Sunday, February 20, 2011

Indoctrination in a Marquette Theology Class

A student of ours provided this e-mail, sent out by an unnamed professor in a Theology Class the student is taking.

The e-mail above bears a strong resemblance to a recent essay by leftist Theology Prof. Daniel Maguire. Maguire has confirmed to us that he sent the message to students.
Thursday, February 17, 2011 6:30 PM

This fits into the exam question on the triangle of justice.

The Ed Schulz Show on MSNBC, Channel 46 is on at 9:00 pm broadcasting from Madison. I’m not assigning that but you might find it of interest.

************************************************

Neoliberalism (neoconservatism) is the operating system in the political economy of the Right.

It has these characteristics:

1) “Possessive individualism.” Greedy individualism would describe it better. It embodies the Social Darwinism—survival of the fittest—mentality. It is “Greed is good” theory.

(2) It is anti-government, wanting to minimize the role of the government, and remove regulations. Therefore it stresses “privatization,” taking things out of government hands and giving it to private business. Following the neoliberal script, George W. Bush tried to “privatize” Social Security, handing over retirement benefits to the mercy of the stock market. Water supply has in some places been privatized; airports and roads have been targeted for privatizing.

(3) Neoliberalism is anti-unions. Reagan went after the air traffic controllers union. Governor Walker is going after public worker’s union--teachers, etc.-- denying them the right to collective bargaining.

(4) Neoliberalism asks us to put our trust in the market and in corporations and to allow them to have unfettered freedom.

In England, Maggie Thatcher was an apostle of Neoliberalism. The results were clear: wealth was shifted from the bottom to the top. When she entered office one in ten Britons were listed as below the poverty line. When she finished one in four were in poverty and one in three children.

Ronald Reagan was another devotee of Neoliberalism. As Kevin Phillips, a Republican analysys [sic] and former aide to President Nixon reported in his book The Politics of Rich and Poor: in the 1980s the top 10 percent of American families increased their average family income by 16 percent, the top 5 percent by 23 percent, and the top one percent by 50 percent. The bottom 80 percent of families and workers all lost something and the lower they were on the scale, the more they lost. The bottom 10% lost 15% of their already meager incomes.

Neoliberalism lacks a sense of social justice. It is basically opposed to sharing. Therefore it is wildly opposed to taxes regardless of what taxes do for the common good. It particularly opposes taxes for the wealthy. The billionaire Warren Buffett pays 17%; his secretary pays 30%. It is the opposite of Jesus’ “Blessed are the poor;” it is “Blessed are the rich.”

Remember Aristotle said “Justice holds the city together.” and Thomas Aquinas said “Justice consists in sharing.”

Neoliberalism is basically opposed to justice. It naturally opposes government since government enforces sharing, e.g. in taxes and in curbing monopolies.

The current demonstrations in Madison are in effect protesting neoliberalism.
As is typical with leftist professors, especially those in disciplines far removed from empirical social reality, this message is absurdly ignorant of the facts. For example, during the evil neo-liberal Reagan Administration, the mean income of the poorest 20% of the population increased. It was $10,682 in constant 2009 dollars in 1980, and $11,681 in the same constant dollars in 1989. Of course, the income of the top earners increased faster. But does “social justice” mean that we should envy and want to hurt affluent people?

Poverty rates in the U.K. are misleading, since they are usually measured as the percentage of people below (say) 40% or 50% of the median income. That way if everybody gets equally better off, poverty fails to decline. And if most of society gets better off, and low income groups remain equally well-off, poverty “increases” (notwithstanding that the poor are no worse off).

So this kind of data is perfect for people who want to play games with statistics.

Neo-liberalism

Of course, neo-liberal policies have been all the rage in recent years, and not just in the capitalist USA. European socialist countries have slashed top tax rates, and privatized nationalized industries. And they have done that not because greed has triumphed, but because socialist policies don’t work.

The opposite of neo-liberalism, in fact, is not compassion or social justice, it’s statism.

Indoctrination

All professors, us included, have their biases, and students can usually figure out what they are. But the majority allow views on both sides to be presented, and don’t push one side of contemporary political conflict.

We, for example, have not said a single word to our classes either in support of or opposition to the union protests in Madison.

But this professor tells students that this e-mail “fits into the exam question on the triangle of justice.” Students, apparently, are supposed to write about the evil of greedy neo-liberalism and how social justice demands that they side with union demands.

It would require a very gutsy student to take a different view in this class.

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10 Comments:

Blogger david said...

