At just about every institution of higher public learning in the United States, especially including public schools financed with your taxpayer dollars — you’ll be able to find a highly charged political course in most departments.
Take Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. There, the student body can partake of an economics course titled “Socialist and Radical Economics,” in which they can “learn the rich history of critical analyses of the dominant form of capitalism (i.e., historical evolution of capitalist ownerships, capitalist labor process, and its socioeconomic outcomes) and to engage in a critical debate on the prospect of socioeconomic reform.”
Try being an economics professor who wants to teach a course critical of Marxism, however, and you’re going to have a harder time finding a public university that’ll let you do it. That’s the conundrum Evan Osborne, who’s been at his current school since 1994, finds himself in.
According to The College Fix in a story published Aug. 5, Osborne wants to teach a course called “Marxism: A History of Theory and Practice,” which is “both an introduction to Marxist economic thought and the history of political power exercised in the name of that thought.”
He first proposed the course in fall 2014, but the school would only let him teach it to honors students. He requested to open it up to the student body. Six years later, he’s still waiting on that request.
His school? Wright State University, which allows anyone in the student body to take “Socialist and Radical Economics.”
In an email to The College Fix, Osborne wrote that the “short version” of the problem behind getting approval to teach the course outside of the honors-student environment “is that we have an angry, radical-left cohort in the department, they praise Marxism in the classroom, they will not let me teach critically about it, and numerous people in the university have refused to do anything about it.”
Osborne wrote that “dissenters/censors” who don’t like his opinions on Marxism are keeping him from making his class more widely available. In 2015, when he asked the school to consider the class as an elective for all students, anonymous professors complained that he was “teaching Marxism incorrectly.” The course wasn’t, and hasn’t been offered to the full student body since.
“In my quarter-century at Wright State this kind of anonymous, secret criticism has not happened to anyone besides me,” Osborne told The College Fix.
He told Fox News in an interview published Aug. 6 that this had serious implications on who could hear his critiques.
“The honors class … sharply limits who can take it,” Osborne said. “The biggest damage is being done to students in business, in the college of economics. Most of them are not honors students. … They deserve to hear.”
“Clearly, it’s all just censorship,” the professor told Fox “I have proposed several electives. All have been approved, not going against the sacred beliefs of the radical wing of our department.”
Wright State did not respond to requests for comments from either The College Fix or Fox News.
Osborne isn’t exactly hiding his political beliefs on the matter. He started the class because of what he called “dumb” critiques of capitalism, which is why he said he thought the results of Marxist ideology ought to be examined.
“I first talk about Marxist economics, where it came from. … I go country by country to talk about the disasters in economics and crimes against humanity,” Osborne told Fox.
“Maybe it was a mistake to make the syllabus so honest. … Fundamentally, what I want is my academic freedom to be respected.”
However, he told The College Fix that his anonymous detractors said certain points needed to be added to his syllabus, despite the fact “these points of view are already included in our curriculum in other courses.”
Other suggestions were curious. For instance, at a department-committee meeting regarding the Marxism class, Osborne was told to include, as The College Fix described it, “within his readings on Chinese communism the analysis of an obscure early-20th century Chinese communist.”
“Why is this bizarre?” Osborne told The College Fix. “I speak Mandarin Chinese, and read and write the language fluently; I have published one journal article in the language in fact. I am currently writing a book on 20th-century Chinese intellectual history, including the development of communist thought there. In other words, I forget far more about Chinese intellectual history before lunch every day than this objecting professor, or any other professor in our department, will ever know.
“But apparently as a tenured professor who has taught a wide variety of courses with reasonable competence, and who is very familiar with 20th-century intellectual developments in China, I was somehow not capable of deciding how to teach this class, even the section on China.”
Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. Osborne told The College Fix that Wright State makes economics students take an “institutional economics” economics course which “is consistently skeptical of free markets and ‘capitalism.'”
“Given the way Marx is favorably assessed in our curriculum, and Marxism’s actual historical record, I really thought our students deserved an alternate perspective,” he wrote.
And you’re not going to be seeing that. Academia has long been described as a liberal vacuum in which conservative professors and students aren’t welcome, and conservative ideas die. It’s strange to say, but we probably have no idea how good we had it back as little as 20 years ago — or at least as late as 1994, when Osborne could get a position at Wright State.
This is an important subject that is allowed to be taught at an honors level — something that’s indicative of a certain level of scholarly exigency. Yes, the professor is a conservative. I’m sure the rest of the faculty isn’t and they don’t hide it, either.
It’s more proof intellectual diversity is dying on campuses. Once men like Osborne retire, there’s the very high likelihood it will be dead forever if the right doesn’t fight back.
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