Johnson County, Iowa, home of the University of Iowa is the most liberal county in Iowa. Voters there supported John Kerry by an almost two-to-one margin. The Hawkeyes, however, make that margin look negligible. A recent study by the Des Moines Register found that the University of Iowa faculty favors the Democrats eight-to-one. Journalism students at Iowa would not be surprised.
Students at the University of Iowa who wish to major in journalism will spend much of their time taking courses notable for their relevance, such as Journalistic Reporting and Writing, and Magazine Reporting and Writing. Students, before reaching these core courses, must navigate their way through a politically-correct prerequisite.
In order to major in journalism, students must take two prerequisites, one of which is Cultural and Historical Foundations Communication. Those who expect a course in the history of journalism will be disappointed. The course bills itself as a survey of “the historical development of journalism in the U.S. in its cultural, philosophical, and institutional contexts.” In other words, the course is a history of “progressive” journalism, or how journalism has shaped and caused change throughout American history.
The course focuses on how journalists have shaped major historical events. The course begins with the American Revolution and concludes with the Vietnam War. The course includes topics such as, according to the syllabus, race relations, immigration, women’s rights, slavery, government corruption, corporate corruption, food and drug safety, and child labor.
The course does not claim to be unbiased and directs its focus intently on social issues. The course focused on topics like journalism’s effect on women’s suffrage and the effect of journalism in getting women to work during World War II. The course also focused on the “role of the media in McCarthyism.” Students, in questions on a class handout, were asked to consider “During which years did McCarthy’s reign of terror last?” and “How and when did McCarthy [pictured] die?”
Campus Report has covered politically correct journalism classes in the heartland before. Four years ago, students and faculty complained of a prerequisite at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. The course was “Cross-Cultural Journalism,” and, as Campus Report put it at the time, it “intended to teach how to improve minority coverage, incorporate more minorities in newsrooms, and how to teach students to get along with and learn from other cultures.” In addition, critics charged that the class served as a forum for berating white men.
The University of Iowa employs a list of principles by which students and faculty are to adhere. The list, known as “The Iowa Dozen,” asserts the importance of free speech and academic freedom. In ninth position, the University of Iowa states that it values “truth, accuracy, fairness, and diversity.” The goal of the list is noble, but the words ring hollow. On the syllabus for Cultural and Historical Foundation Communication, it says, “the history of journalism is not made of—nor has it ever produced—a unified definition of the “truth.” This course claims that it values truth despite, as a central premise of the course, the dictum that there is fixed meaning of truth.
Savvy students should see that this course provides some warning signs—the emphasis on “a shifting cultural ‘dialogue,’” for example. However, budding reporters and writers have no choice—they must take this course or take another major.
Larry Scholer is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.