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January 18, 2006 11:30 AM   Subscribe

"Radical" UCLA professors targeted by alumni group.
An alumni group is offering students up to $100 per class to supply tapes and notes exposing University of California, Los Angeles professors who allegedly express extreme left-wing political views.
posted by ericb (72 comments total)

 
This is the same alumni group which held one of the controversial race-, gender-biased bake sales a few years back (and discussed here).

Right (pun intended) up there with Alito's 'Concerned Alumni of Princeton.'
posted by ericb at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2006


I heard that some of the professors in the Ecology and Evolution department were teaching evolution.
posted by billysumday at 11:36 AM on January 18, 2006


I love a good witch hunt! Did you know that the alumni group's president and founder, Andrew Jones, a 2003 UCLA graduate and former chairman of the student Bruin Republicans, donated $1000 to Al Gore's 2000 campaign? It's true!

(True because I said so, that is.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:37 AM on January 18, 2006


I guess that each decade brings a different kind of rebellion for kids in college. One decade you get hippies, free love and not trusting authority, another decade you get chickenhawks, witch hunts and blind trust in authority.

Whatever the "norm" is, some kids will rebel against it -- that's all I see this as. If I were one of those professors, I'd invite them to sit in the front row, on the off-chance they might inadvertently pay attention and learn something.
posted by davejay at 11:40 AM on January 18, 2006


Also, their website handily doubles as an emetic.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:44 AM on January 18, 2006


Enterprising professors might consider tossing in a few leftist bromides now and then in exchange for a piece of the take. 50-50, say.
posted by notyou at 11:44 AM on January 18, 2006


i would turn in my dad for a reward even if he were clean
posted by Postroad at 11:44 AM on January 18, 2006


Yet another scene from the cultural revolution.
posted by kgasmart at 11:48 AM on January 18, 2006


Yeah, good luck with that.
posted by 2sheets at 11:49 AM on January 18, 2006


Hello, California!


posted by ori at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2006


Awesome. Can we make sure evangelical churches pay taxes now?
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2006


Guh. "...a few EXTRA leftist bromides..."

The for-money ones would be in addition to the usual for-subversion ones (which remain free).
posted by notyou at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2006



posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:52 AM on January 18, 2006


From the Bruin Alumni professor currently targeted highlighted, Douglas Kellner, even linking to it (albeit a PDF link without warning):
One piece, a typical Kellnerian blast titled “An Orwellian Nightmare: Critical Reflections on the Bush Administration” (PDF link) ends by stating:

“as a response to the September 11 terror attacks, the Bush administration has answered with an intensified militarism that threatens to generate an era of Terror War, a new arms race, accelerated military violence, U.S. support of authoritarian regimes, an assault on human rights, constant threats to democracy, and destabilizing of the world economy. The Bush regime also provides political favors to its largest corporate and other supporters, unleashing unrestrained Wild West capitalism, exemplified in the Enron scandals, and a form of capitalist cronyism whereby Bush administration family and friends are provided with government favors, while social welfare programs, environmental legislation, and protection of rights and freedoms are curtailed.

Consequently, I would argue that Bush administration unilateralist militarism is not the way to fight international terrorism, but is rather the road to an Orwellian nightmare in which democracy and freedom will be in dire peril and the future of the human species will be in question. These are frightening times and it is essential that all citizens become informed about the fateful conflicts of the present, gain clear understanding of what is at stake, and realize that they must oppose at once international terrorism, Bushian militarism, and an Orwellian police-state in order to preserve democracy and a life worthy of a human being.”
Exactly. I fail to see the problem with this sort of truth telling.

If the Bruins alumni group wants to shine a bright light on this sort of free speech, I say let them. What is it Orwell said about telling the truth in a time of lies? Something about it being a revolutionary act. Bingo.
posted by edverb at 11:57 AM on January 18, 2006


My late father, a very popular English professor at a community college in NYC, lost his job in the late '60s after telling the student newspaper that he belonged to a Marxist organization.
posted by digaman at 12:01 PM on January 18, 2006


The neocons and fundies and Young Republicans have their war now--an unwinnable, never-ending war on an abstraction.

