Let’s Cancel Class: How the Left Undermines the Academic Enterprise

Cancelling classes is the latest thing in academia.

Academia is a bastion of the left at this point. Professors tend to be well to the left politically of most Americans as a whole. They spend a good deal of classroom time indoctrinating students and teaching them that the US is a corrupt, racist, patriarchal, etc. etc. society.

Much of this so-called teaching centers on the assertion that hierarchies and established systems are inherently bad and that much of what we see and hear each day is misinformation and that universities themselves are often controlled by a monied cabal of rich libertarian idealogues and right-wing corporations (not that there are many of those left—most have them long since gone woke).

Given this jaundiced view of the value of all that is traditional (like, you know, in-person classroom instruction) that the leftist professoriate preaches to its charges, it is hardly surprising that some students are coming to regard class attendance as not sufficiently radical and are agitating for ways to avoid doing any actual academic work at all.

One can hardly blame these budding young leftists. After all, once you have attended a social science class or two these days you get the gist of leftism and long for more proactive political change-making. Professors, even the left-wing ones, thereby become irrelevant.

An example of the growing impatience with the whole idea of actual education versus activism and non-academic activity on college campuses is a March 11, 2022 opinion piece in The Pioneer Log, the student-run newspaper of Lewis & Clark College, a private liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon.

The article’s title encapsulates the trend among left-wing students to not only try to avoid anything that involves academic accomplishment or effort, but also displays an eagerness to impose their views on the few remaining students who attend college to get an education and not to agitate for left-wing causes, Teachers should cancel classes for symposia attendance.

Note that the author is not willing to make any personal sacrifice in order to attend a left-wing event. It does not occur to her to ask a friend to take notes for her on the day when she feels a compelling need to attend a Gender Studies Symposium or one on Race and Ethnic Studies. Perhaps she doesn’t have any friends. Zealots often don’t have friends.

As one peruses the pages of student newspapers these days, one notices sentiments very much like those of the writer we are discussing today. That is to say, so many of these college students don’t seem to grasp that going to college often involves, well, attending college classes. She writes:

The problem is that professors often do not cancel class during symposium events, meaning students either have to cut class or miss out. More professors should cancel classes during symposia events and encourage students to attend in order to make sure no LC student misses out on the opportunity to enrich their minds.

One would have thought that college classes enrich one’s mind. Otherwise, why not just enter the workforce via an apprenticeship program?

Also, she seems to think it is her right to deprive those of her peers who want to attend classes that tuition (whether paid for by them and their families or scholarship providers or government student loan programs) is covering the expenses of.

Hers is a remarkably selfish point of view. She is oblivious to the fact that many of her classroom instructors are probably dedicated, skillful teachers. She prefers the well-compensated headliners that universities often spend pretty pennies on to populate panels at symposia while paying starvation wages to adjunct instructors.

It also does not occur to her to try to hold such symposia at a time that does not conflict with regular classes—her weekends are probably already spoken for for socializing or activism. This is a young woman who clearly finds attending college classes a terrible imposition on her time and who prefers hearing about things she is already well versed in to being exposed to anything outside of her leftist bubble:

As I looked over the list of events, I found myself wanting to attend a majority of them, including student panels and speakers that pertain to my specific interests. However, as I began penciling events into my planner, I realized I was unfortunately unable to attend many of the events I wanted to go to.

By far, the biggest barrier was that only half of my professors canceled classes for the symposium. I am forced into an uncomfortable choice: miss a panel I will probably never be able to see again, or skip class and risk falling behind on material and having to make it up in my already limited free time.

What is really shocking is that half of her professors abdicated their responsibilities to teach their classes so as to appease the activist elements among the student body. What kind of university does that?

Not satisfied with this appalling number of professors bowing to the mob at the expense of students who actually want to attend class (and is anyone reimbursing them for the instruction they have paid for but are not receiving?) the writer goes on to ask:

… why do more professors not cancel classes that overlap with the symposia? To go a step further, why does LC as an institution not cancel these conflicting classes?

Conflicting classes? You mean like regularly scheduled ones that are part of the university’s contract with tuition-paying students and part of its mission to provide an education and not just serve as an arena for activists?

It is characteristic of the student activist class to assume that everything must revolve around their ideological preoccupations. This class regards non-woke professors and non-activist students as minor players in the politicized colleges of today:

Canceling classes to make sure students can attend would take up three to four days a semester, just a drop in the bucket. These symposia are planned very far in advance, leaving professors plenty of time to leave a few days off in their syllabi.

What kind of message does that send to professors and students? “Hey, all this stuff about regular coursework—that is for the non-woke!”

Note that she presents forcing professors to cancel classes and denying students the chance to attend them for the duration of this or that symposium as a boon:

My two classes that are being canceled for the Gender Studies Symposium are unsurprisingly both gender studies classes, where attending symposium events is embedded in the class by design. It is wonderful to see that symposium attendance is being encouraged in these classes. However, what about students who are not in gender studies classes? They should have just as much incentive to attend.

Forcing class cancellations is an “incentive,” see…

She goes to make the weird argument that it is somehow in the interest of the liberal arts for the university to cancel classes that she, presumably, finds dull and pressure students into attending indoctrination sessions on the topics of her choice:

LC is supposed to be giving every student a liberal arts education, which means we should take in many viewpoints and learn about various topics. If anything, students not taking gender studies courses, for example, should be encouraged to attend the Gender Studies Symposium even more in order to expand the kinds of knowledge they are taking in.

And she wants not only liberal arts classes to be cancelled but those in the STEM fields:

As a biology major, I often feel like my peers and I could really benefit from attending symposia that are not directly related to what we are studying. Yet STEM classes are least likely to cancel for humanities symposia, simply because they are not perceived as relevant to the course material.

One would think that there is plenty of opportunity for students in the sciences to gain exposure to the humanities without classes in all areas of knowledge being cancelled so that every student has the opportunity to sit and listen to a panel discussion about the very latest in feminist thought and bulletins from the front lines of transgenderism.

She concludes by indicating that it is far more important that college be exciting than demanding:

No student should have to make the choice between the opportunity to attend an exciting educational event and attending their classes. All classes should be canceled during symposium events, giving students from all educational backgrounds the chance to learn something new and round out their education.

After all, you don’t have to study for a symposium. And there are often cookies.

You might ask, “Why should I care about this one op-ed by a young woman who conflates events with education?” Because it shows that many students regard colleges merely as venues for gaining proximity to activist speakers and celebrity authors and that for this left-wing cadre classroom instruction and coursework come second and that the students who are serious about studying are being swindled in the process.

Not good.

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