For related information, please visit "Kenneth Westhues's website on workplace mobbing in academe"


This is the full text of the print edition, as it appeared in September 1996;
first published on the web, August 2000, by permission of the author,
to whom requests for any further reprinting or reproduction should be directed.

© Kenneth Westhues, 1996.

e-mail: kwesthue@watarts.uwaterloo.ca


The Risks of Personal Injury in Liberal Education:

A warning to students

Kenneth Westhues

Professor of Sociology, University of Waterloo


All learning involves risk. You open your eyes to new images, your ears to new sounds, your very self to new alternatives. Ideally, you emerge from the learning process able to do what you could not do before. You have the feeling of being more than you used to be, more of who you would like to be.

This ideal may not be perfectly achieved. From time to time you may feel, not more, but less. At worst, you may end up with nothing new but wounds to the self you already had.

You know and accept these risks in physical education: skiing, for instance, gymnastics, mountain-climbing, or whitewater rafting. Bruises, abrasions, and muscle strain must be expected in the course of learning new skills like these. If your body is not up to the pedagogical regimen, you may sustain severe injury. You may need years of physiotherapy before your body is as able as before you tried to learn something new.

Sociology, philosophy, literature, and other fields in the liberal arts pose no comparable risks to your body. Occasional research projects at the professional level entail physical danger, but your body is unlikely to come out of an undergraduate course suffering anything worse than eye strain or a crook in the neck from too much reading.

But physical injury is not the only kind. Your self, your person, includes not only a physical side but also a mental, emotional, spiritual side. Liberal education involves stretching and pulling this side of you in unaccustomed ways, and you can count on feeling stressed, frustrated, and sore sometimes. The possibility of serious injury -- mental breakdown, intense emotional pain, a broken spirit -- is real. Once you have opened yourself to learning new ideas about the human experiment on earth, a lecture hall is no safe place to be, nor even is a quiet carrel in the library where you sit reading the book assigned. The truth can hurt.

I have no wish to frighten you away from reading the classics of philosophy and literature, or the treasures of social science. I have given my working life so far to the cause of humane learning, and I plan to continue giving it. Generally and in the long run, the benefits are worth the risks. Socrates said it as well as anyone: "The unexamined life is not worth living."


THE TEMPER OF OUR TIME

Why, then, after 25 years of university teaching, do I feel obliged to spell out the risks of humane learning in a booklet for students?

Because times have changed. Something about Western Civilization in these twilight years of the twentieth century has bred into many of today's youth a personal fragility or sense of insecurity that makes them unusually vulnerable to being hurt. Critics speak of the minimal self, identity politics, the culture of complaint, and a nation of whiners. It seems sometimes as if a virus is in the air, and students who catch it cringe with real pain at the mention of an idea they find disagreeable.

This is not the place to explain at length the origins of this cultural weakness or malaise. The uncertain and rapidly changing labour market students face has something to do with it. So does high unemployment. Divorce and family breakdown have left many students shaken by the time they arrive in university. Being treated as a number in one bureaucracy after another does little to strengthen a student's sense of personal worth.

Whatever the reason, a significant minority of today's students finds the exercise of grappling with new and strange ideas exceedingly hard to take. The calisthenics of vigorous debate and argument easily overtax their strength. "This is verbal abuse," the student says. "My discussion group is racist. I feel violated. The book is sexist, biased, and degrading, insulting and humiliating to read. The lectures are like a vicious, intimidating assault on who I am."

Most professors in the humanities and social sciences can cite examples of personal injury from their classes. Two separate recent incidents from my own classes can serve here for illustration. Bear in mind that these were the only serious injuries that came to my attention from the 250 students enrolled that year. Otherwise the courses went well, and students rated them far above the average of my department and faculty. This overall success was gratifying, but it was cold comfort to the students who got hurt. The main reason for this booklet is to help prevent this happening again.


