Jeff’s post the other day about the questionable workshop at Brown University came to mind recently when I saw a very far-left Facebook friend link to this article by a professor named Warren Blumenfeld who had just retired from a position as a professor of education at Iowa State University. The article contains the professor’s reflections and gives voice to both his lamentations and his indignity about those students who took his class who were not won over to his worldview and who had the temerity to announce that fact in their final papers.
The course was entitled “Multicultural Foundations in Schools and Society,” and Blumenfeld describes it in the following terms:
I base the course on a number of key concepts and assumptions, including how issues of power, privilege, and domination within the United States center on inequitable social divisions regarding race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, sex, gender identity, sexual identity, religion, nationality, linguistic background, physical and mental ability/disability, and age. I address how issues around social identities impact generally on life outcomes, and specifically on educational outcomes. Virtually all students registered for this course, which is mandatory for students registered in the Teacher Education program, are pre-service teachers.
In other words, this is a required course in “multicultural studies” indoctrination. If the course were voluntary, it would be a slightly different situation, but as a required course, it amounts to an example of the sort of thing that conservatives can easily point to as illustrating the left-wing biases of academia.
Professor Blumenfeld is particularly alarmed by the case of two female students who tell him quite boldly that the course has not changed their socially conservative Christian worldview:
On a final course paper, one student wrote that, while she enjoyed the course, and she felt that both myself and my graduate assistant — who had come out to the class earlier as lesbian — were very knowledgeable and good professors with great senses of humor, nonetheless, she felt obliged to inform us that we are still going to Hell for being so-called “practicing homosexuals.” Another student two years later wrote on her course paper that homosexuality and transgenderism are sins in the same category as stealing and murder. This student not only reiterated that I will travel to Hell if I continued to act on my same-sex desires, but she went further in amplifying the first student’s proclamations by self-righteously insisting that I will not receive an invitation to enter Heaven if I do not accept Jesus as my personal savior since I am a Jew, regardless of my sexual behavior. Anyone who doubts this, she concluded, “Only death will tell!”
Now while we might question the wisdom of both students in advertising the heresy represented by their beliefs so boldly in a graded assignment, I think we might also be heartened by their courage in being true to their faith, even if we do not agree with all of the particulars of their worldview.
The professor, however, is shocked and appalled, and the rest of the essay is his attempt to reconcile–through reference to one leftist theory and tract after another–what he calls “our campus environment, one that emboldens some students to notify their professor and graduate assistant that their final destination will be the depths of Hell.” Notice his word choice, there. The problem is with the “campus environment” which “emboldens some students.” It seems like a foreign idea to this professor to think that a university could be a place for the free and open exchange of ideas, especially those ideas that are unpopular. I trust we will not find him quoting Voltaire or Jefferson anytime soon.
No, instead what we get is a description of and a reflection on a course that sounds like it could have been lifted straight from the pages of Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, albeit with a more contemporary reading list. While the professor uses the language of “reason,” “analysis,” and “evidence” to find fault with what the students wrote (and while I’m sure there is much to find fault with in their writings), it also seems evident from the way the course is described that the only type of analysis or reasoning that will be deemed acceptable is the sort that derives from leftist premises. The idea of faith is an affront largely because, by its very nature, faith calls for accepting the irrational.
What’s even more interesting to me–and alarming to Blumenfeld–is that he describes the way in which alternative groups have arisen “to promote their version of their faith and to help insulate students from the so-called ‘secular humanist indoctrination’ of public secular universities.” To him this is the worst sort of apostasy which is wreaking the worst sort of havoc on our campuses, but to some of us, it is an encouraging sign that more people are starting to resist the left’s hegemony in academia.
Near the end of the essay, Blumenfeld returns to the stated aims of the course within the college of education:
While I genuinely respect individuals’ religious understandings, during my service at Iowa State University I have been saddened and deeply concerned that some of my students have used their religious teachings as defensive shields against inquiry, creating an aura of anti-intellectualism “protecting” them from information that may contradict or challenge their beliefs. While I find this particularly troubling when I perceive it in any person, in a pre-service and then in-service teacher whose job it is to impart a life-long love of learning, the consequences can be disastrous.
This is a complaint that anyone who has been a teacher can identify with, but it seems more than a little disingenuous after the course that has been described in the essay.
Unfortunately, courses such as the one described are hardly out of the ordinary. Consider the example of this story that has been circulating among various conservative websites and radio shows in the past two days:
Ryan Rotela, a junior at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, claims he was suspended over a class incident in which he refused to stomp on the word ‘Jesus.’
According to Rotela, Dr. Deandre Poole, professor of the Intercultural Communications course, asked students to write ‘Jesus’ in bold letters on a sheet of paper, place it on the floor, stand up, and stomp on it.
Rotela, a deeply religious Mormon who attends church weekly, was offended and refused to participate.
Once again we have a course with “multicultural” premises which specifically takes aim at student beliefs.
The campus left can almost always be counted on to overplay its hand, and multicultural indoctrination is alive and well on American campuses. And yet, despite the left’s best efforts to control the conversation, dissent seems to be finding a way to survive. Even when I do not agree with the dissenters, I am encouraged to see that they still feel free enough to express their views on campus.
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