Higher Education in Arizona:

An Arizona State Senate committee recommended on Wednesday that the Senate pass the following bill (paragraph break added):

Each university under the jurisdiction of the Arizona board of regents and each community college under the jurisdiction of a community college district shall adopt procedures by which students who object to any course, coursework, learning material or activity on the basis that it is personally offensive shall be provided without financial or academic penalty an alternative course, alternative coursework, alternative learning materials or alternative activity.

Objection to a course, coursework, learning material or activity on the basis that it is personally offensive includes objections that the course, coursework, learning material or activity conflicts with the student's beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.

That's right: If you're a student at an Arizona public college or university, you would be able to get out of any requirement by simplying showing that you find it morally offensive. Do you find it offensive to write a brief defending abortion rights in your first-year legal writing class? The professor would have to create a completely different assignment, and then undertake to fairly grade your answer to that assignment in comparison to everyone else's answer to the other assignment. Do you find it offensive to answer any questions about evolution (not just to proclaim a personal belief in evolution, but to discuss evolution altogether)? The school would have to give you a biology degree even without ever testing your knowledge of this important subject.

Do you find it offensive to read a book that uses the name of God in vain, or that depicts immodest pictures? The school would have to provide you with an expurgated version of the book. Do you find that a required class is offensive to you because it conveys an improper view of morality, and thus conflicts with your "beliefs . . . in morality"? You get the requirement waived.

Remember that the bill doesn't require reasonable accommodation, or limit itself to specific objections (e.g., objections to performing vivisection or abortions). Whenever a student sincerely asserts that an activity conflicts with his "beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion" (what's a "belief or practice in sex," by the way), he's given a categorical entitlement to be provided with an alternative -- presumably an alternative that doesn't leave him at any disadvantage in the grading or diploma-granting process. Not a sound way to run a system of higher education, it seems to me.

Many thanks to commenter Kipli for letting me know about this bill.

Anderson (mail) (www):
I'm always relieved to find other states making Mississippi look enlightened by comparison.
2.17.2006 6:05pm
The inmates take over the asylum.
2.17.2006 6:07pm
The inmates take over the asylum.
2.17.2006 6:07pm
Kieran (mail) (www):
Another blue-state liberal PC speech-code lefty outrage.

Also, wait till you find out which outrageously offensive bit of writing prompted the bill.
2.17.2006 6:17pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
Hey, Kieran--I hope that was sarcasm! Every single "blue-state, lefty, PC, liberal" who sponsored this attrocity is a Republican. Just like the morons who tried to establish a moral requirement for in-vitro "licensing" in Indiana--every one a Republican. Just like the morons on the Kansas Board of Education. At least the ones in Ohio reversed themselves, although not because they suddenly saw the light.

You think the inmates are taking over the asylum? They've been in charge for a decade. In some places--like Arizon--even longer.

Is it any wonder that the Repube whiners complain about university professors leaning Democratic?
2.17.2006 6:27pm
Gee, I don't know if that was sarcasm. I mean, it was so understated, it's hard to tell.
2.17.2006 6:28pm
Grand CRU (mail):
I suspect this will not help with improving math and science education, as math and science is very difficult morally offensive. Thankfully, however, it might lead to boys opting-out of women's friendly education that teaches little.
2.17.2006 6:29pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
I always thought that it would be great to take a final examine on Intelligent Design. You could answer all the questions. "The Designer made it that way" and get an "A" in the class.
2.17.2006 6:38pm

Thankfully, however, it might lead to boys opting-out of women's friendly education that teaches little.

I think I went to college with different boys than you did :-D
2.17.2006 6:53pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Thankfully, however, it might lead to boys opting-out of women's friendly education that teaches little.

GrandCRU progresses here from the inanity of previous comments (socially detrimental masturbation, remember?) to the downright offensive. Unless his lack of grammatical education is leading me awry in construing him to be sneering at "women-friendly education that teaches little."

