Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Captive Audience

I’ve got a problem with this. I am sitting in my American Foreign Policy class and the professor gave 15 minutes of class time to another professor to promote a bill sitting on the governor’s desk. No, let me rephrase that – he was campaigning for it. I hesitate to name the bill because I sure don’t want to appear insensitive – it’s one of those bills. The point is not what the proposed law says, but the forum it was given for its promotion.

It was a captive audience. There was nothing free about his speech – I paid for it. Either through my ever-increasing fees (there is no “tuition” in the California State University or the University of California systems – but everyone knows that!), or through my tax dollars, I paid for it. Those 15 minutes were mine, dammit!

Furthermore, it was not as though I was given an option to listen or not. There was no warning of the nature or the content of the “guest” speaker’s spiel. Attendance in that class, like so many others these days is required – my grade would suffer it I was not there. Even if I had known and opted out, the professor took role before the introduction of this camouflaged sales pitch. I was spending my money to be some place I had to be (or else) to listen to the Fuller Brush Man.

I have purposely left out which bill and its content because it makes no difference. In all likelihood, Governor Schwarzenegger will sign it. It has bi-partisan support. It has more symbolic effect than anything else. If I weren’t a journalist, I might have considered signing the post card passed out to us – under different circumstances; like if I had a choice whether to be there or not. It totally turned me off and reminded me of how I dislike so the idea that the ends justify the means.

It happens on the left and on the right. They preach of personal freedoms like free speech, but if someone says something personally, or worse, ideologically offending, they seem to believe it’s within their right – and the greater good – to silence that speech. Anti-war protestors shouting down those supporting it, in effect silencing opposition, because they believe they have the only right to moral superiority. And then all bets are off – the end justifies the means. I’m talking about the likes of Earth First and the even more scandalous Earth Liberation Front (ELF). On the other side are the KKK, Arian Brotherhood and the neo-Nazis.

It can catch even the most level headed in its deception. My foreign policy professor is a sharp cookie. Although the semester is very young, I have a good feeling about this guy – he doesn’t appear to have an ideological axe to grind. Perhaps it was due to professional courtesy that he allowed this professor from his department a soapbox to preach from. In his defense, he segued nicely from the sales pitch into lecture material – but it sure didn’t need, or benefit from, the public service announcement.

Ok, I’ve left you in the dark long enough. Maybe I’ve sold you and you’re wondering what specific bill could I possibly be referring to. I’ll tell, but remember, if you’ve accepted my premise thus far, it should not matter what the bill is. If we make exceptions for a “good” bill – where do we draw the line? It’s AB 2941. No need to look it up, I’ll save you the time. It prohibits two of the state’s employee’s retirement funds form being invested in companies that do business in Sudan.

Hate me now? Go ahead, I’m cool with that. Be a part of the myopic, lemming-like hypocrites. Make exceptions to further your greater moral cause. Indeed, perhaps the only thing immoral about this cause is the means of selling it – not the cause itself. I’m not denouncing the bill. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be signed. I’m saying that I don’t want to be sold anything when I’m in class.

***Don't Forget***
The Prosper Magazine Student Blog contest is still in full swing. Comments and responses are coming fast and the winner will be determined in part by the comments generated. My post as well as my teammates' are ready and waiting for your input.
***Thank You***


Lee Ann said...

I don't blame you! Not the a classroom.
Tsk tsk tsk to the professor.

Anonymous said...

Not all audiences are captive. Only those who wish to be. I too sat through a few 'sales pitch' lectures while studying at Harvard. Trust me, they know where the money is. It sounds like the political science class in which you enrolled already had a hidden agenda. All too familiar for a left wing institution of higher learning. It is a shame when you place a level of trust in a system to provide you with a balance of fair and objective study but you end up with a one sided subjective and futile effort to promote someones Else's hot point issue.

like it or not, the breading ground for many self defeating fanatics starts in our classrooms of 'higher learning.' You are one step ahead of the rest by flushing out the problem and recognizing what others have been lead by the nose as social change. The questions is this, how many of your classmates actually bought into it?

Good blog. I usually post a response in my sister Ellen's Blog at Secret Garden. She told me you were a great writer and she was right. look forward to seeing more.

Thanks Karl

Anonymous said...

I think that was tacky of your prof to say the least. I would have felt the same way you did. Grrrr!

I've already posted a comment on your article at Prosper, but anyone who reads this and hasn't - GO READ MIKE'S ARTICLE! You don't want to miss it!

Ellen said...

I think your title said it all, and the Prof addressing his little lecture on the bill counted on the fact he had a captive audience with no exit strategy.

Did other students in the class feel the same way?

Snaggle Tooth said...

Yes, but it taught you something about Political Science n the unethical dimension of your inappropriately apllied sales-pitch in a paid n required forum...
I would've walked right out, then after it, back in... I'm brave like that!

Belizegial said...


I tuned in here tonite and went over to the link you placed for the Prosper Magazine student blog and left a comment over there.

You are right to feel cheated out of what should have been your American Foreign Policy Class rather than what someone else felt should be brought into your immediate focus. Hope the rest of the class saw this in the same light. There is strength in numbers for petitioning of a 'no repeat' of this type of occurrence.

All the best,