The Politics of Political Science
30 September 2004

Re:
FrontPage magazine.com :: The Loneliness of a College Republican by Lynn Waldsmith. Originally published in the Ann Arbor Observer.

from the article:

So he said, Ah, Ive got a conservative friend up there, and then he wanted me to come down to the front of the class. And I refused to. So he asked me if I was afraid. And I was, like, No. And he was, like Well, then why are you so scared to come down here? And he just kept going and got the whole class to start booing me and stuff.

The professor later apologized but only after La Croix had complained to the deans office. La Croix says he and the professor have since worked out their differences and now enjoy friendly out-of-class discussions and debate.

Now, if La Croix had just been intimidated and let it go at that (or dropped the class), nothing good would have followed. But he stood up for himself and complained in a positive way and achieved an overall positive result. That's a good lesson.
Last year Saukas identified himself as a CR to a professor and asked whether he could make an announcement about the national kickoff for Students for Bush.

The professor gave his okay. Saukas made his announcement and was booed and hissed by the class.

You put your ideas out in the political marketplace. Thats the way it is, says professor Daniel Levine, outgoing chair of the U-M political science department. Levine has little sympathy for conservative students who incur the wrath of their classmates. If I would've announced my self as [being with] students for apartheid in South Africa, I would've gotten a negative reaction too, he says. As people put their ideas out there, then theyll have to deal with it. I can't control what student say to him.

Levine is using an extreme example, but he has a point. Some day I'd like to hear of doofuses from BAMN getting booed at.
In my philosophy class we discussed the State of the Union [speech] right after we had heard it on TV the night before, says CR Katie Philippart. And [the professor] presented it as an argument. An anything Bush had said was wrong, argument-wise, and this was why. He was using a political example to tell conservatives why they were wrong.
I can see how discussion of a Bush speech could be appropriate in a class about logic. Bush tends to mangle it. "Do I take the word of a madman or do I defend America?" he asks. I'd spend a bit of class time on that if I were teaching logic. If I were a Republican student in such a class, I would either try to defend Bush's logic (if it could be defended), or I would ask that some time be spent picking apart a speech by Kerry.

*

Political Science is simply not a subject that can be taught in a spirit of total neutrality. It is, however, a topic where a faction comprising a vast majority of the teachers might tend to intimidate or belittle the views of students belonging to a minority faction. There are always factions overlapping other factions and factions within factions, etc., so, yes, I'm speaking approximately here.

There have been a number of instances of professorial misconduct mentioned in FrontPage magazine.com. Many are resolved "peacefully," with an appology or whatever, and everyone learns. The teacher is more sensitive and the student has learned to stand up for himself or herself. Sometimes the professor will go to the barricades, figuratively speaking, and great controversy ensues.

Deeper issues have little to do with classroom behavior. What is actually getting taught? Are there serious omissions of relevant texts in particular courses? Are there underlying presumptions that need to be questioned? Are whole topics omitted from the department's list of courses? If the department were run by conservatives, how would it be different? Would that be better?

Departments of political science are part of a nation's political culture. As such, we need to think critically about their character, their tendencies and any agendas they might have. Thus, reports from the classroom by conservative students who are studying political science in overwhelmingly "liberal" settings are valuable. I would be especially interested in reading student articles about the deeper questions.

 
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