University of Minnesota adds mandatory racial justice course

March 5, 2021 • 11:30 am

Is an course on “race, power and justice” an essential part of a liberal education? The University of Minnesota’s (faculty) senate, has declared “yes.
as reported in the student newspaper, The Minnesota Daily.

Click on the screenshot to read:

Up to now, all undergraduates at UM were required to take four courses from the five “themes” available (multiple courses are offered under each “theme”): civic life and ethics, diversity and social justice in the U.S., the environment, global perspectives, and technology and society. Now the “diversity and social justice” theme has been renamed “Race, power and justice in the United States” (RPJ), and that theme is no longer one you can omit: it has, as of next year, become an obligatory course. (It will apply only to incoming students, not ones already at the University of Minnesota.)

According to the chair of a faculty group that vets liberal-education courses, “this proposal was created in response to a request from Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson following the police killing of George Floyd last summer.” But that chair, Kathryn Pearson, also said this:

“We’re failing our students if we don’t make them aware of systemic racial inequality and give them the tools to analyze it and its implications,” Pearson said. “Minnesota has some of the worst racial inequities in education, housing, health care, criminal justice, the environment. And most recently, it’s the site of George Floyd’s murder.”

Well, it’s debatable whether George Floyd was “murdered”, a term whose definition is “a deliberate and premeditated killing”. I prefer just saying “killing”, for the trial of the officers accused of murdering Floyd hasn’t yet started, and we should wait for the verdict. Even here at the University of Chicago, some department statements—already in violation of University policy against making official political statements—pronounce George Floyd’s death a police “murder” done out of racism. (see here and here, for example).  They should hold off a bit!

At any rate, there is both approbation and pushback about the course at UM, but some of the pushback involves dubious statements about “emotional labor”, a phrase that bothers me because having emotions doesn’t seem like “labor” to me. But I’m splenetic today. The article continues:

“I think the University has a responsibility and a lot of ways partly just given where we are geographically, partly given what the objectives of higher education institutions are to equip students with a diverse worldview,” said Carter Yost, an MSA student representative, who co-led MSA’s endorsement of the new theme requirement. [JAC: What, exactly is a “diverse worldview”?]

“I think making this theme a requirement for students is a really great step towards better student understanding,” he said.

Some senate members expressed concern about the new requirement, such as the idea that requiring these courses could place additional emotional labor on students of color who have lived experiences with racial injustice.

Mattea Allert, the speaker for the Council of Graduate Students, said she feels the new requirement does not accurately address student needs.

“I don’t think it’s inherently a bad proposal,” Allert said. “I sort of come from the mindset of opposed to dedicating specific classes to talk about race and social justice, that race and social justice should be brought into … all subjects because it touches everything.”

There are two questions here:

1.) Is a course in Race, Power and Justice a good course to require all students to take? It’s surely timely, but is it important enough to make it the only course required of the five theme courses? I don’t know; I’m willing to be persuaded either way, but that depends on the answer to the second question.

2.) Is there a way to teach a Race, Power and Justice course without propagandizing the students into an accepted way of thinking, and without penalizing them for questioning the accepted wisdom? And you know what “wisdom” I mean: the Woke doctrine.

Reading the existing course guidelines for this theme, which are given below for the current courses, I’m not reassured. They will concentrate on “power and privilege”, an essential part of Critical Theory, and the course has a purpose: “to ensure that students’ educational experience and knowledge-base of the United States is inclusive of group and social differences.” That sounds like an educational purpose, but is really a political purpose, more or less telling the students how they will have to act. And because this violates requirement #2, it also violates requirement #1. My conclusion: given the fraught nature of the subject, combined with my near certainty that this is an indoctrination course in which only accepted viewpoints will be adumbrated and differences of opinion discouraged, this course should not be required.

Diversity and Social Justice in the United States objectives and criteria

Understanding the internal diversity of the United States and the complex ways in which diversity can be both an asset and a source of social tensions is integral to an informed, responsible, and ethical citizenry. Courses fulfilling the Diversity and Social Justice in the United States theme requirement may emphasize very different content and be taught from a variety of disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives. They promote historical and contemporary understanding of how social differences (such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and disability) have shaped social, political, and cross-cultural relationships within the United States. More specifically, courses fulfilling this Theme will critically investigate issues of power and privilege, instead of merely promoting a surface-level “celebration” of diversity. The objective of this requirement is to ensure that students’ educational experience and knowledge-base of the United States is inclusive of group and social differences. Through this type of educational experience, our students will be better able to live and work effectively in a society that continually grows more diverse and inclusive.