FIRST EXAMPLE OF STUDENT INJURY

The first injury occurred during a 15-minute class presentation by an eight-person discussion group near the end of term. The presentation was fresh and well-done, even if lacking a critical edge that might have made the injury more understandable. Half a dozen students role-played kids in a kindergarten class. Each reported in a funny, believable show-and-tell the kind of family he or she came from: two-parent, single-parent, adoptive, and so on. Interspersed with these vignettes were overheads showing change over time in statistical measures of Canadian family life. The group got a round of applause at the end. As is my custom, I asked all in the audience to jot down brief critical comments for the presenting group.

The presenters caught up with me after class, horrified by the offense they had given to one anonymous student in the audience. They showed me the reaction this student had handed in:

You really pushed the lines with abortion and adoption. Just give the facts, not your personal opinion. As well as teenager parents. You put them down, call them uneducated. Fuck you. Some people can't help it. Shit happens to them. And by the way, you may have the opinion that children don't ask to be born. Others disagree. ... When you talked about how the traditional family is seen less in the nineties than ever before, you again pushed your own opinions on us. Have you ever considered why? Maybe it's because women are no longer saying that they're just baby-making machines. If you aren't going to present both sides of an issue, do us a favour and keep your mouth shut.

    The proper answer to speech we do not like is not to ban it but to debate it.
    Bernice Schrank, chair of the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee, Canadian Association of University Teachers, in the McMaster University Faculty Association Newsletter (1994).
What happened here was that facing up to evidence and interpretation, the intellectual exercise at the very core of learning, had proven to be, on this day and on this topic, too much for this particular student, exhausting his or her capabilities for reasoned discourse. Feelings were hurt, and fellow students were blamed.

I do not know what nerve the presentation touched. I suspect an unplanned pregnancy had recently disrupted the life of the note's author, but his or her rage may have had some other origin. Whatever the case, this student was in too much pain to learn. The presenters did not deserve to have a harsh obscenity hurled at them, or to be reviled for giving one-sided opinions. The presenters were entitled to state whichever opinions they preferred, on the basis of their review of the evidence. They had in fact shown respect and tolerance for diverse forms of family life, and had expressed far fewer opinions or value judgments than they might legitimately have done.

Thankfully, the presenters were strong and kind. They made a brief statement at the start of the next class, saying they had intended no personal injury to anyone, that their purpose was simply to describe and explain the changing Canadian family. In effect, they tried to help heal the injured student's wounds.

They succeeded, too. The next week I found in my mail an anonymous response from the author of the angry note. I read it aloud to the class, thanking and complimenting all concerned:

I would like to apologize for the way I expressed myself in the note I gave to the group. My opinions still stand, and I thank the member who apologized to the class. My only defense is that there have been some unpleasantness in my life regarding some of the issues raised in the group's presentation and as a result, my temper raised as well. I regret the tone of the note that I wrote and I hope that I haven't upset the group members too much.
    By definition true dissent is disturbing, uncomfortable -- it is precisely what we don't want to hear -- but without it we can never get to a place where our exchange of insults becomes an exchange of ideas.
    Katie Roiphe, in the preface to the paperback edition of The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism (Boston: Little, Brown, 1994).


SECOND EXAMPLE OF STUDENT INJURY

Not all injuries are so easily remedied. The second one also occurred late in the term, after a class in which two discussion groups had given presentations. In one of them, women had been portrayed as victimized by corporate power, reduced to sex objects for use in advertising. In the other presentation, a presenter had made a disapproving comment about employment equity programs. In the five minutes of discussion before the end of class, I thanked both groups of presenters, noted the difference between them in approach to gender inequality, and said we had not addressed issues of biopolitics in the course as much as perhaps we should have done. I asked for comments, a handful of students spoke, the discussion was low-key, and I would never have guessed that anyone's feelings had been hurt.

A student who had not spoken in class asked to speak with me afterwards, then exploded in rage, denouncing the critic of employment equity programs as a racist and saying I was a racist for not having cut the presentation off. The student pronounced the class disgusting, then stomped out without letting me reply.

