Like many of my colleagues in American higher ed, I have been dismayed–but not surprised–but the steadily rising attacks on what many erroneously spin as liberal/radical professors.
And like many of my colleagues in composition studies, I have taken to writing public arguments against these rapid and ill-informed attacks on higher learning and the people who make a living teaching others to think critically, deeply, and to argue passionately about important ideas in sustained writing.
I wrote about Professor Watchlist in a letter-to-the-editor published in the Gainesville Times, a local, daily paper serving Gainesville, GA, a thriving town of roughly 35k nested against Lake Lanier in northeast GA.
I wrote about the National Association of Scholars in a letter-to-the-editor published in the Dahlonega Nugget, a weekly local newspaper serving the smaller town of Dahlonga, GA roughly 40 minutes northwest of Gainesville and where I teach.
I include this second letter below, and I signal my commitment to engaging (not disengaging) further with my local and national community.
I’ve only been a college professor for a decade, but as 2017 begins, I feel my colleagues and I are under attack from outside stakeholders more so than we have been in a long time.
There seems to be a strong current of skepticism and even outright hostility directed toward professors and higher education. What’s more, these negative feelings seem largely grounded in ignorance, designed to incite more fear that professors and universities are maliciously dismantling traditional cultures and values.
Take for example, the website Professor Watchlist. This website lists a bio and picture of professors who advance a “radical agenda” in the classroom. My colleague Dr. Matthew Boedy on the Gainesville campus made this list for publically suggesting guns on campus aren’t a good idea.
Also, consider a recently released report “Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics” published by the National Association of Scholars. In this report, the NSA decries what they term, the “New Civics.” I’ve never heard this term before, but the NSA uses it is describe college programs designed to help students engage in community service and civic engagement projects. The NSA believes these service projects hide a sinister liberal and political activist agenda on the part of the universities.
The NSA specifically points an accusatory finger at the University of Colorado’s Writing Initiative for Service Engagement program run by my wonderful colleague Dr. Veronica House and argues federal dollars should not be allocated to such programs. According to the NSA, “At CU-Bolder, even learning to write a proper sentence has been suborned to progressive activism.”
Forget the fact that marrying community engagement and writing goes back to Aristotle and is exactly how the Declaration of Independence was penned. And forget the fact that service learning facilitates learning in remarkably ways and that UNG is dedicated to service learning a as a vital component of their mission.
What keeps me up at night is this growing fear of higher education and professors.
I’ll take the blame for some of this. Most professors, myself included, don’t do a good job communicating our work and research to people outside of our profession. If we are public researchers, teachers, and thinkers, then our work needs to be public and not just published in expensive journals and written in jargon-laden language.
But I’ll also chose to fight this darkness with light. Send me an email or Google my name. I’ve started posting all my course materials online and will send you research I have published for free. Let me know if you want to sit in my class, and I’ll tell you when and where we met.
I’m a public educator whose paycheck is tied to federal and state dollars and whose career is tied to how the public views my job. Instead of being caught in yet another wave of fear, reach out to me to find out what my colleagues and I are doing with the 17,000 wonderful students at UNG.