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A leftist's attempt of blatant obfuscation


aREDSKIN

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ALBANY, N.Y. -- A bill with a powerful sponsor in New York's Legislature would seek to bolster the academic freedom of professors by denying public access to books, films and other resources being used in classrooms.

The latest of recent proposals to limit records from public disclosure would exempt college classroom teaching materials from the state's Freedom of Information Law.

"The college classroom has always been an open forum," according to the written justification for the bill, sponsored by Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairman Ronald Canestrari. "The inclusion of college classroom teaching aids and materials under (the state Freedom of Information Law) only creates an unnecessary concern which may limit an instructor's ability to pass on knowledge and ideas to students."

State University of New York Trustee Candace de Russy, a former professor who has written and lectured extensively on education and culture, called the bill "ludicrous."

"The public clearly has a right to know what their tax dollars are used for in the area of education," she said. "Academic freedom is not a license to operate in secret."

Canestrari said late last week that he is open to discussion of any unintended results of the bill, which he described as in its early stages. But he said on-campus safeguards _ from department heads to presidents and boards of trustees _ would prevent abuse under the law. He said academic freedom is key to the mission of higher education.

"It's a basic tenet of life in the university and something that must be protected," said Lisa Feldman Reich, spokeswoman for the United University Professions union that represents SUNY professors. "UUP has always defended academic freedom and will continue to vigorously defend academic freedom."

The proposal, which has surfaced in different forms in previous years, has roots in a decision by the state Court of Appeals. In 1993, the state's highest court overruled a lower appeals court that had denied a citizen the right to the film "Sexual Intercourse," which was then being shown in a Family Life and Human Sexuality course at Nassau County Community College.

The high court ruled that classroom materials are public records. It quoted former Gov. Malcolm Wilson when the Freedom of Information Law was created in the mid-1970s: "I have long held that government is the people's business and that the people have a right to know the processes by which government decisions are made."

The Assembly bill comes after that chamber fought back efforts by Gov. George Pataki and the Republican-led Senate since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to limit other government records from public disclosure. Supporters say federal agencies might not release some critical documents to state officials out of fear of public disclosure under the state law, but opponents say such law enforcement records are already exempt.

The National Conference of State Legislatures hasn't seen efforts to shield records from public "sunshine" laws extended to college classrooms in other states, a spokesman said.

"The education of students in New York is a critical function," said Robert Freeman of the New York state Committee on Open Government. "Certainly the public should be able to see the resources used in the classroom ... Essentially, it's an effort to censor to preserve academic freedom. It doesn't make any sense to me."

the city of evil

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I believe the classroom should be a haven of ideas and all should feel safe putting ideas out there to get them choked, batted around or lauded. It's amazing what students already aren't exposed to. How do you figure out the world if you have to worry about each and every word thought or expressed? Especially in college. Education is or should be about a whole lot more than learning facts, it's about learning problem solving skills, discovering different ways of seeing, making contacts, testing the waters, being able to to take risks and even fail in a safe environment.

I distrust these people who say, they have a right to know every word that's being issued in a class. If they want to know, ask their kids. In my experience, they're looking for something dirty, an excuse to censor materials. Lord knows, we've seen what heavy duty educational censorship and reconstruction has done in the Middle East and for forty years in Russia.

I would hate while I'm reading my journals to find some new study that is directly relevant to the topic I'm teaching, but be inable to include it because it has to pass an inquiry. That's the next step.

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I think this proposal is asinine at the very least.

However, I'm curious as to what intellectual process led you to the thread title. Where in the article do you see that this guy is a "leftist"? Simply because he's doing something you don't like? A simple google search reveals his party affiliation to be Democrat - but you apparently didn't need that, you already "knew" this.

In fact, from what you posted, all we really know is that the Republicans led by Pataki are guilty of trying to hide things from the public. At best, then, we've established that both the left and right-wing feels entitled to decide what's best for the public to know.

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If public money is being used to fund the university, then anyone and everyone has the right to know what's being taught there. If they want to remain in a shroud of secrecy let them teach at a private school.

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Burgold,

I'm not sure I understand the thought process you have hear that allows for academic freedom and a safe haven of ideas but excludes any critical examination of those ideas. In fact, wouldn't a critical inspection of what's being taught our children with our money be precisely an "idea" you'd want a modern class to openly discuss?

The ability to audit what is being taught to students is essential to the fundamental goal of assuring that all sorts of ideas are presented to them, rather than teacher's pet ideas exclusively.

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Originally posted by Kilmer17

If public money is being used to fund the university, then anyone and everyone has the right to know what's being taught there. If they want to remain in a shroud of secrecy let them teach at a private school.