Granted, I often was outspokenly the devil's advocate to Maguire in my semester in his classroom, but I have to defend him here, I never felt indoctrinated in his class.

3:19 AM  
Blogger gloria said...

This is a Theology class. The thesis appears to be that the tenets of neoliberalism run counter to the teachings of the Gospel that promote living a simple life in service to the poor and sick. And the examples support that thesis. Would you call into question the appropriateness of posing the argument that, say, contraception has created a more consumer-based society? This isn't a political science or economic class, where, indeed, you don't need to judge the principles on a moral basis, just assess their effectiveness.

7:31 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

The thesis appears to be that the tenets of neoliberalism run counter to the teachings of the Gospel that promote living a simple life in service to the poor and sick.

So the tenents of statism should not be critically examined?

It's one thing to say people should live a simple life, and quite another to say that government should force a simple life on the population.

And does supporting unionized teachers, whose average compensation (salary plus fringes) is over $100,000 in Milwaukee really side with the poor and oppressed? Does it support a simple life?

This isn't a political science or economic class, where, indeed, you don't need to judge the principles on a moral basis, just assess their effectiveness.

But it's bone headed theology to propound government policies (forced on people) that don't work and create all kinds of evil.

Should theology classes just be about what makes us feel smug and self-righteous?

8:57 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

I never felt indoctrinated in his class.

In the first place, we don't know for sure it was Maguire.

In the second place, was the sort of thing in the e-mail typical of what Maguire says?

I've heard from multiple sources that he's open to class discussion from students who disagree with him. Good for him on that.

But would a student less assertive and independent-minded than you be indoctrinated?

For example, were you assigned any pro-free market material to read?

9:01 AM  
Blogger Dad29 said...

But does “social justice” mean that we should envy and want to hurt affluent people?

It is not a question of the amount of income. It is a question of the DISPOSITION of income. IOW, do the "rich" contribute to societal needs such as arts, poverty relief, hospitals, medical research?

IOW, there IS such a thing as individual responsibility.

That touches on the larger question, argued by JPII and others: is there such a thing as '[societal] structures of sin'?

The Left believes in that construct whole-heartedly. Others disagree.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

A living wage is usually seen as a just wage right? So if teachers tend to rank well in health and wellness, they are probably receving a living wage? http://www.gallup.com/poll/124778/Teachers-Score-Higher-Professionals.aspx teachers scored very high. in fact, the highest.

7:52 PM  
Blogger david said...

in the second place, was the sort of thing in the e-mail typical of what Maguire says?

In fact, it is not particularly representative of what Maguire says. I always felt that Maguire's class centered on "ethics," whereas this email smacks of "policy," though the "blessed are the rich" line does sound like Maguire.

Interestingly enough, as far as your "gutsy" student model goes, I once gave Maguire's lectures back to McAdams on one of his exams. I can't remember whether I got a C- or a D. How's that for gutsy?

11:32 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

I can't remember whether I got a C- or a D. How's that for gutsy?

In the first place, I think you are making that up. I would recognize Maguire type rhetoric on any exam, and I don't remember seeing any.

In the second place, Maguire rhetoric would not be relevant on any of my exams.

I ask my policy students about economic efficiency, and about an optimal trade-off between equality and efficiency.

If you tried giving me Maguire lecture material, I would quickly assume you had not read what I assigned. The only way you could possibly get a C- or D is entirely ignore what I assigned.

8:55 PM  
Blogger david said...

There's certainly no way to prove my point aside from searching for a long gone blue book (which would've been in my possession, if it hadn't long been in a landfill), but in the spring of 2005, I can remember verbatim quoting to McAdams a "Maguire 101" concept-- "The Champagne Glass of Economics" (http://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/2009/05/27/champagne-glass-distribution-of-wealth/) on a McAdams exam, and all joking aside, I did get a C.

And I certainly won't deny not having read some assigned materials, but at the same time, you'd be hard pressed to find another student who six years removed still ponders Steven Kelman's, "Ethical Theory and the Case for Concern about Charges."

4:00 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

And I certainly won't deny not having read some assigned materials,

Well of course, if you tried to substitute something from Maguire's class for the stuff I assigned you to read, that would hurt your grade.

I would imagine that if you ignored some of Maguire's assignments and tried to substitute something from my class, that would cost you.

I'm glad you remember Kelman, although I wish you remembered the critique of Kelman too.

In short, Kelman tends to appeal to moralists who believe that their preferences should be privileged over those of other Americans.

BTW, if you are around campus, feel free to drop in and say hi.

12:41 PM  

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