I’m still not on the Professor Watch List


I was feeling neglected, so then I looked on the list for my fellow Minnesota liberal radicals. I was disappointed again.

There’s only one Minnesota professor on the list, Wayne Bendickson. He must be some kind of screaming fanatic if he’s so much more dangerous than me.

Wayne Bendickson is a Professor in Native American Studies at the University of Minnesota. Bendickson requires all of his students to pick a topic from a list, that includes ‘why Native American mascots should be banned from sports,’ and explain in the assignment why it is important. A counter-argument is not allowed and free thought is rejected.

They cite a source that says he required his students to take controversial stances on Native Americans issues. I don’t see anything “controversial” about having students explain why the Washington Redskins are demeaning and insulting to people — and to ask students to take a position that they disagree with (and shame on them if they do) and consider the reasoning behind it is perfectly fair.

And again, I have to take exception to the misuse of “free thought” again. It does not mean “anything goes, say all the stupid stuff you want”. It means to think outside the box of convention. Demanding that students question the standard public dogma is free thought!

Oh, and here’s the official U of M listing for Bendickson.

Sisoka Duta, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, is a Dakota Language Teaching Specialist at the University of Minnesota. His undergraduate work focused on Dakota language, culture and history. Following graduation, he worked with two fluent Dakota/Lakota speakers for four years to improve his language skills. Prior to his current position, he taught Dakota language for three years at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Sisoka Duta is a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton nation of South Dakota but was raised in the Twin Cities. He did not grow up speaking Dakota so he recognizes the need to acknowledge the first speakers of the language and to continue improving his own skills, so he can pass these on to his students. He sees himself as student of Dakota language and lifeways not a cultural or spiritual leader. He teaches Beginning Dakota 1121 & 1122 and Intermediate Dakota 3123 & 3124.

Why would a student taking a Dakota language class be at all interested in defending racist sports team? That suggests a great deal of contempt for a class they’re taking.

Comments

  1. says

    What counter-argument? I don’t even have to hear them again to list what they are…

    1) It’s “tradition”.
    2) The Native people are being “honoured”.
    3) FREEZE PEACH!
    4) “Political correctness”.
    5) Native people are a conquered people so they should just shut up already, okay?

  2. Nullifidian says

    Let’s see if I understand this right? Mr Bendickson is also known as Sisoka Duta. So he’s a Native American. A student in his class on Native American Studies has objected to him suggesting, as a topic, that Native American mascots should be banned from sports.

    Native Americans were subjected to genocide, & continue to be marginalized & are even the victims of racial prejudice. Everyone knows that.

    Shouldn’t the student be on a watch list?

  3. Erp says

    My guess is it is not referring to his Dakota language classes but to “American Indians in Minnesota”
    http://classinfo.umn.edu/?term=1169&level=&subject=AMIN&catalog_nbr=1003

    “History, culture, and lived experience of American Indian people in Minnesota. Self-representation and histories of Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and Dakota peoples through film, music, oral traditions, and written texts. Work by non-Indian scholars focuses on cultural, philosophical, and linguistic perspectives of Anishinaabe and Dakota peoples.”

    Also it seems to have been a video project
    http://www.campusleadership.org/?ID=6123
    full context is lacking.

  4. unclefrogy says

    I am not going to go and look at that sight I do not want any of there cookies on my system.
    How do we know that it was a student that made the complaint about the class assignment and the professor?
    I haven’t noticed that right-wing fanatics need actual facts or reality to go all raving spittle spewing hate filled assholes.
    uncle frogy

  5. Erp says

    Well the site did have her name and she was apparently a student (she felt one of her roles was tracking down stuff that the right wing wouldn’t like and she apparently went on after graduation to try to infiltrate Democratic campaigns); however, it is quite likely she was not a student of this class and just heard about it (a few iterations of heard about can lead to a lot of distortion). I could find nothing to indicate a formal complaint was made to the university and nothing in the regular student newspaper.

  6. says

    Follow the source listed. It actually says they could choose other topics, but would have to work alone without help. Šišóka Dúta has several comments.

  7. cartomancer says

    Like the papal Index librorum prohibitorum in the 18th-19th centuries, this list could serve as a useful catalogue of people to pay attention to.

  8. says

    Wayne Bendickson is a Professor in Native American Studies at the University of Minnesota. Bendickson requires all of his students to pick a topic from a list, that includes ‘why Native American mascots should be banned from sports,’ and explain in the assignment why it is important.

