February 21, 2006

The Whole Academic Freedom Thing

Here's an intriguing look at Arizona politics on the state level. They're considering legislation that would "allow" college students to opt out of course reading that they consider "personally offensive or pornographic."

University and community college students are "youngsters."

There's a senator named Thayer Verschoor, who doesn't much like Rick Moody's The Ice Storm ("there's no defense of this book," he said. "I can't believe anyone would come up there and try to defend that kind of material.")

There's also a Senator Jake Flake, R-Snowflake.

Verschoor said the legislation will require work to narrow its scope before it goes to the full Senate. But he was not optimistic that professors and instructors are willing to let students opt out of anything "because of the whole academic freedom thing."

Sen. Jake Flake, R-Snowflake, agreed that students should be exposed to ideas they may find offensive. In his own case Flake, a rancher, said his college courses included ideas from environmentalists and others who he believes are wrong.

(via Bookslut.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 21, 2006 07:02 PM | TrackBack

Pornographic I can live with but "personally offensive" is so broad that I'm afraid that it could encompass virtually anything and possibly everything. I still remember not being able to get a copy of "Huckleberry Finn" from the school library due to the word "Nigger" being used in it, but then when enough people complained we got copies where the offending word had either been gone over with White-Out or a Sharpie to where our young and impressionable minds could not be scarred with such language. Finally a publisher printed a version of the book where the offensive word was replace with "Negro".

I find it hard to think of a book so innocent that it can't offend at least SOMEBODY, so they'll be throwing out all the books on religion, politics and most fiction so I guess that leaves dictonaries, encyclopedias, biographies (but not about villians such as Hitler or Stalin) and children's books (although I muse that somebody could have issue with "Dick and Jane", because dick is just vulgar and possibly pornographic depending on the context) ;)

Posted by: Zaphod at February 21, 2006 07:37 PM

Jake Flake??

Posted by: huh? at February 21, 2006 11:14 PM

The dictionary and encyclopedias would never make the cut. There are naughty words with filthy definitions in them.

Posted by: Tim at February 21, 2006 11:18 PM

Considering the number of schools in existence right now, and considering the vast variety in those schools, if you are the kind of person who is easily offended, wouldn't you be better off finding a school that will more easily cater to your pesonal sensibilities?
If you truly feel that what your college is asking you to read is pornographic, either you are in the wrong class or the wrong school. Having said that, how often are students asked to read something that could honestly be considered to be pornographic?

Posted by: sam at February 22, 2006 12:38 AM

As someone who works in higher ed policy in a different, more liberal, state, I can say that this sort of mindset pretty much comes with the territory for most lawmakers. In conservative states, it's protecting kids from the evils of pornography and liberalism (and, in the more degenerate campuses, *liberal pornography*), and in others its the general sense that as college is now more important, we need to make it identical to K-12. This has the same effect - students are always called 'kids' and no one thinks twice about making decisions for them. If you believe college is mandatory for the good life, you can't very well stop legislating what they read and do just because they've past some threshold that you've just defined as arbitrary.

Second, and more important, if students in Arizona are being assigned pornography, then I clearly made the wrong decision about where to go to school.

Posted by: marc w. at February 22, 2006 02:37 AM

This is ridiculous. You go to school to learn new things, not re-learn you already know. If Ice Storm the movie was based off the book (yes, I watch movies) then it's an amazing story. There is tons of opportunity for discussion and arguement which is what college is all about.

Posted by: Manda at February 22, 2006 02:56 AM

I would like to apologize for the many errors in my last post, I don't know what I was thinking.

Posted by: Manda at February 22, 2006 09:03 AM

"There's also a Senator Jake Flake, R-Snowflake."

As discussed on various blogs (Crooked Timber, frex), Snowflake was founded by the Flake family and the Snow family; of course, Jeff Flake is a fairly prominent Republican Congressional Rep. (Not to be confused with the prominent Democratic dynasty of former Democratic Congressman Floyd Flake of New York City.

Ah, I had a couple of links here, but the heck with it.

Posted by: Gary Farber at February 23, 2006 09:19 AM

Oh, yeah, as would have been clear from one of the links, Jake Flake is Jeff Flake's nephew.

Posted by: Gary Farber at February 23, 2006 09:20 AM

Well, what do you know? I guess there's prominent and then there's prominent. Until now Mr. Flake's prominence had somehow managed to escape me.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at February 23, 2006 03:16 PM

Risky business and I didn't approve of everything I read in college, either, especially at age 18. Some topics should be discussed in your 30s, ya know?

Posted by: Leslie at February 27, 2006 04:09 AM