July 15, 2006

"The problem for Kevin Barrett is that a lot of politicians who hate the University of Wisconsin listen to loony, right-wing radio shows."

Joel McNally, columnist for The Capital Times (our afternoon newspaper here in Madison), aims his mental apparatus at the problem of having a 9/11 denialist teach an introductory course on Islam here at the University of Wisconsin.

And the Cap Times editors go after Mark Green:
The Republican candidate for governor objected to the decision of University of Wisconsin Provost Patrick Farrell to allow lecturer Kevin Barrett to continue teaching on campus.

"(Not) a dime of either taxpayer or tuition dollars should be going to facilitate Mr. Barrett telling students that the September 11 attacks were a creation of the U.S. government," Green declared. "Mr. Barrett can dwell all he wants on the fringe left of society, but he should not be doing it under the banner of the University of Wisconsin."...

How would the Republican's response be distinguished from that of the Democratic governor who expressed disdain for Barrett's ideas but accepted that UW officials have leeway in these matters?

Does Green think he could overrule Farrell? If so, would he have done so?

Would Green cut UW funding to punish the institution for failing to meet his demands?

Would Green appoint regents who are explicitly opposed to academic freedom and the UW tradition of encouraging the "continual and fearless sifting and winnowing" of ideas and information as part of the search for truth?

Mark Green has made some pretty bold statements about the UW.

Now the man who would be governor needs to explain how he would actually respond to challenging circumstances on campus.
Hey, I have the same questions! I'm not surprised that the Cap Times's favorite angle on this is how bad right-wingers are, but in fact the elections are more important than one part-time instructor teaching one course that no one has to take. (I urge students to participate in the marketplace of ideas by choosing a better course to spend their time on. You have the power to strand Mr. Barrett in an empty lecture hall.)

If Mark Green is going to hurt the University of Wisconsin there is no way I'm going to support him.


brylin said...

"Would Green appoint regents who are explicitly opposed to academic freedom and the UW tradition of encouraging the "continual and fearless sifting and winnowing" of ideas and information as part of the search for truth?"

What an intellectually deceitful statement! Where is the "sifting and winnowing" from the current administration? From the undergrads who sign up for Barrett's course?

I would recommend to Green that he appoint regents who would actually "sift and winnow" by using the UW Engineering Department to debunk Barrett's anti-American garbage.

If the UW Engineering Department chooses to support this bogus theory then at least you know where they stand.

Provost Farrell is from the UW Engineering Department, but I wonder if his expertise in small engine repair is better suited for something other than the administration of a major public university. (To tell you the truth, I wouldn't trust him to tune up my lawnmower.)

The plain fact is that Barrett, Farrell, McNally and the Cap Times editors would rather stain the intellectual reputation of the University of Wisconsin than stop a crazed and insane argument that attacks the evil BusHitler. Bush Derangement Syndrome to the max!

I trust that reasonable Wisconsin voters will see how truly bizarre and paranoid their Democratic party and university officials have become and elect Green as governor.

dick said...

Better question is why is the University of Wisconsin hurting the University of Wisconsin and what should the governor do about it. If the university does not take care of its own problems but just says that problem is a first amentment issue all the time, what should the citizens of the state expect from their elected officials and their university officials.

PatCA said...

"The real problem is whether we want politicians - Republican or Democrat - to decide who should teach at our universities based upon whether they like what part-time instructors say on right-wing talk shows."

No, the real question is how to halt the degradation of education (paid for by taxpayers) by committed political ideologues.

Simon said...

What Dick said. I mean, it's crazy to say that "[i]f Mark Green is going to hurt the University of Wisconsin there is no way I'm going to support him" - when in fact the question is how the Governor should react to self-immolation on the University's part. Green didn't create this crisis, and frankly, neither did the 9/11 denier. This problem was created and is being perpetuated by U-Wisc's decision to allow this nutjob to teach this stuff with his blessing.

the pooka said...

