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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"The Single Biggest Load of Crap Ever": University Students Responds to Political Correctness on Campus


A Facebook friend posted a message about a required university course entitled "Racism and Sexism in the United States." The post was popular, inspiring 25 follow-up posts. I asked the poster, Ross Mitchell, for permission to repost his Facebook message here. He kindly granted me permission.

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Ross Mitchell: When I went to _____ university, we were required to take a class called "Racism and Sexism in the United States" No, I'm not kidding you. And the class was the single biggest load of crap ever. On a personal level, I found it extremely offensive to all ethnic groups. The class did however teach me the most important skill in life, just say what people want to hear at all times, contain all actual feelings and you will be fine. "Know your audience."

Essentially the readings were: If you aren't white, you suck at life and should basically kill yourself because there is nothing you can do in life to improve tomorrow. If you are white, go kill yourself you dirty capitalist pig Nazi and try not to rape any women before you do it.

A second person posted:  That class was the biggest waste of time, energy and paper.

Ross: PAPER! Yes! We waste SO much paper in this country and it's sort of sickening. Trees did not deserve to die for this class to exist.

A third poster: I was kicked out of that class once, and for no reason either.

Ross: Did you try to express your opinion?

Third poster: Yeah. I shared an experience I had.

Ross: Was it a story of you experiencing racism? If so, that's probably why. White people never experience any type of racism of any kind. As a Jewish kid, when I saw a swastika drawn on my locker in high school, you know what I did? Nothing, because I had a feeling there was no point. I have never told anyone that before in my entire life.

Third poster: Wow. The sad part is you're right. I mean, I don't know how your school handled things, but unless they knew specifically who did it, they'd probably do nothing about it. You would have gotten a, "If it continues to be a problem let us know, in the meantime go back to class."

Second poster: Your attitude is your best defense, Ross. Sadly.

Fourth poster: Were me & u that same class? Hmm...

Fifth poster:  I took the honors section of that course. There were like 5 people in the class and we literally just watched films for every class.

***

I'm grateful to Ross Mitchell for allowing me to repost his thread here.

Ross is a former student of mine and a current friend. He is a great guy. He is not a racist or a sexist. He is just allergic to bullshit.

This thread speaks volumes.

Too often on college campuses today students are left with the impression that it is their job, not to learn, but to agree with whatever the teacher says.

Too often on college campuses today students are left with the impression that it is their job to condemn whiteness per se, maleness per se, American identity per se.

Somewhere along the line, the very important work of teaching students about historic events like the Civil Rights Movement was hijacked by some – not all – professors who want to use it to silence and indoctrinate students, rather than to educate and empower them.

I've taught the class, "Racism and Sexism in the United States." I tried to teach it in a way that was pertinent to all students. I tried to convey the excitement and universal value of the Civil Rights Struggle. I tried to communicate that neither oppression nor heroism are limited by skin color or gender or national origin.

In addition to learning about African American luminaries like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, as well as lesser known figures like Bayard Rustin, a gay man who experienced prejudice within the Civil Rights movement, we learned of white American Civil Rights heroes like Viola Liuzzo, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and Jim Zwerg.

I resolved not to trivialize students' lived experience. If a white male reported being the victim of discrimination, I gave him space to speak and respect.

On the very first day, I let students know that their final grade would depend on their ability to support their points in academically sound ways – with support from peer-reviewed material – not on whether they agreed with me or not. I made good on that, giving an A grade to students who disagreed with me vehemently. 


It would benefit all, professors, students, parents, universities, if we took Ross' words, and the words of his friends, to heart, and used them to improve our teaching.

6 comments:

  1. Magdalena Paśnikowska wrote:

    A truly terrifying vision of education. Do you realise that teachers and students had a lot more intellectual freedom behind the so-called Iron Curtain? Of course there were some orthodox commies out there, but overall students were encouraged to think for themselves and question everything (having done their homework first, of course). What I used to take for granted is now something you, Danusha, are doing almost at your own peril, though you live in what is considered a free, democratic society...

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  2. Once again, I am grateful to George Orwell for giving us the vocabulary to describe the world in which we increasingly find ourselves living.

    And I am deeply grateful to the God of Abraham and all the faithful Jews who so carefully transcribed his inspired word down the ages.

    "For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise [men] perish, and the intelligence of the intellectual [men] I will shove aside.”  Where is the wise man? Where the scribe? Where the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not get to know God, God saw good through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing."
    1 Corinthians 1:19-21

    Godly wisdom is impartial. It does not have different standards for different people.

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    1. Sue:

      "Godly wisdom is impartial. It does not have different standards for different people."

      Yes.

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  3. Ross Mitchell makes some excellent points, many of which bring back memories of my four wonderful, rollicking years at UC Santa Cruz.

    During my senior year there, I enrolled in a seminar on post-communism. The course was interesting, taught by a brilliant tenured professor who had published several excellent books on the topic. One day, during a class in which we were asked us to share our thoughts about something or other, the professor chewed out a student for daring to use the term “rogue state” in connection to Afghanistan. This was in the spring of 2001, when the Taliban was at the peak of its depravity and when the term “rogue state” certainly applied to Afghanistan. How the professor tore into this student, an American Jew who was then just months away from joining the US Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant. “Cultural imperialism,” “racism,” “warmongering”—these were just a few of the insults the smug professor hurled at the mortified,student. It shames me to remember that, like Ross Mitchell, I said nothing, did nothing. I lost touch with Mike after the class ended, but I often wonder if he was deployed to Afghanistan, if he saw firsthand the fallout of the Taliban’s war against the Afghan people. The last time I checked, the professor was delivering cookies to a group of students who had staged a sit-down against the construction of another faculty parking lot.

    Earlier that same year, I saw a movie, screened on campus, about the Vietnam War. The movie was forgettable, but I do remember one scene in which an elderly North Vietnamese woman proudly recalls how she and her friends used to defecate and urinate on the faces and bodies of captured American soldiers. I’m not judging this woman. Had my village been showered with Agent Orange—this woman’s village had not been showered with Agent Orange—I, too, would probably have wanted to defecate on the men whose government was responsible for the crime. Her hatred was not what stunned me. This is what stunned me: the laughter and applause of many of the undergraduates, most of whom were white and, unlike the American soldiers who fought in that nightmarish war, middle class. That my friend and I were the only two members of the audience to get up and leave proves Ross Mitchell’s (and Dr. Goska's) point: one can get away with the ugliest racism on American campuses if one’s target is white.

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    Replies
    1. Liron, that's ... wow. That's a wow comment. I won't soon forget either paragraph.

      The second paragraph has the disgusting details of the desecration of the dead, but it's the first paragraph that really got me. I can so feel that student's victimization, and I am all too familiar with the professor's bullying.

      Thank you, Liron. Powerful stuff.

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    2. A powerful and depressing post Liron. Obviously sharing your thoughts in Academe is a risky business, unless your thoughts are "Four legs good, two legs bad, and I love Big Brother".

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