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Long before college PC movement there was Farhang

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POSTED April 2, 2014 12:09 a.m.

Hamid Aboutalebi has been appointed by Iran as its new ambassador to the United Nations.

Aboutalebi is a great patriot. I learned that from Mansour Farhang.

Aboutalebi was one of the Iranian students in 1979 that seized the American embassy in Tehran. Farhang was named Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations after the American government yanked the visas of Iranian government representatives in this country in retaliation for the taking of American diplomats and citizens as hostages. Farhang appeared almost nightly on ABC’s Night Line to lecture America about our failings and the virtues of those holding 52 Americans hostage for what ended up being 444 days.

The Iranian-born Farhang was my United States government professor during my freshman year at Sacramento State back in 1975.  He made a lasting impression.

What did I learn from Farhang?

• Political correctness is more important than searching out the truth.

• Professors aren’t sincere in encouraging open dialogue and a free exchange of ideas if they conflict with their beliefs.

• The American system of government is rotten to the core.

• Tolerance is a one-way street.

• Do not question a great and mighty professor.

• Professors are quite capable of spending 90 minutes in a non-stop tirade about  “phony Americans values.”

• California happily pays professors big bucks to not teach the subject matter they are assigned.

• Republicans, as in the Grand Old Party, are a level or two below pond scum.

• Democrats aren’t far behind on the food chain.

• President Gerald Ford was a step below the anti-Christ.

• The Shah was the devil incarnate and an American stooge.

• Americans are nothing more than sheep.

• Do not raise a concern with a professor’s superiors that he is barely making a minimum effort to touch on the subject. They will simply tell you its academic freedom and that you should be careful not to be branded as a troublemaker.

On a good day Farhang lectured perhaps for 10 minutes on the subject matter he was supposedly hired to teach – the workings of the three branches of the American government. It was more the norm, though, to get a 90-minute dose of how we should be ashamed to be Americans.

Most students shrugged it off. His blue book essay questions were incredibly easy, he rarely bothered to even touch on assigned reading which meant you didn’t have to read it, and the class had less free interaction than a salvation show preacher raining fire and brimstone had with a packed rival tent audience.

I thought the class was a waste of money.

I thrive on soaking in divergent viewpoints that are often radically different than mine and have reading habits that bounce around from Mother Jones, the American Spectator, the New Republic, the Hoover Digest, and Reason to everywhere in between and even beyond. But there is a time and place for everything.

Turning a college class for an entire semester that is supposed to be a nuts and bolts examination of the federal government system and exploring its roots, ability to function, effectiveness, as well as its failings into an endless tirade on an entirely different subject matter is not creating an open academic culture.

I found it disturbing.

My perspective was not helped by the fact I was carrying a full load, working a 40-hour plus job, and had two part-time jobs on top of commuting in order to keep a roof over my head and go to college. 

Farhang wasn’t the only professor who “challenged” students by straying away from the subject matter at hand for a significant amount of time. He certainly was more intellectually driven than the literature professor who predictably spent the first 5 to 10 minutes of every class complaining about injustices to the faculty, such as Sacramento State relocating faculty parking. That said, Farhang was the poster child for professors who didn’t even pretend they were interested in exploring what they outlined in their course syllabus that serves as their official record of what they were paid by taxpayers to allegedly do to earn their keep.

Farhang was – and still is – a man worthy of the moniker of human rights activist. However, his unrestrained use of the state college system to stray from the discipline he was supposedly hired to engage students to explore and better understand reflects one of the big reasons why many college degrees are out of synch with reality.

Having your values and beliefs challenged should be part of the college experience. Borderline indoctrination, however, has no place in an institute of higher learning. Remember, this was 39 years ago, long before the Age of Political Correctness engulfed Ivory Towers from coast-to-coast.

Farhang since 1983 has been teaching international relations and Middle Eastern politics at Bennington College in Vermont.

For the record, Farhang resigned as ambassador after the Khomeini regime rejected the United Nation’s attempt to negotiate the release of the hostages.

In ironies of ironies, Farhang was forced to flee Iran in 1981 when Khomeini cracked down on political dissidents.

And where did Farhang seek sanctuary?

In the very country he spent hours lecturing Sacramento State students on about how it had the worst government on earth.

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