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OPINION: How Professors Indoctrinate Students: A Prime Example

How would you define al-Qaeda? Most would use the word “terrorists.”

But here is my professor’s stab at it: “The Al Qaeda movement of Osama bin Laden is one example of an attempt to free a country (in this case, Saudi Arabia) from a corrupt and repressive regime propped up by a neocolonial power (in this case, the United States).”

That’s word-for-word from his own textbook, “The Other World: Issues and Politics of the Developing World, Ninth Edition.” Here is the full quote in context:

“Much of the political instability endemic to Other World political systems stems from the fact that governments operated openly for private gain (or kleptocracies) have little legitimacy among, or acceptance by, a significant proportion of the population, in neo colonial times as in the past. The Al Qaeda movement of Osama bin Laden is one example of an attempt to free a country (in this case, Saudi Arabia) from a corrupt and repressive regime propped up by a neocolonial power (in this case, the United States).” *

There’s a lot of talk among higher education circles about how professors “indoctrinate” students with leftist, socialist viewpoints – how they take students who may not know much about a subject and teach a one-sided, biased course, creating  like-minded minions who may even take action for professors’ pet causes.

Allow me to tell you about a quintessential course I just took which proves out that generally agreed-upon understanding about the modern college experience: World Food Systems at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. It’s the class in which we used “The Other World” textbook, co-authored by the same scholar who taught the course: Emmit B. Evans, Jr.

It fulfills either a political science or elective requirement, and I enrolled during the fall semester.

I can sum it up as follows: Big Oil and greedy capitalists are the reason for the war in the Middle East, the reason Global Warming is (not might be) destroying the planet, and the reason why a new world order based on equality and fairness must emerge.

It’s also the reason we, as students, must rise up and take action against these evils.

Oh yeah, and al-Qaeda is just a bunch of freedom fighters.

Think I’m exaggerating? Read on.

The official description of the course states it’s an “integrated, interdisciplinary study of the technologies of global food production, environmental and social issues related to the application of those technologies, and moral and ethical issues associated with global food production and distribution. Emphasis on the politics of change.”

With that, Cal Poly Professor Evans – a funny professor with a lot of interesting things to say – liked to talk about hot-button issues like climate change, the Iraq War, Iran and oil.

I found the course to be very thought-provoking. These issues should be discussed in a college class. But Evans only showed the liberal side of each issue. While I enjoyed the class, I would have liked to have heard counter arguments.

Climate change was a recurring theme throughout the course, but not once was the notion that climate change isn’t man-made ever raised.

Evans even showed us a lengthy clip from Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” but never mentioned it can’t be shown in the U.K. without acknowledging that 11 different scenes are factually incorrect.

He assigned us readings from the far-left environmental activist Bill McKibben to highlight what he viewed were the dangers of man-made climate change. But nary a word on how there are legitimate arguments that climate change is not man-made, including reports that say that say it is caused by sunspots rather than by CO2.

Oil was another recurring theme, and my professor left me and my peers with the impression that oil production causes nothing but pollution and wars because the planet will soon run out of the commodity.

Nevermind that studies show the U.S. has enough oil and natural gas to last more than 500 years; that wasn’t mentioned. Instead, Evans told us the Iraq war, the one launched after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, was started over oil.

C’mon. Even far-left politicians like Barbara Boxer, Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy – who were critical of the war in Iraq – never once referred to it as a war over oil.

But I recall one test question that even asked what the cause of the war was, and the correct answer was “oil.”

Evans also never brought up that Saddam Hussein violated U.N. resolutions and harbored terrorists, both among the arguments for invading Iraq.

There was no love-loss between Professor Evans and President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, two politicians he frequently threw under the bus. 

Another doozy from his textbook? Conservatives view the poor as “poor because of shortcomings within themselves, often considered to stem from race, gender, or class.”

So, no surprise: One day last fall Professor Evans let a Covered California representative talk in class for 20 minutes about the Affordable Care Act, a speaker who tried to convince us Obamacare is a great thing and we should all sign up.

(This had absolutely nothing to do with the syllabus, nor was it on the final exam, thankfully.)

At this point, are you thinking what I am thinking? The class is called “World Food Systems.” When do we talk about food? It came up here and there. We learned corn ethanol damages the environment, genetically modified food is an abomination, chemicals in food hurt humans, topics such as that.

Our professor also liked to disparage big corporations for taking government subsidies, and for poisoning the population with chemicals like BPA.

