TO THE EDITOR:
We are disturbed by the attacks directed at our colleague Neel Ahuja’s first-year seminar, Literature of 9/11, an interdisciplinary course that gives students the opportunity to analyze the legacies of Sept. 11, 2001. These attacks, based solely on a part of the reading list, characterized the course — and by extension the professor — as sympathetic to terrorism. By now, others have shown that this conclusion is unsubstantiated.http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2015/09/conservatives-criticize-911-class-at-unc CVD
Yet a full examination of a syllabus, which outlines the texts, themes and topics for 15 weeks, could not tell the whole story. No one can predict the kinds of conversations that will take place in the classroom or what the professor and students will create together. A reading list does not tell us how texts are interpreted or connected to issues inside and outside the classroom. For example, if a reading list for a course on the Holocaust were to include “Mein Kampf,” should we decide that the professor supports Nazism?http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/ CVD
The mischaracterization of Ahuja’s class and the national media firestorm that followed suggest that the attacks are part of the larger, long-term project of those seeking to defund higher public education while setting the ideological agenda for what is left of it.
The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, which champions privatization, has released a series of essays that advocate slashing courses in English departments, women’s studies programs and general undergraduate curricula that do not fit the center’s narrow and ahistorical understanding of “western civilization” and “traditional canons.”http://www.popecenter.org/inquiry_papers/article.html?id=2920 CVD