I agree with you Kilmer. If we have vouchers the private schools will have to open up too!

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I'm more worried about the next step. On ninety percent of syllabi (at least at the colleges I've taught at) you are required to list the materials you plan to give the students. That's open and there's nothing wrong with it. However, it's not an all inclusive list. An all inclusive list would preclude recent discoveries, current events, etc. I see a reality where all texts, journal articles, and even subject matter needs to be approved/supervised. What that means is that relevance is delayed in some cases. In all honesty, there is a pretty decent degree of internal review of major texts, but for ideas to be fully explored there does need to be a certain degree of latitude. Moreover, by making everything that goes on in a class public, you will stifle people. Not the teachers, but the students. Students need to know that they can share ideas with their teachers. I've been told and handed things in confidence that I am very protective of. As for books and articlesI see this not as a movement to be open, but taking the first step towards declaring what is and is not appropriate to expose kids to. IE censorship.

The other side is I think of all the topics that have been tangentially brought up, things that the students generated because there were issues in their life or experience that they were concerned with. You can not control nor even predict all the topics in a classroom and I don't think you should.

This is actually something that I've wrestled with a considerable amount. Art's point about accountability and exposure to all possible ideas and not weighted towards the proffessor's biases is very very valid. At the college level, at least, that's part of the reason why you have multiple proffessors from multiple sub-disciplines and hopefully multiple points of view.

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Burgold,

I don't see that you are addressing what this article seems to be discussing. This article pretty clearly seems to be addressing the request for information by a citizen or organization asking for what materials have been offered to students as a teaching aid. This is not a predicitive request. Freedom of Information act requests come after the fact. It means providing the type or relevant, topical teaching aids can still be part of the natural class environment, but that you have to account for these changes from curriculum and be able to document them per FOI requests.

I don't see how it would be at all limiting to what a teacher could teach a class in terms of topicality. However, it might be a tool to enrage community sentiment against particular teaching methods or aids that it would end up causing the University itself to ban those types of things. That, however, is something we should encourage as part of adhering to community standards in all of our country's communities.

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You may be right. I may have skimmed the article too quickly and mentally just picked up on some things that seemed dangerous to me. Or it could be that I've been waging a fight to make sure that censorship is limited and I'm starting to see ghosts before I even hear the boo.

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Another form of censorship exists, however, when considering the dangers of allowing the majority leftist teaching community have free reign to indoctrinate students to their beliefs without presenting the other side. Having the FOI allows for people and organizations to catch this type of behavior and document the necessity for change.

A danger exists in allowing any professor of any political persuasion to have free reign over the content of his lesson plans. Given the fact that the teaching profession is something above 90 percent liberal elites, you have a serious risk of brainwashing the weaker minds.

I took a column-writing class from a liberal Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist in my history of school. He gave me uniformly high grades, stating of the class, I was the only one who could actually form an opinion, write it, and compel the reader to get to the end. And while that was a powerful symbol of balance despite the ideology differences between us, another professor, also very liberal, routinely failed the same work for the concepts within rather than the craft itself.

Such agenda setting by that professor is not uncommon. And while that's not directly on point, it is along the path of the point that allowing complete freedom from college professors to present ideas they cater to while judging harshly those they don't is harmful to the education process and is a form of censorship.

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A danger exists in allowing any professor of any political persuasion to have free reign over the content of his lesson plans. Given the fact that the teaching profession is something above 90 percent liberal elites, you have a serious risk of brainwashing the weaker minds.

You are not necessarily wrong here, but this is precisely what scares me. The idea of oversight on individual lesson plans. Syllabi sure. Review of a class afterwards, proffessors should be accountable for what they teach, especially if that proffessor has a specific agenda, but that's also where we get into issues of latitude and multiple viewpoints. I'm not sure whether 90% of teachers are of the liberal elite. I think you would actually ridicule people for exageration or demand concrete proof of this stat.

It is a battle somedays to keep yourself out of the class discussion. I know I consciously try to explore each and every side. To a much greater extent than I do here. Of course, it is sometimes difficult to hear yourself and even when trying to be completely fair, there are words we hear differently or don't even process because it falls within our variation of common sence. I don't think you can eliminate point of view entirely. As to the proffesor you recall Closemindedness is among the worst faults in someone trying to teach. On the other hand, individual lesson plans, video cameras in the classroom, inflexible curriculum, and other methods that are being considered are stifling to the generation and free exploration of thought.