Here, then, was a second case of an idea voiced in a class presentation sending a listener out of control and into a crash. No matter that the context of discussion concerned gender, not race. No matter that the other students took the mental exercise in stride. It was beyond what one listener's self could take.

In programs of physical education, an injury can cause such excruciating pain that the injured party abandons further attempts to learn and withdraws, sometimes with feelings of great frustration or anger. This case in my class had a similar result. The injury disrupted plans for the class presentation by the student's own discussion group, the members quarrelled and split into two groups. In the end, the injured student withdrew altogether, leaving other students in the lurch, and sent me this note, composed from the vocabulary of the culture of complaint:

On Tuesday, you raised the issue of Bio-Politics and the method and manner in which you introduced and maintained the discussion caused me undue stress, humiliation, embarrassment, and I felt alienated. Your actions put me in a state where I can not function properly because of the racist overtones that you articulated; therefore, I am incapable of contributing in a physical and emotional capacity because the environment you have constructed.


A STUDENT'S RESPONSIBILITY

From these incidents and hundreds of similar ones elsewhere, you can see why I have felt the need to write this booklet. Serious psychological injury is trouble not just for the injured party but for everybody in the class. In view, moreover, of the well-meaning but inquisitorial ethics tribunals now established on most campuses, a single student's emotional upset can cause massive disruption in the work of teaching and learning. The question is how to handle it.

Commenting on a preliminary draft of this booklet, several colleagues I respect faulted me for taking student injuries like these seriously. The students are probably lying, these colleagues said, or else they are so psychologically unbalanced as to be unfit for university.

Yet who am I to deny students' feelings? I prefer to take them at their word. If a student claims a personal injury, and if the tone and language show a loss of equilibrium, my inclination is to agree. I am unwilling, moreover, to write such students off. My job is to try to educate all my students. When the ego of one of them is seriously bruised, I also feel pain, just as a typical ski instructor does, when a student wipes out and breaks a leg.

It is to save all concerned a lot of grief that I mince no words in giving this warning here: your feelings may get hurt, even deeply, from ideas you hear or read in a liberal-arts course, and you have to take the blame if this occurs. U.S. President Harry Truman's famous saying was blunt, but it is to the point: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

But no, another respected colleague wrote, commenting on this booklet's preliminary draft, this harsh warning may intimidate students who have legitimate complaints.

It may be true that your personal injury is not all your fault. Maybe some professor or student "really has it in for you" and says genuinely hurtful things. The necessary assumption in the liberal-arts classroom is that you are strong enough, thick-skinned enough, resilient enough to disregard verbal slings and arrows, or fend them off with evidence and reasoned argument. In all likelihood, nobody "has it in for you" anyway. There is a saying: don't worry about what people think of you; they're probably not thinking of you at all.

Students sometimes find professors intimidating. The reverse is also true. In the university classroom, anybody who is bright, knowledgeable, well-prepared and well-informed is likely to intimidate those who are not. But the one form of intimidation that undermines the whole academic enterprise is reluctance to write or speak what evidence and reason lead one to believe is true, for fear of ruffling the feathers of some reader or listener. This, fundamentally, is why every professor and every student has to assume responsibility for any personal injury he or she may suffer from another's words.

Be prepared, therefore, to read words that offend you. Do not be surprised if a professor or student says something that makes you feel stressed, humiliated, embarrassed or alienated. Such feelings are normal. If you lack the strength to deal with ideas that threaten and challenge who you are, the liberal-arts classroom is the wrong place for you to be.


IDENTIFYING SORE SPOTS

One basic way to guard yourself against personal injury is to make yourself conscious beforehand of what your particular sore spots are. These are the rigid, stiff, seemingly unbendable parts of your mental or spiritual anatomy, the parts that will ache if anybody tries to limber them up. Here are ten examples, ten possible hazards you may face in courses from me or other professors in fields like philosophy, psychology or sociology:

Jesus is Lord, and your relationship to him is an essential part of who you are. Here is a textbook that treats Jesus as a mere human being and the Scriptures as myths.

