The war on pointy-headedness

by Ted on March 23, 2005

Via MyDD:

TALLAHASSEE: Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities…

While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

A few fairly obvious thoughts:

– Remember “political correctness”? Remember when John Leo used to wring three columns out of the same absurd complaints from hypersensitive left-wing students who felt victimized? Remember Republicans who would have mocked all the boo-hooing, and made the valid point that mollycoddling these kids in college would backfire when they had to face the real world? I miss those days.

– Every classroom has a malcontent or three. These clowns want to give them the power to sue if they’re called upon to explain their opinions, or if their feelings are hurt in class. Wouldn’t all of these frivolous lawsuits cost the state a lot of money? Of course they would. But that’s a price Rep. Baxley is willing to pay, in the interest of poetic justice as fairness.

“Being a businessman, I found out you can be sued for anything. Besides, if students are being persecuted and ridiculed for their beliefs, I think they should be given standing to sue.”

Really? You can be sued for anything? Maybe you should run for government, Mr. Baxley. Gosh, if you were a legislator, you could try to write some laws to actually reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits!

– The mirror has two faces, as it were. If this idea catches on, I hope that Professor Reynolds enjoys teaching the merits of gun control, that Professor Davis Hanson enjoys boning up on Marxist theory, etc.

– It might be my lack of imagination, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine a college-level biology program that would be comfortable for a creationist.

– Every Republican in the committee voted for this bill. The entire hip, awesome “South Park Republican” caucus could stand on a beer mat with the entire anti-torture Republican caucus and still leave room for a beer. In real life, you’re looking at the fruits of the Republican revolution- bigger, more intrusive government that is willing to spend more tax money to punish the enemies of the Right. This is what you get when you vote for Republicans, friends.

RELATED: “I Miss Republicans”, by Kung Fu Monkey.

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The Light Of Reason » Blog Archive » REPUBLICANS WHO HATE AMERICA
03.23.05 at 4:34 pm
Crooked Timber » » Classroom diversity
03.25.05 at 9:09 pm
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04.02.05 at 9:09 am

{ 23 comments }

1

Kieran Healy 03.23.05 at 2:57 pm

This is great! I expect pretty soon they’ll be saying the only Varsity sport should be Hugball. Also, exam answers will be marked correct as along as they express how the student truly feels about the issue.

2

Steve LaBonne 03.23.05 at 3:06 pm

This is that David Horowitz thing- these numbskulls are not making it up on their own. Some knuckledragger here in Ohio has introduced the same bill, and I think it’s also been introduced in a bunch of other states. I’m glad to see that Ohio has not yet (quite) sunk to the depths of Florida, because it seems to be going nowhere here.

3

mrjauk 03.23.05 at 3:37 pm

On second thought, maybe I won’t be applying for that position at the U of Miami. (Is Miami a state or private school?) Canada and Europe are starting to look better every day. The lunatics truly have taken over the asylum.

4

John Quiggin 03.23.05 at 5:09 pm

Horowitz seems to have traversed the entire political spectrum, while maintaining the same annoyingly whiny tone {Help! Help! I’m being oppressed!)

5

catfish 03.23.05 at 5:16 pm

Well, it still has a ways to go to pass in Florida, but sooner or later, some state is going to pass a bill like this. On the bright side, it will be a lot easier for proffessors to grade papers, because the multiple choice questions will have been approved by University lawyers ahead of time and all they will have to do is feed the answer sheets into the scan tron machine. In fact, the State Legislature will probably have brought the expertise and academic rigor to the University curriculumn that they have to the K-12.
Good thing private University tuition is so cheap, so people who still want a decent education will have somewhere to go.

6

tad brennan 03.23.05 at 5:27 pm

Of course, if they want to encourage a litigious climate, the professoriate can respond in kind. My syllabus will now include a “hold harmless” clause as well as a binding agreement relinquishing all rights to sue. They can get the first readings after they sign it.