Sign up, assholes. If you're over the age of 42, sign up your kids and your friends. You won! You got both houses of Congress and the WH, most of the SCOTUS. And now you have your war--the desk-jockeys pulling this type of stuff are cowards, to say the least, and so 1993. Put your asses where your chickenhawkish, hate-filled mouths are. Us commie liberals will stay back home, read and write books, and get ready to put back the pieces of the trainwreck of a global diaster you've wrought.
posted by bardic at 12:08 PM on January 18, 2006


UCLA has a policy that forbids taping classes for non-academic purposes. From my understanding of California law, you can't tape someone without their permission. If it doesn't fall under specific UCLA policies for taping, aren't they guilty of illegal eavesdropping?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:13 PM on January 18, 2006


C'mon now. Intellectuals have obviously taken over academia, creating an environment that is very harsh to those who embark in willful ignorance. What's wrong with fighting paper tigers?
posted by chibikeandy at 12:34 PM on January 18, 2006


I thought all university courses were taught by foreign grad students speaking broken English. How could professors ever have time to lecture when there is so much research to do and so many papers to publish to stay on tenure track?
posted by MikeMc at 12:41 PM on January 18, 2006


The bios of the advisory board are an interesting read..
posted by pmbuko at 12:46 PM on January 18, 2006


from about us:
My prominence as a campus activist and journalist made me subject, on a daily basis, to political harassment, violence, intimidation, and biased teaching.
So if he wasn't so important he would not have been targeted for biased teaching?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 12:47 PM on January 18, 2006


Jesus. What a bunch of crybabies! Are these people's ideologies so weak that they're threatened by some lefty assistant professors? Aren't college students adults who can make up their own minds? I've had more than one right-wing professor over the years and my lefty ideals survived. I had an economics professor who seemed to spend half the classes (in 1993) telling us all about how Clinton's policies were going to bankrupt the treasury and kill the economy (Heh!). My adviser for my most recent degree had Dubya in his flight suit as the wallpaper for his computer and had his office door plastered with printouts from newsmax and drudge. Should I have exposed him? Feh.
posted by octothorpe at 12:55 PM on January 18, 2006


As Einstein once said, "Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds."
posted by clevershark at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2006


mmmmmmmmm very interesting !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seems bardic is ready to go postal -- Please don't explode -- No --No -- Don't pull the pin --- BOOM -- End Rant
posted by orlin at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2006


"Put your asses where your chickenhawkish, hate-filled mouths are."

I guess they could audit classes by the profs in question and tape the lectures themselves....oh wait, you're talkng about something else.
posted by MikeMc at 1:16 PM on January 18, 2006


So they don't have any "smoking gun" and they're offering money to anybody not willing to give it for free ? I imagine what kind of low scum would come up with something he "forgot" but $100 was enough to make he remember he saw communist Jebus eating babies and communist notes from a professor :-)

I'm going to believe him sooooooo much !
posted by elpapacito at 1:19 PM on January 18, 2006


Actually the Bruins don't seem to say that they are against left wingers, they say they are against "radical profs". Anti zionists fit in with their ideals, so that means any supporters of Pat Robertson would be considered radical.

In an odd stretch of logic they say they want to expose teachers "proselytizing their extreme views in the classroom" but in the article about their latest radical of the week, they don't seem to mention any classroom exploits of Prof. Kellner. Instead they ferret out his views from multiple sources far removed from the university.

These are a strange bunch who I hope get castrated as a result of these efforts.
posted by JJ86 at 1:22 PM on January 18, 2006


dances_with_sneetches: If it doesn't fall under specific UCLA policies for taping, aren't they guilty of illegal eavesdropping?

