

I read with interest, and some humor, your report ("Some see widespread liberal bias at colleges") which focused on UC San Diego. As a third year graduate student, teaching assistant, and "liberal, far-left" academic, I have thought a lot about how to deal with teaching the difference between fact and opinion. A basic skill which many freshmen lack.

"When making points of fact, [Prof.] Appelbaum lectures behind a podium. When he speaks his opinion, he steps into the box. Sometimes he talks with one foot in the box and one out."

In a sense, this is far more interesting to me than the launch of a Web site for airing students' complaints. I wonder if parents think so little of their students that they want college professors jumping in and out of boxes to keep their audience's attention. Couldn't you have spared a little room in your article to investigate this obvious cry for help?

I can't speak to the specific complaints of students, but I think I understand a little of what we're all going through. UC is anticipating a meteoric rise in applications and admissions over the next few years. While on the one hand, it is good that the basic liberal arts education (which is very much stressed in the designs of Warren's and all colleges' writing courses at UCSD) is more in demand, it is unfortunate that it will be presented like fast food: fast, anonymous, biggie-sized, and ultimately unhealthy.

No wonder students are discontented; from day one they are lost in the crowd. They don't participate in their own learning by asking questions, shouting at professors, or working closely with advisors. No one really knows how it happened, but UCSD has evolved a culture in which learning is the consumption and regurgitation of lectures.

We TAs and professors in the humanities and social sciences want to combat this trend; since we have such a low bar to professional expertise, we want the students to think independently without the years of sloughing through equations and formulae. Our secret weapon is shock value. Never underestimate the pedagogical value of saying something "subversive" in capital letters. The very idea of hearing something one has never heard uttered ever provokes such astonishment, it can move a student way past the skill of distinguishing fact and opinion to a point where one learns by standing in someone's else shoes. (By the way, could doing that little exercise turn an uninspired recitation of a pro-life factsheet into a real intellectual challenge pushing a student to reach beyond the limits they only thought they had? I think so!)

This is by no means a perfect method. But then we don't work in perfect conditions. One way or another, undergraduates of tomorrow will be very alienated and very unlearned for having gone to college. No amount of Web sites or yellow boxes or REVOLUTIONs will fix it. This is to our collective detriment. Liberal arts education is a necessary skill for every citizen. We diminish both quality and equitable access if we let UC go down its current course. So how about it?
posted by rschram at 9:02 PM on January 23, 2003


Everyone knows when you go to study at a University it's really brainwashing.

But in God's Military it's the Grace of God that trains the recruits.
posted by the fire you left me at 9:13 PM on January 23, 2003


Has education jumped the shark?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:18 PM on January 23, 2003


University of Washington's Daily had an article about this last Thursday, in case anybody's interested.
posted by emmling at 9:19 PM on January 23, 2003


Criminey, be a grown up and make your own judgments. If you're being challenged by ideas you don't agree with you have that perrogative. It's rather infantile to complain that the ideas you are being presented with aren't exactly what you want. That and, of course, you can always go to Bob Jones University.
posted by shagoth at 9:33 PM on January 23, 2003


My current unversity was sited in the site. this debate has been going on campus since the late 1960's and has currently been propelled through the oncampus paper cornell review, a conservative paper on campus whose motto is: we do not apologize. also, ann coulter was the founding editor of the paper in case anyone wanted to know. but the curious thing i noticed, this mother has no problem is attacking the current liberal bias in several unversities but doesn't seem to have that big a problem with conservative unversities like Bob Jones. isn't their stifling of open inquiry also important to look at?

and rschram, great letter. i wish every ta cared that much about their students.
posted by Stynxno at 9:40 PM on January 23, 2003


I haven't sent the above letter yet.

I'm thinking of adding the following to the end of the fifth paragraph.

"I thought your article participated in this McUniversity culture by turning student alienation into a problem of customer service. Therein lies your bias."

In the first sentence of paragraph three, strike out "interesting" and replace with "newsworthy".

Any suggestions?
posted by rschram at 9:41 PM on January 23, 2003


emmling:

I love the irony of someone complaining about liberal bias in a sociology lecture. I mean, hello, sociology. What did they expect? The whole freaking discipline is predicated on liberal assumptions.

Why not just go straight to the source and inform noindoctrination.org about bias in Engels or Max Weber?
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:47 PM on January 23, 2003


Thank you, Stynxno. I can definitely see both sides of the issue (I choose not to think of it those terms, but hey); I mean if an RA told a student "There's no such thing as de facto segregation ... You don't know what you're talking about," I would be appalled. Having read a few of the comments on the site, I think there's more than a bit of spin in the comments. I assume the complainant is talking about a theme dorm or something. But still, no such thing as de facto segregation? What planet are you from? What were all those bussing programs for?

Why not just go straight to the source and inform noindoctrination.org about bias in Engels or Max Weber?

Dude, you should totally do it!
posted by rschram at 9:50 PM on January 23, 2003


What about crazy, suburban, Christian right, fascist teenage enforcer parents? Where's the website we get to turn them into? Maybe they wouldn't be so quick to help volunteer to get this Christian Right Fascist Police State underway if they knew they were being turned in too.

What idiots people are when they don't know their history.

Differing viewpoints being freely expressed is what sets us apart from Sweden or Canada.

Not to mention sets us apart from North Korea too.
posted by crasspastor at 9:51 PM on January 23, 2003


ah, this whole article / debate brings back 1992 like a hot flash in the middle of summer...

to tell the truth, my personal experience with the UCSD Warren College writing program (Warren Writing for those of us upon which it was inflicted) mostly mirrors the complaints in the articles -- when I showed up, first day as a freshman, for my first writing class, it was almost like a parody -- a tall, afro-having dutch TA chiming on about Multiculturalism (with a disctinctly audible capital M), and not much about writing... I sat through a few days of it, then never returned.

I must admit though, that most of the classes I took in the Lit department at UCSD, such as the survey of Faustian literature, the Emily Dickinson class, and even the Modern African Lit class, were all incredible experiences. The only truly wacky experiences I had were with TAs, not the professors themselves.

