Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Invite a Conservative to Class Week

[Crossposted on Free Exchange on Campus]

In a couple of weeks (starting October 22, I believe), the David Horowitz Freedom Center is sponsoring something called “Islamo Fascism Awareness Week,” something my Moslem students (and I have a number) look at in confusion and with a certain amount of horror. The promoters of the “Week” claim they aren’t concerned with all Moslems, but that doesn’t make my students sleep any better at night.

Keeping in the spirit of that “Week,” with its events on quite a number of college campuses, I would like to propose another “Week,” “Invite a Conservative to Class Week.” It could even go on at the same time. After all, David Horowitz, Melanie Morgan, Rick Santorum, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Michael Medved will all be on campus someplace. Unfortunately, I suspect there isn’t time to coordinate that (if you are a professor, however, and any of them is coming to your campus, perhaps you could extend an invite). So we would probably have to schedule it for later.

It’s really starting to get to me, that so many of these people who talk about education—and who will venture onto campus only if they are the ones talking—speak so knowingly about education without having darkened a classroom door themselves in years. And, even then, most of them entered simply as students. Few of them have ever tried to run a course, let alone an individual class meeting; few of them have even watched a classroom in action, outside of a student’s chair.

I have had a standing invitation to David Horowitz for years. He demurs (though that may be changing—if so, good for him!), though I have assured him that he would be introduced politely as a guest and that he could join into any class discussion if he wished. I wouldn’t want him to lecture or take over the class—that would defeat the purpose—but I would love for him to interact with students. That, I think, would be eye-opening for him. And my students might learn something, too.

In general, most members of the rightwing punditocracy speak of education with all the familiarity of someone pontificating about baseball without ever having seen a game, only having read newspaper reports. There are lots of statistics there, and descriptions, but they are not the real thing. Neither are syllabi. Nor course descriptions.

To use these alone to pass judgment, to do so without ever experiencing the classroom, is intellectually dishonest. We professors need to help our conservative brethren outside of the universities avoid that.

They may argue that they don’t need to learn about what goes on in class, that they already know enough. We teachers have heard this before, too, and sigh. How can one know that one knows enough if one hasn’t experienced the very thing itself? I mean, it’s not as though visiting a class is like tasting poison! It can’t hurt the pundits but, at the same time, they can’t know that it won’t help them.

By inviting conservatives to our classrooms, we can show how proud we are of what we do. We can stop being quite so defensive. We can point to our own work and say, “See? We educate!”

2 comments:

david horowitz said...

I will be happy to accept Aaron Barlow's invitation despite its loaded assumption. Perhaps he can get some of the professors who attack me regularly in their classes to offer me an opportunity to present my side of the story.

AaronBarlow said...

I would love that. As you know, I would even like to see you teach a course or two, David Horowitz. You do have much to offer, even though I disagree with you pretty much straight down the line. A course in autobiography taught by you, for example, would be an awesome experience for the students.

What I would like best would be for you to present your side of the story to students in a classroom where a real discussion could be held, and not in a lecture hall, where it is hard to do more than yell, one against the other.

There, in a real classroom situation, you could see how we conduct ourselves for education and not for indoctrination.

Or, perhaps, you would get the evidence to demonstrate that you are right and I am wrong.

I'm willing to chance that, though. I hope my colleagues in academia are, as well!