How Professor Van Winkle Woke Up to Viewpoint DiversityRoundup
tags: free speech, academic freedom, teaching history, Viewpoint Diversity
Jonathan Zimmerman is the Berkowitz professor in education at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the co-author (with cartoonist Signe Wilkinson) of Free Speech and Why You Should Give a Damn.
The kids poured a cup for Rick out of a large plastic jug. He raised the cup to his lips and downed the drink in a single gulp. Suddenly, he felt sleepy. The green, the Frisbees and the lemonade blurred into each other. He lay down and closed his eyes.
Rick woke up in class. In his class. He was seated at the front of a seminar table, as usual. But something was off.
He had planned a discussion about the history of political protest, which was one of Rick’s academic specialties. He liked to begin his classes with a present-day episode and move backwards. It was the opposite of what he had learned to do in grad school, but it worked.
And this one would be easy, because the 6 January Capitol riot had taken place just a few weeks earlier – or so he thought.
“Where were you, when you first heard about 6 January?” Rick asked, to get the ball rolling.
Blank stares. Awkward silence. Finally, a student came to Rick’s rescue.
“Professor,” she said, “what happened on 6 January?”
Rick was a patient teacher, but he still felt a little sleepy from his rather long nap. “You don’t remember 6 January?” he snapped, visibly annoyed. “The riot at the Capitol, earlier this year? The biggest story of 2021? Where have you been?”
Then another student piped up, a brash-sounding kid with a beard and a man-bun. “Professor, where have you been?” he asked. “It’s 2041!”
Rick looked around the room. He was usually pretty good with student names, but he couldn’t remember any of them. In fact, he didn’t recognise any of their faces either.
He had no idea where he had been. But he was here now.
“OK, so tell me about the riot at the Capitol, back in 2021.”
Of course Rick wanted to ask his students a million other things, about what had happened since he fell asleep. But there would be time for that later. Right now, he had a class to teach.
“It depends on your point of view,” a student replied. “Professor, do you want us to sit in Multiple Perspective Circles?”
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