• August 31, 2015

U. of Minnesota Takes Heat for Proposal to Gauge Future Teachers' Sensitivity

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has come under pressure to reject a faculty panel's proposal to require students in its education school to doubt the United States is a meritocracy and to demonstrate an understanding of concepts such as "white privilege."

Conservative pundits and a prominent free-speech advocacy group have attacked the education-school panel, called the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group, which has said future teachers should "understand the importance of cultural identity" and "be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression." The panel also has said prospective teachers should promote social justice and have an understanding of U.S. history that takes into account the "myth of meritocracy in the United States."

Jean K. Quam, dean of the university's College of Education and Human Development, said today in an interview that the proposal was just one of several being offered up by various faculty panels as the college moves to overhaul its teacher-education program to better prepare students to deal with today's classrooms. She characterized the proposal as "a brainstorm of ideas" that the education school had yet to act upon as it develops a sweeping plan to change teacher preparation in the coming academic year.

"We would never impose requirements of how people are required to think or act as part of their teacher education," Ms. Quam said. "We are trying to broaden the way that they think or act and not narrow that view."

An 'Affront to Liberty'

But in a recent letter to the university's president, Robert H. Bruininks, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education argued that the education school had signaled its intent to adopt the proposal in a recent application for grant money and was already advising applicants that such changes may be under way.

The letter from Adam Kissel, director of the group's Individual Rights Defense Program, called the proposed requirements for prospective teachers "unconstitutional and morally unconscionable" and "a severe affront to liberty."

Some conservative pundits have criticized the proposed requirement using even harsher language. Chris Baker, the host of a talk show on the local radio station KTLK-FM, recently referred to the education school as "the University of Minnesota Adolf Hitler School of Education" and said the school was "one step away from advocating gas chambers for conservatives" and having students with views that did not comport with its ideology "culled from the herd and eliminated."

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research this week published an article urging readers to pressure Minnesota lawmakers and Gov. Timothy Pawlenty, a likely Republican candidate for president in 2012, to remove teacher training in that state "from the grips of ideologues."

Ms. Quam said the education-school panel had come back with "some pretty strong language about what it wanted to see." She added, however, that she supported its underlying goal of preparing prospective teachers to deal with students from diverse backgrounds, and noted that about 70 languages and dialects are spoken by students in the Saint Paul school system alone.

The controversy over the Minnesota proposal echoes a recent debate over whether it is appropriate for colleges of education to require prospective teachers to display certain professional "dispositions" showing an ability to work with diverse students — a requirement that schools view as ensuring teachers are effective, and critics regard as thinly disguised ideological litmus tests. In response to such criticisms, the governing board of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education voted in 2007 to stop suggesting that teacher-preparation programs take their students' views on "social justice" into account.


1. davidgmartin - December 02, 2009 at 04:13 pm

When the phrase, ". . .be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression." we should all be thankful for the opposition to this type of propoganda. Notice how only the conservatives are deemed negative in this, not the folks who want to foist an ideological agenda upon students. Maybe teachers ought to stop worrying about such things and focus on having students write well, think critically, and do some basic math. I guess those things are just part of the notion of white previlege.

2. twillia48 - December 02, 2009 at 04:18 pm

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3. 11237082 - December 02, 2009 at 04:42 pm

"be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression."

Oh, what the Underground Gammarian would have done with this! But for now, I'm imagining the good people down at Lake Woebegone's Sidetrack Tap trying confront the twin demons of hegmonic masculinity and heteronormativity.

4. dnewton137 - December 02, 2009 at 05:02 pm

While they're at it, the gang down at the Sidetrack Tap can discuss whether Chris Baker's "gas chambers for conservatives" are part of the same conspiracy as Sarah Palin's death panels. Wish I were there to hear it.

5. gravesjl - December 02, 2009 at 05:13 pm

It is amazing how scholarly facts are deemed propaganda when they counter the views of those who are socially dominant. If your concern is teaching students to think critically, please explain to me how any critical thinker can examine the sociological data in the United States and not come to the conclusion that socially defined race (e.g. white-skin privelege) still exists and plays an important role in determining one's social prospects (especially when it comes to education or employment??) For example, how do you explain Deborah Pager's work a few years back that demonstrated that European American males with criminal records were more likely to receive call-backs for employment compared to African American males without criminal records. Please remember that in this experiment both groups were provided with identical resumes. There is an abundance of data of this kind and it is still being collected. No honest scholar can make a case against the ongoing significance of sexism and heterosexism in determining social prospects in this society as well.

