I just got through the first week of summer session, taking U.S. Foreign Policy (Political Science) and Race & Ethnic Relations (Sociology). The former is described as a survey course” (½ mile wide, 2 inches deep), covering how various organs within the U.S. government make foreign policy. Of course, the effects of transnational corporate interests are not even in the syllabus, and the professor has already stated he may skip the day on public opinion. The major problem with Political Science courses (at least at my school, though it appears to be a nearly unanimus trend among PoliSci departments) is that they would better be re-titled “State Theology”. The blind acceptance of whatever the Powerful People do and say is so thorough that one could easily mistake them for “Advanced Sunday School”. Only in this version, Washington is God, Lincoln is Jesus, and Kennedy is the Holy Spirit. My professor actually stated that the real reason why Osama bin-Laden’s followers attacked the U.S. is because “they hate our ‘liberal pluralism'”. It is a more intellectual framing than “they hate our freedom”, but it is just as useless and incorrect an explanation.
The reality is “they hate U.S. corporate interests lording over them, the U.S. government supporting Israel, and the U.S. military in their holy land”. Some fundamentalists may dislike how much freedom they are told we have, but that is never a major source the source of suicide attacks. As a historical analogy, Europe launched three Crusades against the Turkish caliphate at the behest of the entire Catholic Church because they had their “heathen” armies in the Christian holy land. Today, a nearly insignificant number (around 700 before the invasion of Iraq, or 0.00007% of the global Muslim population) of rouge Muslims are launching a mini-Crusades against Americans because the U.S. government has its “infidel” armies in the Muslim holy land.
The sociology course is shaping up to be more interesting, though there simply doesn’t appear to be enough class time to cover the reading for an entire day. Further, since the course has no pre-requisites, most of the people in class are totally unfamiliar with class-based analysis, Conflict Theory, and the “discrimination matrix” (float quality_of_life[race][class][gender];), even though the course is 300-level. To have a decent discussion, the professor would have needed to spend the first week covering those basic concepts (and how they related to race and ethnic relations, of course). So, naturally, we spent all that time doing 5-minute personal biographies on “how we each came to understand race and ethnicity” instead :-(. Hopefully it will improve next week.