More likely it's copyright infringement. The copyright on the lecture is owned by the professor or the university or both (depending on the professor's contract and university policy). The student certainly has no right to reproduce and sell the lecture.

I did take a quick look at their (depressingly poorly designed) website, and looked at one of the faculty "profiles" (really an extended, vitriolic polemic, but whatever). Interestingly, they accuse this particular professor of no academic misconduct whatsoever. He's not accused of bias against conservative students, or even of teaching a liberal point of view in the classroom. The activities the conservative group objects to are apparently entirely extracurricular.

I find this particularly troubling. Not only does it reflect poorly on the credibility of a group that claims to have the goal of "just trying to get people back on a professional level of things" (nice use of English there, man; did you not realize you were being interviewed?), but it also suggest that the actual goal is to damage the careers of professors who hold views with which they disagree, regardless of their classroom conduct.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2006


I'm glad my UCLA professor father retired last year after teaching there since the 60s, that crazy leftist would have been in trouble for sure.
posted by jonson at 1:37 PM on January 18, 2006


You know what? If this action is legal, then in theory, I don't have a problem with it. If the government or even the university demanded all lectures be taped and reviewed for conformance to policy, I'd have problems. But this is an alumni group, and an unofficial attempt to see what's going on. I think interested people unofficially asking to see what's happening in classrooms can sometimes be warranted.

I'm not saying this group is going about it well, though. Paying a large bounty is problematic. The most-wanted list is problematic. The way they determined the most-wanted list is problematic. So I may not like how they're doing it, but I don't have a problem with their wanting to see what's up.

Biased teaching is, I think, a real problem. I have no clue if it's happening at UCLA, since I've never been there, but it's definitely happening at NYU -- certainly not by all the professors I've had, or even by anywhere near the majority, but by some. I think it's extremely inappropriate to turn a lecturn into a soapbox.

As a side note, the professor I've had who was the absolute worst about this made recordings of his class available online. And as far as I can tell, he didn't put any limits on their use.
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:39 PM on January 18, 2006


davejay: Whatever the "norm" is, some kids will rebel against it -- that's all I see this as.
Except that in previous generations, there wasn't a well-funded group offering a bounty for CoIntel on the "radical left."
posted by lodurr at 1:52 PM on January 18, 2006


clevershark, what Einstein actually said was "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

Don't mean to be picky, but it's perhaps my favorite quote of all-time...

sources here and here
posted by WhipSmart at 2:00 PM on January 18, 2006


Sorry to bring up this topic again---

In regards to the bake sale.... why don't they just leave off the 'race' box in the college applications and do a quick DB entry to turn the names into numbers during evaluation.

Like MLK, Jr. said, judge people by content of their character, right?

No affirmative action and judgment based on pure merit not race or familiarity.
posted by countzen at 2:03 PM on January 18, 2006


Two problems:

1. Professors get sabatical, which is often used to travel abroad.

2. Views that considered centrist and moderate or even plain common sense in most of the developed world are often considered left wing or radical left in the USA.

Clearly, we must fight to stop this dreadful practice of exposing students to wider mainstream opinions!
posted by -harlequin- at 2:16 PM on January 18, 2006


Harlequin, I'm not saying your logic makes sense, but as far as I'm concerned, you can have pretty much whatever views you want. It becomes problematic when you're in a position of authority and you're preaching those views to students who are told to believe everything you say.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:35 PM on January 18, 2006


hahaha jesus christ no wonder
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:38 PM on January 18, 2006


$100 a pop? For that I’d expose myself.
....er...
posted by Smedleyman at 2:45 PM on January 18, 2006


booksandlibretti - Granted my experience of college was a few years ago, but I was told to question everything and think critically about what I was being told. The only people telling me to believe everything they say were, coincidentally, the people on the extreme right wing. I thought the entire point of college, and my experience of college, was to develop and apply rigorous critical thinking skills and to question assumptions, not to engage in rote memorization.

