Monday, February 07, 2005

Michael Moore and EC 342

I'm not really sure how to address this brewing situation in one of my classes here, but here goes. About a week and a half ago during either my first or second European regional economies class at my study abroad center, during a discussion about defining "regions" as they relate political and economic arrangements, our professor brought up the U.S. election and told the class that she did not like George W. Bush one bit. No surprise there. She then asked the class who we voted for. Of the people that responded, I was the only person who said they voted for Bush. Somewhat surprised at the enthusiasm in which I responded, she asked me why. I said I liked him personally and I agreed with most of his policies. She then, turning her focus away from me, addressed the entire class to tell us, as if we didn't know, that pretty much everyone in Europe has a deep dislike for the American president. I then chimed in, asking if that was because of Michael Moore. He's everywhere here, I said. His books dominated the current affairs and "new non-fiction" sections at all the bookstores in town. At this point the discussion was getting heated (and way off topic from the definition of a "region" in Europe) and the professor told us we'd pick this up at a later point in time.

Then, out the blue, a student suggested that we should watch Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 in class sometime. The professor willfully obliged. The class then proceeded to figure out when we could watch it. What Moore's documentary has to do with European Regional Economies I have no idea. How we got to this point in class - our professor allowing us to watch a movie with absolutely no relevance to our course material - is baffling, but says a lot about the motivations of our professor.

Anyway, today was the agreed-upon scheduled "screening" of Fahrenheit. Our syllabus says that today's class was intended to be about the industrialization of Europe. Now that will be crammed into Wednesday's class, along with the other two items - a student presentation and a lecture about the historical perspective of European cities and regions - scheduled for that day. Not sure if we're getting the most "bang for our buck" studying here. Anyway, the professor puts in the movie and is only able to get the Spanish version of the film working. We obviously can't watch that version. No worry! She has Moore's other documentary about guns in America, Bowling for Columbine, and pops it in the DVD player. This one has an English version. Horray!

From the moment Moore opened his mouth to the last scene we watched before the end of class cut the movie short, I quietly sat in my seat trying my hardest not to get up, point my finger in my professor's face and tell her that everything we were watching was utter bullshit (For a dissecting of the distortions and fictions littered throughout Bowling check out Bowling for Truth). Near the end of class, our professor put a homework assignment on the board. Not surprisingly it had nothing to with European regional economies, the industrialization of Europe, or anything remotely close to our intended course of study. We have to write an essay on the differing perspectives of violence, guns, etc. in Europe and the U.S. and offer an explanation as to whether gun ownership - our Second Amendment - should be legal. It's basically our reaction to Moore's movie. It is due next Monday.

I walked out of class absolutely furious. Now I don't mind open debate and all that, but the big problem I have with all this is why should my parents' money be spent on something that it was NOT intended to be spent on? Why should my study abroad program hire professors who don't teach what is required and then give an assignment on something that isn't even in the freaking syllabus? Subsequently, why should we be subject to our professors' biases in the manner in which our class was exposed to our professor's love of Micheal Moore's America-bashing propaganda? I understand that for professors of the humanities and social sciences it is tough to keep their biases to themselves, but my EC 342 prof has intentionally stepped way over the line.

Right now, I'm debating how I should go about all of this. I really want to take on all of this crap in my essay and, in one broad verbal slap across the face, zap my prof and Michael Moore's fiction. We'll see what happens. Definitely will keep you posted - it should be fun!

8 Comments:

Blogger Fausta said...

Why should my study abroad program hire professors who don't teach what is required and then give an assignment on something that isn't even in the freaking syllabus?Do what you want with your homework, which probably won't get you anywhere (aside from getting it off your chest).
However, do make a point of writing the study abroad program people, your parents, and your school's directors describing the situation. Make yourself heard to them, politely but firmly. You might also want to contact the folks at Campus Watch of your results.

Fausta

7:48 AM  
Blogger Bruno said...

