Monday, December 5, 2016

Dangerous Professors

"I am a dangerous professor," reports George Yancy in a column yesterday in the New York Times Sunday Review.

Some of his students have placed him on a new "Professor Watchlist" designed to "oppose voices in academia that are anti-Republican or express anti-Republican values."

As an African-American professor of  philosophy, Yancy is used to being pulled over for driving while black and being harassed in other ways.

But this attempt to intimidate him out of teaching truth is new to him.

He compares it to the way Socrates was put on trial because "he would not cease to exhort Athenians to care more for justice than they did for wealth or reputation."

He cites George Orwell's 1984 with the phenomenon of New-speak--designed "to diminish the range of thought."

Yancy, like Socrates, vows to carry on: "Well, if it is dangerous to teach my students to love their neighbors, to think and rethink constructively about who their neighbors are... then yes, I am dangerous, and what I teach is dangerous."

I too was a dangerous professor, asking my students to rethink Genesis 1-3 and II Timothy, to reconsider Israeli-Palestinian relations, and to understand Islam and gender issues within Islam.

It was difficult, and I got plenty of negative feedback as well as considerable complete lack of comprehension.  I'm grateful no longer to be fighting on that front.

In this context, I would like to honor a professor who lost his life three days ago to a student who had taken a violent dislike to him.  Dr. Bosco Tjan was technical director of the neuroscience center at the University of Southern California.  (See my comments on Dec. 3.)

Like journalists, professors are endangered by those who don't like their message or methods.  

This right-wing "Professor Watchlist" is scary.  Its founders may intend only to intimidate and silence, but the crazies on the fringe may take these names and commit murders.

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