This week I received a directive (the precise source of the directive is not clear nor is the intent) to demonstrate that in my classes I teach my students to become “citizens of the world.” I will spare you other references that would irritate many who visit the porch. Moreover, I’m not sure if the instructions I received reflect the desires of an outside accrediting agency or some internal committee. Be that as it may, I was stunned to discover that any authority would assume the universality of this moral agenda.

This is part of the response that I wrote:

“With regard to my classes and my teaching objectives, I hereby reject as a violation of my conscience and my moral obligations as a teacher, any diversity objective that requires that I teach a specific moral claim about diversity. I do NOT accept that being a citizen of the world is a worthy goal. If I did accept this goal, I would reject that authority of any group to require that this be my goal. So, nowhere in my course objectives will you find anything that one might construe to being support of that objective. (And the less said about the utterly incomprehensible phrase “global community” the better.)”

Because the directive came to me in such imperial innocence, as though they were asking me to make sure that I included my email address on my syllabus or to establish clearly my grading policies, I was puzzled. Have academics so completely lost contact with academic freedom, with genuine diversity of views, and with deeper conceptions of cultural and rooted variety, that they believe that making students into citizens of the world is an unambiguously worthy educational objective?

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Ted McAllister is a native of Oklahoma, now living in Moorpark, California with his wife, Dena, and his two children, Elisa and Luke. He yearns for his own chunk of land and for those bits of nature that please him, but not for farming or for unnecessary drudgery of the sort that involves physical labor.  He is an aesthetic agrarian, not a practicing one. Educated as an Intellectual and Cultural Historian at Vanderbilt University, he now teaches at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy where he pursues with his students the enduring questions rather than the particular answers.  His book, Revolt Against Modernity:  Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin, and the Search for a Post-Liberal Order launched him into the study of political philosophy, though his epistemological orientation is much shaped by his training as a historian.  Working presently on Walter Lippmann as well as a US History textbook, he expects soon to write a multi-volume history of the Baby-boomers.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Ted,
    Hear hear! We have received similar, if to date less imperious demands for demonstrations of the ways in which our courses reflect a commitment to diversity. My response – which to date has not prompted any response – is that I have a great deal of diversity in my classes, starting with the exploration of a profound diversity of views between that of Plato and Aristotle – and I could go on… As you point out, I further insist that our contemporary view of diversity is distorted and incoherent, and in that view mine can be understood to represent a diversity of viewpoint that differs from the campus orthodoxy. I’m a walking, talking embodiment of diversity, though I’m not expecting any gratitude.

  2. “Have academics so completely lost contact with academic freedom, with genuine diversity of views, and with deeper conceptions of cultural and rooted variety, that they believe that making students into citizens of the world is an unambiguously worthy educational objective?”

    Umm… I don’t know how to break this to you, but yes. In fact, many point to Academia as the origin of this particular worldview that has now permeated society.

    I think what you are really noticing, is that academic administrations have now internalized the corporate bureaucratic love for “mission” and “vision” statements, and constructing their own personal “pledge of allegiances”. Well, welcome to hell Captain Yossarian, let me show you around the place.

    I think you’ll find that intelligent dissent like you offer in your reply, is typically not met with Martyrdom, but with the puzzled stare of an administrator who will tell you “Look, it’s not important that we believe any of this. What’s important is that we say we do so “the system” will leave us alone.”

    Punching back at such an amorphous enemy as “the system” is like Brer Rabbit kicking the tar baby. It only sucks you in deeper.

  3. You should have written back, I want to celebrate diversity, but if everyone did it then there would be no diversity since everyone is doing it. So the only way I can follow your order is by not following it.

  4. I simply refuse to insert any kind of “recommended,” much less “mandated,” language in my syllabi whatsoever. Being “citizens of the world” is a silly notion (though not as silly as our former dean’s affection for the term “glocal”–it’s global and it’s local, get it!), but beyond the silliness is the bureaucratic, outcome-based, quanitfication of the “goals” of the classroom. If I put any kind of “recommended” language in, I’m admitting that the class is really just a forum for assessment (how “globalized” are you students? by what rubric are you measuring such? be sure to collect your data!). I refuse to take that first step, whether it be silly or serious. They haven’t fired me yet.

  5. I see three possible responses to the request:

    1. find language that satisfies those who require such proof of my fidelity to diversity thus conceived while ignoring the intent in my teaching.

    2. Refuse, as Russell suggests, to take the first step and see how they react.

    3. Take my stand at this step and refuse to participate while provoking a debate as to the merits of the requirement.

    I’ve heard many suggestions that we academics should take one of the first two options, but I’m not persuaded that this isn’t slow suicide for academic freedom. I think it matters where we take our stand and when we seek to confront those whose moral imperialism threatens our own moral obligations.

