BY AARON BARLOW
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Republican state legislators in Wisconsin “are threatening to pull any hope of more state funding unless a new course at UW-Madison called ‘The Problem of Whiteness’ is canceled.”
This, from a movement that claims to want more freedom and less law.
One legislator wants to go a step further, scouring “other university course offerings to make sure ‘they’re legit.'” He also wants the professor of the Whiteness course, Damon Sajnani, fired.
This is crazy, as my grandmother might say, ‘sixteen ways to Sunday.’ But I’m not going to address how this contravenes basic conservative tenets of ‘hands-off’ governance or that the legislator behind this seems to have been sparked to action by tweets concerning shootings of police. Nor will I address the academic value of the course, other than to say that, from my perspective as a student of American culture, it seems pretty solid.
I’m not even going to write about this as another sign of the corporate, neoliberal mindset that now controls most American universities. Shared governance is quickly disappearing and this is simply one more example of those who have power believing they are the best suited to wield it. Nor am I going to rant about how this, even simply broached, is a frontal attack on academic freedom.
Instead, I want to point out something Representative Dave Murphy said in relation to this matter, that he wants “to make sure there’s legitimate education going on” (emphasis mine).
And ask a question.
A graduate of the Wisconsin system, Murphy has been in the State Assembly since 2012 and is owner of the Inches Away Fitness Center. He has no background or experience as an educator.
How is he, as the owner of a gym and a legislator, in a position to pass on the legitimacy of any educational endeavor? How have we gotten to the point where anyone and everyone seems to see themselves as arbiters of what education actually is?