No, the real question is how to halt the degradation of education (paid for by taxpayers) by committed political ideologues.

I agree. Which is why I agree with Ann.

I put Green in the latter category. So, stopping him from degrading education at UW in the pursuit of his own political/ideological goals seems like a far more important thing to me than the content of one lousy course.

CB said...

From McNally's column:

Our dinner companion gave us more accurate information based on the reports he had been receiving all afternoon. He described the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

He also told us the U.S. government had shot down a hijacked passenger plane that was headed for the White House.

Since everything else he told us that night turned out to be true, I have never been able to accept the popular mythology about the heroic passengers of Flight 93 rising up to give their lives to thwart the hijackers for the red, white and blue.

Does one laugh or cry at such an appalling display of idiocy?

John R Henry said...

Re stranding Barrett in an empty classroom:

I have been an adjunct at 4 schools, grad and undergrad courses since 1974 and pretty continuosly since 1982.

I do not recall ever having had a signed contract to teach a course until after registration actually closed. It was understood that if enough people did not show up, I would not teach the class.

(Side note: At one school my pay for the term was actually a percentage of tuition fees. At all other schools it's been a fixed amount)

So my question is, Ann, how does UW work? If a class is scheduled and too few students sign up, does the adjunct teacher actually sit in an empty classroom or are they told their services will not be required for that term?

John Henry

Ann Althouse said...

John Henry: I don't know. I assume that it has happened, and that when it does, it is handled discreetly, because it's quite embarrassing. I've never heard of it happening. It's basically a contracts question, so I'd like to see the contract.

I just can't believe there aren't at least some students who are into the theory, who will show up not in spite of but because of the evil/crazy theory. But no ordinary student should just wander into this course or think it might be interesting or a good way to engage with controversial or challenging ideas. The university is full of teachers who can challenge them and who are worth their efforts to engage.

Ron said...

I was in a class that had 15 people in it, and on drop day, the other 14 dropped it, leaving me alone. They didn't cancel the class, but the instructor told me to not show up anymore. At the end of the term an A was received -- without a single lick of work being done. Graduate level course too!

Roy Lofquist said...

Dear Ms. Althouse,

This is a recurrent theme. I have been aware of it for 50 years. The perennial red herrings are "academic freedom" and "censorship". These arguments are appropriate when private institutions are involved. However, when public monies are the primary funding souce for the institution then the taxpayers, as represented by elected officials, have the right and the duty to see that they are not supporting activities that offend their sense of decency.


RogerA said...

Ann and John Henry--My experience in teaching as an adjunct, and later hiring adjuncts as a dept chair, was that as described my Mr. Henry--the adjuncts were solicited, prepared a syllabus but their services were contingent on the class filling. Only then were they issued a contract. Of course, this was a private liberal arts institution where cash flow was always a major problem. The number of students required for the course was always determined by tuition income versus adjunct cost.

I should say that my adjunct experience was in state universities and the procedure was as described above.

Wm. Tyroler said...

If Mark Green is going to hurt the University of Wisconsin there is no way I'm going to support him.

No need for concern: UW is dong an absolutely wonderful job of hurting itself.

JohnF said...

The issues seem to me to be (a) does anyone have the power to fire Barrett, (b) if so, under what circumstances, and (c) are those circumstances present? Can anyone shed any light on this?

Also, if the guy is this looney on the 9/11 issue, what kind of accuracy are your students out there assured of on the subject he was apparently hired to teach, intro. to Islam?

To get to Ann's actual question in her post, since Ann's view is that this is more of a hiring problem than a firing problem, Wisconsonites should be electing people who make good hiring decisions.

But I'd like to know the answers to a, b and c, above, if anyone knows.

elliot said...

"If Mark Green is going to hurt the University of Wisconsin there is no way I'm going to support him."

The University of Wisconsin keeps hurting the University of Wisconsin.

Only inside a university, would people believe that a professor being paid to teach something that is patently false represents one of the best aspects (or the best interests) of academia.

