May 23, 2006
Another politicized course
Purdue University's academic freedom policy is exemplary in its explicit protection of the rights of students to learn about all sides of controversial issues: "It is the established and firm policy of Purdue University to provide, protect, and promote an environment of academic and intellectual freedom of scientific inquiry and publication and the freedom and responsibility of teachers to acquaint their students with the various sides of controversial subjects within their fields of subject-matter competency," the statement begins. It goes on to state that professors' academic freedom does not give them the right to "subject students to their particular views and opinions concerning matters not related to the course of instruction itself."
The policy is admirable in its description of academic freedom as a responsibility as well as a right. It is also admirable in its recognition that this responsibility includes not only a professorial obligation not to use class time to editorialize on political issues but also an obligation to teach as objectively as possible--to ensure that students learn more than just one way to think about controversial material.
But not all of Purdue's courses live up to the standards the university sets for them. Consider Purdue University -- Calumet's spring 2006 edition of Sociology 100 (Introduction to Sociology). A student in the class describes it at NoIndoctrination.org, noting that until the last month of the term, Soc 100 was a thoroughly respectable course. At that point, however, the student notes that the test became "very PC and biased." Describing study sheets on "Race & Ethnicity" that the professor distributed, the student notes that
For that test, the teacher handed out stapled sheets of notes to the students. Each sheet had 6 squares of information, 2 columns down, and 3 rows across. On the second sheet, two squares contained biased political and PC messages. The first one on the top left corner reads
Minority and Dominant Groups
* Minority Groups - people who are singled out for unequal treatment
-regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination
* Dominant groups - those who do the discriminating
-have the greatest power, most privileges, & highest social status
-Privileged position attributed to superiority
What these notes imply is that dominant groups are the only ones who discriminate against people, and that minorities are defined by unfair treatment instead of a simple case of lower population.
The other square of notes appears on the second sheet at the bottom right corner which reads:
Old-fashioned racism vs. modern racism
-Old-fashioned racism: overtly expressed prejudice
-Modern racism: prejudice that is expressed more subtly
* Opposing affirmative action
Now what this set of notes is implying is that people who disagree with affirmative action are closet racists, which is simply absurd. These notes pull the race card against opponents of affirmative action, and try to get students to believe it.
I cannot recall the actual test word for word, but there were many questions that were basically just opinions passed off as facts. One question for example went along the lines of: "True or False: Women have the same opportunities as men." First of all, that is a very vague term with no specifics as to what they are describing. Is the question asking if men and women have the same social roles, the same ability to get jobs, the same likeability to get jobs, the same ability to get into college, to get a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, a PhD? It is not specific, and it is just a vague opinion being passed off as a black-and-white True or False question.
This student sees some of the issues in the course more clearly than the instructor--a graduate student in Purdue Calumet's Marriage and Family Therapy Program--does. Sociology 100 is a prerequisite for the sociology major-- and insofar as aspiring soc majors must define their terms in the ideologically loaded manner laid out for them by their Soc 100 instructor, their grades and their futures are being subjected to what looks an awful lot like a political litmus test.
We can't know whether what has gone wrong with this course is ideology or inexperience--often, in politically tilted academic specialties inexperienced teachers make ideologically serious pedagogical mistakes without realizing that they are doing so, and often there is little or no mentoring in place to help new teachers identify these mistakes and correct them. But ultimately, it doesn't much matter -- the incarnation of Sociology 100 that has made its way onto NoIndoctrination.org's website is not the sort of class that Purdue policy requires its instructors to teach. It is, however, an example of the sort of course ACTA's new report highlights.
That test would make hilarious satire. "True or False: Women have the same opportunities as men." Trivially false by biology.
Erin O'Connor writes:
>>>"Now what this set of notes is implying is that people who disagree with affirmative action are closet racists, which is simply absurd."
David Duke writes:
>>>"Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State is proof of the insanity of Affirmative Action. As everyone knows, Condoleezza Rice rose in the ranks of government not for her skills, but for the fact that George Bush needed an African American to appease the media and the establishment crowd."