This is tantamount to labeling gravitation or evolution as "propaganda" in the natural sciences. As scholars we do not champion the rights of individuals to believe things that are demonstrably false. While I might have approached this issue differently from the team at UMinn, they are to be commended for having the courage to take on the ongoing racism, sexism, and heterosexism that is pervasive in American society.


Dr. Joseph L. Graves Jr
Dean & Professor of Biological Sciences
North Carolina A&T State University

6. wbgleason - December 02, 2009 at 05:19 pm

I've been living through this. Opponents are labelled racist and dishonest. For a little sample of the #TERI proponents rhetoric please see:


I want to point out that I am about as left as you can get. Thank God for FIRE and the Chronicle for exposing this nonsense. Obviously, if you oppose it, you are a wing-nut, because of course conservatives oppose it also. Therefore, you, too, are a wing-nut. Any attempt to engage these folks in direct discussion, so far, has failed.

From Lake Wobegon University,

Bill Gleason
(Faculty Member and Alumnus)

7. sullivab - December 02, 2009 at 05:56 pm

(Sigh!) Why can't we focus on the real issues facing this country: endless wars without clear objectives; permanent job loss for millions of workers; a health care system that is #1 in cost but much worse in effectiveness than that of most developed nations; a government that is beholden to lobbyists representing small, well-heeled constituencies; the erosion of American influence around the world; etc. Can't the American public think in complex, nuanced ways anymore? Why must Godwin's law (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law) be proven within the first four or five posts on every online "discussion"?

My father only made it to 6th grade before the Great Depression pushed him into the workforce. Nevertheless, he could present a more cogent, nuanced argument than the vast majority of people posting comments on stories such as this one. Are we all becoming dumber, or is it that the cloak of anonymity provided by the Internet has turned us into ill-mannered and seemingly-uninformed cretins?

8. davepalen - December 02, 2009 at 05:59 pm

Maybe we should back up and challenge the concept of schools of education. What a waste of taxpayer money this is. It is sad we pay people to sit around endlessly discussing sexism, racism, heterosexism while America's students get horrible education. Yes, we should have some diversity discussions when training teachers, but this is outrageous. Our teaching might improve if we taught new teachers how to be experts in their subject matter rather than dwell on this worthless information. Most professors (such as Dr. Graves) live comfy, pampered lives so out of touch with reality that it is sad. Students (black, white, gay, straight, rich and poor) need quality education. Let's improve the credentials of our teachers not corrupt them with liberal junk.

9. sgtrock - December 02, 2009 at 06:24 pm

"This is tantamount to labeling gravitation or evolution as "propaganda" in the natural sciences. As scholars we do not champion the rights of individuals to believe things that are demonstrably false. While I might have approached this issue differently from the team at UMinn, they are to be commended for having the courage to take on the ongoing racism, sexism, and heterosexism that is pervasive in American society."

I'm so tired of hearing about "white privilege" I could scream. "White privilege" negates the sixteen years of 2 1/2 jobs and fourteen-hour days. I'm where I am in life not because of my hard, sustained work but because of "white privilege." Nuts ...

10. haohtt - December 02, 2009 at 07:42 pm

It is impossible to take seriously Dean Quam's comment that "We would never impose requirements of how people are required to think or act as part of their teacher education," when the previous paragraph makes it crystal clear that this is PRECISELY the intent of the panel's proposal. Being able to articulate one's views is not the same as a requirement that one's views follow a determined philosophical or political path.

11. cwinton - December 02, 2009 at 08:24 pm

With all due respect to Dean Quam, the fact that any panel of faculty in her college would come up with this kind of nonsense indicates she has problems reaching far beyond the inept stereotyping it represents. And with all due respect to Dr. Graves, I think this kind of statement would be just as indicative of problems in his bailiwick if he had a panel of his faculty proposing that future biologists understand the scientific myth of gravitation and evolution, which I'm quite sure has been demonstrated by someone's statistical "evidence". It may be that those of a more conservative persuasion are the most inflamed by the behavior of the faculty panel that produced this proposal, but let me assure you, there are many of us of the more liberal persuasion who are also incensed by the narrow minded bigotry that has been demonstrated by this particular panel.

