500 Reasons I’m Glad I Don’t Work in Arizona
Although it’s doubtful it will ever become enforced law, this ridiculous bill in Arizona makes me glad to live in Vermont yet again. Fining faculty for expressing a position on an issue that is a “matter of partisan controversy” would effectively make me pay for doing my job each day – I regularly make arguments about media ethics, ownership, regulation, advertising, political coverage, representations of identity, and (ironically) censorship that could be fined under this law. And instead of “teaching the debate,” which I see often as attempting to reduce historical and legal issues to disagreements of equal opinions, I typically explore positions that run counter to mainstream discourses – I do not need to present “both sides” on debates on the role of advertising in consumer culture, for instance, since students have been exposed to “one side” pervasively throughout their lives. I don’t present such arguments to create political drones to carry out my bidding, but to counter the limited range of discourses about media and democracy that most students have encountered.
And if passed, of course, this law could effectively make some academic fields and positions illegal – evolutionary biology, environmental studies, queer studies, etc., but also I would argue most business schools regularly teach one-sided pro-capitalist propaganda that is subject to partisan controversy!
The article’s final quotation sums up the sheer contempt that some legislators have for the practice of education: the bill’s author “denied that the bill had anything to do with academic freedom: ‘You can speak about any subject you want – you just don’t take a position.’” To speak about a subject is to take a position on it – the refusal to engage students in controversies via the charade that all potential sides of a debate are equal is both intellectually dishonest and damaging to democracy. May Arizonans condemn this indefensible argument to democracy’s landfill.
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