Monday, November 14, 2005

Two Sides to Every Story? Not in Hyman World.



In his continuing series on the wisdom of an “academic bill of rights,” Mark Hyman offers a single example at a single university as evidence of the need for such a document.

According to Hyman, Ruth Malhotra, a student and conservative activist at Georgia Tech, was discriminated against by a professor because of her conservative beliefs. After announcing that she’d be going to a conservative conference, the instructor allegedly told her “Well, you’re just going to fail my class.” Hyman implies that this is the reason why Ms. Malhotra had to withdraw from the course while failing. (Despite this, Malhotra herself has
acknowledged that the instructor was joking when she said this.)

But, as Paul Harvey might say, here’s the rest of the story. Malhotra’s grievance against her instructor became a cause celeb among Students for Academic Freedom [sic] and allied groups, and that was exactly the point. According to two classmates of Malhotra
who wrote an op-ed piece for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Malhotra and some of her classmates regularly baited the instructor by bringing up political issues unrelated to the class.

In fact, the comment that was at the heart of the grievance (not the one Hyman refers to, but a separate incident in which the instructor allegedly belittled the Bush administration’s agenda) was made during a review session that the instructor was using to help students prepare for a test. According to Malhotra’s classmates, the instructor was becoming increasingly annoyed with the continued interruptions of the review session by the tangential and unrelated political comments made by Malhotra and company, which were taking away review time for the rest of the students.

You’d think that Malhotra would have been the last person to waste an opportunity to review the course material, since she had apparently failed the first exam. Her classmates hypothesize that her actions stemmed from a desire to provoke a test case for Students for Academic Freedom. In any case, what her classmates describe is exactly the reverse of the situation Hyman evoked in his previous editorial: rather than a professor using class time to engage in gratuitous and inflammatory political rhetoric, it was a politically motivated student who insisted on wasting class time in order to further her own political agenda.

Perhaps Malhotra’s classmates are flaming liberals who are out to assassinate her character (although that’s hardly the attitude that comes through in their op-ed piece). I don’t know. But what is clear is that there are, at the very least, two sides of the story.

Which, as we know, is one more than you’re likely to get from Mr. Hyman.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.53

9 Comments:

At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ted,

Fantastic work discrediting Hyman, Horowitz, and the rest of the "academic freedom" [sic] crowd lately. It's always a pleasure to read your thoughts (I'm constantly amazed that you produce so much insight and precision, so often), but you have really outdone yourself with these responses to the far right's "war on intellect."

Keep fighting the good fight.

-- Bradley

 
At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen on that.

Ted seems genuinely interested in arguing for a better world, fairer discourse, and true dialog.

It is ironic that he is dealing with an outfit - Sinclair - that is notoriously Soviet-like in its control of its stations as well as any contrary opinions. Try getting a meaningful rebuttal on their "Mailbag". It's simply not possible.

And, as Ted found out, opposing Sinclair runs the risk of their attack machine.

So, thanks for fighting the good fight Ted, and with style!

 
At 10:43 AM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Thanks for all the kind words! I *really* appreciate it. Thanks for reading and posting.

Yes, the "Mailbag" segment is notorious for being the opposite of what it claims to be. First, it's consigned to Saturday night (always the lowest rated night for local news) and Hyman routinely slants things his way.

The most recent segment is a good example. When talking about response to his attack on the New Orleans mayor regarding the Katrina evacuation, Hyman quotes five viewers, four of them on his side and only one disagreeing.

When he does quote opposing views, it's always in the format of the soundbite, and he often chooses quotations from letters that make the authors sound like the stereotypical "angry left" he loves to talk about.

One commenter asked if I had ever gotten mentioned on a Mailbag segment, and I actually have, although he did exactly what I described above. I had written a response to a commentary Hyman did on PACs, and I pointed out that he was deliberately stating things he knew to be untrue. I said that these went beyond distortions and that he was, in fact, a liar.