    So, that’S ONE of several topics to pick from. I guess that most students who take such classes would be more than happy with the assignment and the problem might rather be “it was picked too quickly”.

  9. whheydt says

    Once the battle to ban Native American themed team names and mascots, we can work on banning pseudo-Scandinavian (aka “Viking”) team names and mascots.

  10. says

    @wheydt #10
    Do actual Scandinavians object to those? And if yes, why? Because unlike Indians, Vikings do not exist anymore. Really. Further “Viking” is not a nationality, but job description and was not used as a derogatory term towards disempowered people by their opressors.
    I get a feeling that you do not get the real point and are attempting a rather clumsy ridicule of the real issue via reduction ad absurdum.

  11. says

    @ Charly #11: Can’t speak for all of us, but generally speaking: No. In fact many take it as a compliment, the Vikings were a hardy people.

  12. cartomancer says

    I would be very surprised indeed if there were no ground-level acts of discrimination against Viking settlers on the part of the Europeans they chose to settle near. Certainly the rhetoric of the 8th century chroniclers who first described their predations painted them as supremely violent, inhuman and barbaric, and mockery of Viking linguistic forms (i.e. Northern accents) continues to this day in southern England. Then there was the Harrowing of the North by the Norman conquerors in the later 11th century, which was probably the most extensive campaign of genocide the British Isles have ever seen. Viking settlements and people with Danelaw culture were the primary targets of that.

    I suppose it’s not really the same as the genocide and discrimination suffered by native American peoples at the hands of their conquerors, since in the case of the Viking settlers they were (or, at least, were facilitated by) belligerent conquering peoples too. I doubt that would have been of much comfort when the mobs came and burned your longhouse down though.

  13. unclefrogy says

    @10
    if you think using Native American themed team names and mascots is no big deal how about using the “N” word for some team say in the NBA would that be no big deal?
    I am pretty sure I could think of some more examples but if I wrote them out it would probably get deleted. Wonder why that would be?
    uncle frogy

  14. Greta Samsa says

    whheydt, #10
    I should say that the differences are that there are that no Vikingr are around today to be offended, and that being a Vikingr was a job rather than an ethnicity. Though unrelated, many Scandinavians actually like being portrayed as Vikingr, because that’s really cool.
    Meanwhile, there are “redskins” around now, they are offended, they’ve no choice to be Native American, and the image isn’t a flattering archetype.

  15. magistramarla says

    We were discussing the pipeline protesters yesterday, and my son-in-law really surprised me. He told us that if he was still young and single, he would be out there with them. He added that since he has small children to take care of, the only thing that he can do is contribute to the cause, which he is proud to do.
    I told him that I was really proud of him for saying that. I truly did not know before yesterday that he was as much of a liberal and activist as my husband and I and a few of our other kids and in-laws.
    You learn something new about people every day, and my respect for him just increased.

  16. deepwater says

    When I went to Uni a proposition could always be argued for the negative or affirmative – or better yet with a sophisticated view that wasn’t polemic. The goal was to fine-tune the use of evidence to establish and then carefully scaffold your argument.

    Directed questions were more a high school thing as it only accomplished half the job.

    But the objectives here seem a bit different so maybe I’m off mark.

  17. mbrysonb says

    All this concern about a professor’s treatment of students, from people who deride any concern for women or people of colour or LGBT students in lecture materials and delivery. Seems they’re awfully sensitive when it comes to things they don’t like (even when those things are perfectly reasonable) and don’t give a sh** for what other people might not like (even when it’s abusive, or when a word to the wise about the topics to be discussed is just fair play for those who have been hurt.

  18. Greta Samsa says

    mbrysonb, #20
    It seems like bigots are the only group they intend to protect.

  19. millssg99 says

    And again, I have to take exception to the misuse of “free thought” again. It does not mean “anything goes, say all the stupid stuff you want”. It means to think outside the box of convention. Demanding that students question the standard public dogma is free thought!

    No it isn’t. Coming to your own conclusions without having to accept what others say is free thought. Whether those others are standard public dogma, your mother, or a professor of native american studies. It doesn’t mean “to think outside the box of convention”. It is much broader than that.

  20. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Coming to your own conclusions without having to accept what others say is free thought.