12. tenstring - December 02, 2009 at 08:25 pm

To have awareness of social injustice is a quite reasonable requirement for someone preparing to wade into the fray. Somebody rang the white paranoia bell and the dogs are loosed --

13. jffoster - December 02, 2009 at 09:02 pm

I must partially agree with "sullivab" (7) and his invocation of Godwin's Law -- this proposal at U Minn's College of Education is certainly not Nazi. Stalinist possibly -- it does sound like something that might have been promulgated in the Little Red Schoolhouse. It seems to come out of the "Cultural Competence" Movement -- a misnomer to hoot at. What they really mean is MULTI- cultural Competence. Like most educationists they have trouble saying what they really mean, often because they don't know what they really mean. And their notion of competence is pretty shallow.

14. amnirov - December 02, 2009 at 10:23 pm

The person or rather the committee who wrote "white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression" is an enemy to freedom and equality. We need to exile this antiquated, prejudiced type of thought as quickly as possible. No more anti-male BS.

Whenever you hear a female colleague spout off this sort of garbage, call her on it. Have the courage to do it in public. Don't let this sort of discriminatory crap fester any longer. It must be stopped now.

15. raymond_j_ritchie - December 02, 2009 at 11:01 pm

You can require someone to mumble any sort of mumbo-jumbo and they will do so if it is in return for a meal-ticket. Missionaries learnt that long ago.
What student teachers will learn from this is to make sure they only make politically statements.
Whether they believe it is another matter. Conservatives often have panic attacks over teachers indoctrinating young minds. They should not worry too much. Students quickly pick up on a teacher who is expousing material that they themselves do not believe.

The US is as close to a meritocracy as most other democracies. What is different about the US is the absolute conviction that the US is a pure meritocracy. Australia is also more or less meritocratic, however it is a generally accepted fact here that socioeconomic status protects the siblings of the elite from the full blast of an aristocracy of merit. Absolute belief in a country being a pure meritocracy can be dangerous. For example, students in Law or Medicine at the University of Sydney (The Group of Eight:Australian Ivy League) will quite seriously tell you that the poor are poor because they are not as naturally brilliant as they are. I heard worse in the US. Fortunately most grow out of it.

16. gravesjl - December 03, 2009 at 08:01 am

I do know the internal politics behind the decision to add these competencies to the UMinn curriculum. However that aside, these competencies should be judged on whether they allow for a graduate of the curriculum to be a more effective teacher or policy maker in education. I argue emphatioally that a knowledge of the role that race, sex, and sexual-orientation plays in society and how certain groups are privileged by their positions along these sociological variables is relevant and indispensable.

Also, for the gentleman who is so tired of "hearing about white privilege." Imagine what it is like to have been the victim of it!? What this means is that all sorts of people work 2 1/2 jobs and 14 hour days, but certain people are more likely to and differentially rewarded for this effort. The fact that people who work in higher education are not aware of that fact, argues again for the kind of competencies included in the new U. Minn. curriculum. This isn't a matter of "right" or "left"; its a matter of right or wrong.

Dr. J.L. Graves, Jr.
Dean and Professor of Biological Sciences

17. dank48 - December 03, 2009 at 08:51 am

There's a difference between teaching students how to think and teaching students what to think. Well-intentioned proposals like this one confuse the two. Students need to be taught critical thinking so that they can more intelligently understand the world, including the country, state, city, neighborhoods they live in. The proposal would short-circuit the process, simply leading them straight to the conclusions the planners consider to be indisputably desirable.

Students who have not been taught how to read and write and do arithmetic may or may not be capable of critical thinking, but I don't see how it would matter a lot. And I don't think anyone who truly believes in spoonfeeding kids any ideology is demonstrating much facility with critical thinking themselves.

Seems to me we need a dose of English educator William "Hang Theology" Rogers, who despite criticism that his school failed to provide students a "proper" religious education, concentrated on the skills they needed. He got his nickname from how he started the school day: "Hang theology. Let us begin."

