Is This an English Class?? · 26 October 2004

Filed under: Press Coverage

Is This an English Class??

By Marissa

What could possibly sound more innocuous than a general education English 100 course? To me, it sounded like my semester at California State University Long Beach would be full of reading classical literature, struggling through another play by Shakespeare and then writing an essay on symbolism or some other literary term that English teachers love to use. However, I knew that this would not be the case the first night of class when Dr. Snider, the English 100 composition professor (a general education course required by the university for all students to take in order to graduate) at CSULB, handed out his course syllabus. I quickly thumbed through this syllabus, like a typical student does, trying to find out how many tests we would have, when essays were due, the basics. Instead, I found a document that seemed more suited for a political training course.

The first paragraph of the syllabus states that the professor's goal for the course was to "promote tolerance and open-mindedness" through "the open discussion of controversial issues"- however the rest of the syllabus proves to be anything but. Instead of any attempt to be "open-minded" the syllabus was entirely stacked in favor of Dr. Snider's leftist ideologies.

The last three class meetings have been spent watching Fahrenheit 9/11 and writing on the moral issues that Michael Moore rises in the film. This assignment consisted of each student writing a paragraph on a single moral issue in the film, and then listing all the evidence that Michael Moore uses to prove it.

The moral issue I chose to write my paragraph about was "the controversial decision made by President Bush to lead the United States into a pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein." I stated that in the "documentary" Michael Moore argued that President Bush made this decision in great haste and failed to investigate the true threat that Iraq posed to the United States. I then went on to describe the "evidence" that Michael Moore uses to prove his point as " a single advisor saying that he overheard President Bush" and " inserting a series of clips of President Bush on his Texas ranch". I wrote my paragraph very tongue in cheek and purposely ridiculed the insufficient evidence that Michael Moore used in his film. However, when I received my paragraph back, I found it marked up in red ink by Dr. Snider with comments like, " You miss the point of the film", or that advisor "was Richard Clark… a terrorist expert!" I was blown away by these comments. I didn't realize that I was being graded on the way I interpreted the film! From what I understood about our in class paragraphs, Dr. Snider was only supposed to grade grammar, spelling, and mechanics, of which I had no corrected errors. Funny though that I still received the lowest grade in the class on this assignment (after receiving all A's on past assignments), while papers with numerous spelling errors and mechanical corrections but with an anti-Bush perspective received A's.

Perhaps the most shocking segments of Dr. Snider's syllabus can be found under the "argument topics" section. The purpose of the argument paper is " to persuade or to at least create tolerance for your point of view on a controversial issue." The following are a few examples of the "suggested" topics that Dr. Snider has listed to help us out.

  • Should Justice Sandra Day O'Connor be impeached for her partisan political actions in the Bush v. Gore case?
  • It is no secret that the Bush administration and many Republicans have taken steps to undo the progress in environmental protection made before they took office. Now that they control the presidency and the Congress, they have better opportunities to carry out their agenda. Narrow this topic to a particular issue that you can argue in your paper (e.g. oil drilling in Alaska, building roads on formerly protected Federal lands, and logging)
  • Breaking a campaign promise, Bush has reversed rules to limit industrial carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere
  • Civil Liberties: The Bush administration has used the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 to erode the civil rights of citizens and non-citizens alike; for example, it got Congress to pass the so-called "Patriot Act," which allows the government "to seize the records of bookstores and libraries to find out what people have been reading" Personal computers can also be seized by the federal government. What can be done to stop this erosion of liberties or can you logically defend it?
  • What evidence do we have that Mr. Bush and his cronies lied to the American people and the world in promoting the war with Iraq? Do you agree that America has lost its "moral authority" in the world because of this immoral war?
  • Energy: (nuclear, solar, fossil, synthetic fuels, etc.). A related topic is Dick Cheney's secret conference on energy policy. Why hasn't the administration revealed who participated and should it reveal this information? Also important is the fact that, as Kevin Phillips writes, "four generations of the [Bush] dynasty have chased [oil] profits through cozy ties with Mideast leaders, spinning webs of conflicts of interest"
  • Birth Control: Should the so-called "morning-after" contraceptive pills (pills that prevent fertilized eggs from implantation) be more readily available to all, whether they can afford them or not and regardless of age? (You cannot argue that such pills amount to an abortion.)

Along with his list of "suggested topics" Dr. Snider also includes a list of topics that he forbids his students to write about because they are "topics on which there is, in my opinion, no other side apart from chauvinistic, religious, or bigoted opinions and pseudo-science" This list includes: Abortion, religion, same sex marriage, and prayer in public schools. I was absolutely outraged when I read the "topics to avoid". These, in my opinion, and the opinion of many other people, are all issues that have two obvious sides. Yet because this professor is incapable of seeing any view but his own, they are deemed "untouchable."

Another essay that was assigned was to be written in the format of a book review. However the book had to appear on Dr. Snider's "approved reading list". The list was comprised mostly of literature pertaining to homosexuality and the 2000 Bush v. Gore presidential elections. My favorite examples from the list are actually Dr. Snider's own novels with his included synopsis of each.

  • Loud Whisper: The story of a 1980's rock band from Long Beach, California, whose bisexual, drug addicted leader falls from the stage during a concert and becomes paralyzed.
  • Wrestling With Angels: A Tale of Two Brothers: Two gay Pentecostal preacher's sons become friends; then one disappears under ominous circumstances.

In addition, Dr. Snider has taken it upon himself to give us a moral/ ethical and spiritual lesson before each class begins. I have no problem with morals and spirituality, however the university offers ethics classes; I enrolled and paid for an English class. I do not believe that Dr. Snider is trained to lecture on such topics. Moreover, from what I do know of his ethics and morals, I feel slightly offended that he somehow believes that his morals are superior to mine. (I am unable to draw an ethical comparison between President Bush and Saddam Hussein, as does Dr. Snider, which he so stated on the very first night of class.)

I am disheartened to see a class full of students whom simply do not seem to know any better, being brainwashed by the leftist views of Dr. Snider only weeks before the Presidential elections. I believe that what has gone on in this course is an all too typical example of the blatant abuse of power by university professors nationwide. I, and my classmates are not receiving an education in Dr. Snider's class. Rather, we are being held mentally hostage for the two-and-a-half hours a week that we are required to be in class, and forced to endure political indoctrination.
Marissa Freimanis is a student at California State University Long Beach.