Pedagogy of the Oppressors

From a statement by the National Association of Scholars, a right-wing lobbying group: 

Just last week, Ohio State Senator Jerry Cirino introduced Senate Bill 83—also known as the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act. This is one of many bills introduced across the U.S., both for K–12 and higher education, that are inspired by model legislation drafted by the National Association of Scholars and the Civics Alliance. In response to SB 83’s introduction, NAS promptly published an enthusiastic endorsement. SB 83 and our Model Higher Education Code provide a solid foundation upon which to rebuild Ohio’s colleges and universities, and to fight back against overreach by diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) activists. …

SB 83 would prohibit state-funded colleges and universities from requiring diversity statements for promotion, hire, and admissions, and would ban DEI concepts in classrooms and on campus. The bill would also mandate syllabus transparency and further commit to intellectual diversity and institutional neutrality. …

In a day and age where free speech is a nonstarter in higher education, legislation like SB 83 offers hope for the preservation of American ideals, as well as the restoration of institutional integrity and academic freedom.

Freedom isn’t free. There’s a hefty fucking fee.

Erika López Prater and the Assault on Academic Freedom

I could belabor this case, but I’ll refrain. This New York Times article tells you what you need to know. A summary:

Erika López Prater, an adjunct professor at Hamline University, said she knew many Muslims have deeply held religious beliefs that prohibit depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. So last semester for a global art history class, she took many precautions before showing a 14th-century painting of Islam’s founder.

In the syllabus, she warned that images of holy figures, including the Prophet Muhammad and the Buddha, would be shown in the course. She asked students to contact her with any concerns, and she said no one did.

In class, she prepped students, telling them that in a few minutes, the painting would be displayed, in case anyone wanted to leave.

Then Dr. López Prater showed the image — and lost her teaching gig.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Avatar of Liberalism and Academic Freedom

The new proposed University of Austin is being founded to promote liberalism and academic freedom:

There is a gaping chasm between the promise and the reality of higher education. Yale’s motto is Lux et Veritas, light and truth. Harvard proclaims: Veritas. Young men and women of Stanford are told Die Luft der Freiheit weht: The wind of freedom blows.

These are soaring words. But in these top schools, and in so many others, can we actually claim that the pursuit of truth—once the central purpose of a university—remains the highest virtue? Do we honestly believe that the crucial means to that end—freedom of inquiry and civil discourse—prevail when illiberalism has become a pervasive feature of campus life?

The numbers tell the story as well as any anecdote you’ve read in the headlines or heard within your own circles. Nearly a quarter of American academics in the social sciences or humanities endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences. Over a third of conservative academics and PhD students say they had been threatened with disciplinary action for their views. Four out of five American PhD students are willing to discriminate against right-leaning scholars, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology.

They’ve decided to hire Ayaan Hirsi Ali to teach there. Here is Hirsi Ali’s view of academic freedom, as captured in a famous 2007 interview with Reason magazine. I encourage you to read the whole thing. But this bit strikes me as particularly relevant. Continue reading

Desert and Merit (4)

In a previous post, I criticized George Sher’s view that merit-based desert is based on (the recognition of) existing conventions of merit. In these cases, the existing rules are already fashioned to reward merit in a justified way, so that justice (in the sense of rewarding desert) consists simply in acknowledging that a given person satisfies the criteria of merit, and acknowledging that in accepting the convention, we accept the further implication that the person deserves what the rules say they deserve. Continue reading

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

Well, it looks like the pro-booster side has essentially won the argument, at least in the US, over whether boosters ought to be given for recipients of the Pfizer-Biontech COVID vaccine, six+ months after the second dose. My brother Suleman and I have (very incompletely) argued the case in favor of boosters here, here, and here. As front-line health care workers (he’s a physician, I worked in OR EVS), we got our first doses of the shot back in December 2020, and our second ones in January 2021. He works with COVID patients in a hospital, and I work in an increasingly crowded office. Neither of us had any sense of how much protection we were getting from the vaccine at this point.

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The Lost Boys

Here’s an exchange I just had with Stephen Hicks over a recent Wall Street Journal article, “A Generation of American Men Give Up on College” (Sept. 6, 2021). (The Journal piece is paywalled, but can be one-time accessed by registering.)

Naturally, I’m having trouble with the technological wonders of the “block editor,” so I’ve indicated in italics where each separate quotation begins.

Stephen’s reaction to the article:

Two thoughts:

  1. This is a bad thing. Boys and young men have been ill-served by mainstream education, such that they are unmotivated and unprepared for life’s challenges — and they know it in their bones.
  2. This is a good thing. Rather than waste two or four more years of the same at colleges and universities that extend the mis-education, the young men will gropingly get into real life and actually find something engaging and valuable to do.
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FU

In one year, Felician University has lost its President, its Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, its Dean of the School of Business, its Registrar, and most recently, its Vice President of Academic Affairs. Before that, it lost a Trustee, a previous VPAA, a Provost, the Dean of Nursing, and two Deans of Business. Vanity compels me to mention that it also lost an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Pre-Law Adviser, along with literally dozens of faculty and staff, often terminated on the flimsiest of pretexts, and in some cases, on the basis of manufactured scandals and outright lies.

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GoFundMe Request: Tanya O’Malley

I wanted to share this GoFundMe request, a fundraiser for the equivalent of a scholarship for a young woman named Tanya O’Malley.

I met Tanya on a flight home from Rome back in 2016, after I’d spent the summer in Palestine, and she’d spent hers in Italy. We were total strangers to one another, mere seatmates on a nine-hour flight.

Instead of ignoring each other, or sleeping through the flight, we had an intense nine hour conversation…about education! And she initiated it, not me. She was at the time a 17-year-old high school student, and I was a 47-year-old college professor, but our thirty-year age difference melted away in nine hours (sooner, really). We became friends, and remain friends five years later.

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The Life She Saved

I was cleaning out some computer files when I came across the folder from my old Felician University office laptop containing all (or most) of my student letters of recommendation. On a lark, I decided to look some of my former students up. Some might call this “stalking”; I call it Pedagogical Outcomes Analysis.

Here’s one of them, an RN-to-BSN student for whom I wrote a letter back in 2010, when she was applying for a position as a school nurse. I’m pleased to say that she got that position, and then some:

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