The Nerve of Some Teachers

Here’s a very useful collection for you – links to news coverage of Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley’s proposed ‘Academic Freedom Bill of Rights.’ People like Baxley are a big help, you know? Any time I listen to Start the Week or Saturday Review and get a little cross or downcast or highstrung about the way everyone simply takes it for granted that all Americans are both stupid and insane – well all I have to do is think of people like Rep. Baxley and I realize why UK radio chatters might think that.

The Alligator gets in some good jabs.

At the Capitol, Baxley opened the council meeting by saying that personal criticism he received about the bill was a sign the government should step in to govern what university professors can say in the classroom.

And Horowitz was there to spice things up, of course. (His frequent flyer miles must be really racking up these days.)

As editor of Front Page Magazine, Horowitz wrote in a 2001 article that the theory of evolution was a political invention “to attack traditional values.”

That Darwin. Didn’t he have anything better to do than invent some pesky theory to attack traditional values? What was his problem, anyway? Was he just, like, pissed because he wasn’t born in Florida, or what?

Casting the “crisis” in higher education as a struggle between “leftist totalitarianism” and “mainstream values,” Horowitz cited anecdotes about students being marked down for disagreeing with professors in class. He divulged neither the names of these students nor their professors.

Hmmmm. For instance…like in biology class, when the professor is lecturing about DNA and a student keeps interrupting to say ‘No it’s not DNA, it’s God, what does it’? Or in English class, when the professor is leading a discussion of, say, ‘The Prelude,’ and a student keeps interrupting to say that Wordsworth wasn’t actually Wordsworth but rather Anastasia Romanov in disguise? Or in history class when the professor is lecturing on the Third Reich and a student keeps interrupting to say the Holocaust never happened? Or in astronomy class when a student keeps interrupting to say that the moon is a large paper disc five thousand feet above the earth?

I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that kind of what students go to university for? To be disagreed with? If it’s not, why do they bother going at all? Well, to get a credential, I suppose. But if the credential is really that completely divorced from this business of having existing opinions and knowledge or the lack of it disagreed with, then why bother with physical attendance? Why waste all that time and energy? Why not just go to the damn credential store and buy the credential and let it go at that?

It must happen with books, too. That’s sad, isn’t it. There the poor innocent student is, reading along, and all of a sudden she reads something that is different from what she herself thinks. Fortunately, books can’t mark people down, so the harm is smaller – but all the same. Something ought to be done about it. Stickers on the covers, maybe, that give a warning – ‘Danger: Contents may contain statements that differ from reader’s own sacred identity-fostering opinions. Read with caution. Have medications handy. Play soothing music. Breathe deeply and slowly. Stop after fifteen minutes.’

Come to think of it, there are stickers like that. So much for sarcasm. Reality keeps outrunning sarcasm, these days.

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