A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Academic freedom in Arizona

An Arizona state senator has introduced a bill in the Arizona legislature to allow college students students to refuse any assignment which they find morally offensive and would require teachers to provide alternatives.
Senate Bill 1331, introduced by Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, would allow students from universities and community colleges to reject assignments they find objectionable to their religious, moral or sexual beliefs without financial or academic penalty.

The bill passed the Higher Education Committee on Feb. 15. If it passes the Rules Committee and the rest of the Legislature, teachers will have to provide an alternative assignment at a student's request.

"This legislation would impoverish the higher-education system for students," said Barbara Fahey, a professor of English at Scottsdale Community College.

A student complained about an assignment in an English class to read The Ice Storm, which includes scenes of spouse-swapping and other sexual content.

The whole thing started when a student complained that the book was offensive and wanted an alternative assignment. When the teacher refused, the college offered placement in another class. The student refused this and contacted State Senator Verschoor, who then produced the bill. It was pointed out that the syllabus for the course clearly stated that some material could be adjudged objectionable and reminded students that they could drop the class if they so chose.

How long would it take some of MY students to object immediately to every assignment I put before them? And further, who is this student to be able to have such pull with a state senator? I could use his help with a few matters....

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At 2/28/06, 5:01 PM, Anonymous k said...

As a current college student...
I really would like to morally decline the math lesson plan due at the end of the month.

I get all these great ideas and then I try to fit them to a 'grade level expectation' for middle school...

I really need to do it the other way around but my mind does not work that way.

SO I think I should morally object!

At 3/1/06, 9:00 PM, Anonymous MIke said...

While there are indeed some ideologically driven crazies foisting propaganda on unsuspecting students in American colleges, this does not appear to be the situation here. May I suggest a simple way of thinking about this issue?

There is no such thing, in the Constitution or in the application of logic, as a right not to be exposed to anything with which one might disagree. If this right does not exist--and it does not--why would anyone be thinking about allowing students to opt out of readings that might potentially offend their sensibilities. Of course, how would they know they they would be offended, being unwilling to risk the irreversible damage that might result if they actually read what might or might not be damaging?

To allow such a thing would be a rejection of one of the primary reasons one should seek higher education. There are more than enough sectarian colleges for those of tender sensibilities, though I doubt that even in such sheltered environments such delicate beings would be fully protected.

And of course, the potentially offended are free to avoid reading anything they choose. Professors are likewise free to apply the grades earned through such refusal. The system works.

At 3/4/06, 12:05 PM, Blogger JHS Teacher said...

Gosh. Nothing I could say would be as eloquent as Mike.

Great job.

And thanks for posting this Ms. Cornelius.


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