(that's for high school!) heh.
posted by socratic at 2:46 PM on January 18, 2006


socratic (and apropos name, by the way), that's when it works well. I don't know what your focus was, but could that be more of a sciencey attitude?

One or two of my professors (in lit courses) have done that. They're cool as far as I'm concerned.

The majority don't; they teach what they're saying as fact. This is mostly in history courses, where they are teaching facts, so it's not hugely problematic aside from some interpretation differences (like feudalism).

And then there are the one or two who teach what they're saying as absolute, unquestionable truth, and refuse to admit that differences of opinion exist . . . in topics like linguistics and sociology. This is where I start having problems. Or coronary arrest.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:57 PM on January 18, 2006


Agreed, socratic. booksandlibretti is just putting up the classic Conservative canard of the Boogeyman that doesn't exist. Sit down, man. No one's persecuting you.
posted by mkultra at 3:00 PM on January 18, 2006


"I thought the entire point of college, and my experience of college, was to develop and apply rigorous critical thinking skills and to question assumptions, not to engage in rote memorization."

I thought the entire point was to drink beer, smoke pot, get laid and memorize enough stuff to pass the exams required to get that piece of paper that is the key to a decent job.
posted by MikeMc at 3:01 PM on January 18, 2006


mkultra, as I remarked above, one of these professors of mine made recordings of his class available online. I'm not sure if it would be legal, but if it is, I would love to send you some to demonstrate that this does, in fact, exist. Can anyone tell me if it would be legal?

Also, I don't think I'm exactly your classic conservative. And it's not like this is a huge concession -- it should be duh-level obvious -- but as far as I'm concerned professors can have whatever opinions they want. Socialists, communists, anarchists, fascists, I don't give a fuck. Until they start preaching these beliefs from their lecterns to students as truth.
posted by booksandlibretti at 3:05 PM on January 18, 2006


booksandlibretti: quick essay title: Critically discuss the political history of concepts like objectivity and analytical neutrality. In your essay attend to the problem of conservativism's historical resistance to these concepts. In your conclusion choose the political episteme you feel best supports objectivity and analytical neutrality. Why?
posted by anglophiliated at 3:29 PM on January 18, 2006


anglophiliated, I, as an English major, can do big words. But in this case, I don't see why I should.

I'm not claiming that this group is acting appropriately. I'm not saying I'm a conservative. I'm not saying I disagree with liberal points of view. I'm not claiming that conservatives are correct in this case, or that they have always been right. I'm not claiming that this is exclusively a liberal problem. In fact, uh, can you show me where I mentioned the ideology of my professors at all? For all you know I'm talking about a visiting professor emeritus named Rush Limbaugh. Or is jumping to conclusions the done thing?

Here is what I am saying -- what I have been saying: "I think it's extremely inappropriate to turn a lecturn into a soapbox. . . . [A]s far as I'm concerned, you can have pretty much whatever views you want. It becomes problematic when you're in a position of authority and you're preaching those views to students who are told to believe everything you say."

Do you disagree with that?
posted by booksandlibretti at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2006


From Optimus Chyme's link to Bruin Alumni Association advisor, Ben Shapiro:
Why I'm Skipping the Oscars This Year
"Every year since I was old enough to stay up late, I've watched the Academy Awards. This year, however, I have absolutely zero desire to watch the Oscars. In recent years, lack of quality from Hollywood has turned the Academy Awards into a special-interest-group get-together. If you're crazy, gay, have a disability or are a member of a minority race, you'll likely be nominated for an Oscar; if your film tackles a 'deep social issue' (normally an issue dear to the hearts of Hollywood's liberal glitterati), you'll have an excellent shot at grabbing a gold statuette."
It's a safe bet he didn't TiVo the Golden Globes the other night.
posted by ericb at 4:14 PM on January 18, 2006


How many 'crazy,' 'gay,' or 'disbled' actors/actresses were nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press this year for the Golden Globes?