SippicanCottage said...
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Simon said...

A book that I'm reading at the moment reprints part of an article by David Horowitz. Horowitz relates the tale of a criminology professor at U-NorColorado who set the following required exam question in a mid-term three years ago: "Explain why President Bush is a war criminal." And the same with the 9/11 denier here: at what point does this rabid desire to promulgate a political viewpoint rise to the level of professional malpractise?

I guess my question is, if U-Wisc fails to take action in this case, where is the line? Is there a line? What about the University's duties to the students, who signed up for a course on Islam, not a Fantastic Voyage-style exploration of the warped recesses of one man's deep-rooted and utterly deranged self loathing? That's the question you have to ask yourself: either there is, or there is not a line which cannot be crossed. Unless you're ready to say that there isn't a line, you must explain to yourself what does fall afoul of that line if this does not.

Elizabeth said...

My experience is the same as John R and rogera's; the policy at my university is that a course, no matter who it's taught by, has to have a minimum enrollment by the close of registration to make (that's the lingo: a course makes or doesn't make). That number varies for graduate seminars, big lecture courses, and small (20-35 student) enrollment courses. If a course I'm scheduled to teach doesn't make, then I'll be given something else. An adjunct would probably just be given a substitute course only if one were available.

brylin said...

Sippican said: "I am also confused by the constant theme that it takes an engineering inquiry to determine that Barrett's ravings..."

Although I agree with your position, the "sifting and winnowing" quote on Bascom Hall as cited by UW's Chief Operating Officer Farrell is a challenge to the marketplace of ideas for the decisive refutation of Barrett.

I think that ignoring him is not in the true spirit of Adam Smith's marketplace of ideas, and violates Bascom's "sifting and winnowing."

Rather than censor or ignore him, he should be absolutely repudiated by the University that hired him, if for no other reason than to prove that UW is rational and sane, but primarily to educate UW students and others that the conspiracy theory is clearly false and outside the realm of reality.

The failure to decisively deal with this issue will lead many on the left to conclude that it can't be refuted, and they will attempt to persuade susceptible individuals to accept this falsehood.

For the same reason, Holocaust deniers cannot be left unrefuted.

Simon said...

But since what this man proposes to teach has no rational relationship to the course he proposes to teach, if that course does not "make", and he is reassigned to another course, one has to suspect that he will simply make his comments in whatever forum is available to him. What is important to him, I suspect, is not to poison the minds of these particular students in this particular class, but rather, to have a captive audience he can force to pay attention to him. Ultimately, IMHO, all he really wants is a venue and for people to pay attention to him; he wants a platform, and U-Wisc have conveniently given him one.

Slopoke said...

In fact, it was reported in the MSJ that he has already shared these views in the classes he has taught.

I teach for the UW-Colleges and the contract says "if the class makes" or some such language.

I am still dismayed that the UW would pay over $8000 for this man to teach anything. It's truly sad.

DNR Mom said...

Ann: I agree with you about not supporting Mark Green. Besides, the Wisconsin legislature provides far fewer tax dollars to support the UW system today. Less support means less legislative influence.

And what's with these commenters who sound like academia's gift to idealism? Is UW the only one ever to be in danger of paying $8K to a possibly loony prof? Do no others have controversial instructors?

Maybe only Barrett's UW students will fathom it. I'd still wager they'll learn more from it than from a more conventional experience. Bet they'll even learn to think for themselves. Omigod -- is that sifting and winnowing?

SippicanCottage said...
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buck turgidson said...

Let's ignore for the moment that Mark Green is Republican. Would any of the people commenting on this post express the same ideas if they did not know the political affiliation of the respective candidate? I wonder...

It has been common for the conservative pundits and politicians to malign the educational system at every level when a part of the system does not fully comply with their expected mode of conduct. In this case, I also wonder how many of the comment-writers know the situation that caused the flap to begin with. This is classic knee-jerkism. brylin et al.--please get off your high horse. Sift and winnow your ideas before expressing them.

brylin said...

