I have been taken to task by students from the renowned institution of Harvard because my language is not in accordance with that employed at their university. I come from the less than 10% of college faculty who worked our way up from the working class so I admittedly lack the culture and refinement of the Harvard way of life. I was raised to say bullshit is bullshit and nonsense is nonsense. I support the California social studies teacher who recently said in class that Creationism was “nonsense” and was found guilty. I assume Harvard students do not agree with the teacher’s accurate comment concerning the idiotic ideas of Creationists. If I might rephrase the famous comment by former Harvard Professor Henry Kissinger, the reason academic debates at Harvard are so profound is because the issues discussed at faculty meetings are so trivial.
Most comments about my statement that Professor Robinson’s statement that Israel’s invasion of Gaza was comparable to the Holocaust insist he has a right to say whatever he desires to students on grounds of academic freedom. My argument with Professor Robinson is twofold: (1) he offers no historical evidence to explain why or how the Gaza invasion is comparable to the Holocaust unless he wants to claim the Warsaw Rebellion which began with a handful of rifles and revolvers is somehow comparable to the Hamas military organization which had mortars, automatic weapons, grenades, rifle grenades, rockets, etc.. (2) the topic had nothing to do with the course he was teaching and he offered no reading materials that would allow students to make informed reactions.
I was told the Holocaust was well known by students. Hogwash!! Ask any ten Harvard students to discuss the stages of the Holocaust or Nazi plans for dealing with Jews. Students know what was in a movie or from hearing an account from a Holocaust survivor and that has nothing to do with Nazi plans to murder every single Jew.
Most responding cited Academic Freedom in the abstraction. Let me pose actual scenarios from teaching secondary and college students for 52 years.
1. In 1960, I was teaching high school in Petaluma, California which contained numerous Mormon students. At that time, the Mormon religion believed black skinned people had black skin because God cursed them for their evil, and Negroes encountered difficulties if they were Mormons. I thought the Mormon religion was racist, bigoted and its explanation of black skin was abominable and stupid. Are those who believe in ACADEMIC FREEDOM of the view I had the right in my classes to denounce the Mormon religion and insult my students? I kept my mouth shut. However, I met with parents and discussed my views on equal rights for Negroes. Fifty years later I was informed by a former student how much they respected my silence on their religion and Cheryl told me her parents finally decided to join those Mormons who led the fight to end this belief.
2. I teach Muslim women who wear the burqa and Chador. I regard these garments as symbols of Muslim female oppression and the exploitation and degradation of Muslim women. I have never expressed my views on this topic. Do those who believe in ACADEMIC FREEDOM claim I have the right to express my views on feminine rights in my class or via email because I am concerned about this topic?
3. I have encountered numerous students who are upset at professors who refer to all whites as “racists” and benefiting from racism. Some of these students have gone to the Dean and complained about being insulted. I do not believe any professor has the right to term students in his/her class as “white racists.” I teach the history of racism and include racism against Irish immigrants or Italians or Jews. I never discuss the silly issue of “who suffered the most.” DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO TERM MY STUDENTS WHITE RACISTS BECAUSe THAT IS THE WAY I FEEL?
4. I have taught bigots who hate blacks. Do professors or students who hate Black people have the right to insult blacks in class as stupid, filthy, animal, etc.. or via email on grounds of ACADEMIC FREEDOM?
5. I have worked with German educators and taught German school teachers. Do I have the right to say ALL GERMANS ARE GUILTY FOR NAZISM even those born after World War II on grounds of ACADEMIC FREEDOM? I personally do not believe anyone who was a child or born after WWII is guilty of anything.
Here are actual cases. I await comments concerning academic freedom from defenders of Professor Robinson.