Course must meet these criteria:

  • The course explores one or more forms of diversity through the multi-layered operation of social power, prestige, and privilege.
  • The course advances students’ understanding of how social difference in the U.S. has shaped social, political, economic, and cross-cultural relationships.
  • Students examine the complex relationship between a particular form of diversity in the United States and its impact on historical and contemporary social dynamics, democratic practices, and institutional stratification.
  • The course enhances students’ understanding of diversity as a social construct that has promoted the differential treatment of particular social groups and served as the basis for response to subsequent social inequities by these groups.
  • The course engages scholarship that has emerged in response to epistemological gaps in information and perspective in traditional disciplines.

But it’s a fait accompli. Similar initiatives will soon be coming to a college or university near you.

50 thoughts on “University of Minnesota adds mandatory racial justice course

  1. Premeditated means what, exactly? That some one thought about doing it a month in advance? How long in advance? When you see blood coming out of somebody’s nose when you have their knee on their neck and you do nothing, that qualifies as premeditated because you decided at that point to keep doing what you are doing. Your points are sometimes well taken but I do think you need to pull back a bit — you sound like a dinosaur sometimes.

    1. Difference of opinion does not make a dinosaur. I have differences with the host sometimes and I am the same age.

    2. Also, if that odious technique has a history of being used in the past with no people dying from it, the cop could reasonably argue that he was not expecting the suspect to die, thereby countering accusations of murder.

      1. This isn’t me ranting at you personally – intended to be clear cut :

        I don’t think that will work because e.g. how did he know George Floyd hadn’t had any surgery on his trachea or airway? Would Chauvin had kneeled on the neck of a grandma? Is there a health card that individuals carry that cops have to read first before deciding to kneel on the individual’s neck?

        1. If we are required to consider any possible medical condition that might render something we do fatal to another person, then we are probably all guilty of attempted murder.

          Nevertheless, kneeling on somebody’s neck is clearly a dangerous thing to do and the officer showed reckless disregard for the safety of Floyd but was he trying to kill Floyd? IMO probably not. I think Floyd would have died more quickly if the officer had been trying to kill him. He still needs to go to prison.

    3. Sorry, but you can’t insult the host like that. Even newspapers won’t say that he was murdered until there’s a conviction. I’m using journalistic practice, here. “Premeditated” means he intended to kill him at the time. Of course what the cop did was reprehensible, but I won’t call it “murder” until he’s convicted of murder. You could get accused of libel for that.

      You’ve violated the Roolz and so I’ll see you around; but not here.

      1. And I think you are exactly right.

        The previous trial of Mohammad Noor in Minneapolis has shown this. They tried him for M2 and M3. M2 requires some kind of intent. He was only convicted of M3. Noor pointed his gun at Justine Ruszczyk, fired it and killed her. Pointing a gun and firing it into someone looks pretty intentional (it was point-blank range).

        I predict the same outcome in Chavin’s case.

        I can guarantee you that he did not intend to kill George Floyd. Why would he do that in front of a crowd of bystanders, knowing he was being filmed? So many easy, more stealthy ways to kill if he wanted to do that. No jury is going to believe intent.

        He wasn’t a murderer, he was incompetent and also: “evinc[ed] a depraved mind, without regard for human life”, in the words of the statute. He didn’t care enough about Floyd to make sure he was OK. He deserves punishment for that.

        1. I fear that Chauvin will not get a fair trial. Last year’s rioters did not even wait for a verdict. For now Minneapolis is boarded up, but activists already complain about it (
          Honi soit…). What juror would dare to acquit Chauvin in the expectation of launching nationwide riots and putting his safety in great danger?

    4. A typical jury instruction used in criminal homicide cases to define “premeditation” provides as follows:

      The length of time the person spends considering whether to kill does not alone determine whether the attempted killing is deliberate and premeditated. The amount of time required for deliberation and premeditation may vary from person to person and according to the circumstances. A decision to kill made rashly, impulsively, or without careful consideration of the choice and its consequences is not deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, a cold, calculated decision to kill can be reached quickly. The test is the extent of the reflection, not the length of time.

      See here.

      In jurisdictions that still employ capital punishment, that a killing was committed in a particularly “cold, calculated, and premeditated manner, without any pretense of moral or legal justification” can be a statutory aggravating factor warranting imposition of the death penalty.

    5. Premeditated might apply if cop’s prior interactions with him—which he apparently did have— are allowed as evidence.

  2. Well, it’s debatable whether George Floyd was “murdered”, a term whose definition is “a deliberate and premeditated killing”. I prefer just saying “killing”, …

    Even saying “police killing” is premature. After all, a toxicology report states that he had a fatal dose of opioids inside him. And video shows him intoxicated and saying “I can’t breath” multiple times *prior* to him being on the ground and being knelt on. If that toxicology report stands up in court it could be hard for the jury to decide “beyond reasonable doubt” that he was “killed”.

