Monday, January 30, 2006

My own column and more...

I have been given the opportunity to write a weekly column for the UWM Post. Because I will be writing about many different topics--you know, this and that--I have decided to call my column "Hoc et Illud," which is Latin for "This and That." My column will also include a photo of me.

I have already penned two op-ed's, albeit not under the title of my column (since this was before I was actually given a column). One of my columns elicited a passionate response from one of my fellow graduate students.

The following is the op-ed, and then our email exchange. I will provide links to all of my future columns, but I simply don't have the time or patience to copy-paste due to all of the HTML corrections I have to make. If you want to read the op-ed, here it is: Politicizing the office door

And here is the exchange:

zak-did you write that editorial in the post about political office doors? if so, may i comment? [M].

M, Yes, I wrote that op-ed. Of course you may comment.

Zak

M: Yes. I figured it was someone in JMC b/c our faculty is overly guilty of practicing office door politics. My feelings are a bit more radical. Oh also, I have lots of political crap on my office door as well.

The deal is way beyond students becoming intimidated. If you haven't noticed, thousands of people are dying unjustly overseas, and we are ignoring the people in our own country dying from lack of medical care and homeless conditions. People passionate about the problems in society always feel the need to pick up a megaphone and announce the bullshit that happens(while most of society walk around ignorant). Therefore, I argue a few pictures of Bush being an idiot and some animal rights posters is pretty tame. Our leaders are so screwed up that I find it completely justified to educate students on what is happening. If that isn't enough, one sentence coming out of the mouths of most of our faculty and it is pretty obvious what side they are on. No surprise most teachers are liberal, minus one or two in JMC. The right wingers make it obvious as well.

One LOOK at me, and you would be blind to think I support the US government. So maybe we should work on teachers silencing their bias. It is hard to do. It comes out unconsciously. Should we dictate what we can wear or have on our bodies--if those things signify blatant political statements? My major point is: this country, government, and the war is so unfair, sad, unjust, fucked up, and full of lies--that whining about some PG rated political statements on some doors is a waste of time. We have bigger things to worry about, and damn it--these undergrads need to know what is going on. My argument is fueled with emotion, which one JMC prof says creates weak arguments.

Holla back

[M]

Me: I believe there are other ways to be passionate regarding your political views other than politicizing your office door. I believe that a person who has power over students' grades and education has a special responsibility to allow those students to come to their own conclusions about complex political issues. They should be given all sides to a complex situation, and allowed to make up their own minds. I was a TA and I have views that I am also passionate about, yet I did not announce them on the office door, nor did lead class discussions in a manner that openly favored one side over the other. There were even times when I played devil's advocate with particularly strident students who shared some of my views, but I did so in order to chide them to think about all angles, even if I didn't agree with a particlar argument or example I made. Clearly you are uncapable of doing that. I feel sorry for your students.

Therefore, I argue a few pictures of Bush being an idiot and some animal rights posters is pretty tame. Our leaders are so screwed up that I find it completely justified to educate students on what is happening.

I am not trying to be offensive, but the self-righteous tone of your email vindicates my main argument. You are so confident that your political views are the correct ones that you admit you feel obliged to thrust them on any student visiting your office. I think that crosses the line in to indocritnation. Do you want to be an educator, or an activist? Apparently you are more concerned with being an activist and pushing your own personal agenda on students. I think students deserve more.

If that isn't enough, one sentence coming out of the mouths of most of our faculty and it is pretty obvious what side they are on. No surprise most teachers are liberal, minus one or two in JMC. The right wingers make it obvious as well.

I think I clearly stated in my op-ed that I thought it was inappropriate for any faculty memember to politicize their office door, left or right.

One LOOK at me, and you would be blind to think I support the US government.

If you feel that strongly, you can always move to another country. I do not jest. If you feel the US is such an evil place and such a force for evil inthe world, how can you live here and respect yourself, paying taxes to this"terrible" country?

So maybe we should work on teachers silencing their bias. It is hard to do. It comes out unconsciously. Should we dictate what we can wear or have on our bodies--if those things signify blatant political statements?

I was only talking about office doors, not body art. A good teacher will be able to educate students about complex issues as best they can without their own biases creeping in. Apparently you are not one of them.

My major point is: this country, government, and the war is so unfair, sad, unjust, fucked up, and full of lies--that whining about some PG rated political statements on some doors is a waste of time. We have bigger things to worry about, and damn it--these undergrads need to know what is going on.

There are a lot of rational arguments for the war. You are so sure it is evil and wrong, however, that you openly admit you have an agenda and that you want to thrust it upon your students. In my view, that is wrong, terribly wrong, totally unprofessional.

My argument is fueled with emotion, which one JMC prof says creates weak arguments.

I'd have to agree 100% with that JMC prof.

Zak

Was I too harsh? The dialogue continued:

M: you have now personally attacked me which is really...weird. "Clearly you are uncapable of doing that. I feel sorry for your students." so i'll leave it at rest. i just felt like commenting, and i am sorry my emotional appeal got the best of me.f or the better, melody

I replied to her, but now I don't know if I regret what I wrote or not. It was sort of emotional, too.

Me: You wrote:"My major point is: this country, government, and the war is so unfair, sad, unjust, fucked up, and full of lies--that whining about some PG rated political statements on some doors is a waste of time."

