Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fighting Anti-Israel Bias in UK Universities

Hat tip to American Power from which this article is cross-posted.

The blog CiF Watch has an intriguing article on what it is like to write a paper defending Israel in a British university.

Troublesome, isn't it? No matter where you stand on an issue, one should be able to write their opinions without having a biased professor tear it to shreds because he or she has an opposing view. Unfortunately, it appears British universities are infected with the same leftist and biased ideology that exist in American universities.

In my case, I do not have a PhD, and I have never written a dissertation, let alone graded one. I do teach English grammar and writing to my students who are studying English as a second language at UC Irvine. I have also written three books. It is my humble understanding that when grading a paper, especially one that involves opinions, the grade should not depend on whether the grader agrees or disagrees with the thesis. What is important is whether the writer can defend his or her opinions and conclusions and how effectively they do so. If errors of facts are committed, that is a valid criticism. However, when one claims that this or that state protects or violates the rights of its citizens, you often get into opinions, do you not? The question of whether Israel deserves or doesn't deserve to exist is a matter of opinion, obviously. Thus, one writing a dissertation should be able to take either side of that issue without being penalized by the grader.

A couple of years back, one of my Japanese students wrote an essay defending the attack on Pearl Harbor while contrasting it to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In his paper, he stated that Pearl Harbor was directed at a military target and was thus, legitimate, while Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not legitimate because civilians were the targets. On his paper, I wrote a polite little message to him that as one who had visited both Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, I understood his point of view, but he had neglected to mention that we were attacked prior to any declaration of war, and that at the time of attack, we were at (supposedly) at peace with Japan. In writing my diplomatic little note, I kept in mind that Jpanese youth to this day, have not been taught the full scope of the crimes committed by the Empire of Japan during that era. The point I am making here is that I did not detract from his grade because I held a differing view. I call it professionalism.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Fundamentally I agree, and you handled the Japanese student's paper very well.

It occurs to me that a similar controversy has sometimes arisen between students holding "Creationist" views, and professors of biology who, naturally, teach evolutionary theory, because there are mountains of empirical evidence for it, sustained by over 150 years of consistent research.

A student who relied on the publications of "Answers In Genesis" might well be given an F, because there is no science to it, not matter what the quality of their prose.

There are no doubt professors who truly believe that what they teach about Zionist Imperialism is equally sound and well established Truth, and feel justified in not accepting students spouting "Zionist propaganda."

There is a difference. There are well documented facts from a variety of well accepted mainstream historians which could be relied upon to sustain a different view of events in the middle east. But it takes some careful consideration to decide where to draw the line.

Gary Fouse said...


It still comes down to fact vs opinion. For example, if you say that New York City is a city, that is a fact. If you say New York City is the greatest city in the world, that is opinion. It doesn't matter whether you agree with the opinion or not. It is still opinion.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Indeed, that is how I look at things. But the Creationists passionately insist that there are so many (invented) flaws in evolutionary theory that no evidence for it is fact, its all "just a theory," which mis-states what a theory is. And when it comes to the Middle East, I have heard Squid, Miggie, and Findalis state as "fact" a good deal that is not more factual than what Hamas claims to be "fact." Kick up enough dust, and the line between "fact" and "opinion" becomes a matter of "opinion" in human conversation, even though there are genuine "facts" which can be referred to.

As my fourth grade teacher characterized certain lines of argument, "My mind's made up. Don't confuse me with the facts."