The best experience, by far, was the African Lit class. A well-known female African literature prof was doing a question and answer session, and was being grilled by the militant lesbian / ultra-left TA about the role of gay & lesbian literature in Africa. The visiting prof replied that there was really no literature of that type in Africa, since usually the only Africans who engaged in such perversions were living in Germany or parts of Europe. It was a truly hilarious moment in time.
posted by badzen at 10:11 PM on January 23, 2003


I think the point is that profs and TAs are pushing their own political agendas and opinions instead of teaching. If you teach a writing course then teach writing, if you want to inculcate your students with your views about race/politics/abortion etc... do it over a couple of beers after they've completed your course. Students and/or their parents are paying for education not indoctrination. Oh, and the "free exchange of ideas" concept is all but dead on American campuses,the exchange goes in one direction only starting from the left. Conservative speakers are shouted down, newspapers are stolen and destroyed and students lambasted for holding views that clash with the crypto-Marxist orthodoxy.
And in closing Steve_at_Linwood hasn't posted in this thread yet so I'm filling in.
posted by MikeMc at 10:18 PM on January 23, 2003


Dear noindoctrination.org,

Recently, I had to read a book called 'The Two Treatises of Government', by a guy named John Locke, for my political philosophy class. I could not believe how biased he was against the doctrine of patriarchal absolutism and absolutist monarchy in general. Locke didn't even give the guy he was arguing against (someone called Filmer) a chance to respond, or spend any time arguing for absolutist monarchy.

What concerns me is the amount of colleges in the US that teach courses on this guy (I did a google search), despite his amazing liberal bias. I think the worst one though has to be Loyola University, Chicago that puts out an entire journal (Locke Studies) devoted to this guy.

Please place Loyola University on your blacklist. Thank you.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:24 PM on January 23, 2003


This is a good one.
posted by MikeMc at 10:24 PM on January 23, 2003


I sat through a few days of it, then never returned.

If you teach a writing course then teach writing

Do you want fries with that?
posted by rschram at 10:24 PM on January 23, 2003


Do you want fries with that?

Yes please and don't forget to Supersize the order.
posted by MikeMc at 10:29 PM on January 23, 2003


To be sure, most of the complaints on noindoctrination look to me like people who were perturbed about having hear or read views they didn't like without big WARNING THIS IS WRONG stickers on it, or who made weird class selections -- I mean, come on, what did you think a class called "Poverty and Income Distribution" was going to be about?

But there's still a kernel of truth to professors trotting out their hobby-horses and going on about things that are at best tangential to the class or outright irrelevant. In an intro American politics class, going on about Ashcroft conquering America is tangential, and mostly just time poorly spent given that Lowi could have spent that time, I dunno, actually talking about political science -- describing collective-action or agency problems, or about how committees help cement vote trades -- instead of making Coulter-level snipes. But in, as people here have said happened to them in real life, in a math or hard-science class? That's just goofy.

I do poli-sci, so inevitably undergrads ask me what I think about issue x, y, or z. I just look at them like they've sprouted another head and tell them there's no reason they should care what I think about it. Because there isn't.

There are good reasons why they should care what I think about why the US has two parties, or why there's often more debate on the rule for a House bill than on the bill itself, or what the Arrow theorem means. There are damn good reasons why they should care what I think about solving strategic-form games, or how to find the yolk or winset in a spatial voting model. These are things I've been trained to do or know that they, well, haven't. But nobody ever gave me an injection of Pure Wisdom such that I'd feel comfortable expounding on stuff that I hadn't been directly trained (or trained myself) in.

But for the life of me I can't think of a good reason why they'd care what I think about abortion, or minimum wage laws, or going to war with Iraq. What I think about these things is, really, none of their fucking business. And what they think about them is really none of my fucking business, either, though whether or not they can differentiate distributive from informational theories of committees definitely is my business.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:38 PM on January 23, 2003


Sonny Jim: My God, you actually READ the First Treatise? I was beginning to doubt its existence, figuring it must be one of those collective delusions that never really happened, like Highlander 2 or Star Trek V
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:41 PM on January 23, 2003


My God, you actually READ the First Treatise?

Well, only up to a point, ROU_Xenophobe. That's what the secondary literature is there for.

One gets the impression that everything except chapter V, Second Treatise, could consist entirely of the word 'bugger', and very few people would actually notice.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:59 PM on January 23, 2003


OK, so I had a long essay on this topic - but my computer died trying to render a maya file. So, here is the abridged version.

If America's colleges are so damned liberal, and have been for the last 30 years, why is America still fairly evenly distributed politically? Hmmmm? Why haven't the pinko-lefty-commies infiltrated every pore of our existence, and driven out the conservatives?

Can the reason that our new liberal overlords have not eclipsed the sun, is because students can think for themselves, and can actually tell what fact is from opinion? Or call out professors who skew the lesson plan? Am I asking too much? If they can't ferret out the information and call bullshit, well, welcome to the real world. If you cannot state your views and defend them, you won't go far. Your sheltered life by overprotective parents is shattered.

But at least your mom put up this cool website.
posted by plemeljr at 11:02 PM on January 23, 2003


"If you cannot state your views and defend them, you won't go far."

What if you can state and defend your views but doing so will cause you fail the course?

"She later stated that she expected students to write what she wanted to hear, whether they believed in it or not. Her idea was that of the 16 required papers, if a student began to repeat her rhetoric, they would eventually change the way they thought."

So much for the free exchange of ideas.
posted by MikeMc at 11:08 PM on January 23, 2003


ROU_Xenophobe: Who knows in what context Lowi's comments were made. He is a lefty, but hardly doctrinaire, from what I've been able to tell. (He's for slashing dozens of government programs, after all, but for making govt. more effective in doing so.) Besides, the guy slamming him thinks it's wrong to say that capitalism and democratic liberalism are related. I take it the student was offended by the word "liberalism." He really wouldn't like Locke. In short, it's hard to separate the possibly serious from the ridiculous here.

