Good Stanley Fish piece today
And those aren't words you'll often see me write. But he has a good one today in his Think Again column, where he pretty handily takes apart a "documentary" by Evan Maloney named "Indoctrinate U." Cute title.
Maloney is only the latest in a long line of university bashers who seem to be looking for proof that Humanities professors are out to turn the youth of America into the Youth of Amerikka; I don't know where they get it from--I'll think about while I'm teaching my America-Hating senior seminar.
Maloney pulls the usual tricks--why isn't there a men's resource center when there's a women's resource center? I don't know--maybe because every resource center is a men's resource center? And according to Fish, Maloney's "documentary" (and yes, I will be using the scare quotes throughout this post) is full of this sort of dishonesty. Not surprising for a person following in the intellectual footsteps of Lynne Cheney, Dinesh D'Souza and David Horowitz, among others.
My only real complaint with Fish's piece is that he lets Maloney get away with the same thing other critics do--focusing on the Humanities alone. Are Humanities professors more likely, as a group, to be politically liberal? Probably, almost certainly. But the Humanities are hardly the only college on a university's campus. What are the politics of the College of Business? Perhaps a little right-of-center? What about the Physical Sciences? Who knows?--they never get included in this sort of discussion. Nursing? Law? Medical School? Beats the hell out of me. All I know is that when the likes of Maloney start griping about hippie liberal professors trying to turn the kids into a combination of Che Guevera and Josef Stalin, it's always the Humanities people who are doing it.
I'll have to remember to add that to my syllabus for my class on starting the next revolution, just after the section on growing marijuana hydroponically.
I don't mind, really. I can take the hit. If my students thought I was being unfair, they'd hammer me on my evaluations, anonymously, and when that happens (rarely), it's generally for a personality dispute, not because I've shown any sort of bias in the classroom. And I deal with some pretty political stuff--the theme for my drama classes this term is "Social Commentary in Performance," and the reading list includes anti-war plays and pieces that confront racism, sexism and religious hypocrisy. On the poetry side, the last six weeks will deal with political poetry, both about war and other issues, including race, gender, and sexual orientation. That's the world we live in. Showing how literature reflects that world is not indoctrination, much as Maloney and the rest would like to claim otherwise.
Anyway, read the piece. Fish treats Maloney's complaints with fairness, and acknowledges that there are some rare situations where professors and departments do more proselytizing than is wise, but points out that those are the rare exceptions, not the rule.
One last side note--does anyone else who follows this sort of stuff find it as amusing as I do that when students claim professors are giving them bad grades because of ideological differences, that the students' work is always embarrassingly bad? Just wondering.