Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Conservative Students Fighting to Legislate "Academic Freedom"

Whither Academic Freedom

College students who say they can't safely express conservative views on campus are taking their case to a setting they hope will be more hospitable: state legislatures.
But as lawmakers collect testimony and weigh what to do, advocacy groups say the real danger looms in legislative proposals that could, if passed, make professors afraid to raise controversial issues in class.

This year, lawmakers in at least 14 states have introduced bills that would limit what instructors can discuss in class and establish grievance procedures for students who take offense. A federal resolution has been introduced in the U.S. House.

Legislators in Tennessee, Ohio, Maine and Florida have summoned students to hearings. In Florida, one bill has the endorsement of two House committees.

Both sides say their goal is to defend freedom of speech on college campuses. Whether laws would help or hinder that goal, however, is a matter of sharp debate.

Vicky Cangelosi, a junior at Pennsylvania State University, says she's received poor grades in women's studies and public speaking classes solely because she argued a conservative viewpoint in her assignments. A state law, she says, would provide an avenue of recourse when a student feels victimized on the basis of her political beliefs.

"It takes away from my college experience at Penn State if I have to constantly be worrying about these things," says Cangelosi, head of the Penn State College Republicans. If the state had a law, she says, "then someone from the state could step in."


Absolutely nuts!!

In my undergraduate days, I proudly held a number of conservative positions with the best of them and was not shy about them or that those positions were based on my Christianity. Yet, I did not have a problem.

I took classes with some hardcore feminists and many, many liberal professors, and they all respected me. First of all, I worked very hard and if there was a point to the liberal side, I at least made it clear that I understood it and could articulate it. Secondly, even in my most rabid conservative days, I understood that the classroom was not the pulpit. It was not my place to speak from the privileged position of rare truth unattained by the ignorant sinful masses. Of course, my survival could've been becuase my professors sense my innate liberal tendencies. But at the time, they all knew that I wanted to be a priest, that I was pro-life, that I was not friends with the feminist and gay movement, I was a creationist, etc.

In fact a professor of mine liked my work in one of her history of science classes so much that she asked me to take a course with her on creation myths. Now those were fighting words, creation myths?? I smiled and never signed up, but the truth was that I was flattered that despite my apparent fundamentalism, she considered me a worthy student. Again, to be clear, in her class, my papers were not infrequently peppered with "God." But then she was stunned that I took the time to read through Darwin's Origin of Species and Huxley's work defending Darwin and that my conclusions were reasonable within the scope of what we were doing.

In a public speaking class, where we signed up to do a total of four presentations, all mine were about Christian stuff. In one, I argued against Partial birth abortion and pro-choice, in another I was arguing against the whole Catholic/Inquisition thing, etc. Yet, my professor, a very liberal lady, never penalized me and I got a very good grade.

If these conservative students are having a problem I suspect it is because they are try to convert people or preach to people. You have to realize that what you can get away with at a Bible study may very well be unacceptable in the academic world and not at all because of content.

Now, I did have a couple of run ins with staunch liberals. In a Social Work class, our militant feminist professor (was an adjunct) gave us all an assignment to go through current magazine ads and cut out the ones that were demeaning to women, i.e., bikini-chic on a copying machine. I was so offended by that to start with that I simply could not do it. I asked a friend of mine, with pro-feminist sympathies, to search for me and she found nothing to her surprise.

When the assingments were presented I just about gagged at the dumb examples (I'm still bitter about this) presented. Talk about reaching. There was one that was a family breakfast scene with the kids eating and getting ready to go to school, dad was rushing out the door with briefcase and mom in a professional business suit was at the sink/counter obviously working on stuff, probably breakfast for the kids. This ad was rounding condemned as sexist and harmful to women, etc. Apparently, since we couldn't find the sexy bikini chic on the copy machine, this was the next best thing. I refused to do the assingment and lost the points. I think it ultimately affected my grade, but so be it, I felt.

So anyway, this is nonsense about conservative students not feeling free to express themselves. Despite the conservative Catholic view of academics as restating dogmatism, the academy is about questioning, challenging and learning, and not about feeding your religious or political convictions. If you need religious or potlical affirmation, then get that at Church or elsewhere or go to Bob Jones U.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first concern is acedemic. What is a conservative and what is a liberal. Traditionally, a concervative means more power to the state governments and less to the federal government. Liberals tend to believe in the centralization of power in government.
Today we have the largest growth in the federal government in history and with the patriot act and prescription drug program, so I am not sure that you can call this conservative.
Conservative seems to be increasing tied to Christian. At this point, I have a problem. I am a Christian and my perspective should be different but not a conservative or liberal position. It is a Christian position.

My concern with punishment for a conservative view is that it sounds like an excuse. We have excuses for everything today. It is never our fault. The fault must be placed upon someone else.

When I was in the military, I went to a board and one of the questions asked was why I deserved the award. I replied that I was the amalgamation of my fellow soldiers and that they deserved the award. The Sergent Major told said that I didn't understand that this was an individual award. I told him that we were part of a team and that he didn't understand. I lost based upon my opinion.
Should I cry foul that because my views were different from judge, I deserved to win. I chose my stance. It was my fault. Part of life is choosing your battles. As a christian, I look to myself for blame first not last. That is too easy.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Ambrose said...

Or it could be their grades were awarded for crappy work (what a concept!). Just because you pay $20,000 to go somewhere, doesn't mean you don't still have to do work and get grades.

1:01 AM  
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