There are plenty of misogynist blogs elsewhere on the Internet, surely.
2.17.2006 6:56pm
Noah Klein (mail):
This is a tragedy. The point of college is to challenge your deeply held beliefs and make you understand them better and defend them against other beliefs. I mean are we going to say that there should be no Eastern religion classes, because they do not acknowledge G-d, which some may find morally offensive. Or should we ignore the Holocaust because many find it morally offensive. Life is full of things which will offend people. We have deal violence, rape and intolerant ideas, but ignoring these problems does not eliminate them. It is truly sad that in the one place you are supposed be exposed to offensive ideas people wish to reject it.

2.17.2006 7:30pm
If only my college had this. All along I thought I was struggling in my Fourier Transforms class in college. As it turns out, the material wasn't actually difficult. It was offensive.

The same goes for that computer science class I struggled with.
2.17.2006 7:39pm
Stephen Aslett (mail):
To paraphrase Stephen Colbert:

Math is the devil's language.
2.17.2006 7:44pm
Jared K.:
It's always a safe bet that when Prof. Volokh and Prof. Leiter both disapprove of a policy, it's most definitely bad policy.

Also, a sociology class which described homosexual behavior as acceptable might conflict with someone's "beliefs or practices in sex," although I'm not sure why that would get to be set out as separate from morality or religion. Actually, the opposite claim might qualify, since the offended homosexual would not technically be offended on the basis of religion or morality.
2.17.2006 7:49pm
Noah Klein (mail):

Was that meant to be unacceptable?

2.17.2006 7:53pm
Cornellian (mail):
Sadly, too late for me to get out of that calculus midterm that was so difficult I'm sure I could have truthfully described it as offensive.
2.17.2006 7:56pm
Jared K.:

No, I meant acceptable. Sorry if I was unclear. That paragraph described two things. First, offending a conservative with the claim that homosexuality was acceptable, which I then realized would probably fall under religion or morality. The second sentence was me realizing that and adding the fact that if it were the other way around and the class offended a homosexual by saying his/her behavior was unacceptable, maybe that would be a more accurate example of offending someone on the basis of sex.
2.17.2006 8:34pm
George Gregg (mail):
Hmm. I'm going back for an M.P.A. at Arizona State this fall. This law could make things interesting.

Though, to be honest, I don't expect the law to pass. One of those quirky things that comes out of committee but doesn't survive the debate.

If it did pass, you can bet your bottom dollar there'd be a successful referendum the following year to get it overturned. Our state colleges in Arizona are pretty high quality institutions and there are far too many people with a stake at keeping things that way.
2.17.2006 8:41pm
Noah Klein (mail):

Thank you. I must of misread that or something.

2.17.2006 9:08pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
I wish this was in effect 3 years ago. I was at Arizona State University, acceptance to law school in hand, and had to pas French 202 and Finite Mathematics to graduate. I found that morally repugnant!!
2.18.2006 1:08am
badgersdaughter (mail):
"The point of college is to challenge your deeply held beliefs and make you understand them better and defend them against other beliefs."

Would the Ancient Greeks in the audience please stand up! Give 'em a hand, everyone. Thank you very much; you can sit down now--your contribution is truly appreciated.

But the true purpose of an undergraduate degree in most colleges these days is to prove you could have got by in high school 75 years ago, where it isn't a celebration of immature indulgence and a place to cultivate a fine immature cynicism. I find the whole thing offensive; would someone mail me a sheepskin?
2.18.2006 1:26am
Mr Diablo:
Just wait until some stupid state passes a mandatory equal time bill where every professor is forced to have someone refute his comments right there, to make sure that Johnny and Susie know that the lecture is only an opinion.

This continued assault on academia in the name of protection, bias, or whatever needs to stop. Legislators are taking anecdotes from jackasses like Bill O'Reilly and turning it into law.
2.18.2006 10:48am
Freder Frederson (mail):
But the true purpose of an undergraduate degree in most colleges these days is to prove you could have got by in high school 75 years ago, where it isn't a celebration of immature indulgence and a place to cultivate a fine immature cynicism.

This of course just perpatrates a myth of an educational system that just simply didn't exist in this country 75 years ago. First of all, most people in this country didn't even finish high school 75 years ago as they left school to work on the farm, in the factory, in their family's business, or in the mines.

