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Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005, 01:49 pm
Disturbing News

I can never tell whether I'm ahead of or behind the curve when it comes to news, but this proposed law to let students who feel their beliefs are not tolerated sue the professor is incredibly upsetting, especially as a current student and future academic. I think it's fairly obvious what's wrong with this, but another disturbing thing is that some of the things that Baxley is saying - in a very different context - are actually important tenets of the educational philosophy here at Columbia. Just yesterday we had a long discussion of Paolo Freire in my social theory class, where Freire talks about the notion that teachers have as much to learn from students as students do from teachers, and that teachers should not be a dictator in the classroom, and that control of the curriculum should respect the lived reality of the students as well as the expertise of the teacher. Yet somehow when Freire says it, it's liberating, but Baxley turns it into a horrible joke. Maybe that's just what happens when you get the legal system involved?

Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 07:18 pm (UTC)
dificultosa: Oh my.

That must be the single most disturbing thing I've read today. It had to be Florida, what the hell is wrong with those people?

I understand your concern and my desire to flee grows stronger. I like the idea of learning as a cooperative enterprise and that the teacher never really stops learning but o for crying out loud! How dare he imply that religious beliefs have a genuine place in a science classroom? I really hate the Puritan heritage here. We're being run by wackos and pyromaniacs who cross themselves when they see a black cat and burn books.

Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC)

Several blogging professors (http://pharyngula.org/ for one) who I regularly read are up in arms about this. It is bad because it chills discusion rather than encourages it. A professor can't challenge a student's ideas without subjecting themselves to legal liability. This seems to quickly lead down the same road as doctors, where professors will need expensive "mal-teaching" insurance.

This also seems to address a problem that doesn't exist. Has anyone ever had a teacher who didn't want his or her students to be engaged with and willing to discuss the material?


Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 09:04 pm (UTC)

*raises hand*

ah, let me tell you...life as the token agnostic in Catholic school was a BLAST!

Fri, Apr. 1st, 2005 12:17 am (UTC)

Worth noting that this bill addresses public schools only (its going into chapter 1004 rather than 1005)


Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 09:23 pm (UTC)

This seems to quickly lead down the same road as doctors, where professors will need expensive "mal-teaching" insurance.

As if college education isn't already fucking expensive. Lets add insurance costs. Then, we'll have a new teacher insurance industry, whose maverick good looking leader will go for the presidency on a litigation-reform ticket!

Heh heh.

Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 10:19 pm (UTC)

I do not believe that this is a problem that doesn't exist. Is the supposed cure far worse than the disease? Yes. (Lawyers who smell cash awards, there's a solution!) Is the problem being overblown? That's subject to opinion. But, frankly, many (especially politically conservative and pro-Israel) students have a legitimate beef over censorship on today's campuses.

Professors have the right to question the views of students, but students also have the right to question Professors, Administration, and other students. There are far too many people in all these groups who think they should be exempt. Rallying around "tolerance" and "diversity" to quash the expression of other views is not one iota superior to using the conservative code-words of morality or religion to do so, and on university campuses, the former sort of censorship is far more common than the latter.

Fri, Apr. 1st, 2005 12:36 am (UTC)

See my comment to boffo below for more context, but basically you are right that there are hardly no cases of idiot professors who throw their egos around the classroom by bullying students. Pardon my hyperbole :)

My problem with this is definatly silencing the professors (bad) rather than helping the student's speak (good)


Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 10:22 pm (UTC)

As a followup to my previous comment, I would like to note that the professors are not usually the bad guys in campus censorship issues. Students and administration are far more often the bad actors.

Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 08:37 pm (UTC)

Before you form an opinion, keep in mind this is in response to a volume of real issues concerning students who have had their grades and studies suffer because they do not necessarily believe the way that the professors does. Many of these complaints are legitimate, and others certainly are not. Legitimate complaints border on racial, occupational and political prejudice, and should be treated as such, otherwise the cases should be thrown out. The problem has been that universities have ignored some of these issues, and its just starting to hit national news.

Personally, I think that this sort of law is legal overkill, and is ugly in the extreme.

Reference of sample issues:
  • Active Military Personnel with otherwise stellar academic grades getting failing grades from non-political professors who oppose American involvement in Iraq/Afghanistan.

  • Students with otherwise stellar academic grades who possess a conservative political view getting failing grades in non-political classes.

Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 09:26 pm (UTC)

Hmm, see, that's a very different problem, in my eyes: that's the teacher grading or acting unfairly based on material that has nothing to do with the content of the course, and is a breach of their professional ethics that should be dealt with by the university. What this law seems to be designed to do is to prevent teachers from expressing opinions that disagree with the students, not from grading the students unfairly based on those opinions.

Your sample issues are a good point, and are, unfortunately, likely what supporters of this law will point to in order to get it passed before using it abusively to silence actual intellectual and academic discourse in this country.

Ahem. Done now.

Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 09:31 pm (UTC)

However, as you point out, the creationists want to hijack a real problem in academia and use it to their own advantage. Sigh. What else is new?

Fri, Apr. 1st, 2005 12:29 am (UTC)

Unfortunately this bill is being championed by religious nuts as a way to get fun ideas like intelligent design into the classroom. Like you say, over kill.

In my mind students should feel free to bring up ideas like intellegent design, flat earth theory, the plum-pudding atomic model, but professors should feel equally free to take points off on tests and generally trash these ideas in class. In a scientificly rigorous way of course. The bill (as I understand it) makes it difficult to do so without feeling like you might be sued.

I should also retract my statement above that every professor welcomes debate in his or her classroom, I'm sure that there are idiots everywhere. But this law is not the solution.


Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005 10:30 pm (UTC)

Let's face it, despite what we all like to claim, nobody really likes free speech. Free speech is a pain in the ass. It makes us all have to listen to all kinds of stupid crap. Many of us realize, however, that we are no universal arbiters of what constitutes crap and that we have to tolerate all the noise so that our ideas cannot be quashed just because someone else find them to be crap-o-licious. Too bad so many people, on university campuses and otherwise, haven't figured out this basic equation.

As a result, there will always be free speech battles on campuses just like everywhere else. And because of that special tone that the scholastic environment seems to bring about, the battles on campuses will always be all that much more obstreperous.