Sip, again I agree with you. However, the problem is that UW's Chief Operating Officer Farrell has validated Barrett's viewpoint.

Hopefully problem will be corrected at the next level of appeal in the process: in the political arena by the voters of Wisconsin. Because it won't be corrected at the University.

What a great issue it is for Republicans! It's arguing against insanity. And what's the rebuttal? Free speech allows tax-funded delusional teaching? It's probably enough of an emotional controversy to bring otherwise disinterested voters to the polls, and could be the issue that defeats Doyle.

A final observation: In North Korea, for example, similarly false teachings go uncorrected by the totalitarian political system where ideology trumps truth. It gives me yet another reason to think of how fortunate I am to live in this great country.

dick said...

DNR Mom,

I don't understand what you mean by less support means less control. Since the Univ of Wisconsin is a public university under the control of the state, how can you possibly have less control. If the legislature decided to close the university down completely they could.

I still say that the problem is not with Green, it is with the university itself and if the university does not take care of its problem with Barrett, just as the Univ of Colorado and Ward Churchill, then the governor should step in and do something. The people of the state of Wisconsin should assume that the University they support fulfills its role of education. If it does not do so, then the government of the state which supposedly represents the people of the state should do so. Saying that you will not support a man because you think he will step up to the plate and do the job just does not make any sense to me at all. It is just more like what the university is doing now which is saying woe is me, how could this happen and then does nothing.

brylin said...

Buck, I don't follow you. Are you defending Barrett's conspiracy theory, that Bush caused 911?

Sloanasaurus said...
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Sloanasaurus said...

I applaud Green's efforts. Academic freedom has limitations. These limitations include individuals who are not qualified and individuals who are kooks. If the UW is willing to let its reputation be ruined then the state (the Governor) needs to step in.

People often argue that moral courage is on the side of the governor or leader who allows the degrading behavior to take place because it represents acedemic freedom or free speech.. This is no longer true. Today, in this country, it takes moral courage to do something about the degrading culture. Our society is on auto pilot when it comes to vulgarity. Everything is allowed. It is much easier and safer to do nothing about these situations. Anyone who speaks out against any degrading speech (except hate speech against minorities) is ridiculed. For example, Congresspeople are ridiculed by the media and called racists when they want to add ratings to vulger rap music.

Wisconsin would be better off having a Governer who will at least take a stand against the Barrets of the world.

Pogo said...

The problem with Ann's approach is that it blames Green for doing what the UW must do, but either refuses to do, or is simply too inept to accomplish (I am granting the benefit of the doubt that higher ups there agree Barrett's a nutcase).

The UW has demonstrated it is unable to perform its own stated function, to sift and winnow. Thus, an adult must step in and do it for them.

The University of Wisconsin is either pleading impotence or incompetence. Both suggest the UW administration needs outside help, not just a "Tsk tsk, oh, well, better luck next time". Inaction here speaks of a fundamentally flawed system, not a mere aberration.

You see one termite coming from beneath your deck. Should you pull up the floorboards before investing further? I think so.

Simon said...

brylin said...
"Buck, I don't follow you. Are you defending Barrett's conspiracy theory, that Bush caused 911?"

Oh - no, no, no. It isn't anything so general as that he caused it which is being claimed, it is very specifically that he planned and ordered it. Let's be clear about the full extent of the insanity before us.

The First Amendment may protect the 9/11 denier's right to sput nonsense, but it does not require the government to pay for him to do so, and nor does it require him to be given a captive audience. If he wants to buy a soap box and stand on it yelling at downtown denizens, that's his prerogative, although I suspect that if he does, he'll find that the treatment he'll receive is less "sifting and winnowing" and more a stern thump in the nose and a visit to the emergency room.

Theo Boehm said...

Three words haunt me: University of California.