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Burgold,

If I happened to be the sort to simply create false percentages based on nothing but my imagination, I would probably thank you for pointing out what I said may not be true. As it is, while it's true, it may not be true, there have been published survey findings that show that the percentages are in the 90 percent range, so the attribution is at least somewhat supported by some base knowledge and it wasn't merely a "guess" :).

I've only ever had one professor who was conservative. So, if I were going on personal experience my guess would be like 99 percent.

Here's a snip from a press report about the survey.

• At the University of Maryland, of the 69 professors whose political affiliations were located, 59 were registered as Democrats and 10 as Republicans. Out of a sample of 37 sociology professors, 34 were Democrats. Of 20 political science professors, 17 were Democrats. Of 12 economics professors, eight were Democrats.

•At the University of Colorado at Boulder, 116 of the professors whose party registrations could be established were Democrats and five were Republicans. Out of a sample of 37 professors who teach English, none were Republicans. Out of a sample of 29 history professors, one was Republican. Out of 19 political science professors, two were Republican.

•At Brown University, 54 professors whose political affiliations showed up in primary registrations last year were Democrats, compared with three Republicans. Out of 10 English professors, none was Republican. Of 17 history professors, none was Republican. Out of seven political science professors, none was Republican. Of eight sociology professors, none was Republican. Out of six economics professors, one was Republican. Of nine engineering professors, two were Republican.

•At Harvard University, of the 52 professors whose affiliations were found, 50 were registered Democrats and two were Republicans. Of 15 sociology professors, none was Republicans. Out of 16 economics professors, one was Republican. Of 21 political science professors, one was Republican.

•At Penn State University, 59 professors from the arts and sciences department were registered Democrats and 10 were Republicans. Out of 37 sociology professors, 34 were Democrats. Of 20 political science professors, 17 were Democrats. Out of 12 economics professors, eight were Democrats.

•At the University of California at Santa Barbara, a sample of 72 arts and sciences professors were registered Democrats and one was Republican. Out of 29 history professors, one was Republican. Of 21 English professors, none was Republican. Out of 29 history professors, one was Republican. Of 13 political science professors, none was Republican, and out of eight journalism professors, none was Republican.

•At the University of Texas at Austin, of the 109 professors whose political affiliations were found, 94 were Democrats and 15 were Republicans. Out of six philosophy professors, one was Republican. Of 19 political science professors, 15 were Democrats. Out of 14 history professors, two were Republicans. Out of 42 English professors, 35 were Democrats.

While recognizing bias exists in the Center for the Study of Popular Culture which is a Horowitz creation, the fact remains that fact checking registered Democrats versus registered Republicans is an easy, factual study that's hard to dispute at least in terms of that data.

An earlier poll showed that 84 percent of Ivy League professors voted for Gore in the Presidential election. Just 9 percent voted for Bush. We don't need to get into some of the bias that is clear with such a foundation because I submit it is clearly wrong in how it captures differences in some questions it asks. But, fact checking registrations and asking Gore or Bush offers less ambiguity and the debate, therefore is less necessary. But, that's up to you.

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Art,

Interesting data, but it doesn't speak to your quote. You said- "90 percent liberal elites" Listing the data to show that many, many college proffessors are registered democrats (from a limited sample) proves little. From this data set, we would have to extrapolate how many of the democrats within this pool are liberal and then on top of it how many fall under the definition of the liberal elite. Since there are conservative democrats, and other non liberal forms of democrats, your data merely speaks to the fact that there are more (a considerable majority of)democrats in teaching positions, not liberals:cool:

The data is a little surprising though. And if this is a fair representitive sampling, then it maybe even a little worriesome. A range of viewpoints are necessary to approximate meaning and truth. Then again, what should you expect if you sign your child to go to a liberal arts institution.:silly:

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Burgold,

A Democrat is a liberal. A Republican is a conservative. I read a wonderful editioral in the Cornell student newspaper regarding one-party professor campuses in which he wrote that after the findings THEY had done, which exposed that something like 60 of 66 were registered Democrats that the President of the school replied with, "There can be some awfully conservative Democrats."

This would be akin to me saying that 60 of 66 teachers were Republicans ranging the vast political spectrum from Alan Keyes to Pat Buchanan meaning there are some awfully liberal Republicans. Now, while I agree with you that there are shades of liberal, please don't try to play an idiotic semantic debate about Democrats not being liberals and Republicans not being conservatives. Especially not in such a good, honest exchange in this conversation.

What I'm really surprised by, however, is you seem to be unaware that this is normal. I don't know what to tell you. Every college campus I've ever been to or know through friends or family is the same as I experienced and my experience was 99 percent liberal-elite. Certain job types draw certain people types. This should be a fairly blow-on-by portion of the conversation given how thoroughly this information should be known.

