A bill presently working its way through the state legislature here in Arizona proposes that universities and colleges be required to “provide a student with alternative coursework if the student deems regular coursework to be personally offensive,” that is, where “a course, coursework, learning material or activity is personally offensive if it conflicts with the student’s beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.” The Arizona Daily Star and Inside Higher Ed have more. Although Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon, the bill was prompted not by evolutionary theory but by Rick Moody’s novel, The Ice Storm. No, really. Someone didn’t like the description of the wife-swapping key party in the book, which you will recall from the book and film is not exactly full of admiration and cheerful praise for the well-balanced people participating in it. (And even if it were, etc …) “There’s no defense of this book,” said State Senator Thayer Verschoor (R), “I can’t believe that anyone would come up here and try to defend that kind of material.” (I heard recently that a book by some filthy-minded Irish guttersnipe containing graphic descriptions of bowel movements, urination, masturbation and sexual intercourse is on the syllabus of many college English courses. I can’t believe that, either.) Senator Jake Flake (R – Snowflake. No, really) partly disagreed, but mainly I wanted to mention that his name was Jake Flake, of Snowflake, AZ.
Since I’ve been teaching at the University of Arizona, my feeling is that my undergraduate students have been personally offended mostly by the reading and writing requirements for my courses. So in the (hopefully) unlikely event that this legislation passes, maybe I’ll have to provide an alternative “No Work/Sleep All You Like” option for them.