Category: Education

Think globally, act stupidly

Robert David Johnson offers a bleak glimpse into the world of “Global Studies”, a field of study which will presumably be for globalization-phobes what “Women’s Studies” was to feminists: a way to spend breezy, carefree, conflict-free semesters in the company of your ideological brethren; never having been challenged on your beliefs, or if you WERE challenged you raised a holy stink with the university disciplinary committee, claiming your sacred fundamental right to never be offended;and to quite probably come out more fragile and misguided than you went in.
And it contains this edifying if not exactly surprising bit (emphasis mine):

The globe in “Global Studies” departments contains exclusively negative attitudes toward one country (other than the United States): Israel. This year, St. Lawrence’s “Global Studies” major featured a special seminar on Palestinian activist and theorist Edward Said. The department also has a regular offering entitled, “Why Do ‘They’ Hate ‘Us’?” The instruction situates the 9/11 attacks “in several thematic contexts,” focused on a critique “of US involvement in the Middle East.”
Students in a “Global Studies” course called “Palestinian Identities,” finally, are introduced to Palestinian identification “as a political and cultural community as they continue to struggle to free themselves from Israeli domination.” The course concludes with a forced political activity: “using what we have learned,” Professor John Collins notes, “we organize and produce a public activity of some sort; with the goal of educating the community about the importance of understanding what Edward Said has called ‘the question of Palestine.’”
An objective portrayal of Israeli history, politics, or culture will not be found in a “Global Studies” course. That might be one reason why the Middle East Studies Association—representing a field that has come under increasing attack for its open bias against U.S. and Israeli foreign policy in the Middle East—advocated at its 2003 conference positioning Middle East studies in the context of “Global Studies.” MESA’s apparent rationale: since both “Global Studies” and “Middle East studies” courses are inherently biased against Israel, it makes sense to promote “Global Studies” offerings, since those have received less critical outside scrutiny.

Not for long, I’m hoping.


The ignorance of youth

I get a bit irritated when I read those smug overseas news stories about how stupid American schoolchildren are about geography and history.
Hence it was not without a twinge of schadenfreude that I read this account of what British children think really happened on D-day:

It is 1899 and Denzel Washington, the American president, orders Anne Frank and her troops to storm the beaches of Nazi-occupied New Zealand.
This may not be how you remember D-Day but for a worrying number of Britain’s children this is the confused scenario they associate with the events of June 6, 1944.

But not all hope is lost:
There were some exceptions to the general ignorance. One teacher at Great Addington Church of England Primary school in Northamptonshire was amazed to find that one of his pupils had scored 100 per cent in the test.
He said: “I asked him how he knew material which we had not covered in school. He told me he had picked it up from a D-Day game he played on his computer.”

Hey, whatever works.

FIRE-y Rhetoric

I like to check FIRE for the latest in on-campus free speech kerfuffles, and so I thought I’d share one with you.
Seems Southwest Missouri State University is all in an uproar about a cartoon published in the school paper. Go here to read the article, see the cartoon, and check out the university’s “measured” (read: slightly hysterical) response.
Then go here and read a student’s response to the cartoon, which more closely resembles an essay from Whitey Sucks 101 than a response to a cartoon. Did I mention that the cartoon was drawn by a Native American? Yeah.
Ya know what’s missing from our universities nowadays? Well, aside from the ability of students to actually express themselves without fear?
Thoughtful debate and discourse, that’s what. Of course, for debate to be thoughtful, it must by definition include a little more than a knee-jerk response by everyone involved. I wonder whose responsibility it is to teach the future of America about thoughtful discourse?
Oh, right. Nevermind. Perhaps in an environment where there is no rational discourse, speech codes are the only solution.

Mississippi burning

The University of Southern Mississippi (which happens to be the alma mater of a few of my relatives) has been the subject of controversy lately. University president Shelby Thames fired tenured professors Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer in the middle of a semester, allegedly in retaliation for instigating a formal investigation by the American Association of University Professors into the professional qualifications of Vice President Angeline Dvorak.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article that details the story. It began on a December 11 afternoon, when a manila envelope was left anonymously in sociology professor Glamser’s office:

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School and State: Part III

Following is Part Three of the series. It was originally posted here. The personal note appears in the original.

By the 1980s the Woodstock/SDS generation had taken vast command over educational policy, a situation that continues to this day. The Protestant/Catholic disagreements over education during the previous century concerned only a limited number of subjects; the current debates concern a wide array of issues, including:

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School and State: Part II

Following is Part Two of the series. It was originally posted here.

So what happens when people fail to adapt to the presence of public education?
During its early years, the public school system was run by devout Protestants in a Protestant-majority nation. Virtually no Christians of that day compartmentalized academic from moral education – neither do I, but I don’t think that means that the same people necessarily have to teach both. The educrats of the mid-1800s could have instituted elective courses for each of the religions, taught by persons not on the public payroll (i.e. unpaid volunteers or church staffers). Or they could have adopted the modern-day practice of allowing privately-led clubs, including religious clubs, to meet on campus after official hours. This would have kept religious involvement under private leadership and private subsidy, and would have opened the door to all forms of religious instruction on campus, thus giving parents a wide selection from which to choose. Instead, everybody in the public schools got a generic Protestant education.
As the Alliance for the Separation of School and State’s FAQ page remarks, “Some groups escaped (e.g., Christian Reformed, Seventh Day Adventist, and Catholics); others were small and took their lumps (e.g., Jews, atheists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses).” At least in the beginning, the Catholics assumed that if de facto Protestant schools deserved public funds, de jure Catholic schools did as well. Many such requests were denied; fortunately, the Catholic church gave up on the idea and funded their schools privately. Peace between Protestants and Catholics would have proceeded much more slowly (if at all) if the latter had continued a quest for a separate-but-equal Catholic public school system.

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