You, like your parents, were born here. You know their sacrifices for you amidst layoffs and unemployment. The professor harps on how poorly treated immigrants are, people who won't even adapt to the Canadian way of life.

Your uncle's life was ruined by child sexual abuse. He told no one for 20 years. The professor asks you to read research on "false-memory syndrome," and seems to take it seriously.

You are of aboriginal parentage. Your people have suffered every possible abuse at the hands of white Europeans. Yet when you propose to write your term essay about this suffering, the professor says no, that it is off-topic.

You are proud and grateful that your mother put her own career on hold to care for you at home when you were little. In a class presentation, students portray full-time mothers as stupid housewives who need their consciousness raised.

You are outraged by the discrimination and harassment women face at work. This professor goes on and on about male victims of feminist witch hunts.

You are outraged by all the false accusations of sexual harassment laid against men. This professor goes on and on about female victimization, as if all such accusations were true.

You are a Jew. Three sets of your great-grandparents died in the Holocaust. You are assigned to read a book about the suffering of Germans during World War II.

Your German-speaking grandparents arrived penniless in this country as displaced persons after the second world war. Yet this professor laments anti-Semitism at every opportunity, as if Jews were the only people on earth who ever suffered.

You are probably alone in the class in having been on welfare. You know what it is like. Yet both readings and lectures in this course defend cutbacks to social welfare programs, placing blame on the victims of an unjust economic system.

Spots on your psyche can be so sore and sensitive that if one of yours is on the list above, you might have felt irritation just to see it there. You may even have bristled because your sorest spot (as a Catholic, for instance, a black person, a Bosnian or a lesbian) was not on the list. Identifying your areas of vulnerability and keeping them in mind will help you shield yourself from injury, and at the same time begin, ever so gently, to subject these areas to the exercise of liberal education, so that all parts of you may become strong and supple.

    We defend, therefore, the right to certain types of speech and academic expression which, in fact, we do not condone, and in some cases deplore. This includes the right to offend one another. It includes the right to express -- and the right of access to intellectual materials which express -- racially, ethnically, or sexually discriminatory ideas, opinions, or feelings, just as it includes the right to expressions that favour inequality of incomes or benefits.... It also includes the right to make others uncomfortable, to injure, by expression, anyone's self-esteem, and to create, by expression, atmospheres in which some may not feel welcome or accepted.
    John Fekete, Department of Culture Studies, and 93 other professors at Trent University, in a petition to the Ontario government, 1994.


PREVENTING INJURY TO YOURSELF

Whatever the course, the goal is to enlarge your mind, so that by the end you are more than you were at the start. You can tell that an injury is about to occur when you feel yourself shrinking back into who you were before the course began, defending yourself against new ideas instead of expanding yourself to take account of them somehow. A clear sign that the damage is already done is if you come undone, lashing out at the professor or fellow students with denunciations, curses, name-calling, and shrieks of abuse. This is what you want to prevent.

Generally, the way to prevent injury is to keep your mind in motion, not allowing yourself to be pummelled by any ideas coming from outside yourself, instead actively and creatively responding to new ideas in your own way. This means keeping yourself in control of your mind. Professors cannot make you believe anything unless you let them. The most they can do is require you, in tests or essays, to show that you have acquainted yourself with certain ideas. The way you incorporate these ideas into yourself, if at all, is up to you. The more you engage your mind in an ongoing process of picking, choosing, and modifying, the less likely you are to sustain injury. Here are eight practical applications of this principle.

Keep up with readings, lectures, and discussions. Once you fall behind, you are less able to come to grips with material offered in the course, and the more likely you are to take it as an attack on your identity.

Be glad to encounter ideas that threaten you. They are the ones from which you can learn the most, by forcing you to reject or revise what you thought before. Alternatively, they may strengthen your conviction in what you thought before, by letting you see it in a wider perspective. Either way, you win.