More curious is the attack on budgeting professor Irene Rubin. I've read her standard budgeting text. Talk about dry and matter-of-fact. And the student's going on about how the reading material was super-lefty or something. Maybe Rubin is biased in person, I don't know. She certainly doesn't sound like a pushover. But I don't trust a damn thing the student is saying. Besides, I had an arch-conservative professor assign me that intensely dull book of hers. It's like reading about ant farms or hearing about the mundane aspects of life from an impossibly detached David Byrne. My teacher swore by it, though.
posted by raysmj at 11:12 PM on January 23, 2003


Remove: We TAs and professors in the humanities and social sciences want to combat this trend; since we have such a low bar to professional expertise, we want the students to think independently without the years of sloughing through equations and formulae.

Replace with: TAs and professors in the social sciences and humanities get put in a unique position when we attempt, as does every scholar, to combat this trend. First, we deal in interpretations in which the subjective judgement cannot fully be removed. Second, these disciplines have historically battled with whether to fully separate cold empirical analysis from moral prescription. Our analysis is seen as a political opinion and that making an argument is seen as partisanship. However, a common error students make is to see the study of human behavior and culture as only an opinion. Different perspectives reveal different things, they don't in and of themselves express a value or attempt to persuade. So, how does one encourage reflection on the entrenched persectives students may have?
posted by rschram at 11:15 PM on January 23, 2003


OK, so that all ended a bit too snarky. But the idea still holds. I don't care what your view is, as long as you can rationally convey your argument, and then defend that argument. As a TA I have to deal with this all the time - getting students to think on their own, developing rhetorical and critical skills that is essential in almost any field. High school [I believe] was always a bastion of not-think - of recitation and repression/representation. College is to open you mind to other ideas and experiences.

on preview So much for the free exchange of ideas

Did anyone offer a rebuttal? That the prof made the topic of the report "what she wanted to hear" is, of course, not good. But is that a symptom of being a liberal, or a bad prof? I guess you can split hairs. But it seems that the prof was looking to strengthen the future officers rhetorical skills. And since everything on that website is heresy, I find it tiring to wade through the fact and the perceived fact. Not that I don't think that there are bad profs, but we all skew things. Really, if you are in college, you are going to be challenged. Both your ideas and your stamina is challenged, and you have to react and argue effectively - and not be afraid of taking chances. I've read a bunch of these "cases" and many of them could have been rectified through a discourse. But no one took the ball and ran with it to challenge the prof. Maybe I am wrong, but you have to be challenged, and you must challenge to get anything out of college.
posted by plemeljr at 11:19 PM on January 23, 2003


This was working in Opera, but not in Internet Explorer (from which I was trying to post it first, to no avail), in the above message:

More curious is the attack on budgeting professor Irene Rubin. I've read her standard budgeting text. Talk about dry and matter-of-fact. And the student's going on about how the reading material was super- lefty or something. Maybe Rubin is biased in person, I don't know. She certainly doesn't sound like a pushover. But I don't trust a damn thing the student is saying. Besides, I had an arch-conservative professor assign me that intensely dull book of hers. It's like reading about ant farms or hearing about the mundane aspects of life from an impossibly detached David Byrne. My teacher swore by it, though.
posted by raysmj at 11:28 PM on January 23, 2003


Sonny Jim: that and the Bugger on Tolerbuggeration.

Who knows in what context Lowi's comments were made. He is a lefty, but hardly doctrinaire, from what I've been able to tell

He's an odd duck.

Assuming he actually said it, I don't see how it can be anything much more than a cheap crack, if an impassioned one. Why waste your time with that when you have little enough for the stuff that matters, or at least a crack that's actually funny or biting instead of acting like a parody of a college professor? They get little enough exposure to actual poli-sci stuff as it is; using your time to act like Coulter crowing about Clinton strikes me as not useful.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:32 PM on January 23, 2003


"But is that a symptom of being a liberal, or a bad prof?"
Bad prof methinks, but how often do you hear complaints like this where the prof is espousing a far-right point of view? Bear in mind that my concern is about public institutions, private or religious schools such as Bob Jones University (Good ole BJU - I love that name!) are often founded with a particular viewpoint in mind. I expect publicly funded educational institutions to be apolitical (A pipe dream at best). If the class is about politics or race relations then discuss politics or race or both but if not please stick to subject advertised in the course catalog.

"And since everything on that website is heresy"

Exactly. Or was that a Freudian slip and you meant to say hearsay? What can you say other than they were there and we were not? I'll give the posters on that site the benefit of the doubt.

A little off the subject but.... can anyone that holds a degree from a school called Bob Jones really expect to be taken seriously?

Note to rschram: I'm still waiting on the fries, if they're cold your manager will be hearing from me.
posted by MikeMc at 11:46 PM on January 23, 2003


I gotta say, though, this could be fun. I should submit a scathing and wildly unbelievable report on myself and follow it up with a rebuttal that begins "THAT, SIR, IS AN INMITIGATED FRABRIGATION!" and goes on from there to discuss in great detail how Cubes or something.

Along the same lines, pick-a-prof.com could be fun to mess around with. I keep meaning to log in and write outrageously slanderous reviews of my colleagues.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:51 PM on January 23, 2003


Frankly, I'm actually quite glad to be a nut-job libertarian on a relatively left-centre campus (actually a right-wing bastion by Canadian standards) for the reasons stated above - I'm constantly challenged to re-evalute my positions and consider other points of view than my own.

That said, I doubt that anyone with left-centre viewpoints _is_ challenged by the political opinions of their professors or TAs for the most part. If that is the intent, it is a clear failure. While we're at it, though, let's be honest and admit that students look down on professors who espouse any extreme viewpoint, whether right-wing, left-wing or other. While they might complain about a Maoist teaching Chinese history, they'd be equally irate if it was a doctrinaire fascist doing it. The point is rarely what viewpoint is being espoused, but whether the students think they've been getting a fair view of the topic.