I thought my editorial was well-thought out. Yet you reduced me down as a whiner. I didn't exactly appreciate being labled as such. I wouldn't call that a personal attack, but it wasn't polite. If you feel that I personally attacked you, I apologize.

Do you know how frustrating and annoying it is for me to almost always be the only dissenter in most class discussions in graduate classes; where the starting point of so many discussions starts from the presumption that America is generally rotten and Marxism is the usual paradigm through which everything thing is examined? Maybe I became a little frustrated too in my response to your letter. I'm much nicer in person.

At least during your graduate experience you can feel consoled knowing you're in the majority. Although I am always respectful in all class discussions, I also realize that most of the faculty and many of my fellow students loath my views, and perhaps me as a person as well. Frankly, participating in class is often an extremely uncomfortable exeperience for me, and I don't enjoy having to debate the entire class at once, which has happened many times in the past and will no doubt happen this semester. It is emotionally and intellectually exhausting. If I was overly harsh with you, that is why, yet I still appologize.

I don't know what my point is in telling you this, however, as you probably think of me as a fascist war-monger because I happen to support the Bush Administration's foreign policy inasmuch as it relates to fighting Islamo-fascist terrorists (although I am actually very liberal on a number of social issues). I am not a Republican; I'm an independent. I hope I'm not sounding like I'm complaining (I guess Iam).

Take care,

Zak

This is going to be a frustrating semester. But I will never keep silent when people start spewing arguments that I disagree with. God, or whatever is up there, or rather, Zak, give yourself the power to keep your cool, to keep your hot-head in check. It's gonna be tough.

5 Comments:

Blogger airforcewife said...

zak, you pointed out her many inconsistancies - and since you were discussing her opinions, I would have to say that anything you said, or anything she said about your opinions, is an attack (however it was phrased).

When hubby was reading an ad for a certain book (can't remember which one) in Foreign Policy last month, he came across a review written by a Harvard Prof... "I wish I could send everyone to re-education camps to read this book - what it exposes is that explosive and that necessary!"

Yes, he said it, "re-education camps." That is what you get when you base your arguments on emotion rather than fact. Also, when you think everyone else who doesn't agree with you is retarded.

The blessing you will get out of this is that you will be able to form a coherent and decent argument far more than any of those who are in the majority of your major. And as a journalist that will serve you incredibly well. You will also be able to articulate your views far better than people like "Mel", who admits that she can't really justify what she does beyond "it feels right."

BTW - I'm not a hugger, but consider yourself "patted on the back." You are doing a great job - both in your discussions and your life. As irritating as it gets being the lone wolf in academic settings, you are certainly remaining true to yourself and your beliefs and morals.

It's that famous American strength and Jewish fortitude. What an awesome combination!!!

2:13 PM  
Blogger semite1973 said...

AFW,

Thanks so much for your kind words. Today in class was actually fun. I don't know if I exaggerated my situation or if there are other students that quietly agree with me. The thing is, I'm simply the only one that sticks up for America, when the situations arise. Some of my female friends who know this Mel girl were a little angry at me for being so harsh towards her, but if she can't take the heat, she needs to get out of the kitchen. You're right, she was all emotion and no facts. I can't stand that.

Thanks for your kind words, again.

Zak

8:41 PM  
Blogger diana said...

Zak - I would totally have to agree with you that Mel got too emotionally involved, and the facts were just not there. It disturbed me as well in college going to a professor's office and all I saw were political signs; whether they supported my ideas or not. It's almost intimidating when you know that if you express your political views, as a student, you could be potentially hurting yourself (grade-wise).

I just don't understand why everyone thinks that wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) are so evil. I know that the war right now goes back to the Gulf War, probably because it was never truly finished by the first Bush. In order for things to be right in the Middle East, we needed to step in again, unless that we believe in being inhumane (i.e. Saddam and Arafat) is the "status-quo" these days. Because we are the biggest power in the world, we needed to step in and be "unpopular" one.

And to all that do pay taxes here and keep bitching about America being horrible and bad, LEAVE! It's not like we're holding you back like the Middle Eastern countries will. And if you even feel that strongly about hating America and we should be out of the Middle East, maybe you should go live there and report back about the HORRIBLE conditions that they live under.

All in all, teachers should leave their political views outside of a teaching enviroment, they're there to make students think outside the box.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zak,

After having read your op-ed, the e-mail exchanges and the posted link to the Hamas covenant, I have to conclude that you are right to stand up for your beliefs, and in a way which is grown-up, well-informed, and reasonable. Academic institutions should always be hotbeds of debate - not proto-Communist monoliths where only official (politically-correct) dogma is allowed, or aggressively promoted. It's easy to strike rebellious poses and shout all the trendy lefty slogans without thinking: very easy, and very safe. Especially within the cloisters of a post-modern campus.

So, well done!

Ryan

9:45 AM  
Blogger semite1973 said...

Thanks guys, thanks Diana, AFW, Ryan. The truth is, it would probably be harder for me to NOT speak my mind. That's just how I am. We are all lucky that we live in free societies. If I didn't, live in a place where I could speak my mind, I'd probably be "disappear."

When I have children I'm going to force them to read Orwell's "1984."

12:22 PM  

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