In a class or discussion group, raise your hand and politely state an objection or ask a question. Try to engage the person who threatens you in dialogue. If that person is the author of your textbook, write your reaction in the margin. Do not let your mind be paralyzed by fear or anger. Exercise it. Keep it moving, even if it hurts.

Maybe you raise your hand but the lecturer does not call on you. Maybe the answer you get is curt and irrelevant. Go home and write your questions or comments out, revise what you have written to eliminate any go-to-hell's, and hand it in next class. Even if your submission is ignored, simply by thinking the issues through and writing them down, you will have kept yourself on top of the learning process.

If it is the professor whose ideas nettle you, visit him or her during office hours or ask after class for an appointment. If it is a fellow-student, invite him or her for coffee or a beer.

If the content of some course seems to you seriously outside the bounds of reason, write a five-page rejoinder, then distribute it in class or publish it in the student newspaper. Do not call anybody names. Attack ideas, not people. Cite others' experience, not just your own. Evidence and argument are defenses against having your feelings hurt, and they are the primary means of strengthening your mind.

If you believe your mark for an assignment or a course is unfair, and if discussion with the professor does not resolve the issue, appeal the mark according to the procedures in your department or faculty. Like everybody else, professors make mistakes. Appeal procedures are in place to correct them.

Close the book, walk out. This is not a good alternative, but it is better than blowing up. If your mental constitution has been weakened by a recent traumatic event, certain topics or arguments may be more than you can bear. Better to drop a course than sustain an injury that may take months to heal.

    The professor's obligation is toward accuracy, appropriate restraint in judgment, respect for the opinions of others, and tact and courtesy, but not toward "feeling good." There is no obligation, nor is it desirable, to make everyone comfortable.... We emphatically reject the introduction of the students' feelings as the criterion for establishing what constitutes improper behaviour of the professor and what constitutes a "hostile environment."
    Heinz Klatt, King's College, and several hundred other professors at the University of Western Ontario, in a petition to the Ontario government, 1994.


PREVENTING INJURY TO OTHERS

You are the one who must bear chief responsibility for your education -- and for any emotional injuries you sustain along the way. Our goal in the liberal arts is to set you free (what liber means in Latin). You cannot pursue this goal while cultivating a sense of yourself as a victim. There can be no freedom without acceptance of responsibility for your own life.

But since freedom can only be achieved in re lation to other people, responsibility must also be exercised toward and for them. In education, this implies guarding others as well as oneself against injury. This can be difficult, because like sports, collaborative learning necessarily involves challenging and pushing one another. A classroom without questions, objections and argument is not worth sitting in.

Successful group learning, whether in a soccer practice or a discussion group for a history class, requires that participants engage in an ongoing process of sizing one another up. With these classmates I can talk straight, you judge, because they are strong, confident, and toughminded. With these others I have to watch what I say -- they look as if they might be blown away if I make my comments forcefully. Generally, a student gets hurt in liberal-arts courses when he or she has been imagined to be mentally and emotionally "bigger" than he or she is in fact. I myself have sometimes made this mistake, pushing harder on a student's mind than I should, out of impatience to help the student learn.

    We are called on to recognize that all minorities are entitled to respect not by virtue of their achievements but by virtue of their sufferings in the past. Compassionate attention, we are told, will somehow raise their opinion of themselves; banning racial epithets and other forms of hateful speech will do wonders for their morale. In our preoccupation with words, we have lost sight of the tough realities that cannot be softened simply by flattering people's self-image. What does it profit the residents of the South Bronx to enforce speech codes at elite universities?
    American historian Christopher Lasch, in his posthumous book, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (N.Y.: Norton, 1995), p. 7.
Below are some guidelines for reducing the risk of injuring others in the course of collaborative learning. Try to remember them when you speak in a class or discussion group.

Pick out at least a grain of truth from every page you read and every comment you hear. Truth, that goal whose importance is matched by its elusiveness, lies in the process of honest dialogue, more than in what any individual says.