I personally though, tend to consider "challenging my viewpoint" to be a secondary goal to "learning to deal skillfully with the topics of interest in my field of choice". The university as primarily a political entity doesn't really strike me as an entirely positive development.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:54 PM on January 23, 2003


boo-friekin'-hoo! do these people actually expect to go to college without having to engage ideas that they don't like? and how these weak-ass parents ever toilet train these losers in the first place?

seriously, although my alma mater is probably overly old-school i can't wrap my mind around the idea of a remotely "classical" education that doesn't involve heavy doses of texts and ideas that contradict each other , let alone whatever irrelevant preconceptions we bring to the table. e.g: can you be truly informed about capitalism if you have not read Kapital?

IMHO, if a new (to you) idea doesn't jive with your opinions, fine, but at the very least, the fact that the notion was new to you suggests that your opinion wasn't informed by it. or something.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:00 AM on January 24, 2003


My deeply scarring personal experience was actually in high school (what I like to call "the Republican Years") where a teacher made a Nazi joke about me after I voiced support for...I dunno, welfare reform or something. Had I not been head-over-heels for an Israeli at the time, I would've really taken offense.

I had a number of things to say, but MikeMc has said most of them already, so I'll just add a "here here" to it. If anyone challenges the notion that academia is biased in its teaching, that's a valid debate, but it's a little worrying that many are so quick to poo-poo any complaint of a bias in teachers who are partially paid by the state. This idea that students should stop whining and just think for themselves is, in a word, fucking ridiculous.

rschram: A fine letter. But for many the concern is not to keep their children from being shocked into considering other views, but that there's a base assumption that the left-wing is the only one that shocks. I would think, for a generation raised in the modern welfare state, that Nozick could be pretty shocking.

It's all about diversity. Including the intellectual kind.

(On preview) IJR you miss the point, and not very originally. Being subjected to new ideas is wonderful. Only being subjected to new left-wing ideas is stunting, and that's what's being criticized.
posted by apostasy at 12:03 AM on January 24, 2003


Pseudoephedrine: mad props to you. challenging your own viewpoints is the essence if higher education, i have always thought.

apostasy: i guess that i just escaped this left-wing indoctrination thing. your experience with a teacher was unfortunate. a teacher in high school called me a "fag" because during some discussion about gays in the military i said that i would not be worried about sleeping in a tent with a gay guy. if a teacher/professor is preaching their own political viewpoint, the they are a bad educator. i agree with that wholeheartedly.

but i think that this discussion has a background in something other than bad teachers (would anyone here say that trying to make kids share your opinions is a valid way to educate them?). people talk about this "culture" of "leftism" in academia, and i just don't see it. "left" and "right" are not aptly descriptive terms when we are talking about a body of texts or ideas, none of which were generated in political vacuums, but which were produced in countless different environments. in general, historically important ideas tend not to be "conservative". to say that the earth was round used to be some pretty far out shit. "all men are created equal" was the pinko drivel of it's day.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:19 AM on January 24, 2003


"...for a generation raised in the modern welfare state..."

A generation of businessmen? Corporate heads suckling at the taxpayer trough? I don't know what you're talking about, because a fifth of the population of the United States live without medical care. If that's a welfare state, it's by far the most inept ever concieved.

UTrib:
UCSD provost David Jordan, gives a more pointed argument:

"Why should I teach a point of view I don't agree with? I should teach what is useful to the student. I don't know that I have the responsibility to teach somebody's view that is benighted or irrelevant."

But that attitude is the problem, as Kyle Wright sees it. A view that seems benighted to one person may seem enlightened to another


Fabulous. Indoctrination you agree with isn't indoctrination; Indoctrination you don't agree with is indoctrination. This is the only conclusion available to this sad little dialogue, because I don't see a general outcry against the orthodoxy of capitalism or federalist revolutions.

Say Kyle, are you against all indoctrination or just one political subset you happen to disagree with? You may want to work out that little enigma before you come off sounding like an indoctrinated student of Contemporary Conservative Tautology 101.
posted by raaka at 2:06 AM on January 24, 2003


R E V O L U T I O N
posted by brittney at 2:22 AM on January 24, 2003


Differing viewpoints being freely expressed is what sets us apart from Sweden or Canada.

What?
posted by timeistight at 2:36 AM on January 24, 2003


IJR: Widespread bias is not the easiest thing to prove. But there are hoards of conservatives crying foul over academia's bias, and no competing hoards of liberals insisting academia is pushing a right-wing agenda. The only alternative view would seem to be that leftists are ignorant and/or conservatives are intolerant, and surely neither can be true. I haven't a clue how to quantify this, but it riles a great many people, and public education should at least impersonate a responsive service.

"...for a generation raised in the modern welfare state..."

A generation of businessmen? Corporate heads suckling at the taxpayer trough? I don't know what you're talking about, because a fifth of the population of the United States live without medical care. If that's a welfare state, it's by far the most inept ever concieved.

You misunderstand. For a generation raised with the idea that it is not only acceptable for a government to tax its citizens to provide a social safety net, but is indeed morally required (the vast majority disagrees only on degree), someone like Nozick arguing for a radically minimal state would be quite the intellectual shock.
posted by apostasy at 2:57 AM on January 24, 2003


bah.


i cant believe they talked shit about professor lipsitz. i took his class last quarter and loved it.


then again, im not a rightwinged bahstard.
posted by joedan at 3:10 AM on January 24, 2003


timeistight, certain viewpoints are illicit in Canada. Yes, it sucks, but we still ban books, it's still illegal to promote a wholly non-Canadian viewpoint on cultre over the airwaves, the queen gets final say on wether or not you get to broadcast (article 7, radiocommunications act), not to mention that if your viewpoint is that swearing should be allowed at any time you'll also be banned from the air (can't remember the act offhand, but I read it one day when I was bored at my local radio station) [yes, this includes cell phones], and if your viewpoint is hateful, then it's also illegal.

There's also some other _really_ wierd freedom of speech law limitations in Canada's basic telecommunications infrastructure, such as the fact that a message from a Canadian startpoint with a Canadian destination may not traverse any other country but Canada. You'd be wondering why that matters up until you see that buying sattelite internet from the US is 1/10th the price than it is in Canada, which means that when I was using it, if I didn't want to break the law, I had to stick to a wholly non-Canadian viewpoint. How's that for a winner?

