Blogs > Cliopatria > PARTISAN HISTORY: A FRESHMAN'S PERSPECTIVE

May 1, 2006 8:16 pm


PARTISAN HISTORY: A FRESHMAN'S PERSPECTIVE



After 34 years of college teaching, I thought I had heard just about every imaginable student complaint. Last week, however, a freshman in my 300-seat US History Since 1865 course came in to discuss her exam with one of the graders and proceeded to work herself into a semi-hissy over the fact that we had spent four class periods(one of them consisting of a visit from Taylor Branch) discussing the civil rights movement.

"I don't know where he's getting all of this," she complained,"we never discussed any of this in high school." One might have let the matter rest here as simply an example of a high school history teacher's sins of omission being visited on the hapless old history prof. had the student not informed the TA in an indignant postcript, " I'm not a Democrat! I don't think I should have to listen to this stuff!"

Given the current student and,in some places, administrative, pressures to put absolutely everything-- notes, study guides, all potential exam questions and answers, etc.-- on the Web, I can envision the day when the Web pages for our classes might read: " In order to insure that the professor's lectures will not offend your political sensibilities or challenge any of your other beliefs and perceptions in any way, please indicate by clicking the appropriate box below whether you prefer the Republican or Democratic version of this course."

Jim Cobb
University of Georgia

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Ralph E. Luker - 8/9/2008

We heard your defense of the constitutional right of this student not to know anything about the civil rights movement the first time, Brother Murray. Inspired insight, yours.


John Murray - 8/9/2008

This would be an amusing anecdote were it not for the fact that the vast majority of college professors are self-described, self-selecting liberals.

If these people are willing to stack their departments with only their ideological kin, are we to believe their course content is somehow immune to being tainted with their political perspective? Of course not!

Y'all should be ashamed of yourselves instead of mocking a kid who bridles at her indoctrination into "correct thinking".


John Murray - 8/9/2008

This would be an amusing anecdote were it not for the fact that the vast majority of college professors are self-described, self-selecting liberals.

If these people are willing to stack their departments with only their ideological kin, are we to believe their course content is somehow immune to being tainted with their political perspective? Of course not!

Y'all should be ashamed of yourselves instead of mocking a kid who bridles at her indoctrination into "correct thinking".


Maia Cowan - 5/19/2006

Stephen Colbert is right, you know. "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."


Robert KC Johnson - 5/1/2006

This sort of complaint is one reason why initiatives like ABOR would produce new problems while doing relatively little to solve the problems the academy now faces.

On the high school angle: I've attended college-wide meetings at Brooklyn that have taken the opposite (and equally absurd) extreme as this student, featuring claims that we need not feel compelled to cover any material that should have been addressed in high school offerings.


Jonathan Dresner - 5/1/2006

certain historical topics are in themselves partisan. We have to ask which party made it so...

As always, Mr. Kotsko, the tautological fallacy amuses me.


Adam Kotsko - 5/1/2006

In point of fact, certain historical topics are in themselves partisan. We have to ask which party made it so, however -- is not a certain part of the Republican political strategy an attempt to capitalize on backlash against a civil rights movement that has "gone too far"?


Jonathan Dresner - 5/1/2006

both to think that students think college should add nothing to high school, and to realize how deeply ingrained is the idea that certain historical topics are in themselves partisan.

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