18. gravesjl - December 03, 2009 at 10:04 am

To Dank48, Please visit our webpage at www.ncat.edu. Our Quality Enhancement Plan for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is Critical Thinking. Our slogan is "We teach students how to think not what to think" after our past President Dr. Warmoth Gibbs." These words were uttered in the midst of the student sit-in movement to integrate lunch counters across the American south. I am the Dean of a Divsion whose goal is implementing critical thinking at the core of essential learning outoomes (LEAP).

Having said that, if you have taught students how to think, they cannot avoid the conclusion that social privileges exist in human societies. These in the USA, specifically include socially constructed race, gender, and sexual orientation. The fact that so many otherwise intellgent faculty members are so willing to ignore this fact has led me to conclude that the academy is not doing a good job teaching students how to think critically about society(see Graves, J.L., The Race Myth: Why We Pretend that Races Exists in America, Dutton Press, 2005 for a fuller discussion.)

If you were to assess the degree to which your students think critically about social issues, you would have to wonder how well your program is working if the majority of the students leaving your program did not understand the dynamics of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in our country. Thus, the effort of the U. Minn. Ed. school to assess this in its graduates is not indoctrination into "political correctness." In the same way, if I were assessing the degree to which my students understood biology, I would be chagrined if they left my institution espousing special creationism or intelligent design. The problem here (as I argue elsewhere) is that when curricula or scholarship shed light on ongoing racist, sexist, heterosexist practice within our society; such scholarship/curricula is immediately discounted by charges of it resulting from an ideological agenda. As if, scholarship that disputes these claims is somehow "pure" and non-ideological??

Another case of this is presently going on in Congress concerning the use of the stolen emails on climate change research. Serious scholars must reject this sort of sophistry. As critical thinkers we need to insist that conclusions follow from argument and evidence. Again, the evidence for racism, sexism, and heterosexism is ironclad. So why would anyone be against students learning this and demonstrating that they understand it??

Dr. J.L. Graves, Jr.
Dean & Professor of Biological Sciences

19. rgm322 - December 03, 2009 at 10:26 am

I'm curious to know what those of you who believe this proposal is "liberal junk" and that white privilege does not exist think of this article: www.case.edu/president/aaction/​UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf

20. paldy - December 03, 2009 at 10:36 am

To bloggy people who put the rastiness into blogging.

No matter your issue, or what side you take (usually arbitrarily), you ought not to make your point with sarcasm, innuendos, baseless images. Don't put down another to uphold your view. There are legitimate issues on both sides and we ought to remember the rules of civility, first proposed by George Washington. While you are slamming on side for slamming, don't slam one who has a different perspective than you. Then your blog comments sink to verbal showmanship wrestling.

21. dthornton9 - December 03, 2009 at 11:22 am

"We would never impose requirements of how people are required to think or act as part of their teacher education," Ms. Quam said.

Oh, Really!? FIRE does great work....keep it up. This nonsense needs to be stopped.

Teachers need to teach reading, writing and arithmetic and leave the social engineering out of the classroom.

22. 11266895 - December 03, 2009 at 11:33 am

Dr. Graves, the problem with your position is that you are assuming the causal connection between the undoubtable fact of poor performance on a variety of socioeconomic indicators in the Hispanic and Black populations with the highly contentious explanation of "white priviledge." That explanation cannot explain, for example, the superior academic outcomes of Asians, the superior economic outcomes of homosexual males, or the variation between supposedly similar sub-populations in the "White" variable (e.g., Jews compared to Cajuns).

23. jffoster - December 03, 2009 at 11:44 am

Dr. Graves,
The statements from the envolved parties to the Minnesota Education College case I have seen sound like a demand for expressions of ideological conformity and approbation, not an evaluation of scholarship and scientific research.

24. jowime - December 03, 2009 at 11:56 am

The bruhaha, for those of us who have been following this issue, has not been the call for multicultural sensitivity (however defined). The issue has been the committee's calls for sanctions against prospective teachers that do not espouse sufficent sensitivity. The irony lies in the fact of a committee on diversity permiting no diversity of opinion among prospective teachers and a committee on sensitivity being radically insensitive to differing points of view. The document sounds draconian and totalitarian -- hardly the liberal principles it purports to defend.

