In the Classroom: Controversy over BA—and Firm Desire to Get to the Dialogue

November 11, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Conventional wisdom would have us believe the reduction of controversy and contention in the classroom would be a prerequisite for winning over a section of the students to get on the bus for NYC and the historic Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian. As if reaching unity on the tremendous opportunity to see BA in person, and to hear CW and BA modeling the practice of unity-struggle-unity, and to hear them out on the question of the role of religion in the fight for emancipation and a radically different world, requires a cessation of struggle, not building on the unity achieved to take the struggle deeper and broader as new contradictions come to the fore.

In the classroom I am referring to, a sharp division arose over how to assess what BA says in “What Humanity Needs” about the new synthesis calling for finding the ways to give “due and correct attention” to both the fundamental needs of the masses and the full expression of artistic creativity and dissent. A couple of students were claiming that BA doesn't really answer the question of how to deal with the contradiction. Another pointed to ways in which he thought BA was being instrumentalist in the deployment of his arguments—that he is not really serious about everything he says, and that he is catering to his audience, not really seeking the truth. Another voiced the doubt that BA is not saying anything that isn't claimed in America.

The response of other students created a sustained uproar in the classroom: students challenging students, and turning the class's attention back to the text and a careful reading of what BA is actually saying there, its meaning and intent. As all this was going on, it puzzled me that those who expressed the most questioning and opposition to BA were those who had previously shown a lot of interest in getting on the bus to hear Cornel and BA. I wondered what this contention meant about their intentions and I found out at the end of class. They were firm in their desire to go and to be a part of this, put money down on the bus ride, and bought their tickets.  

On some further exploration with them, it became clear that what was really motivating them, and their questioning, was a strong desire to know if how BA is envisioning the future could really happen, and whether people are being called upon to just take his word for it.    


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