Open discussion on certain sexalities is outlawed [do NOT click that if you are in Canada, however it is totally safe for work], to the extreme (hey, I hate^H^H^H^H do not like pedophiles as much as the next guy, but isn't that law a little extreme?).

So, basically, Canada is free unless you're an extremist, or you'd like to associate with (insert country that isn't Canada here). Which means, unfortunately, that yup, crasspastor gets to say that and be right. Unfortunately.

If only a candidate would step up to the plate with plants to put some teeth in our charter of rights, most notable the freedom of speech and association parts. Just because we don't agree with someone doesn't mean they should have to move their stuff out of our country.

(oh dear, I've managed to end up way OT in another thread... sorry)
posted by shepd at 3:53 AM on January 24, 2003


The minute I graduated college I started to hate college kids (and it's not all jealousy either). This thread has done nothing to change that.

You want fries with that?

Right, because there's absolutely no truth to the other side of the argument. Any suggestion of an alteration to how things currently work, any minor tweak, will turn the glorious Halls of Academia into McUniversity, which you fail to even define, as though we are supposed to know what that is. I suppose you still wear lamb's wool to class and call the professors "Dons" lest college education evolve over time.
posted by yerfatma at 4:36 AM on January 24, 2003


Ooooh! Ooooh!

Can I go to Bob Young University and complain about how all the staff has pro-Cristianity views?!?!?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:30 AM on January 24, 2003


on follow up to my previous post, i've noticed that most of the classes that are being label as leftist are actually humanity, arts & sciences, type classes. being in the engineering college, i'm more happy to have a ta or professor who actually speaks english and actually understands the material. i've only had one statistics professor describe his political viewpoints and that was during a degrees vs radians debate. he felt that bush should attack iraq because degrees were invented by the babylonians. it was hilarious.
posted by Stynxno at 6:05 AM on January 24, 2003


he does have a point.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:15 AM on January 24, 2003


This--from both sides--is why I left college as soon as I was legally allowed.

Everyone here is missing the point. The problem is not that teachers talk about their own opinions. That may be a problem, but it's not the main one. The problem is that teachers actively distort and/or lie about facts, real documented facts. I had textbooks (and teachers) state that "no one denies that welfare is necessary--disagreements are only about the degree and type of implementation." That is not an opinion, not a bias, it is a lie, and a particularly insidious one at that.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:18 AM on January 24, 2003


"Ooooh! Ooooh!

Can I go to Bob Young University and complain about how all the staff has pro-Cristianity views?!?!?"

You mean Bob Jones U? You sure can and then you can complain about being kicked out as BJU (Gotta love that name!) is a private christian school and is under no obligation whatsoever to allow you to attend classes there.
I've even heard of at least one college (Hillsdale?) that will accept no federal aid nor any student using federal loan or grant money so that it cany deny any applicant for any reason and the government is powerless to stop them. This school pushes a conservative agenda but makes no attempt to appear unbiased unlike public schools.
posted by MikeMc at 6:21 AM on January 24, 2003


revolution is an aquired taste
posted by corpse at 6:31 AM on January 24, 2003


Long ago, when I was an English TA, I remember getting one of the best papers I'd ever received along with one of the worst (both were anti-gun control papers). The first paper was well researched, well structured, and well argued. The other sounded like a Rush Limbaugh rant.

I got permission from both students to use their papers (w/o their names, of course) as examples in my classes. And this proved very useful, as I had an excellent example of an 'A' paper and a low 'D' paper both on a subject that was 180 degress from my own veiws of the subject.

You will find teachers who expect you to agree with them or who are harder on students who don't. But you will find far more students whose only model of critical debate is the Bill Oreiley show (or it's Marxist equivilent, if there were one--how did the 'liberal' media somehow not produce one). The point is to teach them how to write and how to reason clearly, not what to think. They'll think what they want to think anyway.
posted by wheat at 6:33 AM on January 24, 2003


My freshman English professor was RABIDLY against abortion and tried to relate almost every story we read to it. I am pro-choice and disagreed with her at almost every turn. But she was a good teacher, a decent human being, and I learned some good things about writing.

Going to college is about being exposed to new ideas and learning to think critically and for yourself. Talk to your professor about the choice of TAs - students who work for virtually nothing to help finance an education.

Hmm, maybe that's why so many are liberal, eh?
posted by Red58 at 6:52 AM on January 24, 2003


I don't know that anyone in this thread has explained why some "true conservatives" take issue with "liberal bias" in schools like UCSD, but give Bob Jones a free pass. There should be a clear and simple distinction. UCSD is a public university. In my eye, the customers of BJU are its students. The customers of UCSD include the taxpayers.

Imagine a hard-working, intelligent entrepreneur, who earns a million dollars a year through his ingenuity . He winds up flipping somewhere between 50K and 93K to the state. The state then turns around, uses the tax collected from him to employ some bedwetting TA who spends his time not educating his students, but rather pushing his agenda on them. The TA, as an authority figure, no doubt holds influence over some of the students in the class. And at least one of his impressionable students decides (based upon half-truths, opinion presented as fact, and an unbalanced point of view) that statism is the path to the common good. These students add up, reach a critical mass, and begin to shape public policy-- policies that punish our entrepreneur for his creativity and pilfer his wealth through confiscatory taxation.

In essence, the entrepreneur is being billed for the bullet that shoots him. This is repugnant. A corollary to "free speech" is the right to refuse to fund the speech of viewpoints which one does not agree. That is why my brand of conservative holds such a resentment for any bias in the public schools-- primary, secondary, or post-secondary.
posted by trharlan at 7:07 AM on January 24, 2003


wheat: "But you will find far more students whose only model of critical debate is the Bill Oreiley show (or it's Marxist equivilent, if there were one--how did the 'liberal' media somehow not produce one)."

You must be kidding. Donahue is the most obvious example. He freely admits that he is a (in the American usage) liberal. And one needs no microscope to see that virtually every newsmagazine is slanted. There's Diane "We need more regulation" Sawyer, Barbara "Those evil, evil corporations" Walters (who uses Stossel's bit parts as grist for her arguments in praise of government), Mike Wallace (Vince Foster Clinton apologist) and his ilk who falsified tests, almost destroying Audi (another evil corporation). I could go on...

