Monday, May 23, 2016

Week of 05/23/2016

Academic Whining
Here in the Atlanta area, one of our local news stations does a one-minute commentary segment called “Just A Minute”, which usually has the same collection of media personalities rambling on about something either in the news or just something on their mind.  Some of them have a jovial and comical tone to their voices.  Others just appear to be whining for the sake of whining.
Recently, one of their personalities decided to use that minute to whine about the selection of guest speakers for college graduations.  I won’t say who she is to “spare” her from feeing “shamed”, but her whine is that colleges have been inviting a whole plethora of liberal celebrities from actors and authors to political figures.  Where, she asks, are all of the conservative speakers?  Why, she asks, is academia so hateful towards conservative speakers?
This is typical tripe from conservative minds.  They play the “poor persecuted victim” card at every opportunity when they’re not dominating the subject.  They carry a ready-made “persecution” banner just like shyster lawyers carry arm slings and neck braces so they could claim “whiplash” whenever they bump into someone.  And it’s all an act to validate their past actions and to justify their future ones.  It’s simply bully projection.
I’ll presume that the whining media personality doesn’t know a thing about college graduations or the reason why there are guest speakers.  Having a bachelor’s degree from one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation, I obviously went through the graduation ceremony.  They’re long and boring as hell.  It’s a lot of ceremony and sitting around or standing in line wondering just how long the process will drag on. 
Graduation ceremonies really aren’t made for the students.  They are made for the college faculty and administrators.  They get to wear the fanciest caps and gowns, and you can see the pride on their faces.  And most of the ceremony is about them and what they’ve done.  They are telling the world “Look at all the people that we’ve educated!” 
The only thing that really brightens the ceremony other than the end is the commencement speaker.  And that’s because the purpose of the commencement speaker is for publicity.  They’re there to bring attention to the school.  The school gets to brag about who they were able to invite, and, if the celebrity is noteworthy enough, the media will highlight what that speaker says in one or two sentences, which is free publicity in and of itself.
Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s talk about the so-called “problem”.
First, I seriously doubt that conservatives got “snubbed” from every college graduation ceremony.  You mean to tell me that every single college and university, even the ultra-conservative ones like Bob Jones University and Liberty University (which, by the way, many a Supreme Court clerk came from), decided to snub conservative speakers?  I call shenanigans on that claim!
I would dare suspect that the real complaint is not about colleges not inviting conservative speakers, but that the air-fluffed, ego-driven media is not reporting about conservative speakers at certain colleges and universities.
But, for the sake of their delusion, let’s just say that media bias was not involved.  Let’s also suppose, for the sake of that same delusion, that there really is a deliberate snubbing of conservative and neo-conservative figures from colleges and universities all across America.
Should anyone really be surprised at this, given the hostility that the conservatives and neo-conservatives have shown towards the institutions of higher education and towards education itself?
How many years have the conservatives and neo-conservatives been attacking education, and specifically attacking academia?  How many times have conservatives bashed academia as being bastions of ignorance?  How many times have the college students been accused by conservatives and neo-conservatives of being petty and self-centered and not having a single clue as to how the real world operates?  How many times have conservatives and neo-conservatives attacked educators in the media and demanded they be held to performance standards that they would never hold themselves to?
When educators try to fix things, conservatives and neo-conservatives are the first to scream foul.  Their more recent crusade involves Common Core standards; the very kind of standardized testing that conservatives and neo-conservative required under their own “No Child Left Behind” law.  But, then again, that was back when they controlled the White House and Congress, isn’t it?  As soon as they were out of power, it became yet another “threat” that they needed to stop at all costs.  And, believe me, I have seen plenty a campaign flier from career politicians and their wannabe challengers all pledging to “stop Common Core” like it was a terrorist cell.
Between that and the efforts to defund public education and move kids to private charter schools and home schooling, not to mention the continual campaign to crucify science to save the conservative egos (not to mention their campaign wallets) from climate change, it’s easy for one to conclude that conservatives and neo-conservatives have the same regard for educational institutions as fictional Faber University did for “Delta House”.
Given that, why should any faculty member or administrator of colleges even consider “rewarding” those conservative and neo-conservatives with the opportunity to be a commencement speaker?
Let’s get brutally honest here... you have a right as an American citizen to question and challenge how our children are being prepared for the real world, especially when our tax monies are involved.  But that right does not entitle you or your conservative and neo-conservative personalities an automatic platform in the very educational institutions that you’re questioning and challenging.  You don’t cajole educators and administrators, threaten to take away their finances, demand that they adhere to whatever crazy theory you may have about the world, and then expect them to invite you or your ideological champions to their graduation ceremonies.
There’s a little thing called “cause and effect”.  I’m sure the conservatives and neo-conservatives have heard about it.  They use it when they try to hold others to account for their actions.  Well, it also applies to you.
Remember that graduation ceremonies are really there for the school administrators and faculty.  This is their time, and they invite those that best reflect their institutions.  In that regard, it appears that they have a better grasp of that particular reality than do their critics. 
Perhaps it’s best to simply regard this as a “teachable moment”.  After all, it’s never too late to learn things.

No comments: