Wednesday, April 11, 2007

FIRE - Professor Kaplan Speaks Out—And New Questions Abound

One of tonight's speakers, Greg Lukianoff, is the President of "FIRE". Here is a link to their coverage of L'Affaire Kaplan, of which I just became aware.
by Emmett Hogan (March 8, 2007)
One of the big mysteries in the ongoing debacle at the University of Wisconsin Law School has been what, exactly, was said in Professor Kaplan’s classroom on February 15.

1 comment:

Joseph L. Davis said...

I have been following the recent case of the brouhaha in the Law School regarding some aggrieved Hmong students with some interest and more than a little dismay. I happen to know Prof. Kaplan (in the interest of full disclosure; I consider him a close friend) and I am a trained historian (Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin; 1972) with more than a passing acquaintance with the meaning of is nation’s still great experiment with self-government. Two summer’s ago my daughter (a recent Rutgers University graduate) took a summer school course with Prof. Kaplan and discovered what I already knew: he is brilliant, an excellent teacher and intent upon challenging his students to grapple with the real world and its many unresolved problems by bursting their varied expectations and poking big holes in what they believe to be ‘the truth.’

I confess to not knowing exactly what went on in that Law School class on the particular day in question, but I surmise that Prof. Kaplan was trying to paint a picture of what America really is: this pluralistic, crazy-quilt of a country – and in doing so he obviously held up the immigrant experience, warts and all, as an example of how ‘foreigners’ become this thing called Americans. So, he talked about crime in the 2nd generation Hmong population, among other things, just like people talk about crime and other tensions in other immigrants’ slow absorption in this nation’s fabric (I think it is no longer fashionable for Italians to critique TV shoes like the Sopranos, or the Irish to object to movies like The Departed, or for Jews to cover their ears when there is talk about Arnold Rothstein and Myer Lansky and Murder Inc. . . . and, by the way, I have always taken a certain perverse pride in the accomplishments of the latter]. But, in the end looking at what different ethnic groups went through from first generation to second to some later form of absorption warrants, for most of us, a big so what?

In order to get at what it is to be an American – especially in order to be able to navigate in the legal world – you’ve got to be able to look at experiences and situations and the clash of mores and cultures without rose colored glasses. I believe that those young Hmong students, having come up in an American society so all consumed with political correctness and bland discourse just don’t grasp, yet, what America, advanced education, the law is all about. The onus is on them – they need to be able to look back at their group experience if they intend to be leaders and trailblazers. In America, in an American higher education all questions are fair game . . . no topic is out of bounds . . . because, in the end, out of discourse and debate comes the greatness of America. If those students can’t take Len Kaplan, I fear they are not ready for the real world at all.

Joseph L. Davis