Another Philosophy Graduate Student Wants Classroom Discussion Censored
I just wanted to write here, as a fellow graduate student and teaching assistant, I support Cheryl and her bravery to confront heterosexism in the classroom even though we occupy such tenuous places in the university. It’s amazing how “free speech” is only invoked to protect students and faculty who intend to do violence against others in the classroom, to make the space less inclusive, but a graduate students can’t attempt to control disruption in her own classroom, cannot tell a student when he is, in fact, simply incorrect. I’m so disturbed by what happened here, and I hope that it inevitably won’t jeopardize anything for Cheryl.Note the litany of reasons for shutting up discussion.
First, opposition to gay marriage is defined as “heterosexism.” In the world of the politically correct, there are no legitimate arguments against the gay political agenda, but only evil heterosexism. And is banning discussion of gay marriage really “confronting heterosexism.” In some minds, apparently.
Secondly, people who want to speak freely “intend to do violence against others in the classroom, to make the space less inclusive.” Apparently, opposing gay marriage is the same as “doing violence.” Beat up a gay guy, let a gay guy hear you oppose gay marriage? No difference to some people, apparently.
And being “inclusive,” it seems, means that certain politically correct victim groups are not to be exposed to any arguments they might object to. This means being highly exclusive toward people who hold those politically incorrect opinions.
Such disfavored groups, of course, can be confronted with all kinds of challenges to their most treasured beliefs.
Third, Abbate is portrayed as trying to “control disruption in her own classroom.” How would discussion of gay marriage be disruptive? And if it would, how would it be more disruptive than other issues? One can easily see how a vigorous discussion of hot button issues could get out of hand, but it’s the instructor’s job to control such discussions. And a discussion that gets “out of hand” is probably better, in a university, than a potential discussion that is stifled. Further, aren’t the hot button issues the ones most worth discussing?
Also, Abbate didn’t claim that discussion of gay marriage would be disruptive. Merely that it might offend some gay students. Had she said “in my experience, it’s not a good use of class time,” that would have been entirely reasonable.
Does “disruption” simply mean the voicing of opinions the instructor doesn’t like?
Finally, could Abbate “tell a student when he is, in fact, simply incorrect?” Whether the student was in fact “incorrect” is a matter of opinion, but Abbate had every right to challenge the student’s opinion. When she was simply arguing with the student about gay adoption, we characterized that as “the sort of argument that ought to happen in academia.” But she didn’t stop there.
As for whether our exposé will “jeopardize anything for Cheryl,” that’s extremely unlikely. Her opinions are quite in tune with those of philosophy professors these days, and further she doesn’t make any secret of her political opinions, as her blog shows.
ConclusionThe rather violent reaction our original post has gotten reveals a lot about academics, especially in fields like the humanities and education. They live in a narrow little world of political correctness where certain things are taken for granted and certain opinions are not to be expressed. They are not keen to argue about things like gay marriage. They think that any argument against it is wrong, evil and bigoted, and must be suppressed.
When somebody attacks the excesses of one of their own (as we did) they go bananas. In their little world, their righteousness is just not challenged.