The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Turning Point USA: Maoist tactics for the Right

In my efforts to pull Dr Hendel off TPUSA's watchlist, I have been emailing back and forth with TPUSA's Director of Campus Integrity. Here was my last (hasty) note:

To get your first question out of the way, I believe the quotes attributed to Dr Hendel are accurate. Dr Hendel disputes (by email) mainly context: Thanks for your note. I have no animus against economic or social conservatives, just against those who wish to suppress academic inquiry. By the way, the student's report about my comments do not accurately convey my remarks in class. It is yellow journalism, written a year after the event, when he attempted to evangelize my students in class.

Messages get passed along, and sometimes they lose meaning in lost-context and paraphrase. Our colleagues in Islamic studies will immediately recognise this as a "hadith". :^)

I believe in the principle that the accuser, if not in a debate setting with a referee, needs to bring all the evidence to bear. "My Cousin Vinny" calls this "discovery". The College Fix (thx for correcting me btw) in this case did not do that; they did not consult Dr Hendel, on his view on how a class should be run. They also did not go to other scholars.

Personally I have a background in Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations (BA, Rice 1997), which did cover early Christian and Jewish texts. When running a class for beginners, one has to start with the consensus. "Discovery" should ideally apply there, too; so *all* the relevant evidence should be fairly presented, with a short mention of other theories. For the Torah Mosaic authorship would count... but then so would Finkelstein's ultra-skepticism, dating the Torah to 200 BC or later. But neither theory can take up time beyond the minimum, at least not on the first few lessons.

When I looked at what the accuser (Mr Kurz) had said of his background, I saw biology in it, and nothing in the field in question here. To discuss the approximate time of a text, you need to speak that text's language, Hebrew and (in one verse) Aramaic in the case of the Torah. At least you need to have the basic secondary literature! The accuser lacked this background. He needed more humility. Which is why we go to class instead of teaching it...

Also: compare with the case of Marshall Polston against Areej Zufari: in this case, we have the full email (for better or worse) of Polston's argument. There, Polston had cited Wellhausen (whom Kurz dismissed, himself).

Finally, I didn't think this whole froufarah was in scope of TPUSA's stated mission. Limited government and fiscal libertarianism, is what I caught. I didn't see where TPUSA was even getting into the field of religious debate.

So in conclusion (sorry for taking this long to get here) Dr Hendel didn't do much wrong, beyond being clumsy and getting caught flat-footed. In Campus College Fix's case, they failed as journalists. In TPUSA's case, "you messed up, you trusted us!" applies; putting this professor on a "watchlist" was overkill at best.

And here is the Director's response:

To be clear, Dr. Hendel is on the list for stifling a debate in the classroom on the fallibility of the Bible, not for holding the view that the Bible is fallible.

As our entry notes,

"he told students not to take his class if they think the Bible is infallible. After one student started questioning and challenging him, Hendel told the student “If you disagree with the approach we use, that’s an F.”

It's not about whether or not he is right on the manner of Biblical infallibility

As I read this, I have failed. Dr Hendel will not be leaving TPUSA's watchlist, at least not in the near future.

I have staked out my position (which, although I haven't asked him, I may share with the professor): that an introduction-level class is not the place for a debate on basic principles. Anyone interested in an education, rather than an argument, knows that. Yeah, there's a place for alternate theories - Discovery, and all that. But after a certain point the discussion has to stop and the students have to take notes. Otherwise what we get is a heckler's filibuster against the teaching-material or, worse, Simultaneous Dialogue.

TPUSA and (implicitly) Ca College Fix are on the side of Michael Adams. Never mind ideology; TPUSA are claiming it's not about ideology, whether or not we believe them (spoiler: I don't). They agree on tactics; they agree on classroom student conduct. They have no moral qualm with disrupting a lesson. They are Fairness Doctrine guys. They just want their turn at bat.

I do hope I have posted enough Rightist material on my blog to exempt myself from Concern Troll status but - as a concerned conservative, if not a very Christian one, I think the TPUSA has lost the moral high ground.


posted by Zimri on 17:38 | link | 0 comments

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