Tom Metzger writes:
>>>"Why be racist? Well, with most of us it's entirely a matter of instinct.
We know in our Souls that blue-eyed blondes and green-eyed redheads never got to earth due to God's benevolence, but only because of thousands of years of pure hate-racism, and that such white folk will not exist a couple of hundred years hence without persistent hate and pervasive segregation...
...Whites "resist fine policies like affirmative action"...perhaps out of a sense of the violation of American ideals of justice?"
Bar decision on Matthew Hale, founder of the World Church of the Creator:
>>>"Consistent with defendant Lustfeldt's admissions at the hearing, the Hearing Panel decided, on June 30, 1999, to deny Hale's application for admission to practice law in Illinois. In a 6-page document, the Committee purported to cite 3 reasons for its conclusion:
(a) that Hale's belief in private-sector racial discrimination, and his stated intent to privately discriminate, were inconsistent with the "letter and spirt" of the Rules of Professional Conduct;
(b) that Hale's refusal, at the Committee's insistence, to "repudiate" a 1995 letter he had written to an advocate of affirmative action -- a letter the Committee believed was "insulting and totally inappropriate" -- shows a "monumental lack of sound judgement" which will put Hale "on a collision course with the Rules of Professional Conduct"; and,
(c) in a one-paragraph, indescribably conclusory assertion placed at the end of its decision, the Committee claimed that Hale "was not open with the panel during the hearing," but then cited two excerpts in the record to demonstrate this was so which pertained exclusively to Hale's political views: (i) where Hale did nothing more than refuse to assent to the Committee's characterization that Hale's statement of his beliefs in the above-referenced Affirmative Action letter was "inappropriate" and "insulting"; and (ii) where Hale did nothing more than refuse to agree with the Committee's apparent belief that disseminating literature with swastikas on them outside of a prayer breakfast was inappropriately "insulting." In short, the Committee disingenuously, and as a pretext, equated Hale's refusal to swear to the Rightness of the Committee's views regarding what is and is not "appropriate" statement with a lack of "candor" on Hale's part."
I could fill this screen with more examples, from the eugenicists blogs, to Confederate revival organizations, to White Pride websites all trumpeting the war against Affirmative Action.
What is "absurd" is your failure to mention the fact that there is a blatant, racist component to MANY anti-Affirmative Action movements, much like that against on "certain" illegal immigrants.
Why should I take the word of ANY anti-Affirmative Action type that racism isn't a component in their agenda? Especially those on the blogosphere?
You confuse my words with those of the student I am quoting. All indented text in this post belongs to the student who took the course.
Cobra, you don't have to try to read people's minds and try to detect racism. You can look at the arguments they put forth against racial preferences and see for yourself whether the arguments are racist or not. Sorry for the cliche, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. We've had AA for many years now, and some (perhaps yourself?) would say that black people are no better off. Is it necessarily racist to suggest that it might be hurting as much as it's helping?
The student is complaining about the fact that all anti-AA arguments are assumed to be racist before they're even discussed. I think that's a valid complaint.
Umm, Cobra, I think your logic is a bit off. Your last argument was an egregious case of the 'Guilt by Association' fallacy:
Read example 2 especially.
You argument runs like this: 'David Duke opposes affirmative action. David Duke is a racist. Therefore, everyone who opposes affirmative action is a racist'. This is a ludicrous argument. I'm sure David Duke believes that 1+1=2. Does that make it racist to believe 1+1=2?
This is the fallacy of the statement given to the student. While racists may oppose affirmative action, opposing affirmative action is not ipso facto racist. However, the instructor was claiming that it was. This is at best lazy and at worst intentionally biased teaching.
The fact that you trust no one to logically oppose affirmative action without being a racist is more indicative of your closed-mindedness than the beliefs of most affirmative action opponents.
Erin O'Connor writes:
>>>"You confuse my words with those of the student I am quoting. All indented text in this post belongs to the student who took the course."
