Wednesday, January 21, 2004

What a Sorry Lot of Whiners

When I was in grad school at the University of Colorado in Boulder in the 1980’s, the College Republicans made a lot of noise about how many of the faculty were registered Democrats and how they were somehow insidiously indoctrinating the soft pliable minds of students with filthy left-wing propaganda. Now they’re at it again, this time starting a website to “to document discrimination against conservative students and indoctrination to the liberal viewpoint.”

Oy. Aside from the fact that the idea of this sort of thing borders on blacklisting, it’s really an insult on the part of the College Republicans to think that their fellow students are too stupid to think for themselves. After all, we’re talking about a university here, not Romper Room. Second, it’s been my experience in college, both as a student and teacher, that the vast majority of students don’t give a flying rat’s ass about the political views of their professors, and most, if not all, had the sense to know a “biased” point of view when they hear it and take it for what it’s worth. (Trust me, when I was at CU, the only soft pliable minds were as a result of too many shots of tequila at Tulagi’s or from the frat parties at Tappa Kegga Bru.) For that matter, what’s wrong with a professor having a particular point of view, either liberal or conservative? The classroom is not the place for objectivity – it’s a place for discussion and argument. The students who sit there like bumps on a log and believe everything the professor tells them are wasting their time and have no business being in college.

I had a professor at the University of Miami who would deliberately mislead his class in matters of history and theory just so we would go out and find out where he was wrong and prove him wrong in class. To be fair, he would tell us in advance that he would do this, but the challenge was for us to find out just where and how. He was passionate about his points of view, and he loved nothing more than starting an argument with the class about some outrageous view he would expound. Sometimes you were never quite sure whether he was doing it because he actually believed it or whether he was trying to get us stirred up. It was one of the most valuable learning experiences I ever had, and it’s a technique that I shamelessly borrowed when I became a teacher myself. (By the way, he’s still teaching, and if you ever get a chance to take his class, it’s worth it for that experience alone.)

As for the charges of discrimination against conservative students, it sounds like a couple of conservatives lost a few arguments in class and are retaliating in a way only conservatives can: with a huge dose of unintentional irony and hypocrisy. Can’t win? Try intimidation through the legal system. Hey, if it’s good enough for Dubya and Tom DeLay, why not?

If you’d like to let them know how you feel – one way or the other – about this, drop a note to the CU Republicans. But be nice; they can’t handle a real argument.