Friday 17 May 2002

Exclusionary classes

Burningbird is understandably appalled by a class at UC Berkeley which, in taking “as its starting point the right of Palestinians to fight for their own self-determination,” offers the disclaimer that “conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections.”

Suggesting that the class would be “thought provoking as well as useful… only if the class looks at the impact of writing and rhetoric from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” Burningbird argues:

Unfortunately, as the class is titled and according to the political affiliation of the teacher, it promises to be pro-Palestinian biased, and that’s inappropriate considering the venue.

I mentioned yesterday that I’m reading Edward Seidensticker’s Genji Days, a collection of diary excerpts from the years when translating The Tale of Genji was the author’s principal concern. An entry for Friday, November 19, 1971 reminded me of the origin of classes that exclude the ideologically unacceptable in order to ensure that the chosen few may bask in the warm inner glow of their unchallenged convictions:

I understand that after I left the meeting yesterday there was a small thunderbolt: the department, said a lady graduate student, and particularly the Japanese side of it, is “sexually unbalanced.” Bob Brower later in the day attended a meeting in the deans’ office during which the chairman of the curriculum committee reported on a troublesome new course. It is to be concerned with the function of women in the revolutionary movement, and no men are to be admitted. The furies are loosed upon us.

To paraphrase a verse from Galatians 6: for as you sow, that shall you also reap.

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