By Toby Higbie
How many times have you asked provocative and probing questions in the classroom, allowed students to air half-baked ideas, or read aloud quotations that you disagree with? Now through the miracle of selective video editing, you may soon see a carnival-mirror version of your classroom in which you and your students advocate violence, revolution, or worse.
That is what happened this week to University of Missouri, Kansas City professor Judy Ancel and her co-instructor Don Giljum when conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart published a story on his website about her teleconferenced course, “Labor, Politics and Society.” The videos, illegally ripped from a university server, appear to show Ancel and Giljum advocating violence and revolution. But as Ancel and Giljum (and eventually UMKC officials) have noted, the jumpy editing gives away the game. In one clip Giljum’s clothing mysteriously changes in mid-sentence, an artifact of Breitbart’s clumsy splicing of snippets from two different lectures. In another clip, Ancel appears to advocate violence as a legitimate social movement tactic. In reality she was quoting from historical figure in a documentary film about the assassination of Martin Luther King to kick off classroom discussion.
The American Association of University Professors issued a press release denouncing Breitbart for “compromising academic freedom, quality education, and the rights of students to a safe classroom environment,” and called on the University of Missouri to “speak out clearly and forcefully in defense of the rights of their professors and students.”
Previously Breitbart has published bogus videos of U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod and the activist group ACORN. Both cases were later revealed to be fabrications, but the damage was done--Sherrod lost her job and ACORN disbanded. Breitbart recently announced that he was going to take on unions and teachers, and this appears to be his opening salvo.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has more HERE