Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Vampires and Commies and Gays, Oh My!

Run for your lives! Communists have taken over the Quad! Vampires and the co-eds who love them are swarming the cafeteria!

These are the barely exaggerated bleatings of Dr. Jim Nelson Black, the authority cited by Mark Hyman in his most recent (I’ve lost count of the exact number)
attack on higher education.

Hyman’s commentary is an introduction to a series of “Points” that will examine the “shortfalls” of American colleges and universities. He approvingly quotes Dr. Black as saying, “Any nation that turns away from its founding principles and repudiates the values upon which it was founded is destined for the ash heap of history." Hyman promises that the upcoming installments of “The Point” will provide resources for those who want to reverse this trend.

Under the heading “consider the source,” it’s worth noting that Dr. Black is a darling of the religious and political right and has made a career of decrying the moral decay of higher education specifically and America generally. The fact that he keeps company with those on the right is, of course, not a valid criticism of Black. Guilt by association is Hyman’s bag, not ours. However, it is relevant to quote the gentleman’s own words.

In A Nation In Search of Its Soul, a book Black co-wrote with D. James Kennedy, we find such gems as the following:

“This is our land. This is our world. This is our heritage, and with God’s help,
we shall reclaim this nation for Jesus Christ. And no power on earth can stop

“Not all the educators in our public schools and universities
are deliberately deceitful, not all of them want todestroy this nation, but many
do. The major teachers’ unions certainly do.”

“Just a few years
ago, there were as many as ten thousand Communist professors in American
universities. The average person never saw any of them, and many would doubt the
truth of that statistic. But I can assure you it is true.”

new advance and every step taken by science confirm not evolution but the
Genesis account of creation. Yet evolution still continues to be taught as
fact.... Thus, the honorable place that had been given to human beings by God is
surreptitiously aborted, and they are dragged down into the

“Christians did not start the culture war but...we are
going to end it. That is a fact, and the Bible assures us of victory.”

Is someone who helped write such things a man whose thoughts on academic freedom, critical thinking, and intellectual inquiry we should take seriously?

And in
an appearance on Pat Robertson’s CBN network, Robertson asked Black what is being taught on today’s college campuses. Here’s his response:

“Well, basically, what they are not teaching are the things you and I learned at
college. They are not teaching freshman English nor American history, nor basic
mathematics and science. They are teaching radical courses about sexuality, and
benign courses on vampires and the undead. That is actually the name of one

This is, of course, absolute nonsense. A common trick of the trade for folks like Black is to seek out some highly specialized seminar (often offered only to graduate students and/or as a summer session course for those with a particular interest in the topic) and suggest that this is not only representative of the basic course offerings at a college, but that these have replaced standard courses in English, history, science, etc. I challenge Hyman, Dr. Black, or anyone else to produce a documented example of an institution of higher education offering courses in vampires, the undead, or “radical sexuality” instead of the typical introductory courses that all of us who actually spend time on college campuses are familiar with.

Black also claims that , “Marxism is the controlling doctrine on the university campus today. Capitalism is negative to most university professors; I would say 60 percent of them, as Marxism was 30 years ago.”

Even if we assume that Black’s statement applies only to those in the humanities (do we really think that 60% of the folks in departments of business and economics are against capitalism?), it’s preposterous. I’ve been around college faculty my whole life, and have yet to meet a communist. In fact, I’ve known more libertarians and arch conservatives in the academy than socialists. This is, unfortunately, simply a return to the red-baiting nonsense of the McCarthy era. One would have thought that the collapse of communism and the end of the cold war would have made this obsolete, but apparently not.

Hyman promises that the upcoming “Points” will explain some of the shortfalls of colleges, suggest a guide for parents to use in selecting a college for their children, and introduce us to an organization that “offers free resources to faculty and staff who thirst for genuine instruction and true intellectual growth.”

You read right—“The Point” will help us find “genuine instruction and true intellectual growth.”

I’d like to make a few predictions about the upcoming series. First, don’t be surprised if the organization Hyman cites is “Accuracy in Academia” and/or their online incarnation “Campus Report.” AIA is a right-wing group that advocates for conservative positions on college campuses. That’s fine, but if this is in fact the group to be featured in “The Point,” it is incumbent on Hyman & Co. to let their readers know that this organization is not politically neutral, but a highly political advocacy group.

