A Revolution of Discipline

In email conversation with URI women’s studies professor Donna Hughes — who has published on NRO and FrontPage — about an online course that she’ll be teaching in the fall, “Human Rights and Foreign Policy,” I suggested that conservatives have quite a bit of work to do to reclaim inclusion with issues that are often considered “liberal” by definition. It shouldn’t be reasonable for students registering for a women’s studies course to assume that they know for whom their professor voted in the past five presidential elections or what her view on stem-cell research is. The following part of Prof. Hughes’s response struck me as worth publishing, here, and I’ve done so with her permission.

Even if you disagree with certain points of view, you have to read and understand them to know how to counter them. Otherwise, you’re arguing in ignorance. Where I find that bias hurts students is when they’ve been taught opinion as fact. No one tells them that what they are learning is just one side of a debate or a particular political perspective.
For example, I’m opposed to the legalization of prostitution from what I consider a feminist point of view — it’s not good for women! Yet that puts me in opposition to most liberals who support legalization or decriminalization of prostitution, and I find allies among social conservatives and faith-based groups who agree with me, but often for different reasons.
I just finished teaching a course on “Sex Trafficking.” I have my students read both points of view on the debates on trafficking and prostitution. They read some of the things I’ve written, so I don’t hide my point of view, but when they write essays they have to clearly indicate that they understand the debate and the arguments. In the class discussion, they frequently state their opinions. I don’t discourage that.
In the area of human rights and foreign policy, a very interesting coalition has come together in Washington to successfully pass a number of bills. As a feminist working to advance the well being and status of women around the world, I meet every week and frequently speak every day to members of our coalition made up of conservative Christians, Jews, Bahai’s, social conservatives, and liberals. I’ve learned that conservatives have different philosophies about foreign policy — and they can be more effective than the liberal approaches sometimes. As a result of working together, we have built a strong political alliance, learned to respect each other — and become friends. As a feminist and women’s studies professor, I was invited by the Midland Ministerial Alliance to come to Midland, Texas, and talk about trafficking of women. I spoke to a room full of Bush supporters. We got along great because we were united behind the Bush administration policies on trafficking and prostitution.
I will be drawing from my experience in this new class. That’s why I think conservative students might be interested in taking it. It will not be hostile to their views. The world is rapidly changing, and frankly, I think the liberals are out of ideas on what to do about it. From the perspective of a feminist who wants to promote the well being and status of women, we need more democracy and freedom in the world. It is only under those conditions that women can organize and lobby for more rights. Also, one of the greatest threats to women in the world today is Islamic fascism and it seems to be the neoconservatives that have figured out what a threat it is to the world.

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