Being an alumnus of that institution and of…uh…a certain age, I have lived through the Mother of All University Meltdowns. The kerflulffle here seems charmingly small-town Midwestern and earnest, with principles of free enquiry to uphold and the best interests of the students and the University to be kept in mind. Sort of Voltaire rooms with Jefferson in Lake Wobegon. I hope they realize that Nixon could be moving in down the street.

Ronald Reagan ultimately became President because of insanity at the University of California. Reagan rode the hobby horse of ungrateful, protesting students, and UC’s inability or unwillingness to do anything, to the Governorship in 1966. The Berkeley student protests began in 1964, well before any significant U.S. involvement in Vietnam. By 1966 Johnson had sent troops, but most people, students included, were a little dazed and apprehensive. Big trouble still lay ahead.

No, the protests in Berkeley in ’64 and ’65 were, like Seinfeld, about nothing. That doesn’t mean nothing caused them, but their ultimate aim was not obvious to outsiders, certainly not to Fred and Irma in Bakersfield paying the bills. People vaguely understood that UC benefited California is some way, but Governor Reagan, by gum, was gonna clean it up.

Reagan embarked on an unprecedented program of selective budget vetoes and political appointments that began the long, sad decline of the University of California. Among his more memorable sins was his use of his ex officio position on the Board of Regents to personally vote on University appointments and policies.

Reagan was bad enough, but we were all surprised and horrified that the next Governor, Jerry Brown, for his usual obscure reasons, continued a program of overt hostility to UC, including ex officio visits to Regents meetings. The last straw for me personally was when Governor Moonbeam vetoed the funds for my graduate fellowship. Probably did me good, as I might have wound up as an unemployed PhD. Might have become a lecturer, teaching classes for $8,000 a term.

Now I don’t know the aftereffects of student protests of the 60’s and 70’s on UW, but I can tell you that UC emerged a seriously damaged institution. It still gives me a frisson to recall this history. It has become an increasingly distant memory, but well deserves to be kept in mind by anyone concerned with the idea of a university.

I realize this situation is different. One crazy adjunct is not the same as 30,000 rioting students, but look at the comments on this and other threads and see surprising hostility toward the traditional, free, enlightened concept of the university. The hostility born of the 60’s protests is alive and has been lovingly nurtured to this day. The University of Wisconsin may have hired this jackass, but Mark Green is there to ride him as far as he can.

Perhaps Mark Green should consider who is riding whom, as ee cummings says,

a politician is an arse upon
which everyone has sat except a man

Seven Machos said...

Yeah. Theo, the Univ. of California used to be so great and now it's just a shell of its former self. Berkeley. UCLA. UCSB. UCSD. Irvine. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. May as well go to Nevada-Reno.

I also suggest that Ronald Reagan was a tremendous president and governor. Certainly, that's what Fred and Irma would say. But I guess, you know, they just want the truth to be taught at 100 percent state-funded universities. Those disgusting blind simpletons. The gall! Wanting to have a say in how their own tax dollars are spent. And when brilliant, young intellectuals who so clearly know better -- I mean look at your GRE score,for crying out loud -- need graduate fellowships.

You probably had to get a real job. Sorry, man. I'm sorry the middle-class people spoiled your dreams with their ridiculous values and so-called "democracy."

Eli Blake said...

The dilemma is fundamentally this:

Those who suggest engaging them in a serious debate risk elevating their notion to the level of a theory that is worth taking the time and trouble to debunk. Those who advocate censorship are right about that one point.

At the same time, censoring or banning something drives it underground, where crackpot theories thrive and you end up with many, many uneducated adherents (i.e. neonazism). The censorship itself is perceived as a persecution and spowns more of what they want to stamp out.

Hence, I would suggest that neither of these approaches is realistic.

Instead, use humor. Tell jokes about these nincompoops on late night TV. Once they get classed in with UFOlogists, astrologers, flat earthers and the people who insist that an empty casket was buried under Elvis' gravestone, they will be a joke and a laughingstock.

