Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Misadventures in Academia

"I'm not going to accept something I don't understand" -Ward Churchill

So I've watched about 15-20 minutes of Ward Churchill's "Fell Sorry For Me" rally in Colorado and I really can't stomach much more. He spent less time discussing the relevant issues than he did making a martyr of himself. Deflecting criticism with ad hominem attacks on people asking questions and at one point trying to deflect a question about the First Amendment by saying the Ninth Amendment protected him. At first I felt that for as stupid as his beliefs are, he has the right to express them in a "public" forum, that's the First Amendment, love it or leave it.

Because Colorado is a public university, most people are under the misguided theory that he can say what he wants and the students have to like it. I tend to believe that, for the most part, the classroom is a private setting in which students are to be taught based on fact, with a few exceptions (i.e. creative writing, philosophy, etc.) . But as Yeats said "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire." Any educator dedicated to encouraging scholarship in their students knows this. I don't think that Ward Churchill is as interested in the scholarship of his students as much as he is interested in increasing his own profile.

I got the feeling watching the students in the crowd that most of them were just there to say they were there. It also dawned on me that college students go to certain events just so they can say they were there. When other students start to associate you with certain events, you begin to make a name for yourself, or at the least become recognizable. At a school the size of Colorado, a little notoriety can go a long way to help out one's reputation. It's stupid, I know, but so is your average college student.

Do I think Churchill should be fired? No. Do I think he should be punished somehow? Yes. My ideal punishment would involve family members of every 9/11 victim having the opportunity to punch him in the face, because it's a punch in the face to have some asshole in Colorado smearing people he never knew and never would have. Ward Churchill is not the face of scholarship, nor is he the face of the American Indian Movement, nor is he the face of common sense. Much has been made about his past and what he says and believes, and as well it should be. When you base your entire academic existence on a contrived family tree and espouse beliefs based on said family tree, you tend to betray yourself as a hypocrite. The more I write the more my anger grows, and writing angry makes my syntax sloppy.


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