Secondly, while the emphasis on language arts, literature, and education in the classics certainly received much more emphasis for that very small minority of the population that was bound for college 75 years ago than it does now, this country's scientific and technological elite was still very much self-taught (e.g., the Wrights and Edison) or recent immigrants educated in Europe. Our technical and science education at the primary level was simply abysmal. The great University trained American scientists that would produce the greatest achievements in science and technology in the last two-thirds of the twentieth century were just beginning their educations and mainly were going to get trained by refugees from the chaos of 1930's Europe and be nurtured by the massive influx of government dollars provided by the spending programs of FDR, World War II and the Cold War.

Our lead position in science and technology has slipped precisely because over the last 25 years the federal government has de-emphasized science and technology education and funding and has now even reached the point where it is even ridiculing and denigrating valid scientific theories (e.g., global warming and evolution). Is it any surprise that our high school students do not value education when the government doesn't either?
2.18.2006 10:54am
Smithy (mail) (www):
This is only fair. Should students have to take courses where they are told abortion-on-demand is moral? That the earth was not created by a higher power? That unsound science like evolutionary theory and the theory of global warming is factual? That secualr humanism is superior to Christianity? Of course they shouldn't -- but right now they do. This law was too slow in coming if you ask me.
2.18.2006 1:29pm
George Gregg (mail):
"Rarely is the question asked, 'Is our children learning?'"

-- G.W. Bush

"I'm learnding!"

-- Ralph Wiggum
2.18.2006 1:35pm
George Gregg (mail):

Nice shotgun on your web site. I like the Mossbergs.

Your cafepress merchandise, notsomuch. The shirt that says "If Democrat is the answer, it must be a stupid question"? Prretty immature, really.

RE, this law, I think you're reaching quite a bit. But let me ask, do you feel that someone who found germ theory objectionable should be able to get a degree in biology? There are an awful lot of folks who don't think germs cause disease.

If you want a university experience that doesn't actually require you to grapple with and at least understand concepts you might find objectionable, there are plenty of private universities that will give you the "ideological cocoon" experience you're looking for. Bob Jones University, Falwell's Liberty University and Oal Roberts University to name but a few.
2.18.2006 1:50pm
William Spieler (mail) (www):
As a libertarian, I hope this passes, so I can get a PhD without doing any coursework, as the existence of state-run educational facilities offends me.
2.18.2006 1:51pm
George Gregg (mail):
Actually, smithy, after having scanned through your web site a little more, I'm not sure we can even communicate using the same language.

From your entry on homosexuality:

"If you let the crazies and the deviants vote, democracy is skewed with crazy, deviant results. That's why I think the Fouding (sic) Fathers had the right idea when they restricted democracy to the propertied landowners."

I guess, when it comes to ideological cocoons, some people really, really need them...
2.18.2006 1:56pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
That unsound science like evolutionary theory and the theory of global warming is factual?

That "educated" people in this country have such a poor understanding of science that they think that evolutionary theory and global warming is unsound just demonstrates how politicized and anti-science our education system has become.
2.18.2006 2:04pm
Per Son:
Imagine if a student got into West Point and decided war is offensive, and that there was a law requiring "equal time" or a purging of the subjectively offensive.

West Point would need to teach peace studies. In fact under the crap that Horowitz preaches, West Point and other military acadamies should be teaching at least "equal time" that militarism is evil and immoral.
2.18.2006 2:48pm
George Gregg (mail):
Per Son, an interesting extrapolation.

I'm still boggling at the idea of someone getting perhaps even a medical degree without ever having to take a class that offends them with information about germ theory.

Maybe we could graduate lawyers who never had to deal with Property Law because they were radical communists and found the idea of personal property objectionable.

Maybe folks could get their Master's in Taxation without ever having to study anything IRS-related because they thought that income tax was immoral.

This kind of nonsense attempts to completely redefine what it means to be educated.
2.18.2006 4:15pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Amusing how many people pick whacky improbable accusations like "Fourier Transforms offend me" and seem to regard it as a real argument against the proposed law.

It seems to me that the most realistic criticism of this law is that it might be aimed at evolution in the university... but I would assume that the university would be able to make a ruling that giving out biology degrees to someone who hasn't studied evolution is an unreasonable objection.

