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Swarthmore College ponders strategy for new ‘social justice’ requirement

Approximately thirty faculty, staff, and members of the Intercultural Center (IC) at Swarthmore College met last week to discuss new course requirements dedicated to, get this — gender, race, class, and sexuality.

That’s right — requirements. Who would have guessed, eh?

“Swarthmore students need to be well-informed when they graduate and enter the professional world,” noted Andrés Cordero, one of the meeting organizers. “Regardless of political orientation, the requirement would get students ‘to also have a social justice alignment and theoretical basis.’”

Cordero argued that a mandated social justice class isn’t different from any other course requirement, pointing out he had to take a college calculus.

“Even if it was against my will, it ended up being in my best interest to have a holistic education. It’s the same conception when it comes to social issues,” he said.

Except, of course, it’s kind of difficult to inject radical progressive dogma into a calculus course.

In the same vein, a professor made the case that a social justice mandate could “offset contemporary pressures for students to pursue more STEM majors and careers” — it would be “a counterbalance to the ‘neoliberal impact on the liberal arts.’”

Right — we certainly don’t want students seeking productive careers in science and technology now, do we?

It should come as little surprise that this (visiting) prof, Sa’ed Atshan, is a member of the college’s Peace & Conflict Studies Department.

Then there was the Educational Studies Department’s Edwin Mayorga, who typifies academic progressivism perfectly:

“We fall into the trap of creating the opportunity to have the conversation, but then we only have the conversation and then it was a nice conversation, a civil conversation, but there was no change.”

As if change for the sake of change is inherently beneficial.

(Mayorga describes himself as a “parent-educator-scholar-activist” and notes that for the last 11 years he “was doing educational justice work with the New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE).”)

There were those who had some concerns with the requisite aspect of any new courses.

Student A’Dorian Murray-Thomas wondered if faculty were actually qualified to speak about the various (social justice) issues.

But more impressive was Gilbert Guerra, a leader of the Achieving Black & Latino Leaders of Excellence (ABLLE):

I believe that mandating what classes other students should take based on our values without giving them a say in the process is unjust, especially since these are classes students are paying a lot of money for. I believe that forcing students to take classes they are not interested in is likely to breed apathy and even resentment, thus defeating the purpose of the requirement. I believe that we can work in the community to drum up enough enthusiasm and support for this initiative that it won’t have to be mandatory.

We need (a lot) more Gilbert Guerras at our universities.

Read more at The Daily Gazette.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.