Second, since originality is not “The Point’s” strong suit, I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the guide that will receive the Hyman endorsement for choosing a college is Choosing the Right College published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. As we pointed out in the
September 9, 2004 edition of “The Counterpoint,” this tome is actually the work of a highly conservative group that thinks having a course on gender identity or feminist thought is a sign of a college’s moral bankruptcy.

Finally, Hyman says that the upcoming series will be presented by “correspondent Dina Nesheiwat.” I Googled Ms. Nesheiwat and came up with a couple of leads. There is a Dina Nesheiwat who is listed as a producer of “The Point.” There is also a Dina Nesheiwat who is a
23-year-old fashion model based out of Baltimore. Knowing Sinclair Broadcasting’s devotion and loyalty to serious journalists (cough, cough), I’m going to predict that our correspondent who will tell us what’s wrong with academia will in fact be the same young woman who is barely old enough to have left college herself.

That’s certainly no fault of poor Ms. Nesheiwat herself. She’s probably a mass communication major who’s happy to have a gig (beyond simply photographing well). But it’s telling that the same journalistic enterprise that fired a bonafide reporter like Jon Lieberman for criticizing the decision to air anti-Kerry propaganda as news would rely on a barely-out-of-school model to be their correspondent to anchor this series of stories/commentaries (it’s not clear what Sinclair is labeling these).

In closing, I’d like to respond to one particular comment Hyman made in his commentary. In listing the supposed flaws of American higher ed, Hyman says that, “Sometimes, instruction rests in the hands of ill-prepared adjunct professors or teaching assistants.”

First, although nearly all college students have a horror story or two about a teaching assistant who wasn’t up to scratch (often a foreign graduate student thrown into teaching a huge lecture course without knowing English well), far more have stories about TA’s and adjuncts who were among their best teachers. In my experience, adjuncts and TA’s are enthusiastic and devoted instructors who do the job because they love it (God knows, they aren’t teaching for the money). If it weren’t for the dedication of such folks, public universities would be charging vastly more for tuition in order to hire all fulltime faculty for all courses. It’s wrong for Hyman to imply that part-time instructors are somehow inherently inferior to their fulltime colleagues.

Perhaps the inclusion of adjunct professors in Hyman’s statement was a veiled slap at me, since part of my last academic position was acting as an adjunct assistant professor. I might be flattering myself that Hyman would take another stab at little old me, but just in case, he might want to know that (for whatever it’s worth) I’ve taken a new position at a private university as a tenure-track, fulltime assistant professor. As I say, the fulltime/adjunct distinction doesn’t mean much of anything in terms of the quality of instruction someone is capable of, but I figure Mark should at least have the facts.

Lastly, in terms of the types of criticisms Black and others offer about godless academics with secular agendas who don’t believe in moral or ethical principles, it might interest Hyman to know that the university I’m currently at is a Christian institution (Catholic, specifically). Not only are the caricatures of Black et. al not applicable to the place where I’m at now, but having spent time in time in both public and private colleges (and around the higher ed community my entire life), I can say that while there might be more overt references to God and spirituality at a church-based school, the overall basic devotion to a sense of serving the common good, valuing the decency and worthiness of the individual, and the devotion to knowledge and wisdom as transcendent goods are to be found in abundance at just about any college you go to.

Moreover, as much as Hyman and Black might not want to admit it, the fact of the matter is that many of us chose both an academic life and progressive politics not in spite of (or in the absence of) spiritual beliefs, but precisely because we see in the quest for knowledge and the effort to make the world better for everyone (especially those less well off than we are) the highest values of our religious, spiritual, and moral beliefs.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.56


At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Dina Nesheivat doing the weather for Sinclair on website even thought she is not a metereologist.
The only reason she has her job is because her sister, Julia Neseivat, is serving in Iraq. Also being pretty helps in any business. This is probably another attempt made by Sinclair to be "patriotic" even though they had to hire fools such as Mark Hyman and Nesheivat to become "patriotic".

At 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck liberals

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what...for those of you who are quick to criticize, you wish you had the courage and pride and charisma that any of these Nesheiwat ladies did...They didnt get their jobs handed to them, they worked hard at it. Just because someone looks good, does not take away from their intellect.


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