"Reclaim Your Rights as a Liberal Educator." That's the title of a short essay in this month's Academe, organ of the American Association of University Professors. The phrase has all the imagination of a slogan unfurled at countless marches, but what it lacks in wit it makes up for in fortitude of the uniquely academic kind. Author Julie Kilmer, women's studies and religion professor at Olivet College, sounds the standard "they're-out-to-get-us" call and rallies her brethren to take back the classroom. We have, too, a vicious aggressor: conservative student groups that confront professors of perceived liberal bias, and they form a national network out to undermine the faculty, who come off as vulnerable and innocent professionals. While the professors uphold "freedom of inquiry to examine the worth of controversial ideas" and "teach college students to use analytical thinking in the development of new ideas," groups such as Students for Academic Freedom do their best to subvert the process. Worst of all, they "encourage students to bring complaints against faculty to administrators." To Kilmer, they are no better than spies, and they prompt her to wonder, "Each time a student is resistant to feminist theories and ideas, should I ask if he or she has been placed in my class to question my teaching? How is my teaching affected if I enter the classroom each day asking, 'Is today the day I will be called to the president's office?"Bauerlein suggests that the seige mentality among radical feminists is an overreaction arising out of a deep ideology of victimization. Contrary to the mindset of feminist theorists, the balance of power has not shifted to students (many of whom are feared as potential "plants" installed by college administrators to intimidate classroom teaching activists):
Professor Kilmer worries that a student who "is resistant to feminist theories and ideas" may sit in her class as a "plant," someone to incriminate her and send her upstairs for punishment. That's how she interprets uncongenial students, and it's an astounding conversion. In her class, any student who contests feminist notions falls under a cloud of suspicion. The ordinary run of skeptics, obstructionists, gadflies, wiseacres, and sulkers that show up in almost every undergraduate classroom is recast as an ideological cadre. If a student in a marketing class were to dispute the morality of the whole endeavor, no doubt liberal professors would salute him as a noble dissenter. But when he criticizes feminism, he violates a trust. He doesn't just pose intellectual disagreement. He transgresses classroom protocol.Read the whole thing. Bauerlein goes further to suggest that classroom indoctrination is the ultimate form of politically correctness. Critical thinking - as demonstrated by the critical dissection and rejection of such radical paradigms - is heresy. If you're not in with the hip pedagogy, you're a problem, a troublemaker, a non-comformist. You're out!
Behold the transformation. An ideology has become a measure of responsibility. A partisan belief is professional etiquette. A controversial outlook is an academic norm. Political bias suffuses the principles of scattered disciplines. Advocacy stands as normal and proper pedagogy. That's the sleight-of-hand, and it activates in far too many decisions in curriculum, grading, hiring, and promotion. I remember a committee meeting to discuss hiring a 19th-century literature specialist when one person announced, "We can only consider people who do race." For her, "doing race" wasn't a political or ideological preference. It was a disciplinary prerequisite.