The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Advertisement
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Advertisement
Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Sixth sense
Neil Jhurani, Sports Writer • June 18, 2024

There’s nothing quite like Omaha when June rolls around.  Fans from across the country head to Charles Schwab Field to watch their teams...

Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
Saves and a robbery
June 16, 2024
Advertisement
Enjoying the Destination
Enjoying the Destination
Cara Hudson, Maroon Life Writer • June 17, 2024

For the history buffs, there’s a story to why Bryan and College Station are so closely intertwined. In 1871 when the Texas Legislature approved...

Advertisement
Chris Hemsworth as Dementus in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Review: ‘Furiosa’ is a must-see
Justin ChenJune 4, 2024

My jaw dropped open in 2016. Rarely in life does that happen, but the viewing experience of “Mad Max: Fury Road" was something to behold....

Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Sixth sense
June 18, 2024
Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
Saves and a robbery
June 16, 2024

Opinion: Dismantling knowledge in broad daylight

Dan+Patrick
Photo by Photo by Gage Skidmore
Dan Patrick

Amid the moral panic regarding critical race theory being taught in public schools and universities, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick held a press conference where he proposed ending tenure for all new Texas university faculty hires. Additionally, teaching critical race theory would be specified as cause to revoke tenure. The rationale in doing so would allow for professors teaching critical race theory to be fired.
Upon initially reading the headlines, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and disregard the matter in its entirety. With midterm elections right around the corner, Patrick is blatantly attempting to stoke fears surrounding education. It was predictable, partisan and — at this point — not surprising. However, my mood shifted from mild amusement to dread when watching his comically Orwellian press conference.
“We believe in academic freedom, but everyone has guidelines in life,” Patrick said. “Everyone is held accountable [by] someone.”
The lieutenant governor claimed to have respect for academic freedom, yet directly stated he seeks to terminate those who teach progressive curriculum. It is difficult to conceive of any such action which could undermine academic freedom in a more effective manner.
Patrick’s insinuation that professors aren’t “held accountable” simply because firing them is difficult is quite a dubious claim. Every academic institution is subject to criticism from its peers, students and the public alike. Simply because removal is rare does not make professors immune from broader pressures and discourse. Professors, just like anyone else, have the ability to engage in whatever speech they choose. However, if their ideas are to take root, then they require both the respect of their students and our society at large.
According to Patrick, if professors desired autonomy, they should’ve asked his office what to teach.
“If [professors] really wanted academic freedom, they should have taken note of what we did last session when we banned critical race theory,” Patrick said. “They could have asked for an appointment with myself … and said, ‘Look, let’s work together on this’ and come up with the best outcome to teach our students.”
It seems the absurdity of deferring to politicians over history and science when crafting curriculum was lost on Patrick. Apparently, in the lieutenant governor’s mind, “freedom” entails not just obedience to the law, but the partisan wishes of the lawmakers as well.
Regarding the Texas Legislature’s move to ban critical race theory, Patrick also said the policy has “overwhelming support of all people in the state.”
Contrary to Patrick’s claim, recent book bannings, changes in curriculum and the prohibition of “critical race theory” in public schools have been met with outrage from within Texas and beyond. According to a poll by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, nearly two-thirds of Texans surveyed said they had either “no confidence” or “not too much confidence” that Texas’ elected officials could be trusted to decide which books should stay or go.
Most of us have read George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm,” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” at some point in high school. Each of us has been exposed to themes of power corrupting institutions of knowledge since early adolescence. One would expect anyone seeking to undermine the autonomy of educational institutions would have the foresight to do so in a subtle manner. However, Patrick asserts certain values such as academic freedom, yet in his preceding words blatantly threatens those very same principles.
“These men and women are paid to help students think critically, not what to think,” Patrick said while paving the way for curriculums to be more strictly controlled by the state. While Patrick claims to be partaking in a holy war against indoctrination, he actually further empowers the state to engage in the same behavior he claims to oppose.
Patrick’s particular brand of double-speech is laughably lazy and would be outright hilarious if it were not surprisingly effective. Even at Texas A&M, some student leaders seem to be amenable to limiting tenure and did not show up to vote for the Student Senate’s resolution in support of faculty tenure.
For example, student senator Donald Russell from the College of Education and Human Development caucus spoke against the resolution, and said tenure fails to incentivize professors to teach students effectively. Tenure, Russell argues, encourages professors to overly invest in their own endeavors and research at the expense of their students.
“[Professors] lose touch with what is going on,” Russell said at the March 9 Student Senate meeting. “We have to make sure that professors are held just as accountable for their actions.”
While the critique that some professors are “out of touch” with their students can be valid at times, one would not let a lion into their house to solve a rat problem. While I am sure it would succeed in eliminating pests, the lion is likely to bring destruction to the residency. Similarly, allowing politicians like Patrick into our systems of tenure would undoubtedly cripple our ability to discuss race-related issues in the classroom.
If we allow Patrick to have his way, it will surely endanger the entirety of our institutions of higher learning, not just their autonomy. If the world knows Texas’ institutions lack independence and integrity, then anyone passionate about knowledge and its pursuit would simply leave. How can our state seek to recruit top talent when it is clear those in power like the lieutenant governor peer over the shoulders of our universities? Many professionals and aspiring students, quite understandably, do not wish to operate in an environment so heavily and transparently threatened by politics.
The lieutenant governor’s statements are often verifiably false, harmful and intentionally misleading. While claiming to detest censorship and indoctrination, he shamelessly threatens free speech and academic autonomy. So, this November, remember if anyone desperately needs to be held accountable for their teachings, it is Dan Patrick.

Caleb Elizondo is an engineering freshman and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *