David Silverstein, executive director of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA), has written to object to my post from last week, “Educators, Don’t Let Yourselves Be Used by Middle Eastern Autocrats.” Silverstein’s letter is below, followed by a brief rejoinder:
I am writing in response to Michael Rubin’s recent article about ASMEA that grossly mischaracterized the efforts of the Association, and to request either a correction of the record or the right to rebut some of the assertions made in the article.
The third season of the American adaptation of House of Cards is coming in for some harsh reviews. It earned them–this season was a mess. There were many contributing factors to this, but surely one of them was the fact that Frank Underwood began the season as president. That is, his rise to power was inherently more dramatic and interesting than his actual governing. In following this plot point, it earned some comparisons to The West Wing. But that’s unfair to The West Wing, and the reason has to do with what Americans see as dramatic when it comes to governing the United States–how we prefer to see ourselves and our political debates reflected back to us on the television screen.
As I write this, the No. 1 “most read” story on the Washington Post’s website is its investigation into the college years of Scott Walker, headlined: “As Scott Walker mulls White House bid, questions linger over college exit.” Most of the time, you don’t need to read such a story to know what it’s about: for Republicans, every silly comment or stunt in their teenage years is in the public interest, and for Democrats the same investigative practice is racist, racist, racist. (Though in 2016 it will be sexist, sexist, sexist.) But there is one aspect of this story that is tangentially related to issues that a rational voter might actually care about. It’s just not what the Post thinks.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has taken some heat for claiming that “it’s time for faculty and staff to start thinking about teaching more classes and doing more work.” I think that much of the criticism Walker has drawn is justified. While UW’s own survey research, suggesting that its professors work more than sixty hours per week, cannot be taken at face value, professors, whether they are at big research universities or small liberal arts colleges, have plenty to do.
The media’s atrocious coverage of campus sexual assault myths–from uncritically broadcasting fake stories of rape to promulgating false and debunked statistics pushed by the Obama administration to further its “war on women”–has created an interesting phenomenon in response. Good reporters are seeking to “re-report” the stories, in the hopes of setting the record straight and minimizing some of the incredible damage the accusations have done. Cathy Young is one such reporter, and she has a disturbing story at the Daily Beast today that is about more than just flimsy accusations; it’s a chilling example of a United States senator’s abuse of power.
It is tempting to play one of those “Pop quiz: who said this?” games with Andrew Cuomo’s comments on teachers unions. The Democratic governor of New York sat down with the New York Daily News editorial board, and he fielded some questions on education. Here are some highlights, in which Cuomo puts his typical tough-guy flourish on what are usually considered right-wing declarations:
Tonight, President Obama plans to announce some budget outlines in his State of the Union address. One of those goals will be to make a college education all but unaffordable to anyone but the wealthy. He won’t use those words, of course. But it puts the lie to the copycat “analysis” of the president’s cruel budget that he is somehow playing Robin Hood by taking from the rich to give to the poor. Though I generally don’t mind any analogy that correctly paints confiscatory taxes in the service of crony capitalism as theft, in this case the truth is that Robin Hood would be a vast improvement.
Given the volatility and sensitivity of “racial profiling” these days, heightened by recent developments in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland and by brand new law-enforcement “guidelines” from the Justice Department, one could be tempted to thank the National Education Association for its recent effort, in league with a bunch of other organizations, to develop curricular materials by which schools and teachers can instruct their students on this issue.