How many are likely to be nominated for the Oscars?
posted by ericb at 4:20 PM on January 18, 2006


Every year since I was old enough to stay up late, I've watched the Academy Awards.

Gaaaaaaaaay.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:29 PM on January 18, 2006


He's old enough to stay up late?!?
posted by mr_roboto at 4:29 PM on January 18, 2006


The year-old Bruin Alumni Association on its Web site says it is concerned about professors who use lecture time to press positions against President Bush, the military and multinational corporations, among other things.

Is this "Alumni Association" run by the military industrial complex or what?!
posted by j-urb at 4:31 PM on January 18, 2006


I like how they picked a neutral-sounding name; it's as if their ashamed of their own ideology.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:48 PM on January 18, 2006


ashamed of their own ideology.


it's not about shame -- the ignorant fucks were simply unable to spell "McCarthy", so they discarded "We Suck McCarthy's Zombie Cock" and chose an easier name instead
posted by matteo at 5:00 PM on January 18, 2006


Why isn't he in the military? Does he hate America or something. Maybe HE'S the commie here...
posted by UseyurBrain at 5:15 PM on January 18, 2006


Why isn't he in the military?

Excatly. Time for Operation Yellow Elephant to ride his hide!
posted by ericb at 5:36 PM on January 18, 2006


It becomes problematic when you're in a position of authority and you're preaching those views to students who are told to believe everything you say.

No one ever told me to believe everything my teachers say. I don't buy that argument one bit. Sorry.

Either they're good teachers or not. The profile of Saree Makdisi is embarrassing.

You can't hold a professor accountable for personal letters to the editor.

Absolutely ridiculous and embarrassing for UCLA. But what's new in that?

We still portray the East as a mishmash of religious excess, superstition and despotism, whereas conventional wisdom holds that the West stands for truth, good and justice. Of course, nothing is that simple.

BLASPHEMY! That's what it's really all about. Some professors diverge from strict fundamentalism and get whined at.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:38 PM on January 18, 2006


booksandlibretti: I disagree with you becuase I think students often fail to understand that "soapboxing" is a pedagogical technique. I think its a perfectly fine thing to do. If I mark you down for not agreeing with me - that's a whole 'nother story. The problem is that lecturing is a performance and it is usually a highly calculated one. We say stupid things to make students feel smart and confident. We make jokes we don't think are funny. We betray our own areas of study by reducing them to indefensibly basic concepts. We might not do it very well but we all do it. If I am preaching the gospel truth to my students its a pretty direct challenge and a few always rise to it - the rest would rather party than study. Not my problem.
posted by anglophiliated at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2006


i always love posts and links from ericb!
posted by brandz at 6:26 PM on January 18, 2006


students who are told to believe everything you say

Really? If so, there a bigger problem than individual professors. I was under the impression that university was where one went to learn to think critically for oneself.
posted by normy at 6:55 PM on January 18, 2006


No one ever told me to believe everything my teachers say. / If so, there a bigger problem than individual professors.

Okay, mrgrimm and normy. When did Columbus sail the ocean blue? What's synecdoche? Do you believe in Sahlins' theory of mythopraxis, or do you agree with Obeyeskere and think Sahlins is a racist asshole?

...Oh wait, you mean you believed your teachers implicitly for some things? And just ignored other things they said? When teachers present opinions as facts, people start having trouble differentiating.

anglophiliated, I'm not sure that's a cool tactic. Playing devil's advocate is one thing, but presenting your opinion as truth seems awfully like abusing a position of power. If you're taking a stand in a journal meant for your peers, that's awesome. If you're teaching it as fact to students -- well, shouldn't they be able to form their own opinions? And if these professors (of mine -- again, I dunno about UCLA) always took the unpopular sides of arguments, or if they allowed any comments, questions, or disagreeing viewpoints, then maybe I could see that they're doing it on purpose as a tactic. I think perhaps you overestimate this use.
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:11 PM on January 18, 2006


Oh wait, you mean you believed your teachers implicitly for some things? And just ignored other things they said?