    WRONG. PZ is right. Freethought:

    Freethought is defined as the process of making decisions and arriving at beliefs without relying solely upon tradition, dogma, or the opinions of authorities. Freethought thus means using science, logic, empiricism, and reason in belief formation, especially in the context of religion. This is why freethought is closely associated with skepticism and critical atheism, but the definition of freethought can be applied to other areas as well like politics, consumer choices, the paranormal, etc.

  21. says

    #23: So…you’d argue that Donald Trump is a freethinker?

    You have to ignore a couple of centuries of thought to claim that. Etymological literalism is not a valid mode to reach reasonable conclusions.

  22. millssg99 says

    First of all Nerd I can go find a definition different than yours. Secondly Nerd, your own definition that you put in is broader than PZ’s which supports what I said – it is broader than that – “or the opinions of authorities”.

    Those authorities don’t have to be “inside the box of convention”. You can have authorities that are “outside the box of convention”. And if you rely on them for what you think you are not a free thinker. Someone who takes a position “outside the box of convention” after hearing it on the authority of PZ is not a free thinker. Whether PZ considers himself an authority is irrelevant. Taking something on the authority of your parents is not free thinking either.

    PZ no I would not. I haven’t seen evidence that he arrives at any position without relying on the authority of others. He’s the opposite of what I would consider a free thinker.

  23. Owlmirror says

    Coming to your own conclusions without having to accept what others say is free thought. Whether those others are standard public dogma, your mother, or a professor of native american studies. It doesn’t mean “to think outside the box of convention”. It is much broader than that.

    This seems more like “contrarianism” to me.

    If “freethought” means anything . . . it’s anti-fallacious-thinking. Yes, it’s anti-authoritarian, when arguments are made that commit the fallacy of being from authority. But it’s also anti-populist, when arguments are made that commit the ad populum fallacy.

    But arguments made by authorities, or by large groups of people, aren’t necessarily wrong, either.

    Just because a teacher says that the earth goes around the sun does not mean that a “freethinker” should reject that and become a geocentrist.

    Just because 5 billion people agree that 2+2=4 does not mean that a “freethinker” should reject that and become a math denialist.

    Freethought is also anti-bias, when arguments from bias are being made — and a “freethinker” should definitely not just reject being anti-bias when that is coming from an authority, or from a large group of people.

  24. Owlmirror says

    @miles links: I trust that we can dispense with the specificity of “18th century deism”, yes?

    Would you consider being biased to be orthodox, or unorthodox?

    My intuition is that bias is so pervasive that being biased in general (although not necessarily in the same way for everyone) is indeed orthodox — and therefore, that opposing bias is unorthodox.

  25. says

    @15, cartomancer:
    Are you aware that the Normans themselves were descended from Norse conquerors to France? Also, the liberal use of the term “genocide” for all and every atrocity committed in history bugs me to no end, because it renders the term useless – analytically and politically. It was coined in very specific (and decidedly modern) historic circumstances (such as the modern state being an important actor, the use of bureaucratic, state and party structures to perpetrate it, the definition of the group to be exterminated coming from administrative, “scientific” or other ideological sources). I know that some historians of the harrying of the north use it, but I find that sloppy.

  26. cartomancer says

    Very much aware that the Normans as a people were descended from Norse settlers, thank you. Though I’m not exactly sure how that changes what I said about their campaigns of suppression and genocide in the Harrying. The Norman lords conducting the massacres certainly didn’t think of themselves as part of the same people as the Anglo-Saxon and Norse inhabitants of northern England. Or does genocide have to involve a precisely defined degree of genetic separation under this oh-so-important modern definition then?

    That’s one of the things that absolutely infuriates me about modern historians – their insistence on ever more fine-grained and useless distinctions between categories and constant invention of new terminology. Ancient and Medieval historians very rarely indulge in this vice for buzzwords and linguistic pedantry – there’s actual history to be done!

  27. says

    As the discussion here shows, genocide is far more than a “buzzword,” it’s a politically extremely fraught term and legally clearly defined. You are the one who brought up a “genocide” in the 11th century in the context of an argument to consider “Viking” mascots as offensive as pseudo-Native American ones, an argument that ignores not only the political and social relevance of the position of Native Americans in today’s US society, but also tries to gloss over serious historical and empirical differences between what happened in the Harrying and the genocide of Native Americans in the 19th century and beyond. These historical events are far more removed than “I guess not really the same.”

    I’ve brought up the cultural closeness of Normans and Danelaw settlers because that shows that the Harrying was not committed as an effort at extinguishing an ethnic, national, racial or religious group, a criterium that is central to the very definition of genocide.

