Thursday, January 19, 2006

Again with the University Professors!

Last night, I happened to catch Fox News Channel talk show, Hannity and Colmes, during which the duo revisited what is fast becoming a boring and played-out issue: liberal or radical university professors. The debate (see free video section) focused on a UCLA alumni association that pays students that approach the group with complaints about biased, off-track, or "indoctrinating" professors...

Merits of the UCLA group aside, I'd like to add some observations to the issue. I've also covered this issue previously in this entry.

(1) The thing that still worries me the most about this debate is the assumption on the part of conservatives that it is okay to have politics in the classroom at all (where it is not warranted, e.g. an English course, or an Engineering course, etc.).

(2) Usually when there is a one-sided professor, or a professor with an agenda, that can simply be called bad teaching. There's no need to point out liberals in this case; a conservative can be a bad teacher as well.

(3) I despise the grouping of liberals and leftists. A "liberal" is a person that generally supports the capitalist order, and the liberal (classical sense of the word) order of the United States; often times a leftist is someone that is more radical, often times Marxian or Marxist, in their approach, which brings up a whole host of differences that a "liberal" does not agree with. Bottom line: "liberals" often support the prevalent order, leftists tend against it; that's a huge difference.

(4) is there an odd sort of rightist relativism here? Having "both" sides of the argument represented seems to suggest that a professor talking political shop should review both conservative and liberal sides of the argument; but aren't there more sides of an argument? Shouldn't we visit totalitarian points of view? What would a fascist say? Perhaps an anarchist has a different point of view? The point: no one is crusading to get more Fascist or Anarchist professors in the class room....isn't that a bit startling?

(5) The reduction of political arguments to "left" and "right," and further, "liberal" and "conservative" is dangerous, not to mention pointless, given that all moderates tend to support liberalism, constitutionalism, capitalism, rights, individual space, civil liberties, etc. "Liberal" and "conservative" debate amounts to arguing about two sides of the same coin. Nothing is substantially different between the two sides, and both merely have the goal of more representation within the prevalent order, rather than fundamentally changing the prevalent order.

(6) The battle over "balance" in the classroom merely reflects a struggle for representation between conservatives and "liberals," rather than a concern for actual learning

(7) And finally, the real danger of this silly debate about classrooms: this debate over shadows more important disciplinary biases that may be more subtle, but actually impact classroom learning. For instance, in International Politics, is your professor a cosmopolitan or a nationalist? That's going to influence teaching much more than any left/right your metaphysics professor an idealist or a materialist? The list goes on and on...

So, in short, I understand that conservatives want more representation in the prevalent order, and this includes the assumption that politics is in fact legitimate subject matter in the classroom. But, spinning the debate in this matter ignores a number of things, as I have just listed: watch out for this debate in the future; for, it is incredibly obscured and distorted, by both "liberals" and conservatives.


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