The NAS is at it again, denouncing colleges for the horrible crime of encouraging students to read books with a point of view. This time it's Brooklyn College, which is asking students to read How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, by Moustafa Bayoumi, a Brooklyn College professor.
Ashley Thorne's attack on the book embraces the views of Werner Cohn, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of British Columbia, who wrote: “If this is required reading for all of your students, it needs to be balanced by other points of view. Any other course of action will amount to indoctrination and subversion of education.”
Cohn is doubly wrong. This isn't required reading, because no students are punished for failing to read it. And it is absolutely not the case that a solitary book or speaker amounts to “indoctrination and subversion of education” unless a counterveiling viewpoint is provided. I'm a big advocate of debate on campus, and bemoan the lack of it, but it makes no sense to say that any activity short of a debate amounts to indoctrination.
Oddly, Cohn actually praises the book: “I have now had a look at the book in question. While much of it is interesting and informative, the 'afterword' is a harshly-worded polemic against US foreign policy and against Israel.”
So here we have a book whose harshest critic admits is mostly “interesting and informative,” but which conservatives claim should be banned from a common reading program because it is expresses a left-wing point of view in one small section of the book.