Professor Suspended After Reading Literary Work Using N-Word

We have previously discussed protests over professors using the n-word in hypotheticals or as part of a course on hate speech. Professors are being denied basic academic freedom over such content to courses. The most recent such action was taken against Professor Phil Adamo of Minneapolis’s Augsburg University. He has been suspended for using the n-word during a classroom discussion about a James Baldwin book which uses the word.

Adamo was teaching Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and quoted this line: “You can really only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a n—–.” Baldwin used the full word in context and students objected. Baldwin addressed the issue of the use of this word as part of text and discussion.

Adamo was later relieved of his duties as head of the school’s Honors Program because he discussed “essays on the history of the word.” Adamo tried to make the “distinction between use and mention.” In other words, “To use the word, to inflict pain or harm, is unacceptable. To mention the word, in a discussion of how the word is used, is necessary for honest discourse.”

That distinction was clearly lost on some students who posted a taped class  on YouTube under the title “Phil Adamo Justifying Use of N-Word.”

The incident reflects a growing unease among professors that they are not afforded basic academic freedom over the content of their classes, including using words that are the subject of research or actually mentioned in literary works.

What do you think?

58 thoughts on “Professor Suspended After Reading Literary Work Using N-Word”

  1. One of the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation (which runs wikipedia to the extent it can be said to be run by anyone but flying squads of well-canvassed leftists alert to create consensus for their view of things) is wikiversity, a “project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning”.

    For the reason I just mentioned, any material from that project with even glancing political relevance should be viewed as a “potentially unreliable source” (wiki-ese for “source of information which debunks the Left”), but that leaves most of the material in the wikisphere untaijnted.

    If the Koch Brothers are looking for a really worthy charity, don’t give money to the Wikimedia Foundation – despite having to run beg-a-thons several times a year. WMF also gives a lot of that money to projects outside wikimedia and even holds contests to discover more ways outside the main Project to spend money. Instead, pay teachers, professors and other educators on a “per deliverable” basis for course syllabi which make best use of what wikiversity has, and pay programmers and online content specialists to adapt it to online courseware.

    The point ought to be to allow students to learn university-grade material at their own pace for a small fraction of college tuition, entirely what is now the dangerously toxic environment of resident university study. Since the Left has largely succeeded in co-opting the university system in Western universities for its own ends, it’s time to kill the university system by replacing it with something better and less expensive.

    Those university educators who still wish to teach and learn may do so just as easily (more so, as the story above shows) outside campuses which are now hostile to serious scholarship unless it’s conducted in acceptable shibboleths, with bows to inappropriate objects of worship. The modern university is now the polar opposite of its medieval model – rather than being a place conducive to scholarship and responsible debate and discussion, it is a place where scholarship is rapidly becoming impossible.

    It’s time for us to tell modern universities what Leon Jaworski told Rick Deckard in “Blade Runner”… “Wake up! Time to die!”

  2. He shouldn’t have been penalized in the slightest for reading the word as it appears in James Baldwin’s book to his class.

    It should have been a massive non issue.

    That it was an issue is itself preposterous.

    That reading the word in class, as the prof did, led to his suspension is beyond reckoning and signifies the hysteria that attends us.

  3. Hey! This is kind of like verbal iconoclasm. Let me explain.

    The good news is that the endless conversation and apologies for the so-called legacy of slavery can be ended sooner, if we forget history. Part of forgetting history, is forgetting art from the period. That may be visual art- or verbal art. So throw the dried up raisin in the garbage and let’s forget about the whole thing, since we aren’t even allowed to use the words to describe it. This will also mean Mark Twain and several of the classics of American literature are gone. Oh wait you say already those are banned and forgotten? Then let’s jettison the rest too.

    Sooner we end the setasides and scholarships and quotas and special treatment for African Americans the better. For everyone. Well maybe not better for them. Ok: but let them taste equality!

  4. I haven’t read the book but this excerpt from Wikipedia would seem to illustrate the 1963 problem is alive and well in his 2019 classroom.

    Throughout the book, the author suggests the way past the Negro problem. In general, both Negro and white races must transcend what they think they know, believe, understand and fear. He suggests that America, as both a country and an ideal, is handicapped by narrowness of thinking. Only by expanding perception and experience, on both sides, can America and the people living there become fulfilled and honored in the way it can and perhaps should be.

  5. And yet, rap music which repeatedly uses the N word, and refers to women in derogatory fashion, is modern day prose and the subject of academic courses of study.

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