      1. Yes, I’ve seen the video. The defence lawyers are going to argue that the downward pressure from the knee was minimal and incidental, and that the fatal heart attack was brought on by an overdose of fentanyl. That might be wrong, but, given that the burden of proof is on the prosecution, the trial is not a foregone conclusion.

    1. I think it’s clear that Chauvin is responsible for Floyd’s death. He had a duty to not harm Floyd (unless he or someone else was threatened with immediate harm, which wasn’t the case), especially once he was subdued.

    2. Perhaps it is best to avoid claiming a killing is a murder, until and if the perpetrator is actually convicted of that, rather than of some technicality less, or even found not guilty by the courts.

      Drumpf will not be convicted of anything on the matter of being the prime cause of the deaths of about ¼ million people by now, and counting. But especially since we heard the tapes from Bob Woodward, I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that he is a mass murderer.

      (A bit over 1/3 of approximately 700,000 deaths at this point, that being the extra 36% of the present 520,000 based on excess of statistically expected, is not unreasonable I think.)

      And it is almost laughable in this context how the attempts to impeach and convict him were based on his telephone words to the Ukraine leader and on exhorting his followers to commit crimes which resulted in 5 or 6 deaths. He clearly should have been convicted in Senate both times—but compared to 250,000 or so dead people because of his deliberate decisions..??

    3. Can you share a link to this assertion about the toxicology report. From my quick Google, I discovered that the ME’s report does mention several drugs in Floyd’s blood but not explicitly to fatal levels.

      1. There’s an article here. You’re right that the toxicology report itself does not say it was “fatal” levels, it just lists the levels found. Also, he had taken several different drugs, and how they would interact is not necessarily clear (especially given that the proximate cause of death was a heart attack in someone with a prior history of heart disease).

        By the way, I’m not saying that the death definitely was due to drug taking rather than a knee to the neck, I have no medical expertise and don’t know which of those is more likely to lead to, for example, bleeding from the nose. I’m just saying that the case isn’t as clear cut as mainstream-media reporting might suggest.

        1. I’m not personally ranting at anyone here :

          “ he had taken several different drugs “

          Lots of people take several different drugs every day. Likewise, lots of people take several different drugs due to a medical problem, including off-the-shelf drugs and prescriptions, possibly differently by accident at any time, and because of addiction and depression. A police officer ought to know that – which is to say, a high-school level graduate should know that.

  3. The canoe is coming for you. Those not in the canoe get an F.

    … I recently heard Hobbes is a figure whose philosophy was of warring races fighting for power – if anyone cares to clue me in, I’d appreciate it.

    1. There is no racial aspect to Hobbes’s philosophy. At most he might talk about the Franks, though I don’t remember that he does. His philosophy attempts to be universal.

  4. I work at a small state college in a red state. The state university system here is undertaking a review of the core curriculum, ostensibly looking for “efficiencies.” The first committee report came out last week and its recommendations are being voted on today. The recommendations are to remove African American and Gender Studies, as well as other courses directed at diversity. My guess is this may become a pattern we’ll see. Blue state colleges adding Woke classes and red state colleges removing them.

  5. On balance I support the inclusion as a mandatory topic of a class that gives particular attention to problems of race, gender, ethnicity. I don’t like the way these guidelines are written because it limits attention to these issues to a particular theoretical perspective. I don’t object to people teaching from that perspective but I generally oppose mandating a particular school of thought in the social sciences or similar fields be taught and its generally a good idea to cover multiple schools where they are relevant to the discipline. I also wonder why in using power, prestige and privilege, they did not instead use power, prestige and property. In a sense, to the extent that discussion of privilege has some merit and in some ways it does, it’s a product of the three. This is a good example of what I mean by limiting the analysis: it doesn’t leave space for class.

  6. I am not in favor of mandatory classes such as this. Certain levels of English, Math and maybe Science but not this. If people at the school want to educate the world on social justice issues, run for office. Indoctrinating the students in this stuff is not for required courses. I guess it would be in China and certainly North Korea but not here. Teach good American History and hope some will take it. Some of this stuff is in Sociology and courses such as this. Most of this stuff people can learn in everyday life. It is called growing up.

  7. The zealous woke attempt to indoctrinate the entire college population may have unintended consequences, if an earlier experiment along these lines is any indication. In the late lamented USSR, courses in Marxist-Leninist philosophy and history were mandatory. My impression is that the gullibles were persuaded, the opportunists pretended to be persuaded, and most people simply became cynical about the entire subject of the indoctrination, which eventually gave rise to a special genre of humor, such as the following.

