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« 9/11 - Public vs Private Mourning | Main | Just What The Doctor Ordered »

September 11, 2007


Dear Dean,

I see your point, but I read the following sentence in a different way:

"It is fundamental error to assume that the assignment of teaching materials constitutes their endorsement. An instructor who assigns a book no more endorses what it has to say than does the university library that acquires it."

It seems it's merely making the claim that assigning reading isn't a *sufficient condition* for endorsing it. A professor may also endorse the views of the reading, but that's a separate matter. And it seems to go without saying that a professor will make considered judgments about what to assign.

I agree, jcasey, with your logical reading of the remarks. It's the report's rhetorical wiggling with which I disagree, and this report is, after all, a rhetorical creature. The broader context in which the remarks appear suggests that endorsement is tantamount to indoctrination. Furthermore, this--"Assignment of a book attests only to the judgment that the work is worthy of discussion...."--is too absolutely stated. My point is that assignment, or acquisition by a library, does not attest exclusively to the value of the work for discussion. It may also attest to the reliability of the work for the information it contains.

The report authors seem to be apologizing needlessly for the appearance of the Ehrenreich book on the class syllabus. "Classroom discussion of Nickel and Dimed in North Carolina could have been conducted in a spirit of critical evaluation, or in an effort to understand the book in the tradition of American muckraking, or in an attempt to provoke students to ask deeper questions about their own ideas of poverty and class." Let's suppose these are all admirable reasons to assign the book. (I have read and enjoyed some of Ehrenreich's books, but I haven't read this one.) But isn't it possible that it could reasonably have been assigned because it contains a concise account of the facts, along with the author's own perhaps ideologically imbued prescriptive views? The authors shy from this possibility, although they do get around to making the point subsequently, in a way. Yet they seem to fear being held to a commitment that some books are better than others for some purposes. Such a commitment does not send one down a road to indoctrination.

Academics are opinionated and endorse certain books and view points? Imagine that!

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