A University of Wisconsin-Madison instructor who has come under scrutiny for saying that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks compares President Bush to Adolf Hitler in an essay that his students are being required to buy.
Oooo. Add outrage and stir.
Apparently part-time instructor Kevin Barrett is active in the group Scholars for 9/11 Truth, which claims the US government, not al Qaeda, is responsible for 9/11. That may explain why he's a "part-time" instructor.
Anyway, he's written an essay entitled "Interpreting the Unspeakable: The Myth of 9/11" which may become part of a book that he's required students buy for the course "Islam: Religion and Culture" which he's going to teach.
Now look, how dangerous can someone who writes like this be?
"Like Bush and the neocons, Hitler and the Nazis inaugurated their new era by destroying an architectural monument and blaming its destruction on their designated enemies," he wrote.
Yes folks, he is comparing the WTC/Pentagon attacks to the Reichstag fire which was initiated by Hitler.
"That's not comparing them as people, that's comparing the Reichstag fire to the demolition of the World Trade Center, and that's an accurate comparison that I would stand by," he said.
Well of course he would. And that's why A) he's a part-time instructor and B) any thinking person will reject his loony ideas.
That's not to say he doesn't have a sense of humor, no matter how warped:
But he did say in an interview: "Hitler had a good 20 to 30 IQ points on Bush so comparing Bush to Hitler would in many ways be an insult to Hitler."
Well there you go. I mean, how does anyone take a person who says things like this seriously?
Oh, I know, "impressionable kids", "some will take it seriously", etc., etc. You know what, those that would take him seriously would take anyone seriously since they're predisposed to believe this stuff (IOW, he won't be the one convincing them this is true, he'll just be validating their point of view). They've already suspended rational thought on this subject.
On the other hand, for those who know he's pitching nonsense, this will be a good opportunity to see it first hand and question it (well, unless they want a good grade and then they'll just parrot this stuff back to him at the appropriate time ... such is life on campus where "critical thinking" is at least given lip service).
Meanwhile, desparate for issues, the politicos have found this a wonderful opportunity to sound off:
The UW's decision to allow Barrett to teach the course touched off a firestorm of controversy over the summer once his views became widely known.
Sixty-one state legislators denounced the move, and one county board cut its funding for the UW-Extension by $8,247 — the amount Barrett will earn for teaching the course — in a symbolic protest, even though the course has nothing to do with that branch of the UW System.
The two major-party gubernatorial candidates said Tuesday they still believe he should have been fired.
"The governor feels this is crazy, offensive and shouldn't be in the classroom," said Matt Canter, spokesman for Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.
In a statement, Republican Mark Green said: "Kevin Barrett continues to make a complete mockery of the University of Wisconsin and our great state."
Bi-partisan condemnation, how quaint. It is an election year and apparently real issues are scarce.
Me? Academic freedom, put it out there and see who swings at it first and hardest. Marketplace of ideas. See if he can actually sell it.
I mean, could you have fun with this?
One essay Barrett is requiring is entitled: "A Clash Between Justice and Greed," about how conflicts between Islam and the western world were made up after the "collapse of the Soviet Union to justify U.S. 'defense' spending, and to provide a pretext of controlling the world's resources."
"The Remaking of Islam in the Post 911 Era" is about the assault of Islamic people by the Rand Corporation.
The author of "Interpreting Terrorism: Muslim Problem or Covert Operations Nightmare?" contends some Western intelligence agencies are doing acts of terrorism to make it look like radical Islamics.
The provost of the school decided to let Barrett go ahead after reviewing his course outline.
He said Barrett could present his ideas during one week of the course as long as students were allowed to challenge them.
He later warned Barrett to stop seeking publicity for his personal political views.
Farrell said Tuesday that he hasn't seen the essay but faculty can assign readings that may not be popular to everyone.
"I think part of the role of any challenging course here is going to encourage students to think of things from a variety of perspectives," he said.
Farrell said it's common for instructors or professors to require books they have written or contributed to.
"For many faculty a book represents their best thinking on how an issue should be presented, so why not use that 'best thinking' for the students they teach?" he said in an e-mail.
