Propagandizing Professors · 22 January 2008
In 2006, nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin voters passed a referendum banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. UW-Oshkosh political science instructor Bill McConkey challenged the new amendment in court, asserting he was denied the right to vote on the question of marriage and civil unions separately. A Dane County judge recently concurred, allowing McConkey’s suit to move forward.
McConkey, a self-described “Christian, straight, married father of seven,” one of whom is a lesbian, recently stated, “People have asked me, ‘Would you have filed this suit if it wasn’t for your daughter?’ To be real honest, maybe not. Maybe I would have just ranted and raved in my classrooms… but I feel like I’m fighting for my kid.”
McConkey has the right to try to legally overturn the law, but does he have the right to “rant and rave” about the issue in his classes? Is that what academic freedom means? Apparently many entrusted with educating today’s college students think so.
Here is a sampling of political pedagogy by professors, who, like McConkey, teach in public institutions of higher education:
E University of Northern Colorado criminology professor Robert Dunkley gives essay exams requiring students to “make the argument that the military action of the U.S. attacking Iraq was criminal,” and “make the case for gay marriage” and “explain how this additional type of family could help prevent crime.”
E Despite rap music’s crude, violent, sexual lyrics, Brooklyn College professor of education Priya Parmar teaches that teachers should use rap to teach English to children as young as eight, that standard English is a form of white oppression of blacks, and that those who disagree with her views should not become teachers.
E University of Michigan professor of anthropology Gayle Rubin, whose works are widely read in the academic world, is the founder of Samois, the first women-on-women sadomasochism group. In “The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader,” she contends that the government’s pursuit of child molesters is “a savage and undeserved witch hunt.”
E Grover Furr, a humanities professor at Montclair State University, New Jersey, requires his students to use as a study resource his website, which features his statement: “What the majority of humanity needs today is an International like the Communist International to coordinate the fight against exploitation—just as the IMF and World Bank, Exxon and Reebok, the U.S. and French coordinate the fight FOR exploitation.”
How do students feel about their propagandizing professors? A sample of more than 40 comments by Furr’s students posted on RateMyProfessors.com is instructive: “I can’t believe this man is teaching!” “He uses the classroom as a platform to teach his radical political views.” “Hates the USA.”
When did the classroom become the soapbox? When did the right to hold controversial opinions become the right to shove those opinions down students’ throats—while students pay for the privilege? When did the right to teach become the right to advocate, indoctrinate, to “rant and rave?”
In “Conspiracy Theories 101,” published in The New York Times, Stanley Fish, a prominent member of the academic Left, wrote that it is appropriate to discuss controversial issues in courses where they are relevant “but the moment a professor embraces and urges [his viewpoint] academic study has ceased and been replaced by partisan advocacy. That is a moment no college administration should allow to occur.”
Fish’s words and those of others, including David Horowitz, whose book “The Professors” provided the above examples, have largely fallen on deaf academic ears. A survey by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found nearly half of the students surveyed at the nation’s top 50 colleges said professors “use the classroom to present their personal political views.”
That’s something we should all be ranting and raving about.
Northwestern Community Columnist Mary Hiles has a Ph.D. in English literature/Renaissance drama and is a former member of the UW-Oshkosh academic staff.