This seems to me to be a better option than either of the two 'serious' approaches being debated back and forth. Then let him come. Sign up. And if you walk in late, theorize that 'the clock never passed one o'clock.' laugh at him. It works.

Theo Boehm said...

Well, Seven, first of all my graduate fellowship was done in by a supposedly liberal Democrat governor. Proves that running against snotty university students is a bipartisan excercise.

In the area of my study at least, I am still of the opinion that UC is not what it once was. Things have changed, to be sure, both demographically and academically, and it is very hard to compare the UC of 30 years ago to today. It is still a great system, but I remember my graduate advisor practically beside herself explaining how we all had to make sacrifices to "save Berkeley." I obviously was at another campus, which in my department at least, did not fare at all well.

In the areas of the Humanities with which I am familiar, the entire UC system just does not have a really high quality department. I am not saying any UC campus is "shit," it's just that things are not what they might have been. And, of course, there are many world-class departments among the various campuses. One thinks of Physics at UCSB, for example, and there are many other examples

The point is that politicians, Ronald Reagan first and foremost, did great damage to UC by playing all sorts of political games that really didn't save any money and ultimately weakened many Arts & Letters departments. What was done was so unnecessary. A wise leader could have managed the spoiled Boomer brats and saved the University as well. What we had, instead, was Ronald Reagan. The hard sciences, in the long run, have done very well, but please forgive me a little bitterness at how other areas have fared.

Now let me say that I thought Ronald Reagan was a rotten Governor, but a much, much better President. I know Reagan was a bad Governor because I was there and so was my family, most of whom were in law enforcement and saw the effects of his policies on a daily basis. My mother saw them at the mental hospital where she worked. I saw them at UC. My uncle saw them as a game warden in the Central Valley. I will stop listing relatives. You might note that we were working class. We also did not like Ronald Reagan. You may have liked him as Governor. I didn't and never will. End of discussion from my end.

On the other hand, Reagan was a pretty good President, and I will give him a lot of credit for his vision and actions in ending the Cold War. But we are getting a little far afield in these comments, aren't we? I did not intend this to be a referendum on Ronald Reagan's Presidency. This should be about lunacy at UW and how it might play out.

The idea of the University that eventually prevailed in this country, starting in the late 19th century, was essentially a German one. Academic freedom was the core concept, a near absolute. Die Gedanken sind frei and all that. I find this idea very attractive. The danger is that it can run afoul of the interests of the funding sources, both public and private. Paul Goodman in his book, The Community of Scholars argues that to be really free, the university should derive its income from students, and that the lack of an expensive administrative apparatus would lower overhead to the extent that this would be practical. He uses the example of Columbia University as a hypothetical, adding the costs of paying faculty, renting the buildings, paying for the library, etc., and comes up with a very affordable tuition figure. Run on this basis, a university education should be available to just about anyone, the only limitation being academic ability and interest.

This is a fine ideal, but in practice external funding will always be necessary. Now, should this funding be on the basis of "Who pays the piper calls the tune" or "Die Gedanken sind frei?" Demagogues will always want to call the tune and call it "democracy." Freedom of thought finds fewer friends.

Oh, and I have long held a "real job." I am a manufacturing product manager at a specialty manufacturing company. I design and make things, largely for export, often with my own hands. I put in 60-70 hour weeks actually producing products that sell abroad, notably in Japan. How many people here personally contribute to lowering our current account deficit? And one of the reasons I can do what I do, aside from the engineering component, is the excellent education I received at the University of California, for which I will always be grateful.

Pogo said...

You're right. Government is entirely the wrong method for reforming a university. It brings into a discipline the malformations of politics and agenda, and that path must be avoided at all costs.

But the fault, as you correctly wrote in your previous post, is solely that of the protesters, who were protesting about nothing, and the University's inability to act in loco parentis and make them stop. Instead, they handed over the university to the protesters.

Once a system fails to police itself, the government, abhoring such a vacuum, steps in.