25. jsch0602 - December 03, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Sounds like an attempt to make certain that American teachers are drawn from the bottom 10% of the class.

26. dank48 - December 03, 2009 at 02:59 pm

For what it's worth, Dr. Graves, I happen to share most if not all of the convictions you profess. As others have mentioned above, however, I am painfully aware that there are actually other people, not all of them ignorant, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing troglodytes, who disagree with me on these and other issues. There are enough of these people to lead me to believe that the problem is not that they are incapable of thinking critically, but that when it comes to complex social issues, as someone once said, "reasonable people can disagree."

Gladys Moore, my first supervisor in the book biz, summed it up well when it became clear we'd never see eye to eye on certain matters: "I'll tolerate your notions and opinions if you'll respect my convictions and beliefs."

I've also found that by talking with people who disagree with me, I sometimes learn things I don't learn when among the righteous. Once in a great while, I even change my mind.

27. russkirby - December 03, 2009 at 03:03 pm

The irony is tragically humorous- those lamenting honest contestation of white "privilege" cannot seem even to correctly spell the word. This despite the fact that this comment box has spell check functionality.

28. dmaratto - December 03, 2009 at 03:41 pm

What does it mean to be "white"?

29. mmcknight - December 03, 2009 at 04:01 pm

#22 (aka "11266895")--you are only making it clear that you have no concept of what white privilege is. Try reading about it first (google Peggy McIntosh, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack), then rework your points to actually be relevant to the topic. I know it's hard for many of us to actually read the writings of people we disagree with, but that's how you get to be a meaningful part of the conversation--by knowing what it's about.

30. gravesjl - December 03, 2009 at 04:38 pm

I accept the notion that on social issues, intelligent people can disagree. The question is how complex are the issues and why do people disagree? The why is revealing. One blogger above claimed that I assume that "white privilege" is responsible for the disadvantages faced by African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians. They counter with the time worn rebuttal but look at East Asians, etc.

I have written enough on the fallacy of this line of reasoning to claim without apology that this is an extremely weak and almost nonsensical argument. Different racial/ethnic groups came to the United States under different circumstances and I would argue that understanding those circumstances is crucial for anyone who plans to teach in this diverse nation. An example of privilege is the fact that persons of European ancestry are often not required to learn anything about persons of non-European ancestry, but we non-Europeans are required to learn about European history and culture.

What is required here is a commitment to pursue serious dialog in social discourse. It is precisely here that American society has failed. It fails because those who enjoy privilege fear having to face the consequences of an honest discussion; e.g. the moral requirement of taking action to level the playing field.

Dr. J.L. Graves Jr.
Dean & Professor of Biological Sciences

31. meb349 - December 03, 2009 at 04:51 pm

This question is a fantastic one that requires debate in order to come to some sort of resolution. Thought control IS NOT the purpose of academia just as much as critical thought and action ARE a part of democracy. Although I agree the term "white privilege" is contentious and provocative, I also struggle to thoroughly reject the literature associated with it.

What I see in this string of comments is that folks who are upset about the stereotyping of White folks as "privileged" also perpetuate some stereotypes about liberals, conservatives, Asians, Jews, and gay men. This is troubling and should create some cognitive dissonance upon reflection.

So, if we think about what UMN is considering here, then perhaps we could agree that telling these future teachers what to think is inappropriate. HOWEVER, asking them to think about WHO their students will be, the challenges they might face, and the INDIVIDUALIZED approaches that all students need to fulfill their potential requires just the type of critical thinking we should promote. Tell them what to think? No. Ask them to consider their role in the education of a diverse population and finding their own ways to be effective in their practice? Yes.

32. wbgleason - December 04, 2009 at 01:02 am

Professor Margaret Soltan of George Washington University has just now posted an excellent commentary on this situation which may be found at her University Diaries blog on Inside Higher Ed. Readers of this thread may wish to read it:


33. mbelvadi - December 04, 2009 at 06:48 am

What I find sad is that so many of the comments seem to think that social studies teachers now have complete freedom to teach what they perceive as accurate and this rule would impose new ideological restrictions where none previously existed. In fact, history teachers have long been constrained to teach US history only in ways that highlight what is good about the US, and ignore what's bad, so this discussion at UMinn is just attempting to balance the pendulum a bit. See James Loewen's excellent book "Lies Your Teacher Told You" for documentation regarding the absurd bias in secondary school history teaching and its negative consequences for students' actual understanding of their country's history.