At the end of the course, we were taught how to affect change for all these alleged ills: he touted microlending and socialistic policies. He praised the occupy Wall Street movement, the Arab Spring, and protests to raise the minimum wage as examples of positive change movements.

If I were to have come into that course without any political leanings or knowledge on these issues, I would have likely walked away believing businesses are greedy and evil and people just pollute the Earth.

After my grade was recorded in my transcripts, I emailed Professor Evans to ask him about the slant in his class. He did not deny it.

“This focus drives the content of the course: from an examination of how systems work and what makes them stable, to how current food systems work, to what more sustainable systems might look like, and to how current systems might be changed to be more sustainable,” he stated. “It would seem difficult to justify teaching the other side of this focus – exploring how we might build more unsustainable food systems.”

“Course evaluations sometimes include comments similar to yours, which encourage us to make the goals and focus of the course as explicit as possible. I’m sorry if I didn’t accomplish that as well as I could have in your case, but am pleased you didn’t un-enjoy the class!”

Fair enough, but his slant does a disservice to Cal Poly students, and in my mind it rises to the level of academic malfeasance.

College Fix contributor Aaron Bandler is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

*‘The Other World’ textbook was co-authored, but the citation comes from a section Evans penned and assigned as reading.

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THANKSGIVING THINK WEEK: This is the second in a series of stand-alone essays to be published this week that will offer hard-hitting, thought-provoking words to chew on during this holiday season.

The following is the true story of an African native who escaped the brutal massacre of his tribe.

 

It was Friday the 13th of August, 2004, around 10 p.m. It had been a really long day, and I laid awake alongside friends on cots crammed into a large hangar, just happy to be off my feet.

Then I heard it. Distant sounds – gunfire, shouting, screams.

The smell of smoke came next.

No, I thought. No, no!

Fear, anger and anxiety gripped me as I reached the camp, one of the first to arrive. I coughed as the stench of burnt flesh filled my nostrils. I didn’t want to look, but I had to.

The massacred bodies of 166 people were strewn about the UN-run refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi, Africa. Some had been shot in the head; others burned. A few poor souls were just hacked up with a blade.

Another 116 others laid about, wounded, crippled – some crying in anguish, others too injured to make much of a noise at all.

But these weren’t just any people. They were my people. My tribe.

Men. Women. Children. Yes, children. A few you could even call toddlers.

My brain tried to process the scene before me as I helped transport the wounded to hospitals in Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi. I kept thinking how, just two hours earlier, we had talked and laughed together; my people, my tribe. I only escaped the nightmare because I was in an encampment some half-mile away.

And now, before me, so many of my people laid slaughtered like animals.

And for what?

I continue to ask myself that question today, a decade later. Yet I am no longer in my home country of Africa. I find myself in San Diego, California. A 31-year-old college student. An aspiring writer. One who hopes to tell the world of the injustices to my tribe.

My people do not have writers like those found in Europe and America. We are verbal story tellers, a long and proud tradition. But I must master the art of writing so that I can make a difference for those who remain in Africa and face something far worse than what’s called “discrimination” in America.

They face extinction.

Please, before I get into all that, allow me to tell you how I got from there to here.

I was born in the African village of Bijombo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a typical poor African village. No medicine, no running water. We lived in huts with floors made out of grass and dirt. A treat for me consisted of boiled cornmeal hardened into the consistency of a rock, with a glass of milk to wash it down.

But we were generally happy. We had our families, we had our village.

Yet the region was filled with strife, and Civil War found us. The entire Central African region was engulfed in a massive civil war throughout much of the 1990s.

As for me and my people, to make a very complicated situation as simple as possible, my tribe is referred to as the Congolese Tutsi of the Banyamulenge tribe.

Generations ago, our ancestors migrated from the neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to a high plateau in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. But since the 1990s, the Congolese Tutsi have been a pawn in a power struggle between the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring countries.

My tribe is Congolese, but the Democratic Republic of Congo government and our fellow citizens ignore our citizenship-by-birth status. They consider us refugees. They want us out. We faced harsh discrimination, we were forced from our homes.Fidele

As for Rwanda and Burundi, they have been mostly good to us, taking us in when need be. But there has been civil war, bloodshed, death. All sides are guilty of crimes against humanity. Ugly crimes.

The reason my people were in that UN-run refugee camp in Burundi on that fateful Friday the 13th night of 2004 was because we had fled to escape fierce fighting that had erupted between two Congolese army officers in Bukavu, the capital city of my province, South Kivu. The two officers were Colonel Jules Mutebutsi of my tribe (now in exile in Rwanda) and his boss, Brigadier General Mbuza Mabe.