OK. I see that, and understand you quoting her in support of your argument, so my above post would be a rebutal of the student's comment on the "absurdity" of thinking that somebody against Affirmative Action could be racist. I provided quotes from three prominent, proudly racist men who are indeed against Affirmative Action, rendering the argument spurious.
By the way, Erin...since you didn't refute the student's quote, what's your stance on Anti-Affirmative Action absurdity regarding race?
>>>"We've had AA for many years now, and some (perhaps yourself?) would say that black people are no better off. Is it necessarily racist to suggest that it might be hurting as much as it's helping?"
Not at all. It's indeed possible to be against Affirmative Action and not be a racist. It's also very true that there are racists who are against Affirmative Action. You're absolutely right in saying that I can't read minds, but I also don't walk through life thinking every movement by conservatives is altruistic in regards to race. The Southern Strategy comes to mind right away.
>>>"You argument runs like this: 'David Duke opposes affirmative action. David Duke is a racist. Therefore, everyone who opposes affirmative action is a racist'. This is a ludicrous argument. I'm sure David Duke believes that 1+1=2. Does that make it racist to believe 1+1=2?"
It's good to hear from you again, Garrick. First of all, I was refuting the student's statement here:
>>>"Now what this set of notes is implying is that people who disagree with affirmative action are closet racists, which is simply absurd."
Notice, the student didn't say "all people"--just people. There are indeed plenty of people who are racists,in the closet and out who disagree with Affirmative Action. It is not "absurd" to imply this. I provided Duke, Metzger and Hale as prime examples.
>>>"The fact that you trust no one to logically oppose affirmative action without being a racist is more indicative of your closed-mindedness than the beliefs of most affirmative action opponents."
And you claim to know exactly what lurks in the minds and hearts of most Affirmative Action opponents?
Garrick, we've been down this road before. We simply have a difference in the perception of reality. I see a reality in America where African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Native-Americans face discrimination in hiring, promotion, wages, health care, law enforcement, lending and access to quality K-12 education. I don't perceive all of this DOCUMENTED discrimination to be some odd luck of the draw, but the earmarks of institutional racism, which has infected this nation since its founding. I also perceive that this system is BENEFICIAL to European-Americans, and as much one claims not to be "racist", it's awfully suspicious when the "congenitally advantaged" seek to roll back the minimal assistance programs granted to the discriminated in this rigged system.
Hey, but remember--a suspect is innocent until proven guilty.
First off, all the privilege that I have, I have because my parents, both of whom came from lower middle class (being generous), blue collar families, worked their butts off to pay their own way through college so that they could one day provide a better life for their children. My dad's side of the family immigrated from Poland only about half a century ago to excape poverty and war. So I'd appreciate it if you (and a lot of other affirmative action supporters) would stop assuming that I'm 'congenitally advantaged' just because my skin is lighter than yours.
I don't claim to know what lurks in the mind of most affirmative action opponents. But I know a lot of otherwise very liberal-minded people who oppose affirmative action for non-racist reasons. Some of them are even minorities themselves. It is you who, by your own admission, is immediately suspicious of anyone who disagrees with you on this issue. It was harsh of me to label that 'close-mindedness' but I guess I can't really think of a better description for making such a blanket statement about such a broad issue.
But on to the substance of this post. The problem with the notes the student was provided is this: there is no context provided. It doesn't say 'some racists oppose affirmative action', it just equates opposing affirmative action with 'subtle modern racism'. The student doesn't say that it's impossible to be racist and oppose affirmative action, but merely says that they have a problem with being told that opposing affirmative action is automatically racism. The notes also state that minorities are always the ones discriminated against, and makes no mention of the fact that minorities (even legitimately oppressed ones) can in fact be (and sometimes are) just as discriminatory. This is especially ironic given that whites were the minority in South Africa during Apartheid.
