Middle East studies in the News
Varying Teaching Styles, Beliefs Deserve Respect [alludes to Juan Cole, Nadia Abu El-Haj, and Norman Finkelstein]
by Tim Bella
Universities nationwide strive to uphold the standards established by the idea of academic freedom.
Although the necessary means for maintaining standards of truth, responsibility and acceptability in the learning process are present at most institutions, the end result has not been that of academic freedom for some university professors. Middle-Eastern studies professors have sometimes gotten the short end of the stick.
Recently, pressure from special-interest groups - with no relation to higher learning institutions - have influenced some schools to not hire or offer tenure to certain professors.
This is not related to the quality of a professor's teaching or research, but is due to professors' beliefs that might surface in their teaching.
Some have even gone as far as accusing Middle-Eastern studies professors specializing in Israeli policies and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of spreading messages of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism through their teaching.
Cases at schools such as DePaul University and Barnard College where tenure was denied and the situation at Yale University that saw a University of Michigan professor's bid for a position denied happened, in large part, thanks to the scrutiny they received concerning the way they decided to teach.
Luckily, groups such as the American Association of University Professors are joining the fight to strengthen the freedom of educational thought on college campuses.
Denying professors' different perspectives, especially concerning political and spiritual beliefs, promotes a learning environment of narrow- and simple-minded thought. It also goes against mission statements universities pride themselves on, therefore eliminating the potential for thought-provoking, progressive discussions in classrooms.
The responsibility rests not only with students to respect the academic freedom given to professors, but also on faculty members to acknowledge the importance of exposing students to varying interpretations throughout their college careers.
If the door for allowing a topic to be viewed in multiple ways is closed, then the idea of academic freedom is maintained only in name, not in practice.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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