Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Teaching English in a political world 

For Prof. Clifton Snider, it apparently is about teaching how to write about things he approves of. One of his students at Cal State-Long Beach describes her experience writing about moral issues in his class.

The last three class meetings have been spent watching Fahrenheit 9/11 and writing on the moral issues that Michael Moore rises in the film. This assignment consisted of each student writing a paragraph on a single moral issue in the film, and then listing all the evidence that Michael Moore uses to prove it.

The moral issue I chose to write my paragraph about was "the controversial decision made by President Bush to lead the United States into a pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein." I stated that in the "documentary" Michael Moore argued that President Bush made this decision in great haste and failed to investigate the true threat that Iraq posed to the United States. I then went on to describe the "evidence" that Michael Moore uses to prove his point as " a single advisor saying that he overheard President Bush" and "inserting a series of clips of President Bush on his Texas ranch". I wrote my paragraph very tongue in cheek and purposely ridiculed the insufficient evidence that Michael Moore used in his film. However, when I received my paragraph back, I found it marked up in red ink by Dr. Snider with comments like, " You miss the point of the film", or that advisor "was Richard Clark� a terrorist expert!" I was blown away by these comments. I didn�t realize that I was being graded on the way I interpreted the film! From what I understood about our in class paragraphs, Dr. Snider was only supposed to grade grammar, spelling, and mechanics, of which I had no corrected errors. Funny though that I still
received the lowest grade in the class on this assignment (after receiving all A�s on past assignments), while papers with numerous spelling errors and mechanical corrections but with an anti-Bush perspective received A�s.

Is this just a student whining? Goodness knows she wouldn't be the first. But when I looked at Prof. Snider's syllabus, there are a number of places where you can see a tendency. He doesn't tell the students that F-9/11 will be the film. He doesn't state, as the student asserts, that he will grade only on "grammar, spelling, and mechanics" yet if the grades are as she says it does look fishy.

Seeing the description at the end of her article, I also looked at Prof. Snider's instructions for the argument paper. He has amended the page (while it says last update was 10/17, a check of the page properties indicates that it was edited today.) I would show you more about it, but Prof. Snider claims the replication of his material in the student's article is illegal. I remind Prof. Snider that he works at a state university, and material created therein is property of the university, not him. He states that "the special nature of universities protects professors from being question[ed] about their lectures", but he fails to tell you that this quote is from the lecture notes of another professor at CSULB. Nice sourcing there, professor. I wonder if it would pass his requirements for unbiased information in his argument paper. And he even lifts this quote wrongly: It applies to the government prosecution of a professor's statements (in Sweezey), not to a student's rights within that class.

Anyway, we link, you decide.

UPDATE: As noted by a commenter, Mike Adams has been on the case. I should have guessed.