Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Activists Are Nurtured By Politicized Curriculums

New Activists Are Nurtured By Politicized Curriculums

It was no surprise to find students among the union activists, environmentalists and church groups protesting the policies of the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund in Seattle and Washington in recent months. After all, whether the cause has been union organizing, the antiwar movement or a nuclear freeze, college students have been a fixture at demonstrations for decades.

What is new is that many professors and students see a link between this latest generation of activists and the overtly political courses that have been added to college curriculums in recent years. Postcolonial studies -- an attempt to look at the legacy left by the major powers on the developing world -- seem to be a frequent reference point.

''Postcolonial studies have helped students understand issues such as political asylum, immigration, the prison industrial complex and human rights,'' said Barbara Harlow, who teaches English at the University of Texas. ''Postcolonialism has enhanced the intellectual base and helped make academia self-conscious about its place in national and international politics. It has raised the hopes for a new radicalism.''

Purnima Bose, an assistant professor in the English department at Indiana University in Bloomington, agrees. ''We have a generation of undergraduate activists we did not have a year ago,'' she said.

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