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Art,

Being a publicly funded teacher and being a Democrat is about as remarkable as being in the military and being Republican: you vote for the party that most supports your interests.

When I majored in Economics at Ohio State, the vast majority of my professors were conservative. The left-of-center consisted of me, a Palestinian, and a guy in a wheelchair (though we were consistently among the best students :)). However, it wouldn't have surprised me in the least if the same professors were registered Democrats -- especially with the Republicans' desire to reduce public subsidies, introduce vouchers, abolish lifetime tenure, etc.

I get your point, though, about freedom of information after the fact. There would, however, need to be safeguards so that minority or special interests could not wield power over professors disproportionate to the representation of their opinion in the general public. In other words, if one politician gets offended because of some item and raises hell, does he necessarily represent "the community"? How would the feelings of "the community" be measured? By polls? Are we saying that education should be governed by mob rule or fleeting sentiment?

As you well know, people's "opinions" are quite easily manipulated by both the right and left in politics. This makes me very skeptical of subjecting coursework to the "opinion" of "the community".

A better idea would be to more strigently specify the code of conduct for professors. They are, after all, trained professionals. There needs to be a balance between accountability and respect for the profession. Would a Doctor want "the community" to review every diagnosis he or she made?

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I don't think I agree that all democrats are liberal and all republicans conservative with the exceptions making the rule.

As to my surprise, I think that the numbers you quoted does take me a back a bit. Do I know that there are more democrats in the helping and education proffessions. Yes, but I also have worked with numerous conservatives.

As I said before, sometimes issues do not take on a political feel if they come from your neighborhood. That is, there are probably numerous statements that I hear and barely notice that others might raise an eyebrow to. That's more an artifact of language and occasionally operating on auto-pilot than bias.

One of the things I have noticed in numerous threads on this board is there seems to be the presupposition that humans are very alert creatures, truth is (as we know) we say and react to many things without thinking. Most people, whether due to laziness, habit, or dialectical construction do not say precisely what they mean. At the least, they don't express it in the best manner. We have all said things innocently that have been interpreted in the worst possible and often incorrect light. In the political world, even in the classroom these improperly formed thoughts need to be refined and considered. Where other than in academia do we have time to truly play with words and thoughts?

Your numbers worry me, because as much as I try to be fair and balanced, I am certain that there are some issues that I do not include because they're not in my common zeitgeist (the way I have constructed my understanding of what is possible), and unless I am asked to think about these issues specifically I go with what I have prepared and what I know. Does that mean I am biased? In a way, yes, but I don't believe objectivity exists in any realm ever. The moment the objective truth comes out, someone's ear hears it differently or inserts an interpretation that may or may not be warranted. On the other hand, I try very hard not to be biased and to be open to all thoughts. I'll even admit in a classroom that there are things I don't know.

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Originally posted by Art

Burgold,

As it is, while it's true, it may not be true, there have been published survey findings that show that the percentages are in the 90 percent range, so the attribution is at least somewhat supported by some base knowledge and it wasn't merely a "guess" :).

Here's a snip from a press report about the survey.

• At the University of Maryland, of the 69 professors whose political affiliations were located, 59 were registered as Democrats and 10 as Republicans. Out of a sample of 37 sociology professors, 34 were Democrats. Of 20 political science professors, 17 were Democrats. Of 12 economics professors, eight were Democrats.

•At the University of Colorado at Boulder, 116 of the professors whose party registrations could be established were Democrats and five were Republicans. Out of a sample of 37 professors who teach English, none were Republicans. Out of a sample of 29 history professors, one was Republican. Out of 19 political science professors, two were Republican.

•At Brown University, 54 professors whose political affiliations showed up in primary registrations last year were Democrats, compared with three Republicans. Out of 10 English professors, none was Republican. Of 17 history professors, none was Republican. Out of seven political science professors, none was Republican. Of eight sociology professors, none was Republican. Out of six economics professors, one was Republican. Of nine engineering professors, two were Republican.

•At Harvard University, of the 52 professors whose affiliations were found, 50 were registered Democrats and two were Republicans. Of 15 sociology professors, none was Republicans. Out of 16 economics professors, one was Republican. Of 21 political science professors, one was Republican.

•At Penn State University, 59 professors from the arts and sciences department were registered Democrats and 10 were Republicans. Out of 37 sociology professors, 34 were Democrats. Of 20 political science professors, 17 were Democrats. Out of 12 economics professors, eight were Democrats.