7

nolo 03.23.05 at 5:52 pm

tad, I like your style. Make sure you include a binding arbitration clause as well.

8

spencer 03.23.05 at 7:16 pm

Does this mean that I’d be able to force my macroeconomics professor to actually teach a little Keynesian theory?

Not that I necessarily regard said theory as superior, mind you, but more as a way to annoy the prof . . .

9

spencer 03.23.05 at 7:17 pm

mrjauk -
U of Miami is a private institution.

10

Mill 03.23.05 at 8:31 pm

It’ll be even easier than that, catfish, because on the multiple choice exams, EVERY answer will be right!

11

MJ 03.23.05 at 9:13 pm

It might be my lack of imagination, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine a college-level biology program that would be comfortable for a creationist.

I used to work at a state-funded community college that had two biology professors, one of whom was a creationist and was very active in several creationist organizations. Two of the students who worked in my department took his class because they didn’t want to take biology from someone who “teaches evolution.” His class was, in fact, very popular, and nobody I talked to seemed to find it inappropriate for a state school to be teaching religion in freshman biology.

The guy left eventually; I don’t know if it was voluntary or not. I was gone by then.

12

bi 03.24.05 at 1:40 am

I didn’t know that a professor’s job is to boost the inflated egos of students.

Thankfully I’m not an American, so I can sit back and laugh loudly at this stupidity without fear of being branded a traitor. And, spread the meme!

13

MFB 03.24.05 at 2:31 am

Does this actually mean, for instance, that one will be unable to mark a paper wrong, or write comments on the paper explaining that the ideas expressed in it are incorrect? It certainly seems like it to me. (After all, if I’m a student who gets a bad mark, I can stand up in class and wave the paper and demand a better mark because my ideas are as valid as the lecturer’s, and when he challenges me I can sue.)

This is great for students, in the short run, because it means that they will all pass. Unfortunately in the long run it suggests that they won’t learn anything. So far as I can see, if this bill succeeds it means the end of tertiary education. And why stop at tertiary education? Let the kids who are expected to spell “cat” with a C sue their teachers! Let the toddlers who want to smear themselves with shit sue their caregivers! Down with education! Long live Terri Schiavo, role-model for Republican intellectuals everywhere!

14

WillieStyle 03.24.05 at 2:50 am

This bullshit will continue until there’s another Sputnik.

15

Winston Smith 03.24.05 at 8:43 am

Well, I hope I don’t have to explicitly express my horror at this development. However… I do wonder to what extent the complaints that prompt such actions might be legitimate ones (even–let me say again–though I recognize the wrongess of the response in question).

I can’t recall ever having a politically intolerant lefty prof. (though I went to a very conservative back-water school for undergrad, so that skews things). But, after hearing some of my colleagues in other departments talk, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to me that their politics might come out in class in inappropriate ways. So I’m hesitant to dismiss these worries too quickly.

And, let me add, I had an undergrad prof. literally scream at me in class once because he thought I was about to say something critical of Darwin. He was insisting that “evolution is a fact, not a theory,” and a creationist student was questioning him in a misguided but respectful manner. I was about to point out that it was, in fact, *both* a fact and a theory, but I got no farther than “Well, I agree with Darwin, but…” Before he screamed “HAVE YOU READ THE _ORIGIN OF SPECIES_???” Although I knew a good bit about evolution, I admitted that I hadn’t read Darwin himself, whereupon the prof. screamed something else–somethng I don’t remember word-for-word, but clearly indicating that I should shut the hell up. (Um, this was *not* a class full of bio majors or anything. I knew more than most of the kids in there, so it wasn’t like I was wasting air time with ignorant comments.)

An isolated incident you might say, but I wonder how good your evidence would be for that. Is there any empirical data on this? (Yes, of course it would be hard to get, blah blah blah.)