And yes, we do have a different perception. The thing is though, I perceive a lot of the same problems that you do. And while I disagree with your assumption that all of the problems of the black community are caused by racism, I'll concede that racism has certainly contributed to the problems (though not on as grand a scale as you believe).
But while I perceive that, I also perceive a world where most colleges and many employers and government bodies deliberately go out of their way to favor blacks over whites- yet, despite 30 years of this, the problems haven't gone away. I perceive a world where many other groups who've faced discrimination just as vile have overcome that discrimination and succeeeded much more than the ignorant bigots who would oppress them. I see a country where it is already more than possible for a person of any race to succeed.
Despite these opportunities, I see a culture that doesn't value education as it should (much of this due to a cynicism caused by past racism, admittedly) as evidenced by the underachievement of black men vs. black women. This same culture supports leaders who would blame the problem on others and abuses leaders who admonish their brothers to apply themselves and take advantage of the opportunities available. Do all blacks subscribe to this culture? Certainly not. But does this culture exist? Certainly.
Racism can't explain why black males are so much less likely to go to college than black females. Racism can't explain why blacks commit violent crime more frequently, or why blacks in the exact same rotten inner city schools don't statistically perform to the same level as Asian Americans or other minority groups, or why illegitimate birthrates are so much higher. There is a problem here that goes much deeper than racism. I could spend a lot of time running out statistics to support this, but you and I both know it already.
Don't think I deny that anti-black discrimination exists, or that I blame all of the problems of the black community on the black community. I don't. The problem I have with your perception is that you make the mistake of assuming that white racism is to blame for everything.
My definition of racial discrimination is 'treating someone differently based upon their ethnicity'. It often seems that yours is 'any situation that is unfavorable to African-Americans'.
But most importantly, I perceive that affirmative action isn't doing a bloody thing to solve either the anti-black discrimination that still exists or to address the very real concern of poor K-12 education and the other cultural issues facing our minority communities. It in fact exacerbates the problem by continuing the racist, patronizing stereotype that African-Americans are incapable of succeeding without deliberate special consideration. It creates racists out of otherwise normal individuals (I've seen it happen) by raising a very real spectre of unjust and unfair treatment.
I actually suspect (but may well be wrong) that you perceive this as well, but cling to affirmative action as some sort of vengeance for the injustice you perceive.
Finally, I would implore you to stop treating this as a Republican vs. Democrat issue. Democrats are no more sincere in their support of affirmative action than Republicans are against it. Both simply take up their respective sides to pander to their chosen bases. If Democrats *really* cared about minorities, they would support improving K-12 education and other tough reforms necessary to truly solve the problems facing minority communities. Instead they support affirmative action, win their votes, and go on living their happy lives without making any real effort to help the people whose votes they've bought. Democrats did the same thing to gays- John Kerry, for example, flat out stated that his position on gay marriage is basically the same as Bush's (and most of Congress on both sides of the aisle, for that matter), yet Democrats have carefully perpetuated the myth that the Republicans are unabashedly evil while the Democrats are their best friends. With your heightened sense of cynicism, I'm surprised you drink so deeply of the anti-Republican Kool-Aid served up by the just as corrupt Dems.
Cobra, you say: "It's indeed possible to be against Affirmative Action and not be a racist."
That's the student's point exactly.
Garrick says that the fact that black men fare so much worse than black women proves that racism isn't the black men's problem. I don't think it actually proves this. People may feel less threatened by black women, or they may have a perception that black women are more serious and focussed and work harder. I have this perception myself, just from several years of observation, but I consciously refrain from making assumptions about black men that I meet, in job interviews and so forth. The thing is, I suspect that the reason for the achievement gap between black men and black women is that too many black boys grow up with their families making excuses for them and cutting them slack, while the girls are given much more reponsibility and have more demands placed on them by their parents. Again, I have seen this. If this is the problem with black men and their being or not being in college, or their performance once there, then AA is just one more brick in the wall.
I'll quote Frederick Douglass here.