One place this law would be deperately needed is in universities that require Politically-correct "diversity course" credits to get a degree.
2.18.2006 8:30pm
Bottomfish (mail):
Everyone is having fun with this silly piece of legislation. But isn't it really part of a trend that has been going on since the late 60's? Piling sensitivity on more sensitivity until the edifice totters under its own weight.

In the late 60's the first "black studies" and "women's studies" programs got going. The implication was that unless the university had a black studies program it was in some way excluding blacks. Never mind that thousands of books and papers on blacks had been published without any need for such programs. Blacks' demands for inclusion in the university implied that they should be granted official recognition with a department of their own. Likewise with women. It was easy to see that previous scholarship was hopelessly infected with racism or sexism, because peoples' attitudes had changed. In the bad old days, no one though for a minute that Langston Hughes could be as important a writer as Henry James, but once we realized our biases, Jesse B. Simple took on new stature. Catherine MacKinnon could write Toward a Feminist Theory of the State and pretty much ignore everything the white males had done on this area for the last 2500 years. Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans jumped on the bandwagon and of course their claims could not be denied either. There were doubters, but they could always be dismissed as racists or sexists of some kind. The way to deal with them was to catch them saying something incriminating, force them to apologize, and schedule some sensitivity training. So the domain of sensitive, undervalued, wounded people (who had penetrating insights into what was wrong with the rest of us) kept growing and growing. By the early 90's people were talking about "white male rage."

The Arizona would-be law is the logical result. No matter who you are, if something taught in the university offends you for any reason whatever, you have the right to demand your own truth. This is in direct contradiction to one of the underlying values of academic professionals (i.e., professors): that knowledge is an edifice built by the collaborative efforts of many, and therefore deserves respect in the way any large-scale collective effort deserves respect. I say the professors are themselves mostly responsible.
2.19.2006 7:33am
Noah Klein (mail):

While I acknowledge that our society has become overly sensitive to perceived racism, sexism or any other type of discrimination, I think that you make a false analogy when you compare African-American studies or women's studies to this law. Our society is overly conscious of preceived discrimination. This is obvious in the conflicts that people have over a variety of subjects. Mostly when you break these disagreements down to their basic components you discover that their was no ill-will intended. I think an excellent example of this is Trent Lott's statement on the occassion of Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday. I am not a fan of Lott's politics and I despised Thurmond, but if a person watched the entire speech they would notice that Lott was not advocating the positions of the Dixiecrats, but trying to make an old man feel good on his birthday. His choice of words were obviously a mistake, but the sentiment involved was not malevolent or racist, but accomodating to an old man who had served his nation for a long time. Thus I agree with your point that we are overly sensitive, but this is not a result of the departments or courses provided by universities, but a natural reaction to the great slights against groups of people.

Our sensitivity is not a result of some academically-manufactured attitude that was created in the 1960's. Women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asians have gotten a raw deal in the past and are still minorities (except for women) in a society where racism still exists. There is no wonder that some people in these communities are overly sensitive. When they perceive racism or sexism, they want to call it out to ensure that they destroy this malignancy in our society. Sometimes people can jump the gun and I feel that this is the reason for some of the conflicts in our society, but those communities most certainly have cause to be sensitive.

That you can blame academic departments and courses offered by universities that attempt to bridge the gap between races and attempt to combat both people's oversensitivity and racism demonstrates that you do not understand the origins of this law. This law comes from a Republican legislator attempting to exempt people from being required to take courses on evolution or other physical and social scientific theories and facts that they might find "morally offensive." This law does not have its roots in the 1960's, but in 1925. This is a further development from the Scopes Monkey trial and some people's fear that exposing people to new and different ideas will harm their faith in the older and time-tested ideas. The motivation behind this law is the exact opposite of the motivation behind the creation of black studies and women's studies departments. While those departments and courses were created with the intent to expand people's understandings, this law was created to constrict people's understandings. The two have no connection. If you had said that this relates to PC codes or other such attempts to restrict free speech, I might I have agreed with you (although as I said above I think this really goes back much farther), but to suggest that an attempt to constrict learning has come from an earlier desire to expand learning should be rejected on its face.

