Monday, February 23, 2009
Down through the years, there have been a great many movies in which school teachers have been portrayed as decent and hard-working, even heroic. Just a handful that come to mind are “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Holland’s Opus,” “This Land is Mine,” “Up the Down Staircase,” “Good Morning, Miss Dove,” “Cheers for Miss Bishop,” “The School of Rock,” “Dangerous Minds,” “Blackboard Jungle,” “Stand and Deliver” and “Dead Poet’s Society.”
But when it comes to college and university professors, they tend to be portrayed either as comical buffoons (“The Nutty Professor,” “Monkey Business,” “Son of Flubber,” “The Absent Minded Professor,” “It Happens Every Spring,” “Horse Feathers”) or as petty, demented and, often as not, alcoholics (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “People Will Talk,” “The Squid and the Whale”). In fact, the last time I recall a movie about a professor that any normal person would wish to spend time with was the 1948 release, “Apartment for Peggy,” and even in that one, Edmund Gwenn spent most of his time planning to commit suicide.
Feeling, as I do, that most professors, aside from those teaching science or math, are over-paid, under-worked, left-wing narcissists infatuated with the sound of their own voices, it makes perfect sense that it would be nearly impossible to make a movie about them that wasn’t a slapstick comedy.
One of the things that makes them particularly offensive is their hypocrisy. Although everyone of them would insist that tenure is essential -- not because it guarantees them a secure livelihood just so long as they don’t burn down a dormitory or give a star athlete a failing grade -- but because it ensures them the right to voice unpopular, even unpatriotic, opinions. The truth, however, is that, more often than not, they’re the bullies censoring free speech and punishing with low marks those students with the gumption to speak their own minds.
Just the other day, I read about a student here in L.A. whose professor called him a “fascist bastard” and refused to allow him to conclude his remarks in opposition to same-sex marriages. Although I am aware that this betrayal of the First Amendment occurs regularly in classrooms and lecture halls all across America, the reason I’m aware of this particular case is because the student, Jonathan Lopez, is suing. When Lopez, a devout Christian, asked his professor what grade he was getting for his speech, he was told to go ask God!
So, on college campuses, it’s okay to ridicule a student’s religious convictions, but not to voice an objection to homosexual marriages.
I find it fascinating that academics see no need to be honest, tolerant or even logical. My friend, Larry Purdy, a Minnesota-based lawyer who worked on the University of Michigan cases regarding racial preferences, has written a book, “Getting Under the Skin of ‘Diversity’: Searching for the Color-Blind Ideal,” that makes mincemeat of the Supreme Court’s fatuous decisions, while reminding many of us why we celebrated Sandra Day O’Connor’s departure from the bench.
In 1998, Derek Bok, former president of Harvard, and William Bowen, former president of Princeton, collaborated on a book, “The Shape of the River,” which greatly influenced O’Connor and a majority of her associates.
The entire purpose of the book was to prove that racial preferences (aka affirmative action) were beneficial for the elite schools and for society at large. For openers, Purdy proves that Bok and Bowen were deceptive, to say the least, because they never released the data that allegedly made their case. Instead, we’re all simply expected to take their word for it even though, as clearly spelled out in Brown vs. Board of Education, the government is prohibited from treating citizens differently because of their race. According to Bok and Bowen, the benefits of racial diversity on elite college campuses, no matter how it’s achieved, simply outweighs all other considerations.
The fact is, they admit that they don’t have any idea how many of the minority students they claim to have studied made it to the university on their own merits and not simply because a bunch of elitist pinheads decided that leapfrogging them over more deserving white and Asian students was the American way.
Something else that Bok and Bowen didn’t bother mentioning was the large numbers of minority students who graduated from historically black colleges and universities and went on to achieve a reasonable amount of fame and fortune in spite of not attending Ivy League schools.
As much as I’d like to, I can’t deny that Ivy League graduates tend to go on to greater success than most people. But that has far less to do with the quality of education than with the fact that the students so often come from families that are already wealthy and powerful because their ancestors owned railroads, banks and oil companies, and they therefore have dibs on Senate seats and the Oval Office.