Thursday, April 1, 2010

Radicalizing the Youth One Footballer at a Time

Over the last 3 years I've been teaching a composition course on the topic of Terrorism and Globalization. The composition course criteria for my university are less oriented toward great books (in the traditional model) but introducing students to standards of academic argumentation by way of a particular controversy.

As an ideologue I have two barely-veiled and interrelated intentions with this course:

a) to emphasize the novelty of terrorism so as to reject its embeddedness as an antedeluvian, knee-jerk cultural reaction (also to emphasize state-terror)

b) to challenge the culturalist assumptions to underpin most of U.S. public discourse about terrorism, mostly that somehow Islam is a monolithic civilization and that fundamentalist politics in the Middle East are commensurate with fascism.

Every semester, for some reason, I have at least 1-2 football players in my class and because they are not here with any prospect of an American football career afterwards (we have a team with which no one is particularly enthusiastic, and not competitive in any way) they are really hard and sincere workers. Although in high school football team members were generally objects of extreme ire and fear for me as well as intensely frustrated desire, now I have a lot of respect for these kids for working so diligently and moreover because of their work becoming radicalized (at least for the duration of the semester, or merely to please me, I have no idea) as a result.

I was confronted with this tendency the other day while conferencing with my current footballer student who indicated that he found the two articles that were most radical in the course (one by Noam Chomsky and the other by Mahmoud Mamdani) to be the most logical and the arguments he most agreed with. Fucking awesome!

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