January 17th, 2005

tv // lbd // shoulder touch

California professor flunks Kuwaiti's pro-U.S. essay

A 17-year-old Kuwaiti student whose uncles were kidnapped and tortured by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's invaders more than a decade ago said his California college political science professor failed him for praising the United States in a final-exam essay last month.

Ahmad Al-Qloushi, a foreign student at Foothill College near San Jose, Calif., said he was told by professor Joseph A. Woolcock to get psychological treatment because of the pro-American views expressed in his essay.

"Apparently, if you are an Arab Muslim who loves America, you must be deranged," said Mr. Al-Qloushi, who feared the failing grade could cost him his student visa.

"I didn't want to be deported for having written a pro-American essay, so as soon as I left his office, I made an appointment with the school psychologist," he said.

Mr. Woolcock did not respond to telephone and e-mail inquiries. College officials declined to comment, saying it is a confidential matter because Mr. Al-Qloushi and Mr. Woolcock have filed complaints.

For their final exam, Mr. Woolcock had students write an essay on one of several topics that he circulated.

The topic chosen by Mr. Al-Qloushi stated that some scholars "contend that the Constitution of the United States was not 'ordained and established' by 'the people' as we have often been led to believe. They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who were representative of powerful economic and political interests. Analyze the U.S. Constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded the majority of people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America's elite interests."

In his essay, Mr. Al-Qloushi said, "I completely disagree. ... The American Constitution worried monarchs in Europe. The right for men to choose their own representatives was unheard-of in the rest of the world. ... The United States Constitution might have excluded the majority of people at the time. But it progressed, and America, like every nation in the world, progressed ...

"Because of America, the world is free. ... America freed Kuwait and is now currently in a fight to free Iraq and its 25 million residents and vanquish the tyranny and monstrosity of Saddam Hussein."

Mr. Al-Qloushi said Mr. Woolcock "told me to come to his office the next morning." In the meeting, "he verbally attacked me and my essay."

"He told me, 'Your views are irrational. He called me naive for believing in the greatness of this country and told me, 'America is not God's gift to the world. ... You need regular psychotherapy.' "

Keith Pratt, an English professor at the school, said he was "pretty appalled" when Mr. Al-Qloushi told him about the incident. "I told him, 'You should talk to the dean and go through channels,' " he said.

"This is a very sincere action on his part," the professor said. "There was never one hint that he had any axe to grind. I know this guy and I have had many conversations with him about the atmosphere in the classroom, but he never engaged in any character assassination."

Now, you might not agree with what the student wrote, but in a college class whether or not the professor agrees with the student's stance isn't the point. At least, it's not supposed to be the point. It's supposed to be how well the student addresses the topic and backs it up with arguments. Now, obviously we don't have the full text of the paper here and can't personally give it a 'grade'. But according to the student, he wasn't called into the professor's office to discuss disjointed sentence structure, poor grammar or anything that would be a reasonable complaint.

The student was basically told that he was nuts to have the opinion of America that he has, which is backed up by the topic itself. The question wasn't "was the Constitution written by/for the people, give arguments for or against". It was very pointed, very biased, and with the position of power that a college professor has over his students (especially underclassmen) it can also be very intimidating.

What liberal bias in upper education?
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Still hasn't quite sunk in...

Our flight to DC leaves around noonish, so I suppose in twelve hours we'll be on the plane. And in twenty-four hours... well, it'll be three in the morning and I'll be asleep ;)

Dad and I are going to take lots of pics and I'm sure I'll have lots of goodies to share when I get back.

Don't have too much fun without me!
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