2.19.2006 8:38am
George Gregg (mail):

... but I would assume that the university would be able to make a ruling that giving out biology degrees to someone who hasn't studied evolution is an unreasonable objection.

Perhaps. But if the law passed, where would be the university's legal standing to make such a ruling?

I would also like to think that this hypothetical is so absurd that any Academic Dean would reject it out of hand. But this law if passed, would seem to constrain reasonableness itself.

And as for the "germ theory" hypothetical, it's not all that outlandish. I happen to know alternative health care practitioners who scorn the idea that germs cause disease. One is a chiropractor who believes that "subluxations" are the key. Another is a Reiki practitioner who swears illness is due to imbalances in "Universal Life Force". There's a push to have such alternative practices completely validated by the scientific and medical community, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the naturopathic lobby would see the opportunities made available by such a law as the one under consideration.

But this is just one example, perhaps too dramatic for the sensibilities of some. I'm sure that everyone can imagine realistic scenarios that make my case more palatably. I can only cringe to think that someone would ever walk across a dais to receive a diploma who had never been required to brush up against any concepts they find discomfiting.

As I said before, if such a law were passed, you can bet there would be a special initiative on the ballot in November to get it overturned. If I had to, I'd work to put one there myself.
2.19.2006 8:47am
Noah Klein (mail):

Did your chiropractor and Reiki practitioner obtain biology degrees? If so, did they have to take "germ theory"? I have no problem with people not believing in proven scientific facts or consensur scientific theories. It is not that people would find these courses morally offensive that gives me concern, but that people can object to learning what is required to gain a degree due to this preceived problem of the moral implications of the topics. I don't speak for you, but I see you pretty much saying the same thing. Also, do you know whether the "naturopathic" lobby has requested any studies? I think that might just be an interesting read.

2.19.2006 9:35am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I find it a rather cute way for the Right to use the tactics and rhetoric of the Left to try to achieve its goals. But, of course, with all such attempts by either side that aren't well thought out, it is inevitable that it will fall prey to the law of unintended consequences if enacted (which it won't be, as I have no doubt that Gov. Napolitano will veto it if passed).

What is interesting to me is to see the Religious Right start viewing itself as a victim and start using victimhood terminology. It does feel oppressed (though, I suspect many here would disagee with its perceived victimhood). And, they do ask a (IMHO) legitimate question, why should their tax money be going to support the shoving of liberal orthodoxy down the throats of the students at state universities and colleges?

Yes, it is a silly law, ripe for unintended consequences. But it is a symptom of a rising discontent by many in this country about the perceived left leaning of higher education, very much at odds with the beliefs of all those voters and taxpayers.
2.19.2006 10:30am
George Gregg (mail):
Noah: yes, I think you and I are on the same page as each other there. To my knowledge, neither of the aforementioned two alternative health practitioners (who I happen to think are great guys, by the way), received a degree in Biology or Medicine. Neither of their practices requires it.

Bruce: I think you're spot on in this analysis. I was thinking, too, that the argument being made in support of this law (from the Right) is similar to the "political correctness" arguments and victimhood used to support many similar initiatives from the Left. A tangled briarpatch, to be sure.

The point you raised in your last paragraph is key, I think. There is a major frustration among some of the more Right-wing of my social group that the state is trying to secularize everyone and that the university system (via liberal professors) is a primary means of indoctrinating young people into that secular humanist view. They feel that it is inappropriate for their own tax dollars to be fomenting this kind of social agenda.

I understand and actually agree with these points, in the general sense. I don't think tax money should be used to promote one religious view over another as a simple church/state issue. So, I don't think it's appropriate for a professor to use a state-sponsored, tax-subsidized forum to grind his or her axe when the topic is inherently a moral or religious issue.

Of course, I also approach evolution with the view that, while many folks view it as a moral issue, it's well supported by cold, hard, scientific fact. You can argue morality all you want, but the facts remain and are not adequately explained away by the various attempts to undemine them that I've seen from Discovery Institute members, for example. If anything, the controversy is all the more reason why people who find it objectionable SHOULD be expected to study it, so as to either reaffirm their own position or to educate them in the opposing views. To simply suggest that a scientific theory that has such a preponderance of factual support be just avoided because the implications are offensive to one's religious views is not, in any sense of the word, enlightened.

