Based on the stats of my last post, it would appear that there are more than a few people reading this blog. For that, I am thankful. And while I have your attention, I’d like to ask you to please read and sign the open letter in defense of Rebecca Schuman.
As I made clear in my last post, I very much disagree with Dr. Schuman’s recent article for Slate. And because I have the capacity to do so, I aired my disagreement. This is how we communicate in the civilized world. We make arguments, we make counter-arguments, and we do so in the spirit of professionalism and collegiality that should characterize academia.
However, there are those who have taken this opportunity to attack Dr. Schuman unfairly. Scanning through the comments, there are those who charge her with being “an extremely inexperienced teacher,” demand that she “quit [her] job,” and misread her piece to claim that she wishes to “lower standards.” Not one of these claims is justified based on the article she wrote. Further, those who disagree with her in the comments are casually referred to as “good teachers,” as if we can tell the value of someone’s teaching based on either one editorial piece or a comment to that piece.*
Further, according to her Twitter account, there have been multiple people who have contacted her superiors to ask that she be removed from her teaching post, and who have contacted and attacked her students. She has also apparently been getting a fair amount of hate mail.
Although it should go without saying, I feel the need to point out that this is not how we respond. We can disagree. We can make that disagreement public. And when an opinion piece is as clearly inflammatory as hers was, we even have the right to be angry. But our disagreement, even our anger, does not give us the right to attack her character. Or her teaching. Or her employment.**
This is not how we respond.
And by “we,” I don’t mean academics. Nor do I mean professionals. No, I mean people. This is not how people treat each other. And while the comments sections of internet articles may suggest otherwise, this is not how we respond. Internet anonymity does not give us the right to say hateful things. It might give us the ability to do so, but it does not give us the right.
I’ll say this again: I do not agree with Rebecca Schuman’s thoughts as she has expressed them in her Slate article. But I will absolutely defend her right to express them. So should you.
Please consider signing the open letter. You don’t have to agree with her to respect her right to participate in the ongoing conversation about pedagogy.
*Teaching is very, very hard. And to value someone’s teaching based on non-teaching-based evidence is absurd. Also, I try to avoid reading comments for online articles, as they always devolve into something awful.
**We really don’t have the right to attack her employment. Contingent employment in academia is already difficult enough. Our disagreement with her is no reason why she should be unemployed.