Some Post-9/11 College Courses Take a Twisted Path

Anyone wanting to understand the dynamics behind the Sept. 11 attacks in an academic setting is having no trouble finding offerings on American campuses these days.

Georgetown University this spring offers "The U.S., the Middle East and the War on Terrorism." At Harvard, there's "The Economics of National Security" and at Princeton, "Counter-terrorism and Foreign Policy After 9/11/01."

And then there's "Terrorism and Sexuality" at Cal State Hayward, in which wars are described as a form of eroticism for those "patriarchs" who fight them, or "Terrorism and the Politics of Knowledge" about America's "record of imperialistic adventurism" at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Universities across the country have responded to student demand by adding courses relevant to the times. But critics complain that the professors teaching these courses are the same anti-American apologists who dominate today's campuses, and that some of these new courses have less to do with intellectual rigor than with personal political ideology.

Most of the courses cropping up in catalogs this spring in response to the attacks are fairly legitimate, says Winfield Myers of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. But like so many of the offerings on American campuses today, he says, some come completely out of left field.

Many of these gadfly courses share a common theme: That America is largely responsible for the attacks, not Islamic fundamentalists. "It's a typical conceit in history departments — that the West is to blame for this or for that," said Myers. "Sept. 11 was our just desserts — payback."

Cal State Hayward professor Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, a former activist with such homegrown terror groups as Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground, says her "Terrorism and Sexuality" course covers the feminist perspective on 9/11 and its aftermath. And she makes no attempt to hide her contempt for the current wave of patriotism, which she equates with terrorism.

"I have no obligation to be loyal to any government that I don't feel is just — free speech is free speech," Dunbar-Ortiz said.

More moderate voices say the courses are in response to demands from students wanting to know why the U.S. was targeted in the first place.

"By looking at the history of American involvement in the region we're trying to figure out why," said Michael Hudson, who is teaching the war on terror course at Georgetown University. "We're also trying to figure out not just why they hate us, as the saying goes, but to what extent the United States is admired."

Much of the criticism being leveled at what Bryan Appleyard, in a commentary for The Sunday Times of London, called these "politically correct pseudo-courses" is that they perpetuate the blame-America myth.

"The reason that it happened, many students will be told, is us — the resentment and hatred of what we've done and who we are will incite. Of course students are being misled," charges Stephen H. Balch, president of the National Association of Scholars.

But American University professor Gary Weaver says it is important for both sides to be heard — and heightened patriotism is no excuse for silencing other points of view on campus.

"I think people are probably overreacting because they are caught up in the emotions of the moment," he said. "I think that anything that is critical, whether you are just looking at the other points of view, should not be automatically interpreted as coming from the left. That's what academics do, they look for the complexities, not just the simple answers."

History professor Jay Bergman of Central Connecticut State University says that in their zeal to embrace the cultural "diversity" of the rest of the world, some professors ignore or gloss over the complexity of American history and its moral superiority over terrorist fanaticism.

"These courses are ultimately of little value if they divert students' attention from what is really the most profound and disturbing lesson of Sept. 11," he said.

"That there are regimes and peoples in the world that emphatically, and indeed have no comprehension of, the noble principles of democracy, individual liberty and equal protection of the law that are among the defining features of Western civilization."

Fox News' Yolanda Maggi contributed to this report.