O'Reilly repulses me, but he's no worse than anyone else.
posted by trharlan at 7:26 AM on January 24, 2003


the college professor vs. the irate housewfe. it's the classic left vs. right battle!

In essence, the entrepreneur is being billed for the bullet that shoots him. This is repugnant.

love it or leave it, pal. personally, I'm not too pleased that my tax nickels and dimes are being melted down and inserted combustibly into foreigners, but I'm not about to set up a tax shelter.
posted by mcsweetie at 7:41 AM on January 24, 2003


The postings are an unintentional overview of intolerant doublespeak. Most read something like this:

"I was deeply outraged by my professor's extremist beliefs. Worse, when I tried to inject my own, contrary, extremist beliefs into the debate, my professor became deeply outraged!"

As a bleeding heart liberal at the University of Texas in th 80's, I was daily faced with uber-conservative profs in the English department. I disagreed with them, we argued in class. Big fucking deal. Whenever I felt like learning something that my professors weren't interested in teaching me, I discovered that there was a library right there on campus.
posted by vraxoin at 7:58 AM on January 24, 2003


I've always thought that the exposure to ridiculously leftist TAs and faculty in lower-division liberal arts classes is a very healthy thing for conservatism and libertarianism.

(1) it has a nice backlash effect -- smart kids, particularly those who are oppressed by the natural power structure of high school (jocks, pretty people, and dumb rich kids) and feel isolated by small town and suburban isolationism / materialism, tend to have evolved into liberals by the time they arrive at college. A few semesters of laughably biased indoctrination amidst the leftist power structure at university and they convert into critical thinking moderates, or even staunch conservatives!

(2) it has a nice confirmatory effect -- conservatives can feel very isolated in the overwhelmingly liberal environment of university, particularly by the assumption that liberalism correllates to intelligence. The unthinking and frequently absurb liberal pieties mouthed by professors and TAs makes imminently clear that in fact those pieties are a sign of low intelligence or intelligence deliberately misapplied.

(3) it has a nice self-sabotaging effect -- it seduces hard-core leftists into believing that their ideas are true beyond questioning, and thus disables them from engaging in the real competitive marketplace of ideas. It also persuades many of them to devote them professionally to the variety of left liberal arts disciplines, and thus safely removes them from the arenas where they could do real damage. After all, every radical sociology professor who gets tenure is one less radical rabble-rouser stirring up trouble on the streets.
posted by MattD at 8:05 AM on January 24, 2003


I learned an awful lot in college and high school, not least of which was how to evaluate opinions, how to construct an argument, how to disagree with someone other than saying "I think you're wrong." I think a gret deal of learning SHOULD be based on hearing things that get you thinking. Don't agree with someone's views? Fine. Then argue fairly. Try to sway them. That's part of the marketplace of ideas.

That said, I've had a good amount of professors who think that, because they're the one up in front of a classroom full of people, their students want/need to hear about their opinions on everything under the sun. (There's a fine line here, but I'm inclined to agree with ROU_Xenophobe that neither my views nor my prof's are terribly material in most situations, provided that I learn the skills being taught and can deal with and explore ideas that are new to me.)

I got really sick of courses in which the prof had a strong opinion about one particular issue, and would harp away at it, brooking no thoughtful response or measured disagreement....and graded accordingly. Someone who is really committed to learning should have an open mind and be willing to be swayed by persuasive argument. (I was so glad when a particular Politics course ended...once I realized that the only way to a decent grade was to parrot the prof's wacky views on Pakistan, I was stuck with the regurgitation machine, which I regard as intellectually dishonest.) It's arrogant for a prof to assume that because they're the one with the lectern, they have a lock on the truth about everythign.
posted by Vidiot at 8:18 AM on January 24, 2003


err...make that "everything." Apologies.
posted by Vidiot at 8:34 AM on January 24, 2003


My opinions, which I hold sacred and unassailable:

1. Research the college you go to. Visit the campus and meet some faculty. You can find out on a weekend if you are a pinko leftist commie at Bob Jones or an arch conservative christian militant at Berkeley.

2. A bad broker would only tell a client about stocks, not mutual funds. A bad professor would only tell the facts that support his particular viewpoint. 'Nuff said.

3. Just because you disagree with something your professor says does not mean she is trying to indoctrinate you. It could be, as amazing and unlikely as it seems, that you may be wrong.

4. Professors are not truth distributing robots. They have opinions, biases, and are fallible like any other human. The good ones recognize these failings and compensate by making the effort to balance their approach. See #2.

4a. (O'Reilley's Dilemma) It is not reasonable to expect a professor to have "no opinion".

5. An education should expose you to new ideas, should challenge your beliefs, should force you to broaden your mind and consider previously disregarded or unknown facets of the world around you. If you go in and every professor just tells you what you already know and believe, well it's not much of an "education" then is it?

6. An education should not give you opinions. It should give you the tools and the insight, through exercises like those listed above, to make you able to form your own opinions based on the facts.

7. Some things are true, no matter how much you don't want to believe them. This is not bias or indoctrination, it is education. Fossils are real, regardless of what your sunday school teacher may have said. It is not the university's job to help coddle you and make sure you still believe in the easter bunny when you leave.

ROU_x, I would imagine people ask your opinion since you are better educated on the subject at hand and based on the conclusions you draw that may help them form their own opinions. I'm not sure why that's crazy. Asking someone's opinion is not necessarily asking to be brainwashed.

As I've said before, an education either opens your mind and makes you more accepting, more tolerant, more compassionate, and more 'liberal' in the small-L sense of the word, or else it makes you scared and intolerant and makes you back into a rigid protectionist shell of safety and comfort.

The 2nd is a failure BTW.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:58 AM on January 24, 2003


from the San Diego Union Tribune, "It wasn't anything like 'We're this way and we want you to think this way.' It was more like getting students to think one way by hiding the other side or making it seem ridiculous," said Wright, who is 20.

Whoa!! That's exactly how it is at my community college. My professors constantly portray conservative ideas as unreasonable and make it seem rediculous and basicaly laugh it off.