34. hobbit - December 04, 2009 at 12:45 pm

gravesjl writes "I argue emphatioally that a knowledge of the role that race, sex, and sexual-orientation plays in society and how certain groups are privileged by their positions along these sociological variables is relevant and indispensable."

While that may be true, the goal of this initiative at the U of MN is to ostensibly to better prepare teachers for today's classrooms but none of them begin to touch the issues affecting increasing numbers of children in any urban area: hunger, poverty, homelessness, parents who are impaired by drug and alcohol use, violence in the family and neighborhood, and adjustments by immigrant children to a complex American culture. Today's teachers have an urgent need for real tools for helping deal with all these situations, which are a daily aspect of every classroom. Schools of education have not contributed much to the teacher in the trenches who face these challenges and more.

35. fixsen - December 04, 2009 at 02:31 pm

Let's just go back to the good old days, when no one questioned that the white race was superior; that males should naturally be leaders in society; that America belonged only to those born within its borders; that anyone, of whatever race, gender, or socioeconomic class, could succeed (never mind that the proposition contradicts the notion that nonwhites and females are inherenty inferior). No more "propaganda" about racism and sexiam. That will certainly make us a better nation. (But who is "us"?)

Elizabeth Fixsen
Instructor, Professional Writing Program
University of Maryland, College Park

36. 11232004 - December 04, 2009 at 02:38 pm

I think most of these comments are off point, and are intended to be just that. Why is no one talking about the gaps in achievement in our schools between different races? Yes, some asains are doing well, but not all. Shouldn't we be concerned that we have students in our schools who can not compete, who are not educated, who will not be able to pay my social security (sarcism intended)? A society is only as good as the lowest level, and if do not try some different approaches to reach ALL students, and teach teachers with some new skills, we'll continue to fail. Why are people so threatened by this? People want to put in to "liberal" or "conservative" ideologies. That's what has gotten us in to this mess of stagnant education in the first place. Where is the room for trying something different, even if you disagree with it?

That would be the "Adolph Hilter's" country people want to throw around so freely. No room for different thoughts.

...and to those of who you beleive you have no room, get over it. There is plenty of space and no one is being persecuted. In fact, I dare you to write about where YOUR personal rights are being violated by any of this!

37. mmccllln - December 04, 2009 at 04:44 pm

Well said, hobbit...

We can argue theory endlessly and never come to an agreement. And it won't matter, because when you are in a classroom full of students who deal with all the issues on a daily basis that hobbit mentioned, no theory - good, bad or indifferent - will matter.

38. rsmulcahy - December 04, 2009 at 05:16 pm

Reading these responses makes me long for the day billions of years in the future when the sun runs out of hydrogen to burn, expands into a giant ball of fire and incinerates what is left of this planet. Unfortunately, by that point humanity will probably have infected the far reaches of the universe where they will continue to argue whatever point happens to keep their egos intact. Yes, let's continue to argue 15 different unrelated and tangential arguments in one thread (a very frayed on at that) so that everyone knows that their opinion trumps all others. Christ, reading the idiotic comments of some people makes me seriously want to know how they even found the Chronicle of Higher Education website. Is the US a meritocracy? I don't know, let's figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin first. Power begets power, all modern social systems have structured inequalities that favor dominant groups and so it goes, is that so hard for the "what me, white privilege?" people to understand. Just be glad you are white because your ignorance is certainly not a plus point for your position on the social power rankings. I think NASCAR has a cool website for you to checkout though.

39. matthewcw - December 04, 2009 at 05:38 pm

What is rather shocking to be completely absent from ALL of this is anyone asking...who is this FIRE organization?