After the massacre, survivors – including me and my family – were sent to live in another camp, hundreds of miles from where our loved ones were slaughtered and torched. At the end of 2006, the United Nations introduced the process of relocating us to Western countries. In 2007, families relocated to United States, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and other countries.

On April 18, 2007, I flew from Bujumbura to San Diego. I joined my dad and mom, who came one month before me. One month later my sister arrived. My brother’s family joined us in 2008.

Like other survivors, I did not apply for a visa nor choose to come to San Diego. I found myself in a strange country with an unfamiliar culture. Adjusting to the American system and the English language was a challenge – I still struggle.

In 2008, I started college with the help of a government grant. But it was not always easy. The memory of my parents struggling to pay a $2 monthly school fee will not depart from my mind. In 2011, I graduated from San Diego Mesa College with an associate degree in chemistry.

In October of last year, I was hired at Point Loma Nazarene University as a groundskeeper. More recently I began my junior year here, majoring in writing. It is my pleasure to develop my talent. My ambition is to become the voice of my people.

Burundian rebel leaders, Agathon Rwasa and Pasteur Habimana, who claimed responsibility for the 2004 attack against my people, remain in power today in Burundi. Pasteur Habimana works for the Burundian government while his boss at that time, Agathon Rwasa, is still in the opposition and resides in Bujumbura, Burundi. They were leaders of National Forces of Liberation-Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People.

They have never been brought to justice, unlike Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Sometimes when I see how Americans get so upset at trivial things, such as waiting an extra minute at a lengthy stoplight or when their favorite football team loses a game, to be honest – I think Americans are ignorant.

Don’t get me wrong. America helped save me and my family. For that, I will be forever grateful.

But America should consider the war-torn, disease-ravaged continent of Africa as it continues its mighty military quests. The Middle East may not need American intervention – but Africa does. America is powerful. America could help.

Maybe one day, God willing, it will.

Fix contributor Fidele Sebahizi is a student at Point Loma Nazarene University. Associate editor Jennifer Kabbany contributed to this report. Sebahizi may be reached via email at: [email protected].

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After weeks of intense and sometimes personal attacks on Robert Zoellick and his political reputation by Swarthmore College students, the former president of the World Bank and U.S. trade representative announced he will decline the college’s invitation to give one of its commencement addresses.

Zoellick, who earned his bachelor’s degree with academic honors from Swarthmore in 1975, said in an email to the college’s president that returning to his alma mater for this June’s graduation ceremony – in which he was also slated to receive an honorary degree – was more controversial than it was worth.

Students in recent weeks have called him an architect of the Iraq War, claimed he characterizes Arabs as evil, criticized his stance on free trade, and even called him a war criminal.

Moreover, there were rumors that students would disrupt Zoellick’s graduation speech. Administrators also did little to quell student unrest over his scheduled appearance, nor did they dispute malicious accusations made against his record.

It was all too much for Zoellick.

“I don’t want to disrupt what should be a special day for the graduates, their families, and friends,” Zoellick stated. “Nor do I have an interest in participating in an unnecessarily controversial event.”

Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp cited students’ protests over Zoellick’s slated appearance as the reason for his cancellation.

“In light of the discussions that have been taking place in the student press over the last week or so, in which the selection of Mr. Zoellick has been the subject of debate, he has informed us that he will neither accept the degree nor participate in the ceremony,” she said in a campuswide email sent Friday.

In the wake of the news, many students on campus Monday and Tuesday said amongst themselves that they are disappointed a vocal and misguided minority ruined an opportunity to hear Zoellick speak, as his views run contrary to much of the day-to-day campus discourse.

Most of the campus controversy had begun with student complaints over Zoellick’s role as an advisor to Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. Some students also shared concern that Zoellick signed a 1998 letter on behalf of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century in favor of “removing Saddam’s regime from power.”

For that 1998 letter and an article Zoellick wrote titled “A Republican Foreign Policy,” which appeared in Foreign Affairs in 2000, some students smeared Zoellick in campus publications as a “war criminal,” the “chief architect of the Iraq War,” and a man with a “Manichean” view of world power—claims reiterated on Facebook through a student-initiated forum to reconsider Zoellick’s honorary degree.

But the outspoken protestors may have been in the minority.

In a March 28 editorial in the Phoenix, Swarthmore’s weekly student newspaper, junior Tyler Becker argued that “boiling down Zoellick’s impressive public service career to the Iraq War is not only a gross mischaracterization, it’s factually wrong.”