•At the University of California at Santa Barbara, a sample of 72 arts and sciences professors were registered Democrats and one was Republican. Out of 29 history professors, one was Republican. Of 21 English professors, none was Republican. Out of 29 history professors, one was Republican. Of 13 political science professors, none was Republican, and out of eight journalism professors, none was Republican.

•At the University of Texas at Austin, of the 109 professors whose political affiliations were found, 94 were Democrats and 15 were Republicans. Out of six philosophy professors, one was Republican. Of 19 political science professors, 15 were Democrats. Out of 14 history professors, two were Republicans. Out of 42 English professors, 35 were Democrats.

While recognizing bias exists in the Center for the Study of Popular Culture which is a Horowitz creation, the fact remains that fact checking registered Democrats versus registered Republicans is an easy, factual study that's hard to dispute at least in terms of that data.

No, art. It's easy to dispute.

The fact is that in any rigorous sense the data you have given here shows NOTHING at all about the political preferences of most college professors. I'm not saying that you are not right about it, because I can't prove that, but you need to do a little more homework if you want us to believe this. Find a poll which gives sources of error from sampling methods then we'll talk.

Until then, you'll have to account for the phrases "in a sample" and "of available data." How many people register as independant? How did they find this information? Maybe the republicans are quieter. Not only does this assume that all party affiliations are knowable, which they aren't, but that all right leaning individuals are going to be registerd republican. How many on this board consider themselves independants or libertarians, despite thier hatred for the fundamentals of liberal ideaology? Where do these people fit in?

But the survey doesn't even hint at answering these questions. Maybe these concerns aren't even an issue and are totally negligeable, but they aren't in the data you presented.

-DB

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not paranoia by any stretch of the imagination...in distinction to ASF's post (and giving our exulteed readershipi the benefit of the doubt), the preponderance of us are in college, college educated, or graced with advancedd studies. We have personal experience to fall back on. Some of us, like me, may have had parents who were college professors. We may have a good sense of what "academic freeddom" means as it is expressed by:

- political orientations of professors

- course curricula

- the politics of tenure

- the politics of publishing

- the politics of department chairs

- the politics of grading policies

- the politcs of admissions processes

- the politics of graduation speakers

- the politics of theses

- the politics of funding

- the politics of sebatticals

- the politics of hiring

- the politics of pension fuund holdings

- the politics of professors of reknown

and on, and on....who are you all kidding?

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DB,

The sample they are discussing in these polls is from attainable public voter rolls that are available to people. This means if you are registered as a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian or even as an Independent, it can be found and that's the sample the survey initially listed displayed.

The people missing from this are those who are not registered with any party affiliation. Haven't contributed to any particular party. Simply live as a citizen, some registered to vote and others not. The information that is discussed here is not hidden as information that was available. It's factual. It's what could be found through public records and searches. There are more faculty within each of these schools which wasn't accounted for by the initial survey discussed.

In the sample of Ivy League professors, that was a poll. A telephone call asking who you voted for. I believe, though I don't recall specifically, that the plus/minus on that poll was six percent. I don't believe I offered this information as an unyielding source of truth though DB.

Simply as something anecdotal and informative that should reinforce what every person ought to be well aware of from their own personal experiences attending colleges. I find it difficult in the extreme to believe there's actually denial among some that liberals gravitate to the teaching profession. It would be like me saying conservatives don't tend to be more represented as Police Officers or in the Military.

These are, at the heart of it, simply things we should know from our own life experiences. Sadly it appears too many are willing to shut their minds to things like this as if it doesn't exist. Astounding really.

TEG,

You once again appear to have missed the mark in an effort to take a swipe. At no point did I associate the natural gravitation of liberals to the profession of teaching with a vast conspiracy. I did hint that if not held accountable by the public access to their teaching, you could find a situation where the profession, which is largely comprised of the liberal-elite with no real debate against such a statement may find it easier to indoctrinate students to their political views rather than simply teaching.

Feel free to try not to be as brain-dead in the future.

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I did hint that if not held accountable by the public access to their teaching, you could find a situation where the profession, which is largely comprised of the liberal-elite with no real debate against such a statement may find it easier to indoctrinate students to their political views rather than simply teaching.

If we take your statistics to be fairly accurate, then in some respect we may even be able to draw an interesting negative correlation between the growth of the conservative philosophy in this country and their liberal teachers. If so, this in itself may help to defuse the worry that potential teachers infected by bias are attempting to taint or brainwash. Either that, or everyone just really hates their teachers and it's a teenage rebellion thing gone terribly awry. The growth of conservatism in this country could be evidence in and of itself teachers and proffessors, by and large, have done a reasonable job in policing themselves and trying to include a wide spectrum of viewpoints.

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