A week or so later, Hyman's mailbag segment featured a collection of quotations he had culled from responses which disagreed with him. The idea was to make it sound like all his opponents did was engage in namecalling without justification or backup. In the collection was "Ted from Iowa writes, 'Hyman a man of principle? Hardly. He's a liar.'"

Actually, I hadn't sent that to him--it had only appeared on my blog. And as I pointed out to him in an open letter, my comment was made in a specific context, one that he ignored.

(http://thecounterpoint.blogspot.com/2005/06/open-letter-to-mark-hyman.html)

So while Hyman loves to talk about encouraging dialog about issues, the mailbag segments are basically just ways for him to suggest that most people agree with him and that anyone who doesn't is just an angry and barely coherent malcontent.

tjr

 
At 4:26 PM, Anonymous Sickofspin said...

For those of you who always take Ted's words at face value (that's how Ted likes it), here is Hyman's latest, Part 3 in his academic freedom bit. I post the text because I know many of you simply don't check out the links Ted posts (That's how Ted likes it).
----
Academic Bill of Rights 3

Georgia Tech University's Dr. Georgia Persons is alleged to have threatened to fail a student that she learned was a conservative.

A fellow professor, who spoke on the condition anonymity, told The Point that Persons has a reputation for pushing her personal political views on her students. Some of her past and present students echoed that remark.

A confidential university investigation of the professor's conduct in class obtained by The Point indicates that Persons acknowledged characterizing "poor southern white folk getting pimped" by Republicans. It also reported she commented that "Republicans will cut your throat."

Persons is no longer teaching the course that sparked the controversy, but she did send this unsolicited email to students of her Urban Policy Class just weeks ago quoting Princeton's Dr. Cornel West who referred to the Bush Administration as "Neanderthals" pushing a "racist" agenda.

A university spokesman stated that Person's email was "pertinent" to the course and added that "controversy is at the heart of academic endeavor." Dr. Persons didn't return repeated phone calls to discuss the allegations.

Dr. Persons' actions represent a growing college trend on tomorrow's Point.

And that's The Point.

http://newscentral.tv/uploads/franchise/point/point-20051115.shtml

-------

Nah, that professor wasn't partisan....

Nah, that she didn't want to take any calls inquiring as to why she's no longer teaching the class or answer questions addressing some of her comments/statements.... doesn't speak to her character does it.....

 
At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sick of Spin,

It seems kind of odd to me, posting the text of a commentary Ted hasn't written about. But whatever.

I don't want to speak for Ted, but I know that-- as someone who teaches college students-- I find the idea that some people might use the college classroom as an ideological training camp to be completely reprehensible. I don't know the details of Dr. Persons's case, but if she actually did fail students because of their political beliefs, then she deserves to be disciplined by her institution.

However, I've found that, sometimes, poor students will claim "discrimination" when, in fact, they're simply guilty of intellectual laziness. If I ask my students to read THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," "The Prince," "The Declaration of Independence" or other essays from the likes of George Will, Christopher Hitchens, James Baldwin, Randy Shilts, Maureen Dowd, or P.J. O'Rourke, it's not because I have a political agenda; it's because I want them to read, consider, and challenge the arguments presented in these works. The goal is to make them more careful, critical readers and thinkers. Some of my best students have been very conservative, and have written eloquent essays arguing from a conservative point of view; this isn't surprising-- there is a conservative intellectual tradition, after all. However, it seems to me that some of my worst students have also been conservatives; they have refused to read something by Marx or Shilts or Dowd, because it challenges their world view. Or, they read the works but offer only superficial or misinformed critiques, in an effort to avoid serious engagement with a text they find threatening. A philosophy of life that can't withstand a challenge, though, is not a particularly useful philosophy, if you ask me.

