Thursday, November 17, 2005

Brainwashing 201: Upper division requirement 

The Chronicle of Higher Education temp link good for five days, permanent link for subscribers) reviews Brainwashing 201, the second short film made by Evan Coyne Maloney about classroom politicking. The first and last few grafs give you the start of the movie quite well
In a darkened theater, a married couple appears on the screen. "Laura and Roger Freberg seem like normal people," narrates a pleasant male voice. "She's a professor at Cal Poly, and he owns a local business. They've been married since 1972. They live in a beautiful town. And their daughter was recently awarded a Bronze Star for her service in Iraq. But they also have a horrible secret. And for seven years, it made their lives living hell."

"A lot of bad things happened," Mr. Freberg says. Someone tried to break into their house, a swastika was burned on their lawn, and he says, "some really nasty threats" were made against their children.

"Were they closet Nazis?" the narrator asks, to footage of two Nazi soldiers forcibly escorting a priest down the street.

"Did they have people buried in their backyard?" he asks, as viewers see a scene from Night of the Living Dead.

"No, it was something worse ... much worse," he says, dragging out every word. "They were ... Republicans!"

...When colleagues found out she was Republican, Ms. Freberg says, she was removed as chairman of her psychology department. (She says that she sued the university and reached a settlement, but according to Robert C. Detweiler, interim provost at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, her charges alleging political and gender discrimination were thrown out.)

"I'm talking about neurons," Ms. Freberg continues, but students told her they knew all along that she was Republican. When she asked them how they could tell, she says, they told her, It's "because of what you don't say."

A murmur of sympathy from the audience, but soon the film elicits more laughter. "I'm learning in geography class that gender is socially constructed," one student tells Mr. Maloney.

"I never knew that carbon chains had anything to do with politics, but they do," says another student.

But what really makes the crowd howl are the shots of Mr. Maloney randomly asking students to direct him to the men's-studies department and the men's center on various campuses. They look at Mr. Maloney like he's crazy, telling him, sometimes while laughing, that such things don't exist.

At the University of California at Santa Cruz, when Mr. Maloney asks a female student the purpose of the women's resource center she tells him it "promotes feminism" and tries to get women "involved in politics." At this, the words "Warning: Truth Detected" flash on the screen, as her word "politics" echoes several times.