Sometimes you have to wonder about the intellectual rigor and objectivity of college courses.
A new class to be offered by Columbia University will focus on the Occupy Wall Street protests. The course, called “Occupy the Field: Global Finance, Inequality, Social Movement,” will be offered by the anthropology department and taught by Dr. Hannah Appel, who is a veteran of the Occupy protests. Appel says she will be able to be objective about the protests — but according to the article the class will require students to become involved with the Occupy protests outside the classroom.
I’m not sure how objective a course can be when it requires students to become involved with the “movement” being studied. That fact, alone, makes the course seem like more of a recruiting device than a true academic exercise. And what, exactly, is going to be studied in the classroom? News clippings about protests that lasted for a few months in which only an infinitesimal fraction of Americans participated? Or, how many of the “Occupy” sites had problems with crime? Or, how the “Occupy” protesters developed their “mike check” technique?
The “Occupy” protests have been called a “movement” by some, but I think there’s no real basis for that characterization so far. There’s no comparison between a few protesters huddled in a few parks and the long-term, broad-based, mass activities that characterized the civil rights movement, or the temperance movement, or the women’s suffrage movement. At this point, are the “Occupy” protests really any more deserving of study than other short-lived fringe political activities in America, like declaring “nuclear-free zones” or “sanctuary cities”?