I'm not sure what the best way to deal with all of this is, but it seems the preferable method would be to deal with specific situations as they arose, via the University appeals process or other means. Surely, the answer is not to simply allow students to just avoid whatever topics they don't want to hear because of their moral or religious sensitivities. That can't be healthy for an educated society, which is surely a concern of state government.

There has to be a better choice than choosing between the two extremes of fully endorsing a state employee using his job as a bully pulpit for his moral/religious views and allowing students to simply decide, based on their own moral/religious views, what constitutes requisite knowledge in a given academic field.

This is the kind of thorny issue that Sandra Day O'Connor was brilliant at adjudicating, by the way. I'll miss her on the bench.
2.19.2006 11:44am
Buck Turgidson (mail):
Get a sense of humor.

On another note, the bill (and some of the loony comments here) seem to sum up the penchant that conservatives have for near-sighted decision making. They never seem to realize that the very ideologically based rules and laws that they demand may one day be turned against them. That's the problem with received morality--one becomes blind to the fact that his view might be offensive to someone else.

Admittedly, it might be hard to find serious counteraction to nitwits challenging science. But now consider the possibility that these nitwits take power at academic institutions. Wouldn't their perpetual moral outrage not be objectionable to others?
2.19.2006 12:02pm
Bottomfish (mail):
So the Arizona law was devised by right-wingers. Well, that's politics: you use whatever you can to succeed. But in response to the statement by Noah that newly devised academic departments like African American Studies or Women's Studies are devoted to expanding human understanding, let me report the results of an informal experiment. I Googled to "Women's Studies" and here is a sample of what I found on the first two pages:
National Women's Studies Association ( "Supporting and promoting feminist education and research. Working to end racism and all forms of oppression." "Explores feminist activism and the way organizations are using feminism in the real world ... Links to activist foundations focused on empowering women and furthering women's rights."

Department of Women's Studies, University of Maryland (thesis title and synopsis) "Negotiating Boundaries of Nationalism, Colonialism, and Globalization: The Korean Women's Movement against Prostitution in U.S. Camptowns." (there are other theses listed that are just as politicized if not more so)

Women's Studies Resources, compiled and edited by Karla Tonella, University of Iowa: "Emily's List, the nation's largest political network, is dedicated to taking back our country from the radical right by electing pro-choice Democratic women..."
Of course, if you say this kind of stuff is expands human understanding, that's your right. But please let's not pretend it has anything to do with expanding knowledge.
2.19.2006 2:21pm
Noah Klein (mail):

How does learning about feminism fail to expand knowledge? You don't have to adopt their beliefs. I haven't, but learning it about gives you a greater knowledge about history and the nature of relationships between men and women. If you disagree with this, then I suggest a book by Betty Friedan.

2.20.2006 12:17am
Bottomfish (mail):
Noah: Reading your last post is a depressing experience, because it negates the whole issue of this discussion. The problem with the proposed law by the Arizona legislature was that it was trying to force the universities to make courses conform to everyone's prejudices. The websites that I cited are trying to make women's studies conform to feminist attitudes. They are not just about feminism, they are feminist advocacy. Women's studies is, well, the study of women. That doesn't imply coming up with feminist conclusions. I wonder how much room there would be in the National Womens' Studies Association for a scholar who did not believe in feminist education and research and whose research led to the conclusion that most women were best suited to political quietism, child-rearing, and assisting their husbands. Clearly you have not read what I posted.

The problem with Womens' Studies is not with legislators or students, but with the scholars themselves. They have lost sight of independent research and critical thinking. People have studied Marxism without becoming Marxists or fascism without becoming fascists. But obviously the Women's Studies people not only fail to achieve objectivity -- they don't want to.
2.20.2006 7:03pm
Noah Klein (mail):

I am sorry if I gave you a bad day. I don't think anyone ever expected anything, but feminism from Women's Studies courses. That is not a tragedy nor a problem. It is a fact. Yet, if scholars in other fields on that campus were prevented from presenting a picture of female political quietness or anything else you listed, that would be a problem. Diversity of opinion does not need to be located in a single department of a university, but in the entire university. You will not find English majors saying that German is a better language for literature and there is no problem in this fact. But if German or German literature was not allowed to be presented in the university at all that would be a problem. I never took a women's studies or African-American studies course. I was not interested in taking one, but I was very glad that those departments were at the university attended and that I had the option to take it.

