Saturday, April 25, 2009

Can You Go Back Again? Why Would You Want To?

I’ve not strayed terribly far from San José State University following my graduation in May 2000. I returned as an older adult student in the fall of 1998, and kept myself on track for four semesters and one winter session in order to graduate on time. My coursework was challenging but not as difficult as my nursing classes in community college at the end of the 1970s, into the early 1980s.

I have found myself on campus from time to time when I did some work for the director of the Journalism and Mass Communications department. Up until April 23 I’d resisted attending any departmental fund raising efforts, not because I didn’t care, but more because I didn’t have the money. I couldn’t resist attending an event last night though… how often do you get to see an actual living, breathing person that was important enough to a university to have a building named after him? The “party” was a 100th birthday bash for the JMC’s department founder, Dwight Bentel. Bentel also founded the university’s newspaper, the Spartan Daily. SJSU’s journalism building is named Dwight Bentel Hall (DBH for short). There were events in the department all day, the theme being “Visual Journalism Day.”

Bentel is a journalist and photographer. For a 100-year old guy, he does pretty darn well. He’s ambulatory, and his caretaker says she doesn’t have to do anything around the house, that he does his own laundry, cooks and cleans. I suppose she’s around to drive for him, because some of his former co-workers who spoke last night claimed he was a scary driver—nothing got in his way in his quest to travel from Point A to Point B. 

Also in attendance was his older brother, all of 102 years of age.

It was very nice to see some of my former professors that I’ve not seen in the past few years. Most remember me. Most complemented me on my darker hair color. I did go out of my way to thank my magazine journalism editor—because of three semesters with him, I work as an editor. I’d rather be a writer, but a buck is a buck!

I dragged along one of my former classmates, Patricia, one of two of my dearest university friends who are as conservative as I am. Patricia, Sean and I could be counted on to get into political arguments in most any class we took.  Last night it was the same old thing, minus Sean, who is living in Portland, Oregon. Sean is also a veteran of the U.S. Army, where his job was that of a scout. He has a back injury that is covered by the Veteran's Administration.

While at SJSU we took plenty of heat for being conservatives during the reign of Bill Clinton. We three were the only ones who laughed during Clinton’s impeachment proceedings which was widely broadcast throughout the journalism building (the main lecture hall, when not in use, had the trial up on a big screen television, and students came and went as they wished) and who thought he deserved to be impeached.   Most of our professors couldn’t understand why we’d ever not be supportive of anything Clinton had ever done. One proudly displayed a photo taken of herself and her husband with Bill Clinton at one of Clinton’s inaugural balls. She was horrified to learn I had not voted for Clinton, would never vote for Clinton, was against most policies put forth by the Democratic party. “You voted for Bush? You voted for Dole?” she said to me, horrified. “You plan to vote for a Republican in the fall of 2000? I am so shocked and disappointed in you.”

Here is my point: is there such thing as a conservative educator? Other than attending a Baptist university in the deep south, are there any colleges or universities that embrace a conservative slant? The private university I attended for my master’s degree, a Jesuit university, of course toed the Catholic churches’ values, yet its outlook was as liberal as anything. Why is it so wrong to promote a conservative agenda?

Is it possible to be a compassionate conservative in education? We believe in opportunity but we also believe that you need to earn that opportunity, not just have it handed to you based on the fact you are alive and breathing. We believe in personal accountability—that there is honor in paying for our education and in the accomplishments we work for while working for anything, be it a degree or our careers. There is nothing racist in those statements—why am I accused of being racist because I’m conservative?


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