Frame your comments constructively, trying to build on what has already been said, instead of defying others in the room. If you say, "You are dead wrong," you are more likely to do injury than if you say, "Your first point sounds good, but your second point doesn't make sense to me."

Address specific issues, not the personal identity of whoever you are talking to. Say "A study I read about in the paper found no support for the hypothesis you state," instead of, "If you think that, I bet you believe in the tooth fairy, too."

Leave room for others to disagree. When you preface your comments with "in my opinion," you are acknowledging the possibility and legitimacy of other opinions.

Cite evidence, whether from textbooks, magazines, personal experience or wherever else. Without evidence for deciding which of two ideas is the better one, debate becomes a matter of two people butting heads -- and that can hurt.

Let others have their say. Do not cut them off. Take turns talking and listening. Certain classmates' ideas may sound feeble to you, and maybe they are, but speech and writing are mental exercise. This is how people learn. Nobody learns a sport just by watching good players play, but only by playing it. The same goes for learning mental skills.

Take account of opposing views and try to build them into your own comments. If you and others gang up on somebody and collectively agree that his or her viewpoint is absurd, that person is likely to be hurt. Look for ways to keep everybody's mind in play, and try hard not to send anybody to the bench.

If someone does take personal offense, however needlessly, do what the presenters did in the first example described earlier: say you are sorry, that your purpose was not to hurt anyone's feelings but to seek the truth. Then concentrate on helping the injured party get involved again in the mental exercise.

    This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
    British dramatist and essayist George Bernard Shaw, in the dedication to Man and Superman, 1903.


SUMMARY

The risks of personal injury in liberal-arts education are as real as in physical education. The two recent incidents from my own courses are clear evidence. Preventing injury is your responsibility. This booklet has offered three lists toward this end: ten sore spots where injuries commonly occur; eight means of preventing injury to yourself; and eight means of preventing injury to those engaged in learning with you. You can make each of these lists more useful by adding points of your own, or scribbling your response in the margins. There is nothing wrong with that. This booklet is itself part of your liberal education: your personal process of becoming strong and free.


Recommended Readings

Bissoondath, Neil, Selling Illusions: the Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada (Toronto: Penguin, 1994). A Canadian novelist originally from Trinidad lambasts one of the movements that threaten free expression in contemporary Canada.

Eshtain, Jean Bethke, Democracy on Trial (New York: Basic, 1995). A Chicago ethics professor's 1993 Massey Lectures at University of Toronto. Eshtain picks apart the "politics of displacement," in which private matters become public, and public issues are reduced to psychodramas, questions of whose feelings have been hurt the most. Eshtain comes down hard on identity politics and the ideology of women's victimization.

Fekete, John, Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising (Montreal: Robert Davies, 1994). A professor of culture studies at Trent University surveys the damage to education and research in Canada done by the politics of sex and race.

Fillion, Kate, Lip Service (Toronto: HarperCollins, 1996). Because personal injury both in and out of the classroom is so often related to issues of gender, this analysis of contemporary male-female relations by a Toronto journalist is highly recommended. Fillion's thesis is that both men and women are from Mars and Venus.

Granatstein, J. L., "Academic Freefall: Whatever Happened to Free Speech?" Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship Newsletter No. 7 (June 1994), pp. 1ff. A York University historian's defense of academic freedom: "There can be no 'thought crimes,' there must be no 'thought police.' This is especially so within the classroom where all ideas, even ideas that offend preconceived notions and firmly held beliefs, must be able to be freely expressed and responsibly argued."

Gwyn, Richard, Nationalism without Walls (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995). An insightful analysis of Canadian culture and politics by the Toronto Star columnist. Gwyn lived in the U.K. from 1985 to 1992; this book records his shock at how the country had changed during his seven-year absence.