    • Considering your concern for academic freedom, it astonishes me that you would continue to be employed by a conservative, Christian, highly political institution such as Pepperdine.

      • At Valparaiso, Igreeted the mandatory “diversity’ trainers at faculty orientation with : “Ah! The Thought Police!”I wasn’t fired on the spot.
        That took a while!

  6. “glocal”: a cringe-worthy word.

    I do wonder whether the best way to respond to these sorts of demands is by using the vocabulary of the globalization-diversity police albeit to a different end a la Mr. Deneen, or by directly and bluntly refusing by issuing reasons for the challenge a la Mr. McAllister.

  7. “‘Have academics so completely lost contact with academic freedom, with genuine diversity of views, and with deeper conceptions of cultural and rooted variety, that they believe that making students into citizens of the world is an unambiguously worthy educational objective?’

    Umm… I don’t know how to break this to you, but yes. In fact, many point to Academia as the origin of this particular worldview that has now permeated society.”

    Cynical nonsense.

    I’m sure Professor McAllister can look forward to a thoughtful and productive discussion with the administration on the complex and nuanced issue of diversity. A discussion reminiscent, of, say….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na2W38tLp_Q

  8. “This week I received a directive (the precise source of the directive is not clear nor is the intent) to demonstrate that in my classes I teach my students to become ‘citizens of the world.’ ”

    Waitaminute — I don’t get it. You’re being told that you have to teach them how to get drunk?

  9. Batten down the hatches and wait for the “You are not being a Team player” letter, an indelible blot on your record because the proper Globalista is supposed to smile benignly and accept every cockeyed reverie sent down from the Directory.

    Perhaps you should fail a few students on the account of not being “properly global” and then you can stand back and watch that mind game work its many charms on the Big Brain In The Sky Office.

    But another indication that Academia has utterly lost its position as a place apart…an independent world of the mind, free of the everyday moronica that urges our lives into manifold stupidities.

  10. I’ve heard many suggestions that we academics should take one of the first two options, but I’m not persuaded that this isn’t slow suicide for academic freedom.

    Refusal as a step towards losing academic freedom, Ted? I can see that, if my refusal is taken as simple grumpiness, and my reasons for dissent are never articulated. But they are–which, I suppose, means I’m actually taking your third step.

    “glocal”: a cringe-worthy word

    Don’t forget “coopetive”: it’s cooperative and competitive! It’s the best of both worlds! It’s win-win! It’s a new word invented by a bunch of specialists in word creation, so they must know what they’re doing! Excuse me while I vomit.

    Batten down the hatches and wait for the “You are not being a Team player” letter, an indelible blot on your record because the proper Globalista is supposed to smile benignly and accept every cockeyed reverie sent down from the Directory.

    I don’t know about the Globalista, but I do know our Director of Institutional Research and Outcomes assessment doesn’t like me too much. She accused me to some higher up of “sabatoging” their efforts to transition the university into a set of procedures that will enable them to collect more accurate evaluation data. I did this, apparently, by telling my students, when they received another (lengthy!) assessment/evaluation form for the second week in a row, to play connect the dots with it. I am unrepentant (thus far, anyway).

  11. Arben, I’m so proud of you! A librul rebel, fighting the injustices of the consolidated regime. We’ll make a fiery, Randolph republican outta you yet.

    Should they fire you at your current college you can always come to East Liverpool and teach at the Kent State branch. They’re librul but aren’t sure why.

  12. Russell,

    Refusal to participate makes you into a crank. Forcing the issue requires that others in the institution take sides and, if the stars are aligned, actually discuss, debate, even deliberate. Cranks can’t stand in the way of any concerted effort to change.

  13. Gosh, guys, all this makes me glad that I 1) taught at Hillsdale, and 2) don’t anymore (at least not enough to worry about any of this stuff). You all do have one thing going in this brave new academic world: nobody knows what academic freedom is, so if you invoke it, it confuses them and makes them unable to act.

  14. As my current vocation is not in academia, I don’t keep pace with the full frontal assault that you gents are describing. But it warms my soul to come here daily and read that you are each standing up to it. I may yet find the courage to direct my children towards higher education. But I remain skeptical that you stalwarts of liberty and free thinking won’t have been all driven out in a herd before my sons make it there.

  15. “Citizen of the World” makes about as much sense as “Ecology of the World.”

    In which case, we could try introducing a Sonoran Desert ecology into Pacific Northwest old growth forests and lush, green golf courses into the Sonoran Desert.

    How neat would it be to have a world with a single bio-scape–an endless and unvaryingly selfsame vista of uni-culture, uni-flora and uni-fauna?

    Why do you think they call it a uni-versity?

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