"The problem with the proposed law by the Arizona legislature was that it was trying to force the universities to make courses conform to everyone's prejudices."

The problem with the proposed law is not that the universities must make course conform to everyone's prejudices (which is an impossibility because of the diversity of opinions at most universities), but is that it allows a person to take a course that would normally challenge their prejudices without that aspect of the course. The tragedy of the law is that it allows people to gain only piece of the knowledge that most people would gain from the courses. A person is not required to take biology or geology or some other course that would necessarily challenge their beliefs (at my school we had to take two science courses, but those were not specified and taking chemistry or physics would be fine). But if they choose to take those courses, they must be required to learn the entirety of the course.

2.20.2006 7:41pm
Randy R. (mail):
Okay, so Women's Studies, Black's Studies, Gay Studies -- They have all produced a lot of trash over the years.

But the fact remains that before universities took these areas of interest seriously, there was a tremendous LACK of knowledge in these areas. Over the past few decades, they have indeed expanded the knowledge by encouraging scholars to identify areas that have been ignored or unknown. In the great market of ideas, the good information wins out. Before Black's Studies, how much serious scholarship was devoted to the daily life of the slave? Their achievements? I well remember taking taking trips to Williamsburg in the 60s and hardly any mention of slaves took place. Today, you find out just how integral the slavery system was to the daily life of colonial America. Regardless of what you may think, the Studie's of this marginal groups has helped force the mainstream into accepting their accomplishments and very existence. Women's history is more than just Marie Curie, Black history is more than just slavery, and gay history is more than just Oscar Wilde.

We are much better for their existence than not.
2.21.2006 11:58am
Bottomfish (mail):
Noah, you didn't give me a hard day. You gave me an easy day. That's why I'm depressed. You don't think it's a problem that Women's Studies are monolithically feminist because "diversity does not need to be located in a single department of the university, but in the whole university." I wasn't talking about diversity. I was talking about objectivity. The question is, what is the scholars' approach to their work? The diversity doesn't mean very much if the scholars aren't going to be objective. Clearly the Womens' Studies departments are trying to implement a political agenda. That may at times produce interesting books but it is not scholarship. Feminists need to have their own beliefs challenged along with other people's beliefs (although you may not believe this), and the departments make no provision for challenging them.
2.21.2006 8:49pm
Noah Klein (mail):

Feminists are challenged in a variety of forums. I'm going to defend the tenets of feminism, but they, like all scholars, must study a subject and demonstrate their findings. Not only that, but they often, like all professors, have their scholarly work checked not just by their department, but by other departments. Feminists beliefs should be challenged as all beliefs should be challenged. I will not deny that professors' have biases, we all have biases. I will not even deny that there are biases within departments, some are political and some are not. Business schools do not have rabid communists or mercantilists, because that would conflict with the principles they're teaching. Biology departments are going to have professors who believe in evolution. Geology departments are going to have professors that believe the world is 4 1/2 billion years old. And Religion professors are going to believe in the power of faith on society. Professors are not huddled in their department secure from having to ever defend their beliefs or to prove their findings. The departments you have objected to have increased the knowledge of our society on the subjects that they study. You don't have to buy their findings. I don't buy everyone. I know that you object to the idea of a department full of one opinion. Whether this is true or not, I don't know (I never had any interactions with those departments and your sample is not very scientific). But that's not the problem. As long as there is a diversity of opinion in the university than ideas can compete and people can learn.

2.21.2006 9:36pm
Bottomfish (mail):
Thank you, Noah. It seems to me we have gotten somewhere. I don't mind if a group of people all come up with the same position on anything, as long as they don't start out with an axe to grind.
2.22.2006 3:31pm