Those are, of course, the only two possibilities.

When teachers present opinions as facts, people start having trouble differentiating.

If they can't tell the difference, and don't want to take responsibility for their own education, yes, certainly.
posted by normy at 7:43 PM on January 18, 2006


normy, I agree that in general people should be more proactive. However, do you really think it's not at all incumbent on the teacher to teach only facts?

Imagine you, or your kid, had a professor who came into class and said, "Well, the popular belief is that drugs are bad. But that's a load of nonsense. I know that all drugs are really good for you, and so did everyone else before the current fascist government started the war on drugs so they could control you better. Write that down; it's going to be a multiple-choice question on your exam. And students are not allowed to comment or to ask me questions."*

Yes, you're going to get some students who look it up, do outside research, whatever, and come to their own conclusions. And probably you're going to get some students who do exactly what the teacher says: Write it down, regurgitate it on the exam, and never think about it again. But I think the majority of students will be smart enough to cross out the "fascist," and maybe "to control you better" -- but will they question the main premise of the teacher's statement, that drugs are good?

Also, if you expect every student to question every fact every teacher says, you'd better create hundred-hour days. I was talking about college students, who are often plenty busy, and we're also talking about high school students, who in my opinion can be even busier. It's beyond unreasonable to try questioning everything.

From nursery school, students are trained to believe their teachers. You honestly think that despite this position of authority, teachers have no responsibility to teach facts?

*If you agree that drugs are good, replace the war-on-drugs stuff with "the FSM created us," "the Iraq war is for oil," "we should pay reparations to XYZ," "the earth is fixed," "the smaller the government, the better," "black people intrinsically have better rhythm than white people," whatever you want -- the argument doesn't matter, just its form, and I really don't want to derail even more into a conversation about drugs or rhythm or something idiotic. My point is that all of these arguments are debatable to some extent, even if just by nutjobs. Please pay attention to my real point and not to this.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:06 PM on January 18, 2006


Booksandliretti:

The only thing disagreeable in your example is that students are not allowed to comment or ask question. Less so, but still disagreeable, is putting it on the test.

Once that is taken away, any and all of the examples are behaviour that is entirely legitimate in tertiary education (though not secondary, which does not teach critical thinking).

The case at hand however, is about tertiary education lecturers being targeted for the legimate behaviour, in the complete absense of the disagreeable behaviour.

In fact, thinking about it, the only cases I can think of from my own education, where opinion could be misconstrued as fact by anyone with two brain cells to rub together, were cases of incompetence in secondary education, where the teacher had the facts wrong (and we would be tested on it).

I seriously can't think of any examples where lecturer opinion was confusing, and I had a few really nutty lecturers, including one "left" enough to make this guys head asplode

But in my experience, it Just Isn't A Problem in the real world. I've read of cases in (dodgy) institutions where opinion was on the test, and all hell broke loose, heads rolled. Ie, the system worked.

While the problem you describe (of down-grading students if they don't toe your political line) can be real, and requires vigilence, but it is not a problem that this group addresses. And there are already large machineries in place to guard against it at any institution worth going to.


I'll tell you what the real problem is - lecturers often earn respect from students, and thus their opinions tend to be held in higher regard by same students than some-guy-on-TV. But lecturers, as a group, lean left, so suddenly Something Must Be Done! That's what is bugging this group - that lecturers have legimate influence. Not in the sense of tricking students into thinking things that are opinion, but in demonstrating to the satisfaction of a roomful of people that they are people whose opinions and reasoning are usually worth considering. People respect them, and so people respect their opinions. Since those opinions aren't conservative and people are listening to them, shut them up.

And any attempt to oppose that form of influence should be stopped. Thus, this group's activities in this regard may well overstep ethical boundaries.