All too often, I think the David Horowitzes, Mark Hymans, and Ann Coulters of the world-- for purely partisan reasons-- are too quick to come to the defense of students who are just plain lazy. Are some professors inappropriate when they discuss politics in the classroom? Perhaps. But I know from my own college experience that this phenomenon isn't limited to liberals-- I had at least two professors rant and rave about the evils of "liberal indoctrination." And I know from personal experience that colleges continue to invite the likes of David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, William Kristol, and Dick Cheney to their campuses, so the argument that conservative voices are somehow silenced on campuses rings kind of hollow for me.

Every school I've ever attended or worked at had a system in place to protect students from any abuse of power on the part of their professors. This whole "academic freedom" [sic] debate is nothing more than hot air designed to boost the membership of the College Republicans by convincing lazy students that the problem isn't that they refused to do their homework, but that their professors are sinister leftist boogymen looking to punish all who disagree with them. It's a farce.

Bradley

 
At 1:19 AM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Very well, said, Bradley. Any prof who overtly preaches to students rather than teaches or grades a student down simply on the basis of perceived political views is violating the policies that are in place at almost any college or university (just as a teacher would be violating them to give better or worse grades based on race, religion, or any other non-relevant characteristic).

But the idea that teachers shouldn't have the right to get students to think outside their own set of ideas is just silly. And it's not even just a matter of conservative/liberal issues. I had plenty of classes in college and grad school where it was clear the instructor had a way of thinking about the topic that was different from mine. And when my work didn't quite match up with the way these teachers thought about their topic, it showed up in my grades. But the idea was that I was being taught the value of considering ideas beyond my own. I was being asked to practice looking at issues from a variety of points of view. This was sometimes difficult, particualrly when the point of view was one I didn't feel any natural affinity for. Yet, by pushing me to look at things from other perspectives, or with a different set of intellectual assumptions, I learned more about the topic and my own views. If I still rejected certain ideas, it was because I had fully considered them and found them lacking, not out of preconceived caricatures of these ideas or out of simple ignorance.

Unfortunately, students often want the luxury of staying in their comfort zone intellectually and politically (and this trait, I hasten to add, is evident across the political spectrum).

As for SOS's comments, I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to do as far as giving Hyman's side of things. I link to his commentaries in each of my posts, I have a link to Newscentral.tv and Sinclair Broadcasting in my sidebar, and I often write my comments in a way that assumes knowledge with wht Hyman has said. Given this, the charge that I somehow want readers to take what I say at face value or don't want them to read Hyman's commentaries is . . . well . . . just *weird*.

tjr

 
At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ted,

I think the participants in your blog have been really pretty fair with SOS. He seems to be very partisan and likes to jump on you at the drop of a pin.

I like your blog, as it tends to talk about issues. Yes, there are some times when we get a little flip, but most often the discussion is based on rational thought. But this business of constantly questioning one's sincerity -- right after Ted laborious answers SOS criticism -- is biting the hand that feeds it. Is that the point?

And I also don't understand SOS either, re-posting "The Point" seems pretty goofy. Sinclair has 60 stations, their own website, to foist their views on the public. And SOS thinks its necesary to cut-and-paste it in half of your blog threads?

SOS has a tendency to, Bugsy-like, spray his questions and accusations all over. But he tends to dodge those posed to him.

I'll try, once again, to pose a fair question (or two) to SOS:

- SOS, have you ever actually seen the video where Hyman goes after Ted? Or read the transcript?

- Do you support this sort of "guttersnipe" (to quote Bill O'Reilly) "journalism"?

 
At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a reality check,
a week's gone by and no reply from SickOSpin.

But I see he's been busy on other posts on this site. A pretty clear example of how he likes to dish it out, but won't actually converse. Boring.

Come on Sick, play ball!

 
At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This account which attempts to paint Dr. Georgia Persons as the victim and Ms. Malhotra as an academia failure and the victimizer is at best revisionist history. Persons was, is, and in all likelihood will continue to be a Cultural Marxist—that is her right. It was however not her right to pursue a political vendetta against one of her students. You should be ashamed of yourself for taking this cheap-shot.

 

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