    I don’t know any historians of any epoch who would condone such an effort at painting seriously different historic events with such broad brushstrokes, and my teachers in Ancient and Medieval history definitely taught me better than that. It’s also funny that you object to “fine-grained and useless” distictions of buzzwords, when I thought the very definition of a buzzword is that it’s not used in a very analytic way, but for its use in academic fashion, in selling books and getting grants – thus I would actually argue that the historians who used the term in their description of the harrying fell victim to the use of buzzwords. Which also shows that the use of these buzzwords is by far not relegated to “modern historians”. You can’t throw such a term in the discussion and then fault me with “using buzzwords.”

  28. consciousness razor says

    Bernardo Soares:

    I’ve brought up the cultural closeness of Normans and Danelaw settlers because that shows that the Harrying was not committed as an effort at extinguishing an ethnic, national, racial or religious group, a criterium that is central to the very definition of genocide.

    That they had some (possibly high) degree of “cultural closeness” to each other doesn’t imply they weren’t killed as a distinct ethnic, national, racial or religious group. Large-scale murder of such groups (along with anybody else who resists), whether or not the difference from your own group looks in some way superficial or arbitrary (it always looks that way to me), is the definition of genocide. No?

    For instance, German Jews had a very high degree of cultural closeness with German Nazis — they were living and working together in what you may consider the very same culture, pick any random pair of them and they were likely to have a whole lot in common — but that doesn’t imply the Nazis didn’t commit genocide. They certainly did.

    Genocidal maniacs are not rational actors, and their ideas of how such groups are composed or how they relate to their own need not correspond to reality, so we don’t need to include some criterion which entails that any of this must be rational or else it doesn’t really count.

  29. consciousness razor says

    millssg99:

    Coming to your own conclusions without having to accept what others say is free thought.

    I doubt we really disagree on any substantive points, and I agree that it doesn’t mean “to think outside the box of convention.” However, the problem with this formulation seems to be that “having to accept” a claim/idea is supposed to be what makes it “unfree.”

    I guess part of the trouble is that we’re not given any guidance about what the process of “coming to your own conclusions” should look like. It should look like something in particular, because we all live in reality together and (when we’re correct) should manage to make our separate ways to the same conclusion about it.

    For example, you don’t (justifiably) get to have “your own conclusions” about whether or not global warming is real, because you live on the same warming globe as the rest of us. It can’t be the case that it is warmer according to me and colder according to you, and that we’re both doing a fine job as “freethinkers” because we came to our own conclusions, because one of us must have come to the wrong conclusion (or possibly both, if the temperature hasn’t changed).

    You often depend on what others say (including those who are deemed “authorities” or if their ideas are “within the box of convention”) and do “have to accept” that when it is true. Sounds terribly obvious, but it can’t be left out in a reasonable formulation. In a case like the one above, pointing out that climate scientists are “authorities” in some sense, and you have come to your own conclusions “without having to accept” theirs, isn’t how it should work, because the world is what matters and not whether you came to a conclusion unaided by anyone else. You should be aided by others when they know more about the world (or its climate, etc.) than you do. We shouldn’t be aiming to exercise freedom from that, and the definition of a freethinker shouldn’t suggest you can/should believe things which are contrary to the truth, not even for the sake of making conclusions yourself.

  30. says

    @consciousness razor, 34:

    You’re right. That was a bad argument. I want to make two points, however:

    1. The Normans didn’t target the inhabitants of the North as an ethnic/national etc. group, because those categories didn’t exist in the 11th century. He also didn’t use any other identifiers of them as a coherent, essential group. He wanted to squash rebels lead by the Anglo-Danish aristocracy and used scorched earth tactics and starvation for that. That of course would be considered a crime against humanity today – and was described by contemporaries in similar terms, but it’s markedly different from the US state’s concerted campaign against American Indians as Indians.

    2. Bringing this up as an example of Norse people having suffered a comparable crime in the past in the context of a discussion on whether Scandinavian-Americans should be as offended by a stereotypical “Viking” mascot as American Indians by “Indian” or “Redskin” ones looks weird to me, when US-Americans weren’t the perpetrators of that specific crime, you can’t really blame any modern state or group of people for it, and American Indians have to suffer the consequences of that genocide until today.

