Moorhead State University: A microcosm of what is happening to higher educationPublished 9:22am Thursday, May 16, 2013 Updated 11:24am Thursday, May 16, 2013
I hold Minnesota State University-Moorhead (MSUM) in the highest esteem. Growing up in western Minnesota, it was the college of choice for many. When I heard Bill Ayers was named a visiting scholar in the College of Education, I was deeply concerned.
Bill Ayers has admittedly committed acts of domestic terrorism. His anarchist behavior and fascist viewpoints should give everyone pause. Yet, he is invited to teach our future educators at one of our most beloved colleges.
I wrote MSUM with my concern. Their response was disappointing.
First, MSUM emphasized how he was brought to campus “based on his work as a scholar and advocate for better schools.”
Is the best we can do? He may have worked as a scholar and advocated for better schools, but by what standard and whose opinion is he qualified? Are there no other scholars out there advocating for better schools? At the very least, are there some who haven’t blown up buildings?
MSUM’s statement subsequently explains that non-taxpayer funds were used to pay his travel and he refused an honorarium.
So, which is it MSUM? Is he really a legitimate addition to the team? And does MSUM really think concern for education stops at signing the check?
By this logic, we shouldn’t care about education if we didn’t pay for it. This statement is hypocritical and patronizing.
The final portion of MSUM’s response letter discusses “cherished ideals” in education “to explore controversial ideas” and how “we have an obligation to present a full range of ideas to our students” and we do this so “students have the critical thinking skills to make their own choices.”
What a contradiction! First, Ayers is there to discuss “schools.” Second, I shouldn’t care about education because I didn’t pay for it. Apparently now it’s an academic freedom issue. This final excuse is a blatant attempt to silence critics.
After reading my critique so far, one might be surprised that I fully support bringing Bill Ayers to campus.
In a free society, we need to hear and be aware of all philosophies, especially those at the extremes. However, MSUM did not hire Ayers in this spirit. They brought him to campus to teach our future educators, not give a philosophical lecture on the use of anarchy and terrorism to drive one’s agenda.
If this was the case, I would still be disgusted by the Ayers invitation, but I would respect MUSM. To support my point, I would be equally disgusted if Westboro Baptist Church leaders were invited to campus. For those unfamiliar, these are people holding signs at funerals saying, “God Hates Fags.”
As much as I equally despise their viewpoints, I see value in bringing a controversial group like this to campus. These people require our attention just as Bill Ayers and other communist/fascist prescribers do. To the credit of the Westboro Baptist Church, they at least respect free speech boundaries and have not committed criminal conduct.
Yet, I doubt MSUM would invite Westboro Baptist Church, or the Klu Klux Klan, or any other extreme party on the opposite end of the spectrum from Bill Ayers. I further question the standards within our universities today when Rick Santorum and Ben Carson are being disinvited to speak at graduations.
Whether you agree with their viewpoints or not, it cannot be argued they aren’t upstanding citizens with great personal achievements. Why are they being silenced? How are students supposed to “ have the critical thinking skills to make their own choices” when only presented with one viewpoint?
This entire saga speaks to a broader issue. The mantra of exchanging ideas is only employed when the agenda fits. The same people who espouse “the freedom to explore controversial ideas” work to silence those who oppose them by labeling them as bigoted simpletons.
Other viewpoints are either completely ignored or deemed anti-woman, anti-gay, racist or other marginalizing terms to discredit the messengers or misrepresent their message.
Shame on you MSUM for not upholding the ideals you pompously preach. As a parent, a Minnesotan, and as an educator in the MNSCU system, I am disturbed by this subversive indoctrination. This is done in our schools under the guise of exchange of ideas. We pay for it and tacitly support it by not saying anything.
Mary (Karst) Stueve