Let Academic Freedom Ring

As long as we understand exactly what it really is…

Debbitage has an excellent post responding to a piece in Higher Ed about critique v. objectivity in the classroom. The comparison is between “Objectivist” teaching and “Criticism Based” teaching…

An important aspect of criticism-based teaching is that if done right, it is able to correct the teacher’s own flaws. Objectivist teaching depends on the teacher to correctly draw the fact-opinion border, and to select the correct facts to teach. A criticism-based approach, done correctly, enables students (particularly those coming from a different perspective than the teacher) to challenge the teacher’s unexamined assumptions — and, crucially, to give both sides the tools to work through the dispute to see to what extent evidence and reason support one side or the other…

Go read this post, it is dead on. The important thing is to give students, even the ones you would never have a beer with or support politically in any way, as much safety as possible in the context where the conversation can go wherever it needs to go, respectfully but relentlessly. My gender and race classes have often included students with diametrically opposing views, and it usually turns out that the more conservative, sometimes even ‘homophobic’ views are in the minority, yet present. This is where the call for objectivist rhetoric often comes from, because objectivist rhetoric is the hobgoblin of the neoconservative academic freedom movement. It usually turns out that a thorough critical discussion, again, done respectfully (this is a classroom we are talking about) reaches a stage of thoughtful discussion, meaningful change in student’s perspectives, and true scholarly progress, while objectivist thinking usually reaches stalemate.

Anyway, go have a look at this blog post, it is quite impressive.

Comments

  1. #1 Nathan Myers
    March 24, 2009

    “Objectivist”? You do realize that this word has long since been taken over by Ayn Rand sycophants? You might as well talk about supporting scientologists in the classroom.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2009

    Nathan: Interesting point. Go read the original post and see if this term is being used correctly there.

  3. #3 Ben Breuer
    March 24, 2009

    Having just quickly glanced over your and the original posts: How would the creation-evolution thingy be parsed here? It seems to me that creationism could use both the “criticism” (subjectivist) and the “objective”/”objectivist” (i.e., just data, no interpretation) positions as fulcra to advance their agenda.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2009

    Ben: The very simple answer is this: What is the validity of the argument that a class in Zoology should include a section on Bigfoot, seriously examining claims that Bigfoot is real (not as a study in strange science, but as a serious look at bigfoot)? What is the validity of the argument that a class in astronomy should include a unit on astrology (not as a study in ancient and now discredited belief systems, but as a seroius look at the actual influences the movements of the planets have on our personalities and moods)?

    And so on.