Monday, July 03, 2006

Madison 9/11 Conspiracy Professor in National Media

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, a run-down on the controversy over Kevin Barrett, the part-time Madison instructor who believes the U. S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.

Dad29 broke the story, and Jessica McBride jumped on it big time. See her posts here and here and here.

The Chronicle, not surprisingly, seems to see this as an “academic freedom” issue and offers the following quote in support of Barrett:
However, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said that the law is “fairly clear” in its protection of Mr. Barrett’s speech.

“We have much more to fear from the erosion of the protections of free speech and academic freedom than we do from the disagreeable opinions of any particular professor,” he said. Mr. Lukianoff added that, even if the university does not find any cause to dismiss Mr. Barrett, the mere act of “reviewing” his teaching has a chilling effect on free speech.

“Investigations themselves, particularly when they’re specifically brought about because of somebody’s opinion, are especially threatening to free speech,” he said.
It’s relevant here that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education seems to spend most of its time protecting conservative students and faculty from being silenced by the forces of political correctness on college campuses.

They seem to see, quite plausibly, that the erosion of academic freedom is more likely to give campus leftists carte blanche to shut up conservative voices.

Still, at some point sheer intellectual incompetence ought to disqualify someone from teaching at a college level. We might ask:
  • How many History departments would hire a holocaust denier to teach Jewish history?
  • How many biology departments would hire somebody who doesn’t believe in evolution?
  • How many Engineering schools would hire a professor who was working on a perpetual motion machine?
There is a counter argument, however. We might ask:
  • How many Women’s Studies departments would hire a professor who thought that most abortions should be illegal?
  • How many Black Studies departments would hire a professor who was a Republican?
  • How many English departments would hire a professor who thought homosexuality is sinful?
In other words, how do we separate actual academic incompetence (the examples in the first list) from opinions that are legitimate, but out of favor with the ideologues that inhabit so much of academia?

In the end, we do come down on the side, not of firing Barrett, but of not rehiring him to teach the course again. The reason is his own words.
Mr. Barrett, a Muslim, is also a founder of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, a Madison-based group. On that group’s Web site, he writes, “From a Muslim perspective, it hardly seems worthwhile to engage in dialogue with non-Muslims who believe that 9/11 was an act of ‘Islamic terrorism.’ Either we discuss the compelling evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, or there is precious little to talk about.”
What he is saying here is that there is “precious little to talk about” with students who don’t buy his wacky theories of 9/11.

This is the same as a Marxist professor who says there is “precious little to talk about” with Republicans, or a Christian professor who says there is “precious little to talk about” with Jews or Muslims or Atheists.

It is the admission of a bias so deep and blind that it prevents the professor from engaging in any meaningful discourse with students who don’t share his opinions

It’s an admission that you can’t (or won’t) do your job when faced with students who disagree with you.

It’s an admission of incompetence.

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