Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bloglines - Madison Newspaper Editorials Slams Rep. Nass Over Teacher Firing Statements

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Madison Newspaper Editorials Slams Rep. Nass Over Teacher Firing Statements

By dz

Editorial: Sifting and winnowing -

State Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, is not very good at legislating. But that doesn't stop him from trying to tell everyone else how to do their jobs.

Indeed, it seems that whenever Nass hears about a college instructor who expresses views that do not fit with his own, the legislator begins to call for sanctions and silencing.

Nass piped up again last week after he learned that a University of Wisconsin lecturer has been active in a movement that raises questions about whether U.S. government officials rather than foreign terrorists were responsible for some or all of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Barrett understands that his views are provocative. In fact, when UW Provost Patrick Farrell said university officials would review Barrett's syllabus and reading list for the course, as well as evaluations of his past teaching performance, the lecturer said he thought the provost's approach sounded reasonable.

"I look forward to the chance to discuss this with anyone who's interested, and I understand why this would raise concerns," says Barrett. "When professors have a strong commitment to a point of view, it's important that they not impose their views on students."

Frankly, the lecturer comes off as far calmer and more thoughtful than Nass, who, on the basis of what he heard about a radio interview Barrett did, called on the UW to bar the academic from teaching.
If Barrett tries to force his views about 9/11 on students, he will be called on it. But everything he has said suggests that he will be a responsible instructor. Indeed, Barrett has been very specific about the fact that he wants to try to "present all defensible sides of important issues" and "let students make up their own minds."

That sounds a lot like the values expressed on a plaque at the UW that reads: "Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found."

Steve Nass should go up to Bascom Hall and read the plaque before he starts telling this great university to fire controversial instructors.

Edit: Another editorial as well:

Ron Rattner: UW probe chills academic freedom -
Dear Editor: As an attorney and UW-Madison graduate during the McCarthy era, I am deeply disturbed about the provost's politically instigated "investigation" of Kevin Barrett. When teachers are intimidated against seeking and speaking truth on a campus known for its liberal and progressive traditions, we are in trouble.

It has been reported that David Walsh, UW Board of Regents president, thinks Barrett should be able to share his views in the classroom, observing: "Unless he's yelling fire in a crowded theater, we need to be careful to protect his academic freedom."

Walsh is absolutely right. Academic freedom is essential for maintaining democracy. As Albert Einstein observed: "It is evident that any restriction on academic freedom acts in such a way as to hamper the dissemination of knowledge among the people and thereby impedes national judgment and action."

Universities are for inquiries, not inquisitions. The provost's review will intimidate the academic community against seeking or discussing 9/11 truth.

To remain a great academic institution, UW must operate in the tradition of La Follette, not McCarthy.

Thanks fhb for the heads up!

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