Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama's Campus Troops "Ravished Our Virgins"

The blogosphere is rightly amused at Mary Grabar’s column for on Monday in which she wrote:
Obama’s advance troops have already taken over our college campuses, have bound and gagged our conservative professors, have ravished our virgins, have pillaged our stores of wisdom, and have ensconced themselves in the thrones of power in deans’, presidents’ and department heads’ offices.

Kos posted a link about this yesterday on an open thread, and even conservatives are embarrassed (“the worst opinion piece I've ever read”), but this is more than just one wingnut with crazy ideas about virgins. The really crazy part of Graber’s is her belief that left-wing radicals have “taken over our college campuses.”

As I argue in my other new book, “Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies,” the greatest threats to free speech on campus come from far right advocates of censorship and corporate-minded administrators who seek to appease politicians, students, and donors by silencing controversy (left and right) on campus.

Grabar believes that scholars analyzing Buffy the Vampire Slayer are “this poison rotting away our civilization.” English professors writing about TV shows aren’t any threat to civilization or the political establishment. Administrators who follow corporate management models and who have helped replace tenure-track faculty with temps aren’t part of a vast left-wing conspiracy.

Grabar reflects the infantilization of students of the far right, who want a new kind of in loco parentis to regulate what students and faculty say because of her fear that “the left brainwashes the inmates of the educational system.” Grabar mentions David Horowitz’s campaign to pass legislation (in Congress and on the state level) to restrict academic freedom. She declares that liberal influence in higher education proves “the very need for such redress.”

There’s a very good reason why right-wingers such as Horowitz seek to ban politics (meaning criticism of the government) from the classroom. They fear that a new generation of students might be engaged with reality, might be reading some authors who question the lies of the Bush Administration, might be learning more from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the mainstream media that pushed the lies of the Bush Administration or the right-wing talk radio nuts who still believe those lies. We need to stop censorship by the far right such as Horowitz, who thinks that professors should be banned from criticizing the Bush Administration and prohibited from putting political cartoons on their office doors.

The Obama candidacy has the potential to be one of the most transformative movements on college campuses. This is about much more than mere voting: we need to develop ways for students to be part of a bigger movement for social change.

Faculty, students, and workers at college campuses should be planning now to make engagement with political ideas a fundamental part of campus culture this fall. There should be much more than voter registration. We should have campus debates and discussions to help students understand the issues that confront this country. At a time when the mainstream press is likely to focus on Swiftboating Barack Obama, colleges can be one place where intellectual debate is undertaken about who should be the next president and what his policies should be.

And after the Nov. 4 election, college campuses should plan what I call the “Changing America Project”: holding a series of panels with students, scholars, and politicians analyzing specific policy issues and offering advice to the next president and the next Congress about what needs to be done to improve our government and our country.

The right-wing will complain that intellectual engagement ravishes their virgin minds and will try to suppress political discussions on campus, but we must never capitulate to repression.

Note: I'm the author of a new book, Barack Obama: This Improbable Quest, but I'm not part of the Obama campaign.

Crossposted at Obama Politics and Daily Kos.

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