Skip to comments.University Students struggle with post-attack public policy:
Posted on 12/30/2001 7:04:06 AM PST by rface
The University of Missouri-Columbia has been criticized for the decision at KOMU-TV to prohibit on-air reporters from wearing patriotic symbols. At a recent legislative hearing, one legislator questioned what students are learning at MU.
The legislator was quoted as saying, "I am not offended by this decision; I am outraged. This is America. We need to support our troops now." The legislator asked: "What is the teaching going on that would reflect in that?"
Just as I prefer that professors dont wear patriotic symbols in the classroom, I prefer that reporters let others demonstrate their patriotism and stick to reporting. The issue is not supporting our troops; it is how professors and reporters affect students and viewers who are in a state of shock after the World Trade Center attack.
Because of the pivotal nature of the attacks and their aftermath, I presented my junior-senior political science class the option of replacing the syllabus with topics pertaining to the attack. They voted 44-1 to focus the rest of the semester on "The Public Policy Consequences of September 11." It proved to be a wise decision.
The class identified about 15 public policy issues that relate to the governments response to the attacks. These included the "federalism of emergency response," "civil liberties vs. improved security," "accountability of charitable organizations," "aid to the airline industry," "the new Office of Homeland Security," "threats to our infrastructure," and "who should rebuild New York City?"
Students contributed information sources to my course homepage - www.missouri.edu/~polidjw. With their consent, Missouri Homeland Security Adviser Tim Daniel and U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof spoke to us. The students exchanged news articles and their opinions on the class electronic discussion list. They reacted to each others papers, sometimes agreeing, other times disagreeing.
The last week of class I conducted a survey of their views on the policy consequences of Sept. 11. We did the survey for class consumption, but perhaps the students would approve of my summarizing it for Missouri citizens and legislators.
For those looking for reassurance that MU students are just like the rest of us, the finding that 87 percent approve of how President George W. Bush is handling his job should bring comfort. This is virtually identical to recent polls of the American public. Regarding specific policy proposals, 38 percent thought that national identification cards would reduce the threat of terrorism, while 62 percent did not.
Given their choice of two opposing statements, 68 percent of the class believed "this is a time of war, and it is wise to sacrifice some civil liberties for our own protection," while 32 percent selected "civil liberties should not be reduced at this time."
The largest variation in class involved the following question: "On a scale of one (strongly disapprove) to 10 (strongly approve), how much do you agree that racial profiling is necessary to ensure airline transportation?" Student response was all over the scale, with nine students taking the extreme "strongly disagree" position and five taking the extreme "strongly approve" position. The average was 3.4, suggesting there was more disapproval than approval for racial profiling relating to airline security.
College education is a delicate activity. The point is not really to indoctrinate the students; its to help them become independent thinkers. In my classes, I strive to create an environment of openness and honesty where students can share information and judgments. It is fine if they disagree with me.
Generally speaking, I refrain from sharing my personal views until the last class unless being frank will enhance the education of the students in that class. I would not wear a patriotic symbol to class because it would short-circuit analysis and debate. I did, however, admit in class that the U.S. Capitol is a deeply meaningful symbol to me and that I would have been crushed if it had been attacked.
The most memorable review of the semester was a students e-mail saying, "I had an especially hard time writing this paper because it goes against my political ideology. Every time I wrote a declarative sentence, I would think, Oh, scary. However, I feel some government responses are a necessary evil, and we would be stupid not to fix the weak links. I hope this comes across in my paper, instead of me sitting on the fence so much."
Had Missouri legislators been in this MU political science class this semester, they would have seen 45 diverse students thinking how Sept. 11 will affect us in the long term and suggesting what policy action should be undertaken. They would have seen students reacting to a horrendous attack in a very thoughtful and supportive way.
They would be confident that our future is in good hands.
David Webber is an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Why do they not recognize that patriotism signifies support for the nation and the troops who defend her? The stars & stripes is the flag of the United States of America, not of the Republican party, for cryin' out loud.
That said, this particular professor seems to have taken an appropriate and measured response to the educational opportunity represented by the 9-11 events. But I'm still a little miffed at his "professional neutrality" -- as if a flag pin would somehow suggest he was "anti-diversity".
Maybe he should search for a paycheck that doesn't come with any patriotic strings attached.
ROTFLMAO Man that's a good one! (wiping tears from my eyes) and people say collage profs don't have a sense of humor.
Now we have the patriotic police! What happened to freedom of speech?
"this is a time of war, and it is wise to sacrifice some civil liberties for our own protection
If they only knew how many "civil liberties" their Fathers, Grandfathers and Great Grandfathers have given up for "security".
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