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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Do citizens have an interest in discussing the politicization and radicalization of publicly funded academia?

The academic supervisor of the OISE Hate Thesis gave an interview to the radical  leftist website rabble.ca that was published today. In it, Sheryl Nestel makes the predictable accusation that criticism of the paper that alleges a Jewish conspiracy to "obscure Jewish privilege, deny Jewish racism and promote the interests of the Israeli nation-state" is part of a larger "neo-con" conspiracy.

Ms Nestel told rabble:
"The National Post is Canada's premier neo-conservative newspaper and it's pretty clear that neo-con politics demand unconditional support of Israel as a key ally in the "Clash of Civilizations." I think the attack on OISE is simply an attack on progressive academia and on burgeoning student activism against Israeli human rights violations."
The larger issue that escapes Ms Nestel's analysis is the right of the public to be aware of and have input into issues that directly affect them.

One may legitimately ask, 'how does a radicalized program in some obscure area of study affect me?" The answer is:  more than you may think.

The University of Toronto, of which the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education's Sociology and Equity Studies in Education is a part is, in large measure, publicly funded.

Its graduates go on to teach and influence generations of impressionable students in high schools and universities throughout Canada.

Universities are supposed to foster critical thought; the ability to hold, balance and reason among many competing ideas and ideologies. Sociology and Equity Studies in Education department at OISE appears to foster a very narrow approach to the acceptance of ideas.

Ms Nestel's mentoring, which is typical of the overall philosophy of her program, has recently produced theses which allege the collective accountability of Jews, a Jewish conspiracy to manipulate Holocaust education in order to allay Jewish racism, and most recently, one that alleges western feminists who oppose female circumcision are motivated by racism and genital obsession.

Is there no public interest in questioning whether Canadian students should be taught and influenced by teachers who advance those types of ideas? Or if we should be collectively funding a program that blindly accepts such assertions without providing alternatives from more mainstream perspectives?

In her interview, Ms Nestel stated:
The scholarship of all the students and faculty of the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies has been deemed to be tainted because much of it is seen as somehow less than "objective." 
..The demonization of work that has contributed in innumerable ways to efforts to eliminate gender, racial and class inequality in Canada is ignorant and unconscionable.
While asserting her "academic freedom," to which she of course has a right, Ms Nestel ignores some other democratic principles. What of the right of the public as a whole to intellectual freedom? Is it "ignorant and unconscionable" for the public to express concern about how their children may be influenced and how public funds are being spent and to what end?

The failure to recognize those larger issues says a great deal about academic freedom and the level of intellectual discourse at OISE.


Harry Abrams said...

Hi Richard,
On behalf of myself and the rest of us who now follow your blog daily...thank you for staying on top of this "Petogate" matter.

I found the Rabble interview with Nestel actually chilling that this is what "scholarship" has degenerated to in the study of humanities in Cdn. universities.

Maybe we should be involved in an effort to unseat Nestel or at the very least review this harpy's credentials.

Anonymous said...

"Vannina Sztainbok is a lecturer in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She teaches in the areas of gender, race, social inequality and citizenship studies." from the rabble interview.

Too funny, they cannot even put together an interview employing an interviewer who does not have a bias. They are their own worst enemies.

Brian from Toronto said...

You're doing wonderful job on the Peto / Nestel file.

That Nestel is being interviewed by Rabble says it all. I notice, by the way, that in the interview Nestel repeats the paranoid charge that Canadian neo-cons are trying to make it illegal to criticize Irael.

I write about that particular bit of paranoia in a piece published in the Jewish Tribune and Harry's Place, "Israel and the Lizard Men of Mars.

You can read it here: