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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Can Politically Charged Topics Be Taught with Evenhanded Balance?

Today's Topic

If the title of this buggy commentary surprised you, it actually responded to a post left at Carpe Diem, the libertarian site run by Professor Mark Perry of the University of Michigan, and a couple of posted comments left by others in that thread. 

Prof. Perry wondered whether his data-driven web-site --- which I admire, even though the buggy prof is decidedly not a libertarian --- could explicitly tackled political subjects or not. 

That led prof bug to post his original comments, which included a few personal references to how he taught political science courses in international relations for decades at UC Santa Barbara until his recent retirement.  A couple of fellow posters queried a couple of those references.  Prof bug then replied at length, indicating that in his view it was possible --- referring to examples drawn from his own courses --- to teach politically controversial subjects like the causes of war or the pros and cons of globalization or even the war on terror with a certain fair-handed balance in the readings and lectures that contrasted with the indoctrinating thrusts of politically correct professors, relying on a hodge-podge of various post-modernist theories ( all suspect intellectually) to rationalize their propaganda in classes . . . never mind their efforts, in way too many cases, to stifle contrary views in coercive ways: hate-speech codes (rejected by the faculty at UCSB fortunately), kangaroo courts to decide on such cases --- a covert way to enforce pulpit-pounding orthodoxies --- in which the judge, prosecutor, and jury are one and the same, support for student efforts to drive off campus any speakers to the right of Al Gore (or tolerance of them anyway), and so on.

Click here for the original Perry post and prof bug's and other comments.

A Specific Bugged-Out Case

In the winter of 2004, not long before prof bug retired that summer, he taught a course that dealt with the war on terror.  The syllabus, its readings, the course objectives, and the requirements can be found here: click now.