If these essays by Barrett represent his "best thinking" I say let him teach. Perhaps, at least in this case, the opportunity to point out to one of these loons how big of a loon he is might be worth a grade (do it before the deadline to drop the class without prejudice).
I can't imagine how anything this man has to say could be classified as "dangerous". Nope, students will come up with many more colorful adjectives to describe Barrett, but "dangerous" won't be one of them.
Actually, the South Park guys have done a great breakdown of the "government conspiracy" behind 9/11. Their analysis is at least as good if not better than this Barrett fellow. Top it off with the fact that the conspiracy is exposed by 4th graders and the Hard(l)y Boys and it actually fits in quite well with the 9/11 Truthout people. Comparing them to the Scooby Doo Gang would be an insult to Scooby.
Certainly, there’s some value in letting a loon spew his nonsense so that it can be discredited. But what about the students and their parents who are paying good money for their children to be educated? Don’t they have a right to some minimum standard of quality in return for their time and money?
Unless a student is pursuing a degree in revisionism, letting a fool like this teach does a disservice to the student who’s trying to leave their classes a little smarter than they were when they came in.
Not sure I can agree with you, McQ. For me, the issue is the same as NEA funding. I have no problem with people smearing feces on themselves and calling it performance art. The question is: Does the taxpayer have to pay for it?
If this guy was teaching at, say, Marquette, the government would have no right to call for his ouster. But here it does. I think it’s just a simple observation that the limited resources of the state can be used better than to provide a platform for this kind of swill.
This is a disaster for the Academy...and hopefully a wake-up call. I LOVE universities, and this episode damages them. IF Barrett were denying the Holocaust or teaching "Flat Earth" Theory, he’d be out on his ear. Yet he gets to preach his lunacy. What it says is "Universities DON’T believe in Academic Freedom, just the right to preach CERTAIN Doctrines". That’s all good and well, until people catch on and begin to demand that Universities teach THEIR doctrines. What can the Academy say, then, "Uh no, no politics may not intrude" when OBVIOUSLY Politics DID intrude in course and instructor selection?
Bottom-Line: this is a Joke of a class and he’s a Joke of Professor. By allowing him to teach this drivel universities degrade themselves and their product. I can only hope that they can wake up to their peril.
When I attended UW in the late 1970s, there was a rule that professors could not profit by assigning their own books in a course. In two cases, I recall the profs dutifully giving each student a buck or so. If the rule is still in effect, I wonder if he is complying with it?
On the other hand, for those who know he’s pitching nonsense, this will be a good opportunity to see it first hand and question it (well, unless they want a good grade and then they’ll just parrot this stuff back to him at the appropriate time ... such is life on campus where "critical thinking" is at least given lip service).
There’s enough bullspit to deal with in college etc without having stupidity like this added on top
I doubt that this guy is saying anything that is not being said in many other courses in women’s studies, black studies(or whatever it is called this week), or some of the multiculturalism courses for teachers. This selective outrage is more political opportunism than actual concern; they just want to be on record as opposing him. Next week it will all be forgotten, and the complainers will support more money for higher education, without even thinking about what is being taught.
When I first read about this guy, I thought his class would be a waste of time for any student unlucky enough to have signed up for it. But on second thought, I’d bet there will be some value in exposing the students to ideas that are so crazy, they can’t help challenging the professor.
Most college students are afraid, or at least reluctant, to substantively challenge a teacher intellectually. To some degree that comes from a concern about the final grade, but there also exists an intimidation factor that stems from the teacher simply being in the front of the room (or at the head of the seminar table). Good professors want their students to challenge and grapple with ideas, but it’s hard to get them to do that. I wonder if the students in Barrett’s class will derive some benefit in practicing arguing against (respectfully, I would hope) ideas that are pretty easy to disagree with.
Like hitting off a tee before you try the fastball. Or a pinata, except that I’m not sure what swinging a stick around blindfolded is supposed to train you for.
Do students pay taxes? Yes. Is it their education? Yes. Did they sign up for the class? Yes. Can they drop the class if they don’t like it? Yes. Is what Barrett saying outrageous? No, not really. Is he a loon? It’s irrelevant. Are there questions people shouldn’t ask? No. Is the university the place to ask far-fetched questions? Yes. Is all this fuss about Barrett’s views ridiculous? Yes.