Interesting post..
posted by ZupanGOD at 9:50 AM on January 24, 2003


apostasy: so you are saying that because people complain more loudly about "liberal" bias, it must be true? fine.

it all boils down to this: if you are EVER, EVER taught an opinion, much less after the age of ten, you are a sucker. if you pay money for something that you feel is indoctrination, then drop out. likewise, if your education is centered around anyhting other than development of critical thinking skills, you should reevaluate wheter the word "education" is appropriate in the first place. couldn't one just sit alone and think about their own pet ideas?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:41 AM on January 24, 2003


That's exactly how it is at my community college.

That's because conservative bias costs money. Liberal bias you can have for nothing.

;p
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:11 PM on January 24, 2003


Right, because there's absolutely no truth to the other side of the argument. Any suggestion of an alteration to how things currently work, any minor tweak, will turn the glorious Halls of Academia into McUniversity, which you fail to even define, as though we are supposed to know what that is.

Let me make clear for all that my point was not to defend the current workings of universities. I am not resisting changing the way students interact with professors. My point is that only in anonymous degree factories will you hear these complaints. Not so much because they are true (and a few probably are) but because students only see their curriculum as a collection of facts. The purpose of my so-called bias in class is not to indoctrinate, it's to get students to think in a new way. Whether they decide to hold that perspective, and any opinions it might entail, is up to them. The exercise of seeing things differently is worthwhile in and of itself.

This is what I meant when I said eariler that students often mistake a way of seeing with an opinion on a set of facts. If you give equal time to different sides, then you just set up a situation in which people get to pick whichever version of reality they prefer. There's no thinking involved in that. It simply caters to the same mindset that knowledge is consumption and that students are customers. That is, by the way, the prevalent model of discourse in all of American mass media. People of different sides throwing facts at one another.

I reject the notion that both extremes on scale of ideology can equally create the learning experience. First, and most simply, 99% students never heard a really radical thought articulated. Second, the way this criticism is phrased is wrong. Any "extreme" thought is "biased" only if you accept that all positions are alternatives on a menu of one's personal choices. Look at the examples cited thus far--REVOLUTION, Marxism, etc. These are not simply left-wing sentiments; this is part of a description of society based on a totally different set of assumptions. A different culture, if you will.

The ultimate insult of the Web site and the article is the idea that liberal arts should stop at the point where students can learn to distinguish facts from opinions. My argument is that there's more to life and education than that (relatively easy) lesson.
posted by rschram at 12:18 PM on January 24, 2003


eh... I don't think most of the left-wing stuff you get at college is trying to get people to "think for themselves." I mean, as an English major I've had to sit through tons of lectures on Marxist and derivative (feminist, African American, gay and lesbian) critical theories, which are presented as such: there's a lecture. The prof defends all the points of Marxism and the theory. Then you're required to write probably half your essays for your English classes in the perspective of this theory. That's not encouraging students to consider an issue, that's forcing them to write from your perspective, from what you want to hear.
posted by dagnyscott at 12:24 PM on January 24, 2003


The prof defends all the points of Marxism and the theory. Then you're required to write probably half your essays for your English classes in the perspective of this theory.

theory != opinion
posted by rschram at 12:30 PM on January 24, 2003


dagny: such critiques, i believe, are now considered an important part of studying english, no? did you really know that the marxist critique offended you BEFORE you learned about its application? i did not study english, so i may be way off-base. in these lectures, is the prof trying to make you share their viewpoint, or are they explaining a process that is now a key part of their field?

what i would like to see is an example of a "non-left" idea that is important to academia, and is frequently ignored due to this liberal bias. it seems to me that if these "leftist" ideas are nonetheless part of the field (and i don't mean "vote no on 24 or you are hearltess",; that IS indoctrination) then the fact that they are discussed demonstrates nothing. i want to see this bias actually filtering out important stuff. you can say that universities don't teach creationism, but that is because Creationism is, according to science/critical thought, crap.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:37 PM on January 24, 2003


Man, I wish I had a teacher as dogmatic and intolerant as these legendary figures. I would attend their class faithfully and take excellent notes. I would try to ask as many awkward questions as I could. In my papers I would challenge every idea and opinion I disagreed with and try to use the teacher's own examples against them. I would probably work harder for them than in other classes whose material I got along with better. It's the natural pain-in-ass reflex. At the end of the course I could have an F I could be more proud of than several A's. Hell yeah!
posted by wobh at 12:37 PM on January 24, 2003


Ynoxas nailed it. Nothing further.
posted by Down10 at 12:49 PM on January 24, 2003


Whenever someone tells me they had to hear something they didn't agree with, I begin to weep with sadness. It's just awful that someone might try to convince you to agree with them, because the thing is.. you can't resist!

Like if I said to an arch-conservative "stop being a conservative," they pretty much have to.

This can be proven by a glance at the statistics: of the 48 million times liberal doctrine was given to conservatives last year, those conservatives have become liberals 100% of the time. There were similar numbers in the other direction as well.

Ever notice how political ideologies are always in flux, and even from day to day you will flip-flop between the left and the right, depending on who the last person to indoctrinate you was? This is why!

This is particularly true in schools, because students have a deep and abiding respect for their teachers, and everything a teacher says really sinks in. Students look to their teachers for advice about life, religion, relationships, and yes, politics.

Like many (well, all) of you, I have trouble distinguishing between fact and opinion, for instance when my teachers say "abortion is good," I will write a note in my notebook that says "abortion = GOOD", then underline "GOOD" several times for emphasis. That way, later, if someone asks me about abortion, I can say, "wait a second, let me take out my notes here... I'm sure my professor said something about that... ahh yes, here it is!"
posted by Hildago at 12:59 PM on January 24, 2003


Crap, I just thought of something really scary.. what if your professor indoctrinates you one way, and your ta indoctrinates you another?
posted by Hildago at 1:06 PM on January 24, 2003


when my teachers say "abortion is good,"...