16

james 03.24.05 at 9:51 am

Terrible law. It is however the natural extension of the “Code of Conduct” and “Speech Codes” that exist on US campuses. Saying something offensive, as determined solely by the university, is already grounds for punishment, expulsion, loss of job, etc. For a long time, the universities have been a little one sided with application of the speech code rules. This law merely takes the judgment of what is termed “offensive” out of the universities hands and places it in the hands of a judge. Obviously both the speech codes and the new law violate First Amendment rights.

17

abf 03.24.05 at 10:17 am

Yes, Winston, and you should have sued him, and the school too.

18

Ereshkigal 03.24.05 at 12:34 pm

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

That pretty much shuts down the law schools, too. So– where will anyone get lawyers in Florida to represent them in their suits against professors?

Of course, with “tort reform,” a student suit against a professor might have difficulty getting heard in court, and a student who prevailed against a professor would receive lower damage awards. The student would need money to initiate and pursue the wuit, because fewer attorneys would be willing to chance working on a contingency basis for a reduced percentage of the lower damages award.

On the other hand, if the student has the right connections, the Florida legislature just might pass a statute to force an outcome in the student’s favor. And if that fails, there’s always the U.S. Congress…

19

natasha 03.24.05 at 1:43 pm

Sounds like what we really need is a war on pointy haired bosses. The whole Republican party sounds like an amped up version of Dilbert’s PHB.

But what about countersuits? If my creationist classmate makes my biology class unpleasant and disrupts my learning because of their suit against our professor, do I have the right to sue them for irreparable harm to the educational process that I’ve shelled out a load of cash for?

If you don’t want your teachers to maybe teach you about things that you didn’t already know when you went in, stay the **** home and get a McJob. Or if you already know everything there is to know about the subjects you’re taking, save yourself the baksheesh and skip straight ahead to a career in punditry.

20

Langdon Alger 03.24.05 at 4:30 pm

What’s a beer mat?

21

the very same 03.26.05 at 7:49 pm

THE LARKIN FACTOR, ON FOX NEWS THIS TUESDAY

Seriously. This Tuesday, March 29, Graham Larkin (Department of Art, Stanford University) will face CA Senator Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside) in a nationwide debate on FoxNews Live (I believe that’s the FoxNews Channel, not regular Fox) at 2:48pm EST / 11:48 PT.

The exchange will be a follow-up to their March 22 debate at Cal State San Marcos over Morrow’s proposed ‘Student Bill of Rights’ legislation, as reported the next day in the San Diego Union-Tribune and the North County Times (Morrow’s local paper):

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/northcounty/20050323-9999-1mi23freedom.html

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/03/23/news/inland/23_41_263_22_05.txt

On April 15, Larkin will confront FrontPage Magazine editor David Horowitz on the half-hour program Uncommon Knowledge, where they will discuss Horowitz’s proposal for an ‘Academic Bill of Rights’. The broadcast date is not set, but the program will eventually be archived on the Uncommon Knowledge web site at:

http://www.uncommonknowledge.org/900/default.htm

Earlier this year, Larkin and Horowitz engaged in a vigorous online debate, available here:

http://aaup-ca.org/larkin_horowitz.html

22

Erika 03.29.05 at 5:02 pm

Unfortunately, Larkin’s debate with Morrow today on Fox was cancelled – HOWEVER, he will be instead debating right-winger David Horowitz tomorrow – that’s Wednesday, same channel (FoxNewsLive), same time (2:48pm EST/11:48 PT). This debate promises to be even more fun.

23

Bob Vandenbush 03.30.05 at 7:25 am

Lysenko’s spirit is alive in America. One would have thought that the Soviet’s failed experiment in shaping scientific theory to support its political ends would temper the behavior of the red-state politicians. Sadly, their shrill moralizing grows louder as a new dark age descends across a nation once known for its devotion to the free exchange of ideas. Our public debate is now dominated by ideologues whose worldview is predicated on a belief in the inherent immorality of all men. To these modern Pharisees, there is nothing so dangerous as a new idea, nothing so intellectually indelible that it can’t be expunged through the ritual application of congressional ignorance. Once again, they have proven that’s it’s easier to hate than to understand.

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