Actually, perhaps I'm being harsh by thinking that this partisan skullduggery is the group's only motivation, they're probably also trying to intimidate lecturers into keeping politics out of the lecture hall so that students who disagree don't feel isolated and abnormal.

Which is kind of funny in a way, because the whole hand-holding and "whatever you think, it's ok" stuff is stereotypically assigned to Camp Left. :-) It's a less ignoble motive, but still not a valid justification.

The soapbox is a fundamental and legitimate part of tertiary education.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:03 PM on January 18, 2006


I graduated the same year with this moron, and I tells ya its a real pain to go to the same school for 4 years with this ass. He would antagonize so many people in bruinwalk (the main promenade), it just pisses me off that this jerk is getting so much media attention.
posted by anyokerin at 6:37 AM on January 19, 2006


Okay, mrgrimm and normy. When did Columbus sail the ocean blue? What's synecdoche? Do you believe in Sahlins' theory of mythopraxis, or do you agree with Obeyeskere and think Sahlins is a racist asshole?

I don't understand what you're getting at here. The first answer is an undeniable fact. The second has an answer that is, if not immutable, at least consensually agreed-upon by society. The third is clearly a question of opinion.

Are you telling me that there are college students who have trouble differentiating among those? Please. If that were the case, I'd be more worried about the admissions standards than the faculty.
posted by mkultra at 9:23 AM on January 19, 2006


NPR had a story on this this morning on my drive to work. The thing that struck me (and nearly made my drive off the road because I was laughing so hard) was how much the representative for this alumni group was a freaking dogmatic believer of just about anything he was told by "the Right". He literally parroted a rant by Sean Hannity about "intellectual elitists" using academics for teaching "hateful anti-American rhetoric".

This always makes me think of how any time someone espouses some kind of idealogy about politics (aside from, "well, they pretty much all suck, and if they won't listen to what you have to say, they aren't worth voting for"), I tend to wonder if they just buy into everything they read because they think it will get them somewhere, or if there is some actual cocksmoking going on somewhere. I want to know what kind of reward these people get for kowtowing to someone else, especially when that someone else happens to be trying to lord power over them in some way. It's like watching a dog who is totally loyal to it's owner, even though the owner constantly beats and kicks the dog. You feel a strange kind of sympathy for the creature, yet given all the best possible outcomes, you know if they were ever freed of their bondage, the only sensible solution for society would be to shoot them in the head. I'd really like to know what kind of mental damage you have to suffer from in order to be so cowed into believing the most harmful stuff that is preached by these "conservatives". Is it simply giving into the more baser senses of wanting to control others and push others down to build themselves up? Simply a matter of them wanting to be the bully?

Next they'll be wearing brown shirts (yes, yes, I Godwin'ed it already!!!).
posted by daq at 9:36 AM on January 19, 2006


However, do you really think it's not at all incumbent on the teacher to teach only facts?

I can't speak for normy, but as for myself: No, it is absolutely not incumbent upon teachers to teach only facts.

It is incumbent upon them not to lie. But that's not the same thing as saying "teach only facts." which is, in any case, not nearly as simple a proposition as it would seem.
posted by lodurr at 9:37 AM on January 19, 2006


Harlequin, I agree this is kind of a derail. It got started when I said that although I don't like how this specific group is handling it, I think it's worthwhile for people (in general) to look into bias in teaching, which to me seems like a valid if not an overwhelming problem. People responded saying (a) bias in education doesn't happen, (b) it does happen, but it's a fine thing, or (c) both. That's how we got on this semi-derail.

mkultra, I'm guessing that you believe your teachers when they say the theory of evolution is correct. So how do you know it's only time to form your own opinion when they state -- in exactly the same manner -- that the theory of mythopraxis is correct? I mean, both seem logical on the surface, but is either necessarily correct? You could spend lifetimes digging into the study of either. You want students to do that for every sentence a professor says?