Herman, Judith Lewis, Trauma and Recovery (New York: Basic, 1992). Trauma is a form of intense personal injury resulting from the terror of being made utterly helpless by overwhelming external force. Being raped, held hostage, or subjected to combat in war can so traumatize a person that he or she is unable for some period of time to handle the rigours of liberal education. This readable book by a Harvard psychiatrist describes what trauma is and how people overcome it.

Hughes, Robert, Culture of Complaint (New York: Time Warner, 1993). An Australian journalist now living in New York pokes relentless fun at the sanctimonious enemies on both the right and the left, of democracy, freedom, and common sense.

Klatt, Heinz-Joachim, "Regulating 'Harassment' in Ontario," Academic Questions (summer 1995), pp. 48-58. Summary and explanation of professors' opposition to the Framework Regarding Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination in Ontario Universities, proposed by the Ontario government in 1993, later effectively withdrawn.

Orwell, George, Nineteen Eighty-Four (New York: Penguin, 1989). The single most important book for understanding where the suppression of free speech can lead. No less relevant now than when the British novelist first published it in 1949.

Patai, Daphne, and Noretta Koertge, Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from Inside the Strange World of Women's Studies (New York: New Republic, 1994). Two U.S. professors, both active in establishing women's studies programs, criticize doctrinaire, ideological, and propagandistic tendencies that have crept into these programs, to the neglect of their educational purposes.

Rauch, Jonathan. Kindly Inquisitors: the New Attacks on Free Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993). An extraordinarily lucid and compelling defense of cultural liberalism, with a review of recent restrictions in the United States. Given that the author, a journalist, is Jewish and gay, his defense of the right to express even anti-Semitic and anti-gay views is especially powerful.

Saul, John Ralston, The Unconscious Civilization (Toronto: Anansi, 1995). The 1995 Massey Lectures at University of Toronto. Saul defends the engaged, broadly educated independent-minded citizen against what he calls "corporatism" -- the drowning of the individual in the groups and organizations with which our society abounds.

Sommers, Christina Hoff, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women (N. Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1994). A Clark University philosopher appraises the women's movement, distinguishing "equity feminists" from "gender feminists": "Being morally convinced that they are not bound to adhere to rules of 'fair play' devised by the oppressor, these gender feminist ideologues have no scruples about bypassing normal channels in gaining their ends" (p. 134).

Steele, Shelby, The Content of Our Character (New York: Harper Perennial, 1991). A black American English professor's analysis of race relations on U.S. campuses, his defense of liberal education, and his critique of what he calls a politics of difference, "a troubling, volatile politics in which each group justifies itself, its sense of worth and its pursuit of power, through difference alone" (p. 132).


For comments on a preliminary draft of this booklet, I am grateful to R. Dubinski, L. Guelke, B. H. Hendley, A. C. Minas, J. Narveson and J. Shallit of the University of Waterloo, G. L. Gold of York University, G. Grant of the University of Guelph, J. R. Kelly of Fordham University, H.-J. Klatt of King's College, A. Krückl of the University of Graz, J. H. Simpson of the University of Toronto, B. D. Singer of the University of Western Ontario, and A. Westhues of Wilfrid Laurier University. Responsibility for this booklet in its final form rests, of course, entirely with me.

In view of the critical importance of the topics discussed herein, I would appreciate reactions, even unflattering ones, from any colleagues or students willing to share them with me.

To order copies of this booklet or to request permission to reprint it, contact me at the Department of Sociology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1 (519-885-1211, ext. 3660), or at 585 Erb St. West, Waterloo, Ontario N2T 1H4 (519-746-7739). My e-mail address is kwesthue@watarts.uwaterloo.ca.

© Kenneth Westhues, 1996.


Born in Missouri in 1944, Kenneth Westhues took his undergraduate degree in philosophy before going on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology at Vanderbilt University in 1970. Before joining the Waterloo faculty in 1975, he taught at Fordham, Guelph, and Western Ontario. He has held visiting appointments at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Graz, Austria. He is the author of many books and articles, and is a recipient of Waterloo's Distinguished Teacher Award.