Friday, August 24, 2012

Dear Rep. Jeff Landry,

I’ve been following with great interest your correspondence with UL Lafayette President E. Joseph Savoie, urging him to rescind the university’s new LGBT studies minor.

It’s my hope that Savoie will heed your wise advice and avoid “placating to political pressures.” Not listening to you would be a good start.

For one thing, one does not placate to political pressures; one placates political pressures. Placating is a thing someone does, not something they do to someone else. Perhaps Savoie could bow to or even kowtow to political pressure, but that would just make you sound vicious.

Forgive the vocabulary lesson, but I couldn’t let it slide. Like you, I’m a graduate of UL, having received my communications degree there in 2002 and a master’s degree in English in 2005. I attended at the tail end of the Ray Authement eon, when the school enjoyed major physical and academic upgrades. Savoie is continuing that process and I applaud him for it. Whatever his personal feelings on the LGBT issue, he has decided that our school will keep pace with social progress. It’s a terrific step in a state not exactly known for its progressiveness — and rapidly gaining a national reputation for its hostility to public education.

You surely know all about that hostility, given that your remarks to Savoie exude it. You seem to think that the LGBT minor is something assembled at gunpoint for the express purpose of winning some political pissing match. You imply that “the future of our students and their economic prospects” is somehow threatened by the option (!) of taking courses that highlight the trials our LGBT friends face.

But the lesson that college most impressed on me was that exposure to a variety of viewpoints is absolutely essential to critical thinking. LGBT-centered classes aren’t going to turn students into gay welfare cases any more than listening to conservative poli-sci professors turned me into a Republican, or taking feminist courses made me a woman.

If only university courses had so much power! Imagine if all it took to eradicate bigotry, discrimination and parochial narrow-mindedness was a college minor. Man! Though opposing forces would just as quickly concoct programs to brainwash students right back, so it’s probably for the best. Still, I’ll invest in the value of education any day. It might not automatically change anyone’s beliefs, but it can teach them that love, understanding and friendship aren’t confined to one group, race or sexual orientation.

The weirdest part about your resistance is that the courses comprising the LGBT minor already exist within the UL curriculum; they’re simply being compiled for the sake of the minor. Theoretically, you could leaf through the UL course listings and tie together your own minor if you like — though good luck finding a series of courses that would compose an intolerance curriculum. You might have to dig into the state’s more extremist, voucher-vacuuming private schools for that.

While you’re searching for those courses, Rep. Landry, you also might want to audit one on irony. See, your anti-government and anti-education rhetoric might kill at a tea party rally, but you’re The Man now — an elected official in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is about as Big Government as big government gets. So don’t be surprised if Savoie resists your campaign of pressure; he’ll only be heeding your advice.

Geaux Cajuns!

Sincerely, Ian McGibboney
UL alum

(Cross-posted at Daily Kingfish)

1 comment:

Nick Istre said...

Though the area is quite conservative, the university itself is quite progressive; from being the first all-white college to fully desegregate in the deep south in 1954 (with full backing from the faculty and administration, too!), to offering the first Master of Science degree in Computer Science in the U.S. in 1962. Frankly, I'd suggest some other place for Rep. Landry to stick is nose into, but instead, I'll publicly agree with this:

"So don’t be surprised if Savoie resists your campaign of pressure; he’ll only be heeding your advice."