Again with this indoctrination crap

February 24, 2017

By now, if you’re an academic or socially-networked with any, you know our Secretary of Education Deform, Betsy DeVos, unloaded the sad old song about college faculty “tell[ing] students what to think” in her speech at CPAC.

Friend and comrade (see what I did there?) Steve Krause posted a fine response to this nonsense on his blog, which says among other smart things:

This is not to say that everything is fair game, that I’m all about students (or anyone else) saying and thinking whatever they want. Climate change is a real thing. Black lives really do matter, and there are good reasons to support that movement. We should base the arguments and claims we make in academic essays (and really, in the world in general) on research and reason and not “gut feelings.” CNN, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and other news outlets that report things you don’t agree with are not “Fake News.” None of these statements should be controversial, though I suppose each is now in dispute with a group like CPAC and in the era of President Donald Trump, who has only been president for a little over a month but it already feels perfectly reasonable to describe these times and his presidency as “an era.”

That’s the idea I want to pick up on (again) to make two further points.

First, my version of Steve’s passage:

There is such a thing as reality. The right wing’s willingness to deny it for their own political and economic gain doesn’t make it less real. And those of us who don’t want to watch them steal and pillage by lying to everyone all the time must take every single opportunity we have to fight back.

I can do that more or less combatively, and I can do it for lots of different purposes as a teacher, a scholar, an activist, a voter, or what have you. How I talk about it here and in social media is different from the hallway of my building, and different again from a gen-ed writing course, and  again from my Propaganda course, and so on. Because I understand purpose and audience and ethics. Duh.

Second, as I commented on Steve’s Facebook page where he linked to his blog post:

Here’s a distinction the wing nuts will never acknowledge. Telling students what I think is not the same as telling them what to think. I trust students enough to be confident that they can hear a point of view and not automatically adopt it.

Maybe Betsy DeVos thinks so little of college students that she can’t imagine them not automatically believing anything they hear. Maybe she’s so used to people automatically kowtowing to whatever she says that it doesn’t occur to her other people don’t expect (or even want) the same. Maybe she’s just singing this song (on endless repeat) because that’s what people like her have been saying for decades, and she absorbed it exactly the way she fears students will absorb anything they hear.

Anyone who has ever taught at any level knows how bizarre it is to think that students will simply absorb whatever we tell them–even if we wanted them to, which almost nobody ever does. Of course, since Secretary DeVos has no experience teaching, she wouldn’t know.

Should she ever decide that she actually wants to see what professors do, I’m happy for her to visit any time. Come to any of my classes and see what happens there. If she were actually willing and able to learn, it might be a useful experience.

 


Open Letter to Senator Patrick Toomey about your vote to confirm Betsy DeVos

February 3, 2017

Senator Toomey:

Just a few minutes ago, I was finally able to stomach reading your statement explaining your Yes vote for Betsy DeVos’ nomination to serve as Secretary of Education.

I’ll set aside my substantive disagreements with your claims about her. I think you’re wrong about every one of them. And you know that, since you sent me a letter almost two months ago making essentially identical claims, to which I responded substantively.

What’s more important at this point, as far as I’m concerned, is to call attention to what many Pennsylvania citizens must recognize as a simple truth–your constituency voiced strong and sustained opposition to this nomination, which you simply refuse to listen to, or even to acknowledge. Social media documents thousands and thousands of phone calls, letters, tweets, office visits, faxes, and more to make clear that we wanted you to vote against Betsy DeVos. Of course, neither does your statement acknowledge the more than $60,000 in campaign contributions you’ve received from the DeVos family, or the fact that you were away from town last weekend in Florida collecting massive amounts of money at a Koch Brothers’ organized event.

It’s clear who you believe butters your bread, Senator Toomey, but it’s time for you to start wrapping your head around this: we will not forget this. We will not forget that you hung us out to dry in favor of serving your paymasters, that you made a profoundly reckless decision about one of the most important positions in this country, and that you pretend not even to know how wildly unpopular that decision is.

Or put another way, if you’re waiting for the Memory Hole to swallow this moment, you’d better think again about that. We won’t forget.

Seth Kahn, West Chester PA