Marxism course under a ‘Blaze’ of criticism

Too revolutionary for a public university?

Portland State found its way into a commentary on The Blaze, a conservative news and opinion website, a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, we are the reason the “U.S. education system is under fire.”

Too revolutionary for a public university?

Portland State found its way into a commentary on The Blaze, a conservative news and opinion website, a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, we are the reason the “U.S. education system is under fire.”

According to columnist Erica Ritz, some “controversial” courses the school offers, such as Revolutionary Marxism: Theory and Practice and Art Within Activism are not worthy of taxpayer dollars.

Let’s start with the fact that The Blaze was launched in 2010 by media personality Glenn Beck’s production company, Mercury Radio Arts. That should tell you a little something about its political leanings and why the idea that we learn about anything other than tea-infused capitalism would be so objectionable.

Ritz doesn’t think these kind of classes should be offered on the public’s dime. Seriously? Taxpayers should only pay for classes she agrees with?

Then again, such objections are not wholly surprising coming from a website that abounds with reader comments like, “The administrators or professors urging students to join these types of groups should be tried for treason against the United States of America.”

The classes in question are part of PSU’s Chiron Studies program, which allows qualified students to “propose and instruct” courses that are offered for credit at the university. The Revolutionary Marxism class teaches students “the fundamentals of Marxism, how to “apply a Marxist analysis to current events” and (horror of horrors) to apply its theories to “local political and community organizations.”

The Art Within Activism course focuses on “creating art within Portland-based activist groups.” Off with their heads! How dare they attempt to use art as a solution to societal problems such as “biodiversity loss,” “insufficient healthcare,” “debt” and “hegemony”? Well, that last one should be a no-brainer—we don’t want to mess with our right to world-wide domination now, do we?

This is an embarrassing example of why Americans are so often stereotyped as narrow-minded and clueless about the rest of the world and theories or ways of life that differ from our country’s. Ritz’s assertions are unfortunately not in the minority and are representative of the fear many people have of even learning about opposing or different viewpoints. They’re a threat and should not even be allowed into the realm of education.

Are we so narcissistic that we don’t want to allow for the possibility that varying and contrary opinions could be valuable in creating broader conversation and not simply an act of war against the American way of life?

What is wrong with learning about other ways of doing things and different cultures? The reluctance to do so has created a situation in this country where different means “bad”—or worse, “negligible”—not even worth knowing about.

We’ve become so obsessed with ourselves and the way we do things, which, as we all know, is working just fabulously. We live in our own little universe around which other countries and ideologies are confined to the periphery.

It’s an endemic failure to believe that we are the greatest country, with the greatest political and economic systems in the world, yet this is how we act. Patriotism is great—ethnocentricity, not so much.

Ask an average European and they’ll tell you all about the U.S. economy and what they think about capitalism. Ask an average American about, say, Denmark’s system, and you might have to wait for a while before they find it on the map. Erica Ritz would, no doubt, just lump it together with all the other dangerous socialist countries that we can’t learn a thing from.

Interestingly enough, Denmark has consistently ranked as the happiest country in the world according to international surveys, whilst, in contrast, the World Health Organization reports that 30 percent of Americans are depressed and one in 10 over the age of 12 are taking antidepressants, according to the Center for Disease Control.

But, nah, they can’t teach us anything.

Before the black-listers pull out their pens, no one is saying people are happier just because they’re socialists—well, actually a lot of people do say that—but, that’s neither here nor there. The point is, people live and believe differently and they have revolutionary and activist theories. Instead of being afraid of them, why not listen and engage with them?

It is exactly here, within the halls of learning, that classes about Marxism should be found. And, yes, taxpayers absolutely should pay for students to have the opportunity to gain a well-rounded view of the world. We shouldn’t have it any other way.

Ritz asked, “would Portland State University allow a Limited Government: Theory and Practice course where students were forced to make a ‘connection’ with Tea Partiers and the NRA?”

First of all, no one is forcing anyone to do anything in this class. The students have a choice to take the course and are given the option to work with a suggested list of organizations.

But, in answer to the question—yes. PSU has an open policy, which is the whole basis of the Chiron Program—to provide a varying and diverse range of classes that the university is not already offering. So, if a student wanted to propose a class on limited government, as long as they met the required qualifications, they could do exactly that.

Though there are no guarantees that a class will be approved, Chiron Studies Coordinator and Committee Chair Rozzell Medina said, “I am always excited when students propose a course they’re passionate about, regardless of the subject matter.”

So, really, articles like Ritz’s represent the worst of what fear and rigid thinking can lead to. Is it too much to ask that, regardless of our personal politics and how much we disagree with others, we at least make an attempt to find common ground, with an openness to learn and hear each other out?

Maybe that would be too revolutionary.