Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not So Peachy in Georgia

I was sitting on the couch this morning, undoing my pin curls, when a disturbing piece of news came up on CNN: State lawmakers in Georgia are protesting the teaching of queer theory and other courses in sexuality at George State University. (Here's the clip that CNN showed today.) The whole thing started when state Representative Calvin Hill asked his constituents to review courses being taught at public universities, in an effort to cut courses due to a tight budget.  When some constituents came to him saying the university taught classes in oral sex, male prostitution and queer theory, Hill denounced queer theory and GSU professors had to defend their work before the state's House Higher Education Committee.  His counterpart, state Representative Charlice Byrd, also belittled the teaching of courses in sexuality.

I'm a firm believer that professors and their methods should never be ignored; when administrators turn a blind eye to a poor teacher, the students suffer.  And I understand that because the university is publicly funded, perhaps legislators felt that they should also be included in this review process. However, I wonder about how often math teachers are reviewed by the state of Georgia, or perhaps they leave that to the people who have been hired to head the math department.  I see this as a double-standard, and it irritates me, but what really made me furious was the questioning of sex-related courses in higher education.

As one of the professors says in the clip, the definition of sex has been in flux ever since Monicagate.  As is also mentioned, examining the role of homosexuals in literature is no less worthy a subject than examining the role of heterosexual men in literature. Now, referring to yourself in an expert guide as an expert on male prostitution may not be the best way to market yourself as a serious academic, but I do happen to think there is value in gaining a better understanding of why people sell themselves for sex and its effect on our culture.  And Hill saying that queer theory is not a worthwhile area of study? Congratulations on slamming the work of (at minimum) hundreds of academics, sociologists, psychologists, authors and artists.
I know I may be biased here, as someone who has gone deeply into debt for my education and who prides it above all else. Some day, my looks will go, my body will sag, but nobody can take away what I learned in my twenty years of formal schooling.  When I hear someone say a subject is not worthy of study, or claim that it is a universal waste of time, what I really hear is someone who is afraid to learn.  Rep. Hill and Rep. Byrd would do better to open their minds and speak with the professors and students who take these courses, and to educate themselves on what comes of these studies, before they decide whether or not it is worth taxpayer money.

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