I am deeply angry, upset, frustrated and irritated with the aggregated list you all compiled of “dangerous professors” with “radical agendas.” Specifically, what deeply disturbs me about your list is that my name does not appear. I’m feeling left out, as if all of my hard work is being ignored. Really, am I not that dangerous for you? Is my agenda not that radical? Where is the love (or in your case should I say, the “hate”)?
I would consider it a badge of honor to be on your list, so please accept this letter as my application. Dangerous professors are those who challenge their students to think, forcing them to move beyond pristine bubbles toward uncomfortable spaces where they examine their complicity with oppressive structures grounded in racism, classism, sexism and heterosexism. These profs are dangerous because they challenge students to move beyond ideology, doctrines and truth claims, toward critical thinking. Critical thinkers are dangerous because they cannot be easily manipulated by politicians who use fear of the Other to garner votes, as recently demonstrated.
Also, if I’m totally honest with myself, I really want to be on your list because of its profitability. You see, even though I am a democratic socialist, I also crave a bump in my book sales. Nothing gets young people to read a book faster than to tell them they shouldn’t because it’s dangerous. We learned that lesson with the 16th-century Index Librorum Prohibitorum, or now-a-days by parenting our teenagers. Please accept my suggestion as constructive criticism: could you please list the “most dangerous” books written by the “most dangerous” professors along with hyperlinks to their Amazon pages? I know this means you might actually be forced to read a book (or at least its title), but don’t worry, we can use the same methodology you are using to comprise your current list — hearsay and gossip.
As I went through your list of professors, I found a few with whom I totally disagree, and a few whom I think are dead-wrong (i.e., the Holocaust denier). And while I totally oppose their views, their voices are desperately needed in any academic setting, and I will defend their right to voice their views no matter how wrong and offensive I think they might be. You see, I am so confident in my ability to think critically that I can adequately challenge them. I would rather hear the arguments of anti-Semites, racists, misogynists and homophobes than to see these arguments fester in the dark corners of the Internet, where one day they might manifest themselves by capturing political structures through the manipulation of angry people seeking easy answers to complex circumstances and someone to blame for their economic decline. People who can think for themselves never fear opposing views: only the weak-minded grasping at indefeasible ideologies turn to the cowardly act of silencing through intimidation and fear-mongering.
Also, as I examined your list, I did notice a pattern as to what these individual said and/or wrote which caused them to be defined as “dangerous.” Below are the criteria (using your exact words) along with a link to an article I wrote at some point in my career, which proves I too should be considered dangerous by your organization:
- “publicly criticized supporters of Israel”
- “taught … the phrase, ‘America is a melting pot’ is a microaggression”
- “said God is a white racist”
- “argued in 2015 that Trump’s tactics for gaining support were just like Hitler’s” (OK, I didn’t use the Hitler comparison in this article, but only because it’s so trite)
- “called for ‘men control’ in addition to gun control”
- “featured an anti-Koch brother documentary”
- “called her teaching philosophy revolutionary praxis”
- “dismissed all of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s views”
Wow, I only did the A’s and the B’s and am already tired! But if I can find eight items of agreement with those whose first names fall in just the first two letters of the alphabet, I’m sure the list would have been massive if I had gone through all 26 letters. Hint: I would recommend listing professors by their last name, since most students may not know a prof’s first name.
Here is a question all academics should really ask themselves: if your name is not on the list, what are you doing wrong? If students don’t leave your class deeply perplexed, questioning all they hold dear, if students are not forced to think through their basic assumptions, then maybe you shouldn’t be teaching. While no student should ever be made to feel Othered for having a view different than a professor, they should learn to defend their views using critical analysis, and not simply repeat the opinions of their parents.
So I am sending this letter to the folks of Professor Watchlist in the hopes of ridiculing their attempt to intimidate — I refuse to be afraid! I strongly encourage all of my colleagues who are radical teachers to do likewise. For those of you who are not profs, I want you to nominate at least three dangerous professors to whom you are grateful for raising your consciousness. Click here, and submit their names. It would be great if we crashed their systems with so many recommendations. Let’s make this a list of professors whom students should seek out to be in their classrooms, and not some list of shame. Let us make this bullying list into a badge of honor.