I agree with you that the message to UW professors is clear: get out the broom and do a clean sweep, or the politicians will do it for you, with far-reaching and negative consequences.

Simon Kenton said...

But it isn't just the politicians who do the cleanup. At the University of Colorado, the contribution of state tax support to the university is minimal - in the 9 - 11% range. (They do retain the ability to oversee tuition increases). But it's out-of-state tuition that funds much of the university's operation. Largely unsubsidized, unscholarshipped, and thus nearly completely voluntary. And it's alumni gifts that pay for a certain amount of the rest, including most of the nicer new additions to physical plant.

And these sources are the most in danger when you wrap a moonbat in the rainbow of academic freedom. I've actually been involved in two of these deals, a time at a Waldorf school when we tried and TRIED to get a teacher improved or removed. But we were merely the parents; our job was not really to be a part of 'the community,' but rather to pay. When we walked there was a 6% shortfall the next year. It was a little place, and 6% meant 6% everywhere - activities, salaries, all down 6%. I don't know whether I can or should say, "To their credit," but I don't think the teachers had any advance idea what their ongoing indecisive perceived contempt for those whose job was merely 'to pay' would actually cost them.

The same, as I mentioned in a previous post, with giving to CU during the Ward Churchill period. It was not just gifting that crashed, it was enrollments.

Epistemology matters. When you discount the possibility of truth, you obviate any reason to train intellect. Why, Ol' Ward himself recently was debating Horowitz and extenuated himself from the charges about his scholarly misconduct by saying "There is no truth." This eventually gets perceived by the people whose only permitted contribution, as the university graciously makes clear to them, is 'to pay.' But why? Most teenagers are ripely capable of nonsense without pouring it into Derridest and Foucaultian molds at a cost of $50,000/year. At the time of the Ward Churchill affair I was a local landlord (upper middle-class houses split among 5 invariably out-of-state students) and Ol' Ward (who if he knew it would be cheered) directly got me out of the business. There really is a ripple effect.

As we'd say out on the job, "Keep up this bullshit, you gonna find yourself in a world a hurt." The university would be a lot better off policing itself. Ann, you can complain about politicians wanting to get involved, their ham-hands and clunky brains, but at the same time, if the university doesn't act like a grownup, you will be silently discouraging parents and alumni from getting involved. It'll be worse.

Theo Boehm said...

Pogo, exactly. Thank you for neatly summarizing my meandering prose.

Simon, your last two paragraphs really nail it. Paul Goodman proposed a pure and simple marketplace of ideas, which could not really work in practice. But there ultimately is a marketplace. Whether it's my hypothetical Fred and Irma in Bakersfield being manipulated by cynical politicians to support cracking down on uppity students, or your very real example of students (in reality parents) voting with their feet, there indeed is a "world of hurt" waiting out there.

Paco Wové said...

Once they get classed in with UFOlogists, astrologers, flat earthers ... they will be a joke and a laughingstock.

Along with the schools at which they teach.

AJ Lynch said...

So the Capitol Times columnist supports left-wing loons spouting off on the government's dime but he abhors right-wing loons spouting off on radio stations funded by the free -market system.

I think these arguments are always interesting but I don't want the government involved in any way in restraining college curriculums or selecting profs. In fact, there is something inherently American and nostalic about the vast numbers of whackadoodle leftist profs on every campus. It's like a right of passage for students and how could these nutjobs survive without their college jobs? So I say let's have a more generous heart and remember they can be so much fun to mock.

Elizabeth said...

But since what this man proposes to teach has no rational relationship to the course he proposes to teach, if that course does not "make", and he is reassigned to another course...

Simon, I think we're talking about different points. My response was meant to address Ann's suggestion that students reject the class, and leave him before an empty classroom. I wanted to point out that he wouldn't likely be in a classroom at all if the course failed to enroll enough students. To follow up on your point, I doubt they'd assign him another class, as he is an adjunct.

Badger said...


You are being extremely generous in referring to the Cap Times as a "newspaper".