May 18, 2006

· Politics · Teaching

Tim Burke reads through the ACTA report, ‘How Many Ward Churchills’, which—so far as I can see from skimming it—makes very strong claims (“professors like Churchill are systematically promoted by colleges and universities across the country at the expense of academic standards and integrity”; “Ward Churchill is Everywhere”; “professors are using their classrooms to push political agendas in the name of teaching students to think critically”) mainly on the basis of inferences from course descriptions that they’ve found on the web. ( Naturally, they find some doozies. Big deal. College is full of funny people with weird ideas, haven’t you heard?) There’s little effort on the part of the report to ascertain whether the course descriptions they’ve found are representative, or to quantify what proportion of courses they constitute, or assess whether there’s been any change over time. Moreover, the report obviously can’t address how the material they find so objectionable is actually covered in classrooms. That doesn’t stop ACTA from claiming the report is “documenting in exhaustive detail the kinds of course offerings that are becoming increasingly representative of today’s college curriculum.” Last time I checked, “exhaustive” was not a synonym for “impressionistic”, but who knows what they’re teaching conservative kids at home these days? Tim has more detailed criticism. The bottom line is that this seems like one more iteration of the symbiotic relationship between organizations like ACTA and the likes of Ward Churchill. Those guys need each other.

For the sake of it, here’s the syllabus for my undergraduate course on classical sociological theory. Oh no! Marx! And a French guy!

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I am Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center. Learn more.



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