We might start by looking at where their money comes from in order to try to understand just how "non-partisan" they really are and WHY they might be attemping to manufacture this "controversy:"


Now, just because they get money from some pretty high profile, well heeled conservative groups does not mean, in of itself, that their arguments are flawed. But, it might give us some insight into just what they mean by protecting "free speech" and how they use the cloak of "non-partisan" as an attempt to exist beyond reproach (a rather sly rhetorical move). After all, it is always those who claim no agenda at all that can be counted on to be the most dishonest.

But let's be honest with ourselves here...this group is not the second coming of the ACLU. They're not falling over themselves to protect LGBT rights on campuses (and actually have a history of doing just the opposite).

But their rhetorical dishonesty aside, what is really shameful is how so many "academics" failed to do exactly what we expect many of our own students to do: check your sources first. How many people, once seeing "free speech advocacy" just assumed that whatever they have to say must be true? Seems like an awful lot. Further, the distinction between a primary source and a secondary source is utterly lost in nearly all of these discussions. In fact, this article ITSELF uses a secondary source AS its primary source, a move which I might suggest reveals quite a lot about the intent here. You'll note there are no links to the actual documents from the initiative itself.

Legitimate disagreements are bound to occur with this issue--that is nothing to hide from. But, as Dr. Graves suggests with great eloquence, the hows and whys of this discussion illuminate far more than a just a simple "disagreement" over a policy.

40. johnfarley - December 04, 2009 at 06:24 pm

Thank you for speaking the truth, Dr. Graves. And the same to those who insist that teaching the students about the uglier realities of our society be included in the curriculum The uproar over this shows that it is the conservatives, not the liberals, who are invoking political correctness. They cannot stand it when someone seeks to teach students truths well-documented by the social sciences, i.e. that racial, class, and gender inequalities are deeply engrained in the social history and strucutral arrangements of the United States. If you speak about those realities, the new censors WILL be after you.

41. pschmidt - December 04, 2009 at 09:08 pm

Poster number 39, mathewcw, has asked for links to the primary documents (which this article did, indeed, rely upon).

They can be found on a University of Minnesota blog at the following URL:


The central document that this controversy focuses on can be called up by clicking the hot link for the report by the task force on race, class, culture, and gender, on the left half of your screen.

--Peter Schmidt

42. warbler - December 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm

One question raised by the education dept. action is whether anyone needs to be formally taught that there is wrongdoing and various "injustices" suffered by people, in particular by people as a result of being a member of some certain group?

Another question would be how wise it is, based on past history in the US and worldwide, to perpetuate a focus on "race". Can anyone tell me where has the outcome of race-focused thinking, programs, policies been a boon?

Academic success and professional success still comes down to the individual. Deal with people on an individual level, not as some sort of artifically created grouping working at the expense of some other group also clawing their way to political power.

While affinity for groups based on skin color or other things is understandable, does that make it a proper focus of educators? A student or employee who can always fall back on his real or perceived persecution because of membership a group, as is our human nature, is at a great disadvantage. Educational content for your students' advantage is essential and is what is good for all.

43. annj2010 - December 21, 2009 at 04:28 am

Re Comment #39 by matthewcw

LOL, Matthew. Did you think no one would check YOUR source?
You base your position on the conservative partisanship of FIRE on information from Media Matters Action Network. Hmmm. Let's see what they say about their mission:


"Media Matters Action Network is a PROGRESSIVE RESEARCH AND INFORMATION CENTER dedicated to analyzing and CORRECTING CONSERVATIVE INFORMATION; ensuring accuracy, appropriate balance, and accountability in the media THROUGH TARGETED PUBLIC ACTION CAMPAIGNS; empowering and EXPANDING PROGRESSIVE VOICES in the media by providing a full range of resources to assist the larger progressive community IN CREATING AND DISSEMINATING PROGRESSIVE INFORMATION AND VIEWS; and ENGAGING IN OTHER ACTIVIES at the confluence of progressive THOUGHT, POLICY, AND MEDIA."

> What is rather shocking to be completely absent from ALL of
> this is anyone asking...who is this FIRE organization?
> We might start by looking at where their money comes from in
> order to try to understand just how "non-partisan" they really
> are and WHY they might be attemping to manufacture this
> "controversy:"

> http://mediamattersaction.org/transparency/organization
> /Foundation_for_Individual_Rights_in_Education/funders

> Now, just because they get money from some pretty high profile,
> well heeled conservative groups...

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