Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Objectivity, Fairness, & The Academic Life

I used to be taken in by the claims that academics were focused on the pursuit of truth, and that objectivity and fairness were fundamental values in the university. Part of why I believed that was that, with a few exceptions, my professors actually fit that model. Of course, they were ancient--at one point when I was there, Sonoma State University's second most junior history professor had been there 25 years. A little more typical is trash like this:
TOPEKA, Kan. - A University of Kansas professor who angered conservative lawmakers with comments about intelligent design and religious fundamentalism has apologized.

Religious studies professor Paul Mirecki's apology came as his department formally approved a new elective class, titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design and Creationism," to be taught in the spring.


The class originally was to be called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies." Mirecki, who will teach the class, prompted greater anger when an e-mail he wrote to a listserv was publicized.

"The fundies (fundamentalists) want it all taught in a science class," Mirecki wrote in the e-mail. "But this will be a nice slap in their big, fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category `mythology.'''

Conservative lawmakers questioned Mirecki's objectivity and accused him of taking aim at conservative Christianity. Some called for legislative hearings to investigate the course. The Legislature sets state funding levels for public higher education institutions such as KU.

In his apology, Mirecki called his earlier comments "ill-advised" and "offensive."

"My words in the e-mail do not represent my teaching philosophy or the style I use in class," Mirecki wrote. "I have assured the provost of the university that I will teach the course according to the standards this university rightfully expects - as a serious academic subject and in a manner that respects all points of view."
Oh, I believe that. And there are fairies in my garden, too.

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