Academics behind Knowledge Curve

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When professors attempt to show that they are up on current events, they might prove just the opposite. “Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/TEA Party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government,” assistant geography professor Rachel Slocum wrote in an e-mail to her students last October. “The Census website, for example, is closed.”  It should have occurred to her that a website can remain open even if the office it is attached to closes: Ours is open even when we are not, for example.

Slocum teaches at the University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse. As it happens, one of those students, Katie Johnson, was taking the course while interning with the conservative Americans for Tax Reform in Washington. Johnson tweeted, “Can’t do homework for class; govt. shutdown. So my prof. blames Republicans in an e-mail blast.”

“I didn’t think that was so partisan—everyone knows it’s the House that is causing trouble,” Slocum stated, “although students probably don’t get much news.”

“Personally, she regarded it as an accurate summary of news developments based on mainstream media coverage,” Peter Schmidt wrote in The Chronicle Review in an article from which the above information is derived.

In fairness to Slocum, no less a luminary than the actual Republican Speaker of the House repeated a variation on this assertion in an appearance on the Jay Leno show. Nevertheless, one has to ask, is it possible that what “everyone knows” is wrong?

For example, TEA party Republicans in the House told a different story:

CNN even reported that U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn.,  in a televised exchange with U. S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York, “continually argued that neither she nor Republicans have any interest in shutting down the government, only in defunding Obamacare by tying it in with a continuing resolution to fund the government. Variations of that plan have been pursued by Congresses of the past in attempts to kill a variety of pieces of legislation, Bachmann said.”

Indeed, it is interesting to note that during the government shutdown, many TEA Party Republican lawmakers, including the much-maligned Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, offered to donate their salaries to charity. No establishment Republicans, or Democrats, offered to do so.