    ⦁ “Q: Will there be ⦁ KGB in communism?
    A: As you know, under communism, the state will be abolished, together with its means of suppression. People will know how to self-arrest themselves.”

  8. Remembering student rebellions in my own college days, I’d recommend that the students in these courses argue strenuously with the teachers, protest, picket, go on strike, and the usual tactics. It’ll be fun watching the wokey-dokes deal with their own tacitcs turned back on them. Sauce for the goose…

  9. (It will apply only to incoming students, not ones already at the University of Minnesota.)

    Well, at least the school is heeding the constitutional prohibition on ex post facto punishment. 🙂

  10. Such a course ought to examine geographic limitations as a major explanation for disparate outcomes between cultures as measured in resource use and production, availability of materials, and so on – because otherwise the course rests entirely on self-reference/introspection or sorting human beings based on genetic traits or behavioral patterns.

    1. Perhaps Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel could be supplemental reading. Is that book still in vogue?

  11. Yes, too bad Biden rescinded Executive Order 13950, intended “to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.”

    …require the recipient [of a Federal grant] to certify that it will not use Federal funds to promote the concepts that (a) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (b) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; (c) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex; (d) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex; (e) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex; (f) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; (g) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or (h) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.

  12. Bret Weinstein was on the app “Clubhouse”….an invitation only app. The 8 minute conversation (voice only), really starts at minute 2 or so.

    Listen especially around minute 6 when he says he is an evolutionary biologist….

    1. I wonder why Bret Weinstein submits himself to such situations, honestly. Hasn’t he been through enough? It is a testament to how committed he really is to education, discussion, and outreach, but honestly, those people (in the small amount I could stomach listening to starting at around 6 minutes) were SUCH spoiled, entitled, self-righteous snots, and clearly had no depth of understanding of the subject matter…nor did they give any evidence that they were interested in understanding. They repeated unevidenced assertions over Weinstein’s attempts to explain his meaning, as if merely repeating something makes it so. I’m reminded of Alex Foley in Beverly Hills Cop holding his ears and saying, “La-la-la-la-la. I can’t hear you, Jeffrey.” But that was comedy. This veers more toward tragedy.

      Then again, I may be oversensitive and perhaps I’m judging them unfairly. Still, someone who equates being an evolutionary biologist with being a eugenicist, is a person barely worth interacting with. It’s not even good rhetoric, let alone good argument or logic.

      1. That was the most bananas 9 minutes I’ve heard in a LONG time. i have NO idea why Bret submits to this mania. Crazytown. it was so cringeworthy and, in a Khmer-Rouge struggle session manner, terrifying.
        D.A.
        NYC

      2. It was painful to listen to those rude, self-righteous idiots constantly interrupting him. I don’t think they let complete even one sentence!

  13. It’s all in the teaching, I guess. A course talking about social justice causes and BLM is certainly reasonable in terms of relevant subject matter. Giving such a course to incoming freshmen would be GREAT if it gets them to think more critically about a subject they might have blindly accepted before arriving at the Uni. But if it’s not taught academically/critically, it’s probably no good.

    Re: making it the only required of the five. I have little problem with this as long as the required course is rotated. Most of the colleges I applied to back in the stone age had a freshman topical course everyone was required to take. But my understanding was that the topic changed every few years, so it was always about some modern social issue or some book that just came out that everyone was raving about. That seems fine to me. Again, no problem with it in concept, but it’s all about the execution.

  14. Bad on the University of Minnesota. It could be taught well; but that doesn’t look like the plan.

    My wife was subjected to something like this at work. It was basically spent sitting in a classroom listening to someone tell you that you are a racist, for a full day.

    Q: Why am I a racist?
    A: You were born into the white race.

    (“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”)

    1. Was your wife allowed to simply listen in silence, or did the presenter(s) try to extract answers from her in response to their questions?

  15. Can anyone also clue me in to the philosophy (?) where individuals are not individuals as such, but representatives of their genetic background, sexual preferences, and other objects that are associated with one’s “identity”?

    Thanks.

  16. Sorry … universities have obligatory courses in America?
    As opposed to faculties or departments?
    Like, at Aberdeen the Science faculty required one of Maths, Physics or Chemistry at first year if you wanted to be in that Faculty (leaving 3 of 4 first year slots open), and the Geology department required entry-level Geology in first year (leaving 2 of 4 first year slots open). But beyond that, there were no mandatory courses dictated at the university level.
    What a bizarre system.

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