by AndrewMc | 2/12/2009 07:41:00 AM
Apparently these difficult economic times mean that we should cut back a bit on some of the luxuries we've come to take for granted: the new iPod, an iPhone, a wide-screen television, that extra night out on the town, free speech, academic freedom.

File this under the "no shame" category.

Two Cherokee County state representatives say they won’t back off their push to end state funding for university professors whose courses they consider inappropriate or wasteful, even after two of the professors whose work they criticized defended the work in a House Higher Education Committee meeting.


Hill joined Rep. Charlice Byrd, R-Woodstock, last week in criticizing state public universities for offering classes on topics such as male prostitution and oral sex after seeing a Georgia State University list of faculty research experts.

Leave aside for the moment that nobody teaches the classes that Hill claims they do. Those are areas of expertise. One person works on the spread of AIDS/HIV among male prostitutes, the other conducts research on the way that cultural factors influence kids to have more or less oral sex.

Don't let facts get in the way.

Dear God!!! Somebody Think of the Children!!!!!!

“Do you know that your tax dollars are being used at our state universities to pay professors to teach your children classes like ‘Male Prostitution’ and ‘Queer Theory’? Yes, even in tight economic times like we are facing today, our Board of Regents is wasting your tax dollars to teach these totally unnecessary and ridiculous classes.”

I understand that this sort of thing is reflexive for some people. And I'm sure that some time in the not-too-distant-future we'll see Calvin Hill embroiled in some kind of kinky sex scandal. That's sort of how these things go.

But, good grief.

As someone who teaches at least one course that could be considered "inappropriate and wasteful" ["History of Beer"] by the Calvin Hills of the world, I understand the pressure. The trouble is that these kinds of courses have a tendency to highlight how difficult it is to defend our work to the outside world.

Case in point. My Colonial America class features a great number of readings that are, to say the least, disturbing to some. Among other things we read Block's Rape and Sexual Power, Fischer's Suspect Relations, and articles ranging from Foster, “Deficient Husbands: Manhood, Sexual Incapacity, and Male Marital Sexuality in Seventeenth-Century New England” to Murrin's ", “‘Things Fearful to Name’: Bestiality in Early America,” to Godbeer, “‘The Cry of Sodom’: Discourse, Intercourse, and Desire in Colonial New England.” We read about cross-dressing colonials and homosexual Puritans.

Some students drop the course when the see the reading list. Others grumble their way through. But the vast majority get to the end of the course and see the value of what we read, and why it is important to look at colonial America from a multitude of angles. Many come away saying "I never thought colonial America was so interesting. We never learned that stuff in high school."

Outside the academy, though, it's a bit tougher to explain. The Calvin Hills of the world pine for the days when a Colonial America syllabus would move from Elizabeth to James, to Charles, Charles, to the next James, and then to the colonial leaders, to Jefferson and Washington, etc. Historians, and most students, understand that that one-dimension view makes as much sense in a history classroom as it does in the real world. The Calvin Hills don't understand that history reflects the world around us.

Except that, for people like Calvin Hill, their world still pretty much looks like their own white-washed view of history. Their view of people of color, of LGBT, or women, of anyone not looking pretty much like them is exactly like their view of those people in history--"inappropriate or wasteful."

Those people won't change, I suspect. But as Calvin Hill and his ilk know and fear, it is those very professors who he rails against who are helping shape the views of the next generation.

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Blogger Ahistoricality on 2/12/2009 10:25 AM:

A few years ago I borrowed some syllabus language from a philosophy colleague: a disclaimer that says, roughly paraphrased, "History is about real life. It's difficult and uncomfortable, especially if you have a narrow point of view. Deal."


Blogger AndrewMc on 2/12/2009 10:47 AM:

Nice. On the first day of class I say "You are going to read and hear many things this semester that make you uncomfortable. If you don't get bothered by some of it, then I'm not doing my job. I don't care if you keep the exact same worldview as when you came into this class, but if hearing things that challenge your worldview is going to be a problem, drop this class and find another."

That little caveat has cut *way* down on the negative Student Evaluations.


Anonymous Anonymous on 2/12/2009 6:11 PM:

AndrewMc most likely speaks for the vast majority of people who frequent this blog.

HOWEVER, that same majority apparently SUPPORTS censoring any, and I do many ANY, comments which
question the truthfulness of the national government's version of the events which occurred on September
11th, 2001.

Hypocrisy, thy name HERE is "progressive".


Blogger AndrewMc on 2/12/2009 7:24 PM:

I support free and open debate on whatever subject is at hand.

Lunatic conspiracy theories intended to hijack a thread or an entire site, however, have no place here.

Like many net-loons, you seem to conflate "censorship" with "cleaning out the trolls." The two are not the same.

If you wish to discuss the issues we present here, fine. If you wish to present new issues under the "Open Thread," feel free.

But if they stray into the conspiracy-theory fringe of the rubber-room type, expect that your comments will be scrubbed.

If you don't like that policy, feel free to find another blog where people are more receptive to your ideas. There are many out there, and I'd be happy to help you find some if you are unable to do so on your own.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 2/13/2009 8:27 AM:

I don't explicitly set out to disturb my students, except in the sense that a lot of what they think they know about Asia is wrong. The implications of learning to read critically and to seek out more complete information before jumping to conclusions are pretty disturbing in their own right. The comparative stuff, and the imperialism stuff can be tough to take as well, if they haven't had too much good US/European material yet. Basically, I let the history take us where it needs to go, and devil take the hindmost!

[My biggest problem with the 9/11 conspiracy theories is that none of them adequately explain why the event was necessary. To derail Social Security reform? Make us more supportive of our only real MidEast ally? What a waste. No, I'm not trying to start the discussion: I'm fully supportive of the loony exception to our open comment policy.]


Blogger AndrewMc on 2/13/2009 6:16 PM:

"I don't explicitly set out to disturb my students, except in the sense that a lot of what they think they know about Asia is wrong."

Everyperson and island. I don't set out to disturb them. It seems to be a side effect of my existence.