Ruminations, April 27, 2014
Creative political writing
*** Brent Terry is an adjunct professor of creative writing and literature at Eastern Connecticut State University. He will live in infamy after a student recorded his speech during an “Introduction to Creative Writing” class last week. According to the record, Terry said:
“… [Conservatives are] racist, misogynist, money-grubbing people [who] have so much power over the rest of us. And want things to go back -- not to 1955, but to 1855. There are a lot of people out there that do not want black people to vote, do not want Latinos to vote. Do not want old people to vote, or young people to vote. Because generally, people like you are liberal.
“You want equality. You want racial equality. You want financial equality. You want to be able to use your education and go out into the world and make it better, but you’d also like to get a job. All these things point to being liberal…
“Because this election, it’s absolutely possible that the Republicans will take the Senate as well as the House. And we will live in a very, very, very different kind of country if that happens. I mean, colleges will start closing up if they, if these people have their way. They don’t think money should go to giving you people dangerous ideas about how the world should be run.
“…There was a study just done at Princeton and one of the other Ivy League schools – a huge study – literally, according to standard definitions, the United States is no longer a democracy. [It’s] where money and corporate [interests dominate].”
This is supposed to be a mature adult speaking to a class of young, impressionable youths. If Terry were to present conflicting ideas, one could say that he was teaching the students to think. But he does not present conflicting ideas. He presents one myopic view of this country and of conservatives in general and Republicans in particular. Although Terry comes across as mean-spirited, he is an example of someone who fails to see other viewpoints – indeed, fails to try to see other viewpoints. Had he made the effort, not only would he be a better teacher but he would avoid poorly reasoned political diatribes.
Well, Terry apologized – sort of. When he realized that he’d been caught, he said: “During my creative writing class yesterday, I allowed my own political opinions to color the discussion. I regret the language I used and I apologize to any students in the room who were offended. As a liberal arts university, Eastern is known for encouraging debate and discussion about a host of social and political issues. My role in my own classroom is to keep the debate lively yet respectful. I did not meet that standard yesterday, and for that I am truly sorry.”
He’s not sorry for what he said but he regrets his choice of words and he’s sorry if any students were offended. This is the standard political apology – I’m not sorry for what I said; only if you didn’t like it. Terry epitomizes the liberal mind-bent characterized by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt that liberals fail to comprehend conservatives because they’re so convinced of their own rationality, open-mindedness and enlightenment. (For a more detailed discussion of Haidt’s work, see http://www.examiner.com/article/is-foxs-news-divisive-or-is-it-something...).
But Terry does have his defenders. Professor Serafin Mendez of sister school Central Connecticut State University, writing in the Hartford Courant, says that “Professor Brent should have provided more context” implying that his judgment of Republicans was right – just not enough background for the audience. She goes on to say, “I believe that the anti-intellectual postures followed by the Sarah Palins of the world are wrong.” In other words, the anti-intellectual postures by Republicans are wrong while the anti-intellectual postures of liberals such as Terry and Mendez herself are A-OK.
However, some students have chimed in on Terry on the Website Ratemyprofessors.com. Here are the entries from April 23:
• Definition of liberal: concerned mainly with broadening a person's general knowledge and experience... Definition of dictator: a person who behaves in a tyrannical manner. Looks like the latter to me.
• I am very disappointed that he tries to impose his ideas to others.
• This professor reflects poorly in the institution.
• Great professor. Tell the truth as opposed to the Fascists that want to silence him.
• Awesome guy, easy class. His lectures really make you think. He's very kind-hearted and will work with you for a better grade.
If this small sample is representative of the student body, then Terry has failed in his mission to mold young minds to his perspectives.
Actually, this isn’t the first time that Eastern Connecticut State University has had controversial faculty onboard. Warren Kimbro was a Black Panther from New Haven, Connecticut who confessed to the murder of fellow Black Panther, Alex Rackley, on May 21, 1969. (As an aside, Yale law student Hillary (then) Rodham sat with Kimbro’s defense counsel). Kimbro was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 20 years – and served 4. In 1975, Eastern Connecticut hired him as Assistant Dean.
What will be the final result? Probably, nothing. Kimbro served 8 years at the University until he resigned. Terry’s extremist views will be defended by fellow faculty as having academic freedom. Academic freedom is fine but when it’s supported by taxpayer dollars it should be intellectual academic freedom and not the claptrap mouthed by Terry.
Quote without comment
Attributed to Henry Ford, American industrialist: “If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own.”