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Letter to the Editor:
Professor counters columnist's claims
web posted January 16, 2007
I am writing in response to Mr. Langley’s condemnation of university professors on January 2nd. There are several points which concern me, the main point being the way in which he generalized the behavior of a few professors to the behavior of all in the “rabble of academia” who spout a “counsel of hate”. Such generalizations, where the behavior or look of a few individuals becomes a representation for an entire group, serve no useful purpose for analysis.
Rather such generalizations are the basis that create stereotypes that fuel racism, sexism, and other “–isms” that result in prejudice and discrimination. The danger is in assuming that a few people can possibly represent the diversity of large group. I am interested in knowing how many college classrooms Mr. Langley has been in recently, and I hope that they were at multiple schools in different regions of the U.S., in order to give him the data he needs to make the sweeping claims he does. In my many years as a student in college and graduate school combined, Professors like Kevin Barrett are the exception rather than the rule.
Another point that I will address relates to his concern over criticism of the U.S. and its policies in classrooms, and Mr. Langley is not alone in his concern. As an anthropology professor, all of my classes are focused on the many different and diverse cultures of the world.
I emphasize how we are citizens of not only Edgefield, Augusta, South Carolina, Georgia, the U.S., etc., but we are global citizens, because we do not exist on this planet in isolation from other cultures or regions of the world.
The decisions that we make, sometimes small ones like will I buy a shirt made in that country, or larger ones like will I choose to take public transportation to work in order to help the environment, ultimately add up and have a ripple effect that may be felt well beyond the confines of our backyard.
I am a reflective person and I evaluate my behavior and decisions based on standards taught by my affiliation with my religion, profession, Girl Scouts, etc. Why would I not also be reflective of the behaviors and philosophies that my country’s leadership pursues? If we move forward with an assumption that we never err, then we are arrogant and foolish.
History repeats itself and it’s important to look at both the negative and positive lessons that history provides for us.
Also, if we do not stop to evaluate our relationships with our neighbors, and blindly pursue our own ambitions then we are selfish. While I present a variety of information to students, I emphasize that they should do their own research and draw their own conclusions. This is called critical thinking, a skill that we value in higher education. Intellectuals and the educated were often the first to be harassed or even killed in revolutions, including the Chinese Cultural Revolution or Lenin’s influence in Russia. They were the first to be assaulted because they represented free thought and critical thinking that would challenge the new government.
Ironically, Mr. Langley’s desire to shut professors up is the very same mentality of most communist governments. Oh and by the way, professors write the majority of college textbooks.
To conclude, I encourage parents to give their children roots, a basic set of values from their culture, and allow education to give them wings to soar into the larger world.
Angela Bratton, Ph.D.
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