    Of course, the whole problem with the concept of genocide is that it runs the danger of perpetuating the very essentialist categories that the perpetrators used to justify their crimes. There are many more problems with the concept (e.g. too much emphasis on state, not enough on social dynamics), but the fact that it’s a legal term in international law has led to an extreme politicization of it and proliferation of the accusation being thrown around. Thus I think it’s very important to have a clear definition of the term that limits its use.

  31. consciousness razor says

    The Normans didn’t target the inhabitants of the North as an ethnic/national etc. group, because those categories didn’t exist in the 11th century.

    What could it possibly mean to say such things didn’t exist?

    rebels lead by the Anglo-Danish aristocracy

    That’s not describing a nationalistic sort of category? You have an economic/political faction (an aristocracy) of the group, defined in racial or ethnic terms (Anglo-Danish), which is “leading” such people in a “rebellion” against something.

    I’m asking about nationality in the sense that it identifies a distinct political group which is more less like that. It may not have been a nation like the USA or a city-state like ancient Athens or like all sorts of other nations throughout history and around the world, but that looks to me like it fits the bill in the relevant sense. Or you may consider it an ethnic group of some sort, which has some shared political or regional identity, if not exactly a sovereign “nation” with all of the bells and whistles assuming that somehow makes a difference.

  32. says

    What could it possibly mean to say such things didn’t exist?

    That no contemporaries would have used these terms or any directly corresponding notions to describe themselves.

    What I meant was: it was a certain politically and militarily identified group. Aristocrats are a social group, and the armies consisted of serfs. This was a military power struggle between two groups of nobles, who drew their legitimacy from their god-given right to rule, not from their role as leaders of a nation. To take another example: “Braveheart

    Nationality as a marker of identity is a modern notion that has been projected back into the past by historians, such that, e.g., Germanic tribes suddenly become a German nation (although “Germanic tribes” is Tacitus’ fiction) or the English suddenly identify with “Anglo-Saxons”. That’s the problem with these terms: they change their meaning all the time. “Anglo-Danes” is not a contemporary ethnic identifier, because it simply means all the people living in the Danelaw (the area under Danish law).

  33. consciousness razor says

    That no contemporaries would have used these terms or any directly corresponding notions to describe themselves.

    Citation needed. People have used racial, ethnic, national, and religious categories for themselves and others, for as long as there has been anything like civilization. The 11th century was not some bizarre outlier unlike every other time or place, not on that account.

    who drew their legitimacy from their god-given right to rule, not from their role as leaders of a nation

    See, for instance, the Queen of fucking England today, who has no legitimacy from her god-given right to rule because that doesn’t fucking exist.

    But will you look at fucking that? She is the head of state. Turns out both are ways certain people have had to understand political legitimacy. Some just happen to be wrong.

    Anyway, whether or not they committed genocide is not a question of how those people describe themselves. They in fact killed loads of people, who can be properly understood in that way in our terms when we defined the modern concept of “genocide.” It makes no difference what their thinking was like, even if it was radically different from our own, because we’re the ones who are doing the thinking about it here and now. You’re not rationally compelled to agree with whatever some ancient asshole thought, because they very regularly got shit wrong and are certainly not infallible. This is as convincing as me telling you that the square root of two is rational, because certain people back then didn’t understand certain types of math. How could that matter? The fact is that it’s irrational, and their thinking doesn’t mean shit when we take it upon ourselves to tell others of that fact.

  34. millssg99 says

    consciousness razor @ 35

    Certainly I accept what others say when I have reason to believe they are correct or even provisionally accept what others say when I have no reason to believe they are incorrect. But I do not *have* to accept it because somebody says so no matter what their authority to say so is. I am free to disagree and accept the results of my own thinking. I am also free to be wrong, but…

    definition of a freethinker shouldn’t suggest you can/should believe things which are contrary to the truth, not even for the sake of making conclusions yourself.

    As I said above I am free to be wrong, but I don’t want to be wrong and I don’t want anyone else to be wrong. I always aim for the truth and I don’t think anyone should “believe things which are contrary to the truth”. I accept the evidence/conclusions of climate scientists because I believe those conclusions to be the truth and their evidence to be strong. Someone above suggested I was just being contrary. Wrong. I often agree with various experts/authorities. But I don’t agree with experts/authorities in my culture that declare that there is a god even though they are in the majority. I’ve come to my own conclusion that they are wrong. As a free thinker I can do that on any subject where I believe someone is wrong including those outside the box of conventional thinking.