All I'm asking is that teachers separate their opinion from the facts they're teaching. I'm guessing -- and this is just a guess -- that most people think reporters should separate their opinion from the facts they're reporting. And even if you question some of the details (Bush went to Baghdad for Thanksgiving because...he's a nice person?), I'm guessing you don't question the basic premise (Bush was physically in Baghdad for Thanksgiving). Most people, even those who know about Photoshop, tend to believe reporters -- not implicitly, but mostly. I'm arguing that most students feel the same way about professors. Do you think reporters should feel a commitment to separate fact from opinion (e.g., op-ed stories don't go on the news page)? If you do think so, why don't you think professors should feel the same responsibility?
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:57 AM on January 19, 2006


I think that all lecturns are soapboxes. And that everyone (including professors and reporters) have an outlook that colors their every statement. While the goal of objectivity is a noble one, outside of easily measurable facts (1492, the color of the sky, molecular composition of some rock, etc) it's a difficult one to reach. Especially once you wander into the realm of trying to explain "why" things happen or what the facts "mean" bias becomes an integral part of the process.

One of the key skills I gained from college is the ability to analyze bias when I encounter it. The thing that it took me so long to understand is that bias is everywhere. Good instructors recognize this and try to instill this understanding in their students. Mediocre ones (and below) do not.
posted by Irontom at 11:54 AM on January 19, 2006


Booksandlibretti: Where did you get the idea that lecturers and the university could in any way be validly compared to news reporting? Honest question! One of my standard criticisms on a failing essay goes something like this: “This is journalistic and does not represent acceptable university level work”. The university I work in has marking guidelines written down in stone for the humanities and the social sciences and ‘journalistic’ is a straight line to a D or a fail. Now how do you think it is that you and I could have our wires so crossed? Where do your expectations of what university is and how it should work come from and why would they be so contrary to the expections of the people running universities?
posted by anglophiliated at 4:40 PM on January 19, 2006


Anglophiliated, I'm comparing professors and reporters only in that both professions are respected for their dissemination of correct knowledge, so I believe people in both professions should feel a greater-than-average responsibility to tell the truth when acting in official capacities.

And I was comparing professors to reporters, in any case. I am not at all saying that students, or students' papers, should be journalistic. I'm frankly extremely confused about how you could possibly have gotten this interpretation -- haven't I been arguing that students should be able, and be encouraged, to form their own opinions rather than just reporting on their professors'?

At this point we should probably take this to e-mail if you want to continue it. Apparently I need to be much clearer than I have been if I want you to understand me, and since this is a semi-derail, I don't think this is the appropriate place for the long posts I'm going to need for that. I'll be glad to keep discussing this via e-mail, though.
posted by booksandlibretti at 4:48 PM on January 19, 2006


I'm not sure the discussion is a derail but fair enough. I am not sure if you are interested in discussing it but my email is in my profile.
posted by anglophiliated at 1:04 AM on January 20, 2006


aw, keep going. i agree strongly with anglophiliated. i've only been a substitute secondary teacher, but i offered my opinion (backed up with facts) all over the place. *that's the whole point.*

professors are not there to give you facts. if so, computers could do the job for much less money.

okay, mrgrimm and normy. When did Columbus sail the ocean blue? What's synecdoche? Do you believe in Sahlins' theory of mythopraxis, or do you agree with Obeyeskere and think Sahlins is a racist asshole?

1) 1492?

2) When one part of a noun is used to mean the whole thing ("i've got 20 head of cattle"). Sure, I believed my teacher when she told me. But it's been corroborated since. If she were wrong, that wouldn't be opinion. It would be false info.

3) No clue.

4) Again, never heard of any of those people or mythopraxis. I have a bachelor's degree in English. (Google only has about 70 results for "mythopraxis," which I must assume is an anthropological term.)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:04 PM on January 20, 2006




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