I have many gripes about America's educational system, but they all tie, indirectly if not directly, into the fact that students are now being taught WHAT to think instead of HOW to think. It has gotten to the point where students, for example, will ask me which topic I want them to write about for their term papers. I tell them, both orally in class and in writing on the course syllabus handed out the first day of class, that part of the term paper grade is based upon how well THE STUDENT selects a topic of interest in the news and ties it into a textbook chapter covered in the syllabus. This, quite intentionally, requires the students to use and develop their thinking skills. Asking me what I want them to write is tantamount to asking to be told what to think.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of students who can come up with their own ideas and thereby produce some interesting term papers for me to read. But the "please tell me what I should think" crowd is slowly growing in number. What is so scary about this is the knowledge that a society that craves being told WHAT to think is far more susceptible to a repressive takeover than a society of individuals who think for themselves.
The college where I teach is quite culturally diverse. Note that I use the term "culturally diverse" and not "multicultural." "Culturally diverse" is a situation where an organization or a society has participants from different backgrounds who have different perspectives and who think differently and who interact with one another. "Multicultural" is a political agenda that uses cultural diversity as a pretext for impinging upon individual rights. Because multiculturalism is so centered upon group rights as opposed to individual rights and responsibilities, it does not foster individual thinking.
On my college campus one can regularly see students and faculty from many different backgrounds, hear many languages spoken, see many styles of clothing and accessories being worn, and eat from a variety of cuisine styles (some of which are actually quality meals). As a professor, I strive to maintain a classroom atmosphere where students can feel free to contribute to the class discussion. This means that I go to great lengths to not embarrass students, or single out students on account of their exotic names, clothing, accents, et cetera. I try to be accepting of individual opinions, even as I express my own.
But sometimes it is necessary to give a student a figurative kick in the toochas. Like the young lady who came to class wearing a tee shirt with a picture of Che Guevara on it. I knew that I had to say something to her, but was not quite sure how.
But the lecture was about corporations. Corporations can be classified in several ways. One way is the distinction between domestic corporations (incorporated in the same state) and foreign corporations (incorporated in a different state) and alien corporations (incorporated abroad). I mentioned that multinational corporations frequently operate through subsidiaries incorporated in the foreign country where they operate, which are alien corporations. I explained that one advantage of such a strategy is that the foreign government is limited in the assets it can attach.
I realized that this was my entrée to Che Guevara. I gave the example of the various American corporations whose assets in Cuba were expropriated when Castro came to power, and then put in a word about the repressiveness of the Castro regime. That got me right in there to point to the young lady's tee shirt with the picture of Che Guevara emblazoned on it.
This young lady was quite clueless about just who the mass murderer Che Guevara was. And, quite fortuitously, another student in the classroom is the granddaughter of refugees who fled the Castro regime and came to America about 1960. And she, with all of her knowledge and opinions on the matter, saved me the trouble of having to give a history lesson lecture to the young lady in the Che Guevara t-shirt.
And so, to La Cubana, I say, "Muchas Gracias!"
Labels: Castro, Che Guevara, higher education, Thinking