I appreciate your situation. Plus, I'm sorry for the sad state of education in your school. It seems that teachers should *encourage* differences of opinion and open debate, instead of shutting it down and using their classes as platforms for indoctrination. This is aside from your main point about following the syllabus and so on. I say do whatever you think is right and stick to your guns!

With respect to this last (guns), I hope you can take the opportunity to educate your teacher a bit on Americans' attitudes. These may have less to do with violence, as she seems to believe, and more with human rights than she suspects. Imagine this: the European colonists came from a place where it was illegal to own weapons--except for the government and the nobles. They came from a place where practically the only people who owned land were the same government and nobles. Now, a man or woman standing on his or her own land who owns weapons is much harder to push around, right? There may be some current analogies--the situation in Darfur comes to mind. These people were disarmed and then pillaged, raped, and murdered wontonly--it doesn't matter what the UN chooses to call it or if they choose to ignore it. If these people had been armed, they may be alive and well today, instead of another blot on the UN's record.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's me again, Bruno. I have some trouble logging on.

Anyway, in case you happen to read this: It's unbelievably arrogant of your teacher to ask if the 2nd ammendment should be "legal." For one, it's in the Constitution. Then, it was written by James Madison. I think you should *encourage* your teacher to first *understand* Madison's thought, then ask if it should be "legal." For God's sake.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Cryptic~Enigma said...

Stick to your guns...dont let your Prof. go unchallanged. Either by bringing this to the attention of the schools administration or some other avenue. If you do write bout the 2nd amendment...and guns...you might in someway be able to link the aversion to private firearms in Europe to the attitude the nations there feel bout their military. How on one hand they chant anti-American slurs, want the US military to totally leave the European continent yet they continuously shrink their military budgets, rely more and more on the good graces of the US military to protect them and have hissy fits (diplomaticly of course) when the subject of deploying those troops to Iraq/Afghan is brought up or the planned redeployment of bout 50,000 to eastern europe and us...hypocrocy thrives in Europe...one just needs to brush the dirt off and enlighten them.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I appreciate all the feedback. I couldn't agree more the notion that "hypocrisy thrives in Europe." In "Bowling for Columbine" Moore gives the viewer the impression that while American and European culture is essentially the same, America is this trigger-happy, knee-jerk, shoot 'em up-blow 'em up society. He gives this impression simply because the number of murders in the U.S. is much higher than individual European countries (yet neglects to mention the fact that the U.S. population is in most instances more than 2 times the size of these European countries, therefore giving us this distorted result).

Nevermind the fact that before the end of WWII and dating back century after century, the continent of Europe and the ideologies that have been conceived here have been responsible for more human death and destruction than any other place in the world. In the same vein, I think this fact contributes so much to the current European aversion to military force - even when it is necessary. Europeans today are swallowing hard their history of blood-letting and are feeling quite guilty as a result - which is why this multilateral-pacifism sentiment dominates European thinking on foreign affairs.

Anyway Moore is such a hack for not being honest with the viewer (and thus fails as a documentarian), and it is that much discouraging that his product is being used in my class for "educational purposes" when those "educational purposes" are not even part of the course's curriculum. Anyway, I'll be working on my essay this weekend and I hope to post it on the blog by Sunday.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous UML Guy said...

Well, Matt, my advice depends on how much you care about this issue vs. your academic career. Since you've already stuck your neck out, maybe you want to push even harder.

Here's the advice that I think could get you branded as a troublemaker, and yet would make your point: submit your exact blog post as your essay, word for word. You'll get an F for failing to actually address the assigned topic. And then go through the proper protest-and-review procedures for your school (whatever those may be); and in front of the highest authorities you can reach, point out that your essay is just as much on HER topic as her assignment is on topic for the class. If you deserve an F for not addressing the topic, then so does she.

But it's not my academic career on the line, so take my advice with a HUGE grain of salt...

11:51 PM  
Blogger alex said...

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1:03 AM  
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