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Do your homework, part II

Jeff Braden’s comments regarding a recent letter to the editor in the N&O has generated quite a bit of discussion.  Some loved it.  Some not.  Jeff wanted to point out that the editors had to delete a paragraph from his original letter — we can only assume — to make it fit.  Too bad.  The graph was a good one.

Here, in it’s entirety, is Jeff’s letter.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Passion Rules!

1 of Many

Too bad the writer of the letter “shocks from the left”  didn’t do their homework before turning in the essay.  The  refrain is familiar—that leftist, liberal professors force students to read popular anti-American screeds under the guise of required summer readings for incoming freshmen. She seizes on this summer’s reading selections at Duke, UNC-CH, and NC State as proof of that liberal conspiracy, declaring “college faculty” select titles “to persuade young people to reject everything they thought was good.”

Really? Here at NC State, last year’s summer reading selection was “Three Cups of Tea,” a book that describes Greg Mortenson’s efforts to build schools—especially for girls—in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Admiral Mike Mullen described Mortenson’s efforts as the single biggest blow to the Taliban—and he requires all US officers serving in Afghanistan to read the same book as our 2009 freshmen. The year before, we required Da Chen’s “Sounds of the River,” a book that describes the author’s determination to overcome China’s corrupt political system (and even more corrupt university professors) to come study in America. When my daughter entered Carolina in 2004, she was required to read “Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point.” Were these selections also driven by a radical leftist agenda to indoctrinate college youth?

What the letter writer and others do is all too familiar in today’s political discourse—pick the facts that support your position, trumpet them loudly to sympathetic audiences, and move on to the next inflammatory accusation. The writer ignores those inconvenient truths that don’t fit with their predetermined viewpoint; for example, we were pleased to host both Greg Mortenson and David Frum (former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute) as featured speakers this year. Why? Precisely because we demand our students seek out different points of view, grapple with ideas they don’t like, and confront facts that don’t fit neatly within their preconceived ideas. We require them to understand, appreciate, and respect other points of view, and in so doing, inform and enrich their own beliefs.

Too bad the writer hasn’t learned those lessons—but it’s not too late. The writer is welcome to read the books on our reading list, attend our public lectures, and yes, even take our courses. However, they should beware—they’ll have to do her homework if they wants to pass our classes.


Jeffery P. Braden

1 comment

1 david hiscoe { 05.11.10 at 6:14 pm }

Thanks for the additional paragraph. It’s a great one.

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