School now backpedalling on its controversial choice of summer programming.
In Maryland, Montgomery Community College has become the latest institution to offer a class on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. "Occupy MoCo!" will be offered to students in grades nine through twelve during the summer of 2012 as part the community college's summer youth program. Four days ago, Elizabeth Homan, Montgomery's Director of Communications, told Fox News the course "does not take a stance on the Occupy movement." Perhaps not now that the college has been caught red-handed. Since the story first broke, the course description has been changed twice to cover up its clear initial purpose: recruitment and indoctrination in OWS mob mania.
The original description of course, "You392 Occupy MoCo!" read as follows (italics mine): "We are at an exciting time in the history of the world. People all over the planet are taking democracy into their own hands and working together to create solutions for a better world. Take advantage of this interactive opportunity to learn critical thinking skills that will help you in college and gain insight into becoming a global leader of the 21st century. Learn about the Occupy Wall Street movement and explore real-life human rights implications. Review social justice concepts and explore human rights issues related to current events. Young people hold the power to change their community, their schools, their future--are you ready to join the movement for justice?"
A new description was put on the college's website on Tuesday: "All around the world, people are taking democracy into their own hands. This class provides a unique, creative opportunity to discuss social issues and protests throughout history, including current events such as Occupy Wall Street. Students will learn about the various processes that can be used to voice opinions in their own community. Join in this interactive class to gain valuable insights into leadership and to develop critical thinking skills for college and life."
What's missing from this description? Any mention of human rights and social justice. Why the change? Course descriptions for the summer program are written with "exciting titles and energizing descriptions" to attract students to the program, Ms. Homan contended. "In an attempt to be fun and interesting, the true content of the class may have been lost."
Perhaps. But one suspects that both the complaints of area residents and online allegations that the course was trying to indoctrinate students have taken their toll. Ms. Homan conceded the possibility. "We've heard from our community that there was some clarity that we needed to provide in our course description, and we're going to correct that," Homan said earlier this week before the change was made. Yet even current students at Montgomery College recognized the inherent problem with the original description. "It's like, 'Are you ready to join the movement for justice?' That's recruiting someone," said student Cameron Lancon.
The course is being created by Neha Singhal with "input from the dean" according to Ms. Homan. Curiously, the college's roster of personnel did not include Ms. Singhal in its database. Ms. Homan explained that summer courses "taught through the workforce development and continuing education, specifically the youth programs are [taught] by part-time, short-term employees." Ms. Homan also insisted that Ms. Singhal "is not affiliated in any way with the OWS movement."
When asked if the college had ever taught a course on the Tea Party, Ms. Homan pointed out that the course "isn't going to be about the Occupy movement. It will be an aspect of it, but it's not the sole focus of the class" which is aimed at examining "current events, different ways people choose to have their voices heard, and terminology surrounding protests." As for the Tea Party aspect, Ms. Homan said that "we've definitely heard from everybody about incorporating an aspect of the Tea Party, and that's definitely valid, and that's something that [Ms. Singhal] will incorporate."
Ms. Homan described the reaction to this story as "mixed," noting that the concern was with the original course description. "That's why we've assured everyone that we've amended it to insure that it reflects...what the course was always intended to be," even as the "effort to be exciting" has gotten the college "more attention than we've ever needed." When asked why the title of the course wasn't changed, Ms. Homan made the point that the added publicity makes it easier to find. "The course is ultimately about voice," she insisted, adding that "there is no intent of advocating for the Occupy movement."
Yet there may be more going on here than the school is willing to admit. By late yesterday afternoon the description of the course had been changed yet again. According to Ms. Holman the final description of the course "which will go to print for the summer youth brochure" is this: "Around the world, growing numbers of people are making their voices heard. This class provides a unique, creative opportunity to discuss social issues and protests in the past and present. What are the frustrations behind them? How are they portrayed? How do you evaluate what you hear? We need to be savvy consumers of information, to learn how to question and evaluate, and, how and when to voice our positions. Join this interactive class to gain valuable insights into leadership and to develop critical thinking skills. This is an excellent investment in yourself, your skills, and your future success."
What's missing? Any mention of the Occupy movement at all. Such an "evolving" course description suggests that Montgomery College, despite the insistence by Ms. Holman that the original course description was nothing more than an over-zealous effort to attract students, has been caught red-handed creating a course they would have preferred remain largely under the public radar. Adding to the dubiousness is the fact that the college is not making instructor Neha Singhal's contact information available. An email sent by Ms. Homan describing Ms. Singhal was vague. She is someone who "has previously taught workshops to high school students in Prince George's County and Montgomery County [Maryland]. She taught in Montgomery College's summer youth program last year. Ms. Singhal works at a four-year university, and she is a master's degree student."
To be fair, Montgomery is hardly unique. Several colleges are teaching courses on the OWS movement, including NYU, Columbia, Brown and UCLA. What sets Montgomery apart is the idea of offering an OWS course to high school students, albeit those taking Advanced Placement classes, as young as 14 years of age. And considering the efforts of college officials to defuse this story by changing the description of the course, as well as keeping its teacher under wraps, one can only wonder whether some of the squalid reality surrounding the OWS movement, including the illegal occupation of public property, the riots, the rapes, and the anti-Semitism--coupled with its anti-capitalist underpinnings, including publicly professed support from the American Nazi and Communist Parties--will be an integral part of the curriculum.
Until the details of the syllabus are made available, one is more inclined to believe "Occupy MoCo!" was going to be more about indoctrination than education. Considering the amount of public backpedalling already occurring, one can only imagine how this is playing out in the privacy of the dean's office. The adage, "sunlight is the best disinfectant" seems very apropo.
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