What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. Gen. Banks was distressed with solicitude as to what he should do with the negro. Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, "What shall we do with the negro?" I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten to the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, --don't disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner-table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot-box, let him alone,--don't disturb him! If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone, --your interference is doing him a positive injury…. Let him fall if he cannot stand alone!
>>>"First off, all the privilege that I have, I have because my parents, both of whom came from lower middle class (being generous), blue collar families, worked their butts off to pay their own way through college so that they could one day provide a better life for their children. My dad's side of the family immigrated from Poland only about half a century ago to excape poverty and war. So I'd appreciate it if you (and a lot of other affirmative action supporters) would stop assuming that I'm 'congenitally advantaged' just because my skin is lighter than yours."
Peggy McIntosh disagrees with you:
>>>"“Privilege is not about blame, shame, or guilt,” she said. It is, however, part of a system that fosters racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, according to McIntosh’s keynote address.
If Americans were taught to recognize their privileges, it could damage the American “myth of meritocracy,” explained McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research and Women and cofounder of the National S.E.E.D. (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project on Inclusive Curriculum. The notion that any hard-worker can succeed in America is deeply ingrained; recognition that there is a “system of overadvantage” would destroy that concept, she said.
McIntosh forced the multicultural crowd in Concord Academy’s Performing Arts Center to contemplate their own unearned advantages, as well as any disadvantages that may color their lives. “Having white-skin privilege is like having a bank account,” McIntosh said. “It enriches you.”
The late Theodore W. Allen disagreed with you:
>>>"In 1996, on radio station WBAI in New York, Allen discussed the subject of "American Exceptionalism" and the much-vaunted "immunity" of the United States to proletarian class-consciousness and its effects. His explanation for the relatively low level of class consciousness was that social control in the United States was guaranteed, not primarily by the class privileges of a petit bourgeoisie, but by the white-skin privileges of laboring class whites; that the ruling class co-opts European-American workers into the buffer social control system against the interests of the working class to which they belong; and that the "white race" by its all-class form, conceals the operation of the ruling class social control system by providing it with a majoritarian "democratic" facade."
Former Senator and ex. NY Knick Bill Bradley disagrees with you:
>>>"White indifference comes in many forms. It can be indifference to the suffering of others, or what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the silence of good people.” It can be indifference to the need for racial healing. It can also be the inability of whites to understand for no reason other than the color of their skin.
White skin privilege is the flip side of discrimination. While discrimination is negative overt, white skin privilege is negative and passive. It’s not something whites intentionally do. Rather it’s a great blind spot that most whites are unaware of.
When I was a rookie in the NBA, I got a lot of offers to do ads, even though I wasn’t the best player. My black teammates got none. I felt the offers were coming to be because I was white. That’s white skin privilege. If you’re white and your kids are stopped by police at night, you don’t fear they’ll be mistreated because of the color of their skin.
Source: The Journey From Here, by Bill Bradley, p. 55-56 Aug 15, 2000
The Pax Christi USA Catholic Peace Movement disagrees with you:
>>>"In 1998 the first proposal to the PCUSA National Council regarding an anti-racism initiative happened. The proposal was to organize a two-and-a-half day workshop for the PCUSA national leadership facilitated by Crossroads Ministry (an organization dedicated to anti-racism training) and to explore establishing a relationship with Crossroads Ministry. The reason Crossroads Ministry was chosen was because of their analysis of racism. Their analysis is: Racism = Prejudice + Institutional Power. Another way to look at it is in terms of white skin privilege. Law in the U.S. protects white skin privilege because White male landowners created the laws to protect their rights, their culture and their wealth. In communities of color, White privilege has kept White men in power as gatekeepers—they control the banks for loans and home mortgages, insurance for cars and homes, schools are controlled by outsiders, and businesses owned by outsiders."
So perhaps you're just unaware of the ultimate Affirmative Action in America you have by accident of birth, Garrick. It's fortunate that there are plenty of others beside me that are happy to fill you in on your great unearned fortune.