Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Shit Storm

The state of Arizona is considering a bill allowing university students to refuse to read any books that offend their preconcieved notions about the world. The "Bill for the Defense of Willful Ignorance" will once and for all close off American minds to hostile invaders, such as literature that “conflicts with the student’s beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.” Whew! Well, that's good. One problem with today's college students is that they're reading too much!

One Arizona student, an Eric Cartman, had this to say: "Oh! They have warped my fragile little mind!"

The student who started all of this was offended because his Lit professor assigned him Rick Moody's The Ice Storm, a fairly well-recieved take on alienation and dysfunctionality in 1970s suburbia. The problem is that the book ends with a wife swapping "key party" that "brings the action to a chaotic climax as an apocalyptic winter storm culminates in physical tragedy to match the emotional damage in the small community." This warped the child's fragile little mind, and so he went to his congressman apparently.

For his part, David Horowitz opposes the measure. “It doesn’t respect the authority of the professor in the classroom,” he said. “This authority does not include the right to indoctrinate students or deny them access to texts with points of view that differ from the professor’s. But it does include the right to assign texts that make students feel uncomfortable.”

Another big problem we have in universities is hordes of kids clammoring for books, which their teachers deny them access to, Soup Nazi-style. "No reading for you!" But, at any rate, good for Horowitz for opposing this.

It's just sad how uncomfortable books do make students, and their parents, and their local politicians. You'll notice that, as less and less people are able to read anymore, books seem more and more frightening to them- like cameras do to tribespeople in the jungle. They're dark and troubling, and can steal your soul away, beckoning you to a shadowy and internal cognitive world. Better to stay safe, and ward them off with the I-pod and cell phone. Ooonga-bunga!


The Pagan Temple said...

Something like this is right up politicians alley, they want to dumb down American students in general, in my view. Sure, they want them to excel in technical areas, for purposes of maintaining a competitive work force, i.e., tax base. But as far as raising kids to be able to engage in critical thinking, that's the last thing they want.

Rufus said...

These sorts of bills also meet their No. 1 objective:
Always seem to be doing something, while doing as little as possible.

I'm guessing the politician in this case has some sort of budget problems that he would like to shift attention away from.

Hiromi said...

It's interesting, watching similar conservative forces which helped bring about the decline of the once-great Chinese and Islamic empire operating in the U.S.

Rufus said...

Well, this is why I don't take seriously the warnings about the American Empire. We don't really have the patience or the attention span to maintain an Empire. Empires are difficult and costly, and require a unified vision. All of these things are too daunting for people who are unable to even follow the argument in a newspaper editorial.

China's conservatism was quite tied to its isolationism. The Middle Kingdom saw little need to explore the outside world by the time of the Ming, and eventually got outlapped by the Europeans. You're right! Ultimately, the self-satisfied lack of curiosity was the downfall of Dynastic China.

The Pagan Temple said...

Personally, I don't think it had anything to do with a lack of curiosity, I think their mind-set was more geared toward insulating themselves from what they saw as a generally barbaric world, whereas most empires tend to go the oppossite route, try to control it by swallowing up as much of it as possible.

Rufus said...

It could have been. They certainly had a tradition of being invaded by barbarians. It's one of those strange periods to teach because they were the highest civilization in the world, and then they sort of closed up. It's interesting how much of history has to do with the "civilized" center versus the "barbarians" on the periphery.