Middle East studies in the News
Obama's Teachable Moment on American Identity [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
by Mary Katharine Ham
Obama has shown himself to be perfectly at ease talking about America's pluralism, his unique past, and America's promise as illustrated by his own pluralistic past propelling him to the Presidency. But the Bradley Project on America's National Identity has put in a request for other subjects.
The Bradley Project was started to study and reverse the erosion of a unified national identity that comes from connection to the country's values and history— values and history, that is, without the Ward Churchillian twist they're so often given in public schools and colleges these days.
Their advice for Obama's teachable moment, which will undoubtedly be watched by huge crowds in person and on TV:
The link between our founding principles and self-government in this new century;
You had him at Abraham Lincoln. That's one dead, Republican, white guy whom everyone is cleared to laud these days, as Obama has spent the last two years encouraging comparisons between himself and his fellow Illinoisan. As the boss noted, Obama will be sworn in on Lincoln's Bible— a Bible not used since, well, Lincoln used it. He took his family on an unannounced visit to the Lincoln Memorial this week, and even George Bush is getting into the game of Lincoln mantle-claiming:
It's enough to make you wonder what Lincoln did to deserve shouldering the burden of these tough political times after having brought the Union safely through its most divided time in history. But Lincoln's legacy is one worth touting, and one hopes that Obama's uncanny ability to make everything he touches "cool" will extend to biographies of the 16th president and other stalwarts of American history that Obama admires. If Obama mentions him enough, it might be enough to bring such heretofore unspeakable subjects as "American History" and our forefathers back into style on college campuses.
Dare we hope for other positive developments on college campuses during the Obama years? This week, a generally liberal academic group (American Association of Professors) and a generally traditionalist group that fights for students' rights and philosophical balance in college classrooms (American Council of Trustees and Alumni) agreed to fight speech codes together:
A recent FIRE survey found that a whopping 74 percent of American universities impose speech codes on students that violate the First Amendment, often designating punishments for "hate speech," speech that causes "emotional harm," and even politically incorrect "implications."
Perhaps the stars are aligning for a little reverse Nixon-goes-to-China moment for the Obama administration on America's campuses? After all, he's so thoroughly an academic, an intellectual, a friend of the mainstreamed radicals of academia (Bill Ayers, Rashid Khalidi, anyone?), he could hardly be attacked from the left for abetting efforts to balance philosophies on campus and protect free speech in ways that conservatives and moderates would certainly appreciate. An occasional executive shout-out for such efforts would be appropriate penance for giving credence to people like Ayers and Khalidi throughout his career.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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