Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Required reading

Go give Michael Bérubé some love for his incredible defense of academic freedom.

One of the things he defends universities from is the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and its ridiculous report, "How Many Ward Churchills," in which it claims "many" university teachers think, for example, that those who died on 9/11 deserved it. It's the same old story about angry leftists in the university. And their evidence? Why, course descriptions, of course. Here's an example:
  • Animal rights activism has entered the undergraduate classroom in a strikingly open and undisguised way. The University of Colorado offers "Animals and Society," a sociology course that "investigates the social construction of the human/animal boundary," "[c]hallenges ideas that animals are neither thinking nor feeling," "[c]onsiders the link between animal cruelty and other violence," and "[e]xplores the moral status of animals."
The above paragraph is taken verbatim from the report. (I'm not linking to it, but MB does.) They provide no comment on what's wrong with that description. A class that "investigates," "challenges," "considers," and "explores"? Run for the hills, Ma Parker, as Homer Simpson says. What they quote from the description offers nothing that demonstrates animal rights activism in the slightest. In fact, it does what sociology does: explores why and how certain social distinctions exist, what functions they serve, what value(s) they may or may not have.

Two anecdotes, then I'll go. In a classroom discussion about the SAT, I raised the question about whether or not the SAT is a racist test. (In my opinion, it isn't, but only barely.) In the course of the discussion, affirmative action came up, and I asked my students what percentage of our university's population is black. The lowest number I heard was 25%. In fact, it's around 11%.

Two, an incredibly intelligent and thoughtful white student of mine last fall thought it was because of "political correctness" that white people aren't supposed to use the n-word. Not, obviously, his brightest moment.

1 comment:

Wanda Ball said...

Sigh. At my "liberal" Quaker college, a classmate complained about having to hear yet again about the injustice of slavery, "because it happened, like, five hundred years ago." I kid you not.