Sam Sussman, a senior and coeditor of the progressive campus magazine Left of Liberal, also pushed back against Zoellick’s detractors.

Sussman said in an email that “after Mr. Zoellick’s less researched critics rightfully retreated from their incorrect accusation that he was ‘an architect’ of the Iraq War, they turned to the more nebulous — and equally erroneous — claim that he ‘characterizes Arabs as evil.’ ”

In an apparent concession that they had exaggerated facts connecting Zoellick to the Iraq War, student activists pivoted to other critiques of Zoellick’s record, namely his position as former U.S. trade representative and his support of free trade agreements.

Swarthmore senior Will Lawrence, who emerged as one of Zoellick’s most vocal critics last month, cited Zoellick’s affiliation with Goldman Sachs and advocacy for free trade in Latin America as reasons to oppose his honorary degree, for example.

Regardless of factual merit, controversy simmered in the campus newspapers for weeks, while the school’s administration and faculty failed to come to Zoellick’s defense.

Indeed, when students against Zoellick’s pending appearance organized a meeting to discuss his record further, campus administrators even sent Alina Wong, Dean of the Sophomore Class and Director of the Intercultural Center, to mediate the conversation.

By the time the meeting took place, the issue seemed to be quieting down, with only about 20 students in attendance. But by then, the campus was firmly polarized on the issue.

A minority of dissenters continued to frame Zolleick as an unacceptable commencement speaker in campus news media. This vocal minority also failed to quell rumors that they might resort to disrupting Zoellick’s portion of the graduation ceremony, though others suggest that they were only planning to protest Zoellick’s presence before his speech, not during the actual event.

Fix contributor Danielle Charette is a student at Swarthmore College.

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IMAGE: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr

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A science professor at Columbia University on Monday began a quantum mechanics lecture by stripping into his boxers and eating a banana while rap music played in the background.

Then it got weird.

The professor, Emlyn Hughes, proceeded to redress himself in black, complete with sunglasses, and hug himself on stage at the front of the classroom, a large theater.

As Hughes sat in the fetal position, two “actors” dressed in ninja costumes walked onstage and placed white stuffed animals – lambs – on stools before the audience, according to a student-recorded video of the incident posted on Vimeo.com by “Bwog,” a campus news website run by Columbia students.

The ninjas blindfolded the lambs, then a ninja impaled one of the stuffed animals with a long sword and banged it against the stool – right as an image of a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 started rolling on a large screen behind the performance.

Students in the video could initially be heard laughing and giggling and questioning the performance when it started, even squealing in shock with Hughes had first undressed.

“I am so confused,” one female student said on the video. “What is happening.”

After the lamb’s grisly “death” and the images of 9/11, the footage turned into a montage that included clips of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Hitler – as well as numerous shots of war images – tanks rolling, bombs exploding, people hanging upside-down, troops marching, and the like.

As the footage continued, a rap song called “Drop It Like It’s Hot” played in the background.

Students’ reaction turned from laughter and amused surprised to concern, according to comments heard on the video.

“What the f**k is happening,” one female student asked. “Is this real life? … How does this relate to anything?”

Eventually, the film ended and the professor began his lecture. But when he first grabbed his microphone, at least one student mistook it for a gun, saying with concern: “He has a gun, he has a gun.”

The bizarre episode lasted less than ten minutes. The Vimeo clip included the very first part of Hughes’ lecture, in which he told students that “in order to learn quantum mechanics, you have to strip to your raw, erase all the garbage from your brain and start over again. … Everything you do in your everyday life is totally opposite of what you are going to learn in quantum mechanics.”

The Columbia Daily Spectator, the student campus newspaper that reported the news Monday of the professor’s performance, quoted several students who said they were troubled and confused by what unfolded.

Student Maura Barry-Garland told The Spectator that “the incident was all the more disconcerting because Hughes did not provide an explanation for using those images.

“It was very disturbing, and I don’t think anyone in the audience got what he was doing. He didn’t explain it or provide a context, and that’s why it was offensive to me and to other people,” she told the student newspaper.

The Spectator also reported Hughes’ performance Monday was not his first “stunt,” noting in a 2011 lecture “he showed students nude photos of Woodstock attendees.”

According to his bio page on the university’s website, Hughes stated that “via my background in nuclear physics activities, I have a deep interest in issues relevant to nuclear proliferation.”

WARNING: Video contains some profanity. (NSFW)

FroSci Gone Wild from Bwog on Vimeo.

Click here to read the Columbia Daily Spectator article on the incident.

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IMAGE: Bwog/Vimeo.com

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