Letters to the Editor

    Editor:

    Whoever said satire was dead?

    My first instinct upon reading Chris Taylor’s piece in the Feb. 23 issue of the Guardian (“Public Universities Should Not Indoctrinate Students”) was to see it as a distressingly predictable assault upon academic freedom, complete with wildly reckless and baseless allegations — chief among them the charge that my course “September 11th and its Aftermath” exclusively (or indeed, in any way) promotes the idea that America deserved the attacks, and that it is most important to understand what America did wrong, rather than what the terrorists did wrong.

    But after reflecting upon the matter a bit, I realized what a serious misreading this was, and came to the conclusion that Taylor must have been up to something more interesting.

    After all, since this is the first time the course has been offered, and since Taylor is not enrolled in the course, a reader wanting to take him seriously would have to ask how he had determined the focus of the course.

    The idea that America deserved to be attacked is certainly not in the course description, though I suppose someone devoted to providing a particularly creative misreading might be able to find it there.

    Someone taking Taylor’s argument at face value might also question what it means to “exclusively” pursue such a narrow agenda in a ten week course. In fact, the course addresses a variety of topics including: theories about the nature of terrorism; U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East; American civil liberties and efforts to maintain domestic security; shifts in domestic spending priorities post-9/11; hate crimes in the wake of the attacks and the nature of national unity; media representations and collective memory of Sept. 11.

    So, of course, to take Taylor seriously would be to betray a hopeless lack of humor, and to miss the point entirely. What better way to critique right-wing efforts to undermine academic freedom than to parody the ludicrous tendency of equating critical analysis with admiration for terrorists!

    There have been many efforts to counter allegations that liberal or left-wing professors have run amok in academia and are busy “indoctrinating” their students, but none shine more brightly than this piece. Taylor’s decision to mimic the voice of an unthinking right-wing zealot provides him with the opportunity to express hackneyed arguments about academic bias in their most exaggerated form, and it is truly inspired.

    — Jonathan Markovitz

    lecturer, Department of Sociology

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