Heh! I'm remembering a funny joke from the humor newspaper at UCSD. It was a two-column table labeled "What Profs Say / What Students Write Down" One line said: "One of the most important thinkers for sociology is Marx..." / "Professor Smith is a Marxist."
posted by rschram at 1:07 PM on January 24, 2003


I mean, as an English major I've had to sit through tons of lectures on Marxist and derivative (feminist, African American, gay and lesbian) critical theories

Well, I'd be interested in exactly what you mean by "tons." It's been my experience that unless you're in a very large, prestigious, or wanna-be-hip department, those are still minority undergrad approaches. Grads may encounter them a little more frequently, but it's not as if any of them are the only way to read a text. If you have ideological objections to any of them, there's always Arnoldian or Leavisite, New Critical, or Neo-Aristotlean approaches. The point is, within their context, all of those are instructive ways to approach a novel or a poem or an essay.

Seriously, the milage conservative rhetoricians get out of the myths of "liberal academia" or "the liberal media" never fails to amaze me. At the same time conservatives occupy nearly every important political position in this country and-- in addition--while they frequently assert that they deserve those positions because Americans, after all, are all really basically, republicans, they also relentlessly harangue us with the charge that the country is rotten with leftist orthodoxy and threatened on every side by feminists, Marxists, queer theorists, peaceniks, and tax-and-spend liberals. Why? I doubt it's because both are true. More because it's easy, it's cheap, it's an effective emotional appeal, and no amount of anecdotal evidence will ever prove or disprove it.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:14 PM on January 24, 2003


what i would like to see is an example of a "non-left" idea that is important to academia, and is frequently ignored due to this liberal bias. it seems to me that if these "leftist" ideas are nonetheless part of the field (and i don't mean "vote no on 24 or you are hearltess",; that IS indoctrination) then the fact that they are discussed demonstrates nothing. i want to see this bias actually filtering out important stuff. you can say that universities don't teach creationism, but that is because Creationism is, according to science/critical thought, crap.


How about the theory of whole language in linguistics and education? For some decades, liberal educators forced out phonetics in favor of this "modern" technique...which created generations of young people who can barely read or write. One of my graduate advisors began referring to whole language as "acquired dyslexia" after her daughter grew up that way.

In essence, the entrepreneur is being billed for the bullet that shoots him. This is repugnant.

As of recently, gay taxpayers have been forced to pay for smaller, more impressionable children to be taught that their lifestyles are immoral and that they will be sent to hell. These children will grow up to put these theories into practice at the voting booth, the HR office and, at times, at the small end of a baseball bat.

The entrepreneur can bloody well take care of himself.

Also, nice job, Ynoxas. That's the crux of the argument right there.
posted by Epenthesis at 2:29 PM on January 24, 2003


octobersurprise, that may be your "impression," but I was just telling you that all my introductory undergraduate classes contain large portions where this stuff is a huge component. I know there are other critical theories out there, but what professors say is "they're wrong, write from our standpoint."

I don't think that forcing students to think how you want them to for an essay is an example of open-mindedness. It's a lot different than just exposing them to different viewpoints... I'd be all too happy to read and seriously consider works by Marxists, but I'd like to be able to comment on them from my own perspective.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:56 PM on January 24, 2003


Long ago, when I was an English TA, I remember getting one of the best papers I'd ever received along with one of the worst (both were anti-gun control papers). The first paper was well researched, well structured, and well argued. The other sounded like a Rush Limbaugh rant.

This is an excellent point. I'm sure there are some ideologues out there, but often undergrads don't understand that a TA isn't objecting to the content of an argument, but the skill with which the argument is executed.
posted by jonp72 at 5:56 PM on January 24, 2003


How about the theory of whole language in linguistics and education? For some decades, liberal educators forced out phonetics in favor of this "modern" technique...which created generations of young people who can barely read or write. One of my graduate advisors began referring to whole language as "acquired dyslexia" after her daughter grew up that way.

i don't get what is "left wing" about what you are describing, other than that you use the word liberal. are you saying that typical conservative analysis showed the unsolvability of "whole language" before it was ever practiced, and that the liberal media ignored that?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:02 PM on January 24, 2003


This is an excellent point. I'm sure there are some ideologues out there, but often undergrads don't understand that a TA isn't objecting to the content of an argument, but the skill with which the argument is executed.

I was just thinking about this myself. The last time I taught freshman composition, one of the essays was an "issues"-type thing, and in several instances students got low grades (and stern comments) on essays arguing for positions with which I actually agreed. It's just that they did it so...badly. Similarly, a pro-life colleague wound up banning essays on abortion because she felt that both the pro-choice and the pro-life folks couldn't argue their way out of a torn paper bag when it came to that subject.

An anecdote: when my father started teaching over thirty years ago, he used to be very "objective," in the sense of saying "there's what I'm saying, and there are also arguments X, and Y, and Z..." That is, until one student asked him "And so what do we need you for?"

A further anecdote: while researching the great Scottish Enlightenment professor of law John Millar several years ago, I discovered that one of his radical innovations in pedagogy was--gasp--actually talking to the students after his lectures, and even letting them argue with him. Shock. Horror.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:12 PM on January 24, 2003


i don't get what is "left wing" about what you are describing, other than that you use the word liberal. are you saying that typical conservative analysis showed the unsolvability of "whole language" before it was ever practiced, and that the liberal media ignored that?

[hobbyhorse]I think the thing with the 'whole language' example is that here is a pedagogical tradition, pursued for entirely (liberal) ideological reasons, that has had a major effect -- ending, possibly for good, mass literacy as a phenomenon in the English-speaking world. (OK, I know it's a bit more complex than that, but bear with me here.)

What's happened is that educators -- particularly those in charge of policy at a curriculum level, and those responsible for teacher training -- have taken their Foucault a bit too seriously and decided (for the best of reasons, of course) that the grammatical and spelling conventions introduced into English in the late 17th--early 18th centuries constrain and limit children's minds, and that throwing these conventions out completely would 'liberate' children, break the shackles of the Dark Enlightenment, and bring about the anarchist revolution.

Unfortunately, all that happened was that schools started pumping out a lot of people who really liked Hootie and the Blowfish.[/hobbyhorse]
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:04 PM on January 25, 2003


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