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Inside the Beaver's Dam

The Dam Insider is keeping an eye out for you, tracking the elected leaders of Beaver Dam, Dodge County, Wisconsin and beyond. Email your thoughts or tips. Emails may be published unless otherwise requested. Requests will be honored.

Location: Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, United States

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The 9-11 Debate

Monday, administrators at the UW-Madison announced they would keep part-time lecturer Kevin Barrett, scheduled to teach a course this fall on Islam. Here's the rub: Barrett is an outspoken member of 9-11 conspiracy groups that believe the US Government was behind that day's tragic events. He believes the US strategically created these events to justify launching a war on Islam in the Middle East. And he plans to teach these views in the classroom.

Certainly, 9-11 conspiracy theorists are out there. Yes, it's a small segment of society that believes in these way-out views. But, the group has its body of evidence, it is fairly well organized and generally civil.

Wisconsin politicians, including Republicans and Democrats, have spoken their displeasure with the situation, urging the University to disallow Barrett to teach the course. Barrett responded by stating, "We cannot allow political pressure from critics of unpopular ideas to inhibit the free exchange of ideas."

He's right.

The consideration here shouldn't be whether Barrett's views are popular, mainstream, or agreeable. Rather, is the amount of time in the classroom being devoted to these views commensurate to their role in the greater discussion of the course topic?

In this case, Barrett says he plans to spend one week of the semester "studying a variety of viewpoints on the 9-11 attacks including the theory that '9-11 was probably an American operation to launch a war on Islam countries.'"

If you are concerned that your tax dollars are being used to support views you may vehemently oppose, reconsider your focus. Universities are, among other things, places where students and teachers should engage in the free exchange of ideas, no matter how radical. Topics that might turn the stomach of some, should not be excluded from classroom discussion simply because they are disagreeable.

Politicians like Governor Jim Doyle and gubernatorial candidate Mark Green have been outspokenly opposed to allowing Barrett to continue in his role. These two and others know better than to limit free speech on University campuses. But, their position is a sound one in today's political climate. The majority of residents, and people reading this post, agree with limiting Barrett's role, and for the politicians, it's simply a matter of playing to the masses.


Blogger Azor said...

Right on DI. Conservatives who want Barrett axed should consider whether they would also support the removal of any professor teaching alternatives to Darwinism. (Likewise, liberals who advocate Barrett's freedom should consider whether they would also advocate freedom to teach intelligent design).

Wed Jul 12, 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Rona Barrett - Kevin's Mom said...

Barrett is not controversial because his views are “unconventional.” He is controversial because he distorts history, politics, science and logic to serve his political agenda – not scholarship. Or does “academic freedom” now mean that facts, honesty and reason don’t matter?

You don't find the truth by ‘sifting and winnowing’ in a pile of obviously worthless ideas. And you don't learn to exercise critical thinking by reading a lot of material that is clearly wrong.”

Wed Jul 12, 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous A Curious Observer said...

Dam Insider,

I certainley hope that this post is allowed the free thinking public the ability to post comments unlike your previous post about "Money for nothing, And your summers for free", after a ceretain date no one was able to comment.

This failure in the ability of others to comment, either meant one of two things; you either edited the comments to your liking or you didn't put up the money that it took to further your jounalistic ways via this media outlet.


I feel that this individual teaching his take on the events of 9/11/01 should either be tried as an Al Quieda conspiritor or quietly escorted to the Mexican or Canadian border and asked to leave this Country.

If you would like to terrorize the country in which we live or the symbol which flies over it, please stand yourself in front of a firing squad which has defended this fine county, during the War On Terror, letting them decide your fate, or wrap yourself in it's great Flag, just prior toburning it, before you decide to speak out against it.

I am all for the premises as set forth in the constitution but if you don't love this Country then leave it. I applaud Mr. Barret for teaching his beliefs, but I think he has picked the wrong thing, the wrong time and the wrong place, (a Strong Rebublican State with a University System supported by it's dollars), to express his jaded views.

Wed Jul 12, 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger Dam Insider said...

Dear Curious,

Firstly, I wasn't even aware that you or others weren't able to post comments following my last entry. That's too bad, and I'm not really sure if blogger.com's policies or a technical glitch was the reason, but it certainly wasn't a result of me editing user comments. Never in the history of this blog have I done that.
Your suggestion that I didn't "put up the money" leads me to believe that blogger.com might have a "premium" membership that you know about; one that would allow readers to post unlimited comments. I'm the last person wishing to squeltch free speech. So, I would be more than happy to accept donations towards purchasing a premium membership if it would enable the entire community to share its views.

Secondly, as for your comments on Barrett, you state that you are "all for the premises as set forth in the constitution" but you also order all people who don't "love this Country" to leave, a seemingly hypocritical stance. Reminds me of stories about Eastern Bloc residents who faced similar demands, only they didn't "leave" their country, they were "removed" and taken somewhere with a slightly cooler climate.

Thu Jul 13, 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Dam Insider said...

I just checked if the previous post is still accepting comments and I didn't have any trouble adding one. Perhaps you ran into a technical glitch (believe me, blogger.com has had its share...I have written a handful of posts that, quite frustratingly, never made it to publication due to some error in cyberspace).

If in the future you or others run into these types of problems, please don't hesitate to write me an email: daminsider@yahoo.com

Thu Jul 13, 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger Azor said...


I would argue that even the examination of worthless ideas and material that is "clearly wrong" can be valuable. In this particular instance, one can learn learn how to refute ideas without simply calling them "clearly wrong." More substantially, one can consider how ideas that are "worthless" and "wrong" come into existence, why they are disseminated, and how they can be eliminated (without resorting to censorship).

Thu Jul 13, 11:01:00 PM  

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