And the conservatives go “Wah wah wah”, all the way home

23 03 2007

I hadn’t heard about this documentary previously, but William Dembski’s endorsement immediately made me skeptical;

When I first saw the trailer I had to say that it piqued my interest, being that at least at my own university there seems to be a rather tenuous balance of moderate->liberal professors but an outward politically correct stance (i.e. you can criticize George Bush in class, but you can only use “damn” and “crap” if you feel the need to use expletives). To me, half of the college experience is wading through all the BS and varying viewpoints of various professors, especially since I’m in college and I’m expected to be a “big boy” and use my own brain. I’ve felt offended by certain teachers in the past, and I remember one encounter especially well;

I don’t remember the professors name, but I think it was “Smith” and he was a sociology professor at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey. I had been sent there for 4 weeks as a junior in high school to take part in the NJ Governor’s School for the Environment, and every night we had a lecture from someone involved in ecology in our state, at least, every night but the first one. The first night this professor comes in and starts clapping, everyone joining in to the count of 21, which was supposed to stand for the number of times Amadu Diallo got shot by New York City police officers. Smith then proceeded to say how the students in the room were “special” in the same way Hitler’s SS were “special,” and that we steal all our ideas and creativity from the underclass, which we suppress. One brave (although some might say foolish, in the situation) student raised his hand to say “Doesn’t creativity come from inside? Some things might be transmitted through culture, but doesn’t creativity exist on a variety of levels?” The student was essentially shouted at and called out for wearing his hat backward, living proof that he had somehow exploited the poor of Harlem. The SS comment also brought a girl in the audience to tears as she had relatives killed in concentration camps, and she was not allowed to leave, one of the Resident Life assistants in the room tell us that Smith was trying to open our eyes (to how rotten we really were, apparently). Before that evening I didn’t know that I was a racist scumbag just because I was a young white male, but thankfully I didn’t take on the identity Smith told me I had to honestly own.

In the case of Indoctrinate U, I haven’t seen the film (although I most likely will if there’s a showing around here) but it seems to be getting a lot of “hurrah!”s from conservatives, and I expect that to be the focus; how conservative students are marginalized, censored, etc. in colleges. Perhaps some things in the documentary have merit, I don’t know, but I do wonder if the evolution issue is going to come into it at any point. I also have to wonder (although I find it unlikely) if the filmmakers visited Jerry Falwell’s horrid Liberty University or Christian Colleges and looked at the “intellectual diversity” in such places. The trailer also seems to have the filmmakers confronting school officials in the halls and being somewhat snotty about interviewing school officials over whatever events occurred, and while some might consider this “getting results,” to me it reflects an overall air of immaturity in an attempt to be like a real action news team, confronting the closet pervert about his despicable behavior in public.

What would have been more more interesting is if the filmmakers focused on what conservatives have been doing in the public school system, whether it’s telling students evolution is wrong and they’ll go to hell if they don’t accept Jesus in Kearny or global warming denial elsewhere. To me, that’s where the real story is; what is the public school teacher telling your kid about sound science? In college you have the option to go elsewhere, drop the course, etc., but in public schools attendance is compulsory and there are quite a few teachers who aren’t exactly ethical when it comes to imbuing their beliefs on students. Like I said, I have yet to see Indoctrinate U, but so far I’m pretty skeptical of its premise and overall point it’s trying to make. Just because my professor makes some comment about liking or not liking George Bush doesn’t mean that the whole biology/physics/math/english/whatever course is therefore compromised; when you’re admitted to college you’re expected to think, not cry a river when your professor makes it clear that they don’t share the same political affiliation as you.


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24 03 2007
TheBrummell

I haven’t seen the film either, but my predictions about its content and tone match yours – especially given an endorsement by Dembski.

I wonder if they’ll confront a very basic and very interesting little logical train of thought regarding this issue:
1. The majority of professors at universities are left-of-center to some degree, and tend to support government policies usually associated with the moderate political left
2. Competition to get academic jobs is intense, and most people agree that a university professor is most likely a person of higher-than-average intelligence.
3. “Liberal” and “Conservative” opinions can be (though often may not be) based upon sound reasoning and evidence. Reasoning is one of the prime job requirements of being a university professor.
4. If the majority of people who get paid to think about an issue reach a consensus opinion about that issue, should you apply more weight to that opinion than to the opinions of other people who have arguably spent very little time considering that issue?

What I’m trying to say is, if most of your smartest people agree on something, it’s not necessarily evidence of a suppression of alternative viewpoints, rather it could well be evidence that that opinion is most preferable.

That’s why we call them experts, I think.

24 03 2007
RedMolly

I went to one of the most liberal universities in the country–University of California, Santa Cruz–and, while I’m sure most of my instructors had liberal to far-left political leanings, I only remember one class where those leanings were an issue at all. It was Intro to Feminism, and the professor, Bettina Aptheker, has recently come under fire even from other women’s studies professors for her frankly kooky views. (To wit: all heterosexual relationships are by definition unequal; heterosexual sex necessarily has characteristics of rape. Oh yeah, and “recovered memory” is a perfectly valid “way of knowing” that your famous Communist historian father molested you.)

But still–no one forced me to sign up for the class, and no one forced me to keep showing up. Sometimes disagreeing with your professors can be a much more educational experience than agreeing with them. As long as you can express your dissent in a mature and reasoned way without whining, there’s space for all kinds of viewpoints even in the most left-wing instructor’s classroom.

(“Catch the Illegal Immigrant Day”–not such a well-reasoned and thoughtfully-conveyed piece of political expression.)

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