Education & Academia

Liberal Writing Course at Stanford

A required writing course at Stanford University is largely politically and liberal.

According to The Stanford Review — an independent student newspaper — some have accused the school’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric of being politically charged.

The article describes a "Dramatic Rhetoric" course offered two years ago where "pretty much the entire course revolved around race," according to one student. Another class titled "Supreme Rhetoric: Rhetoric of the Supreme Court" requires students to read excerpts from Cass Sunstein’s book "Radicals in Robes: Why Right-Wing Courts are Wrong for America." The Stanford Review goes on to say, "This book was accompanied by a technical writing guide but no alternative text was provided to challenge the thesis of this politicized text."

One PWR class offered this year focused on the environment and included the works: "Retalking Environmental Discourses from a Feminist Perspective, The Radical Potential of Ecofeminism" and "Looking for Common Ground."

According to The Stanford Review, "One of the commentators in ‘Looking for Common Ground’ stated he was ‘trying in various ways to help industrial civilization find its own dharma nature, and become an egalitarian, more tribal society that respects people and respects the Earth once again.’"

The student paper interviewed the director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric — Dr. Andrea Lunsford — who said she "had not received any specific complaints of politicization from students."

The story also said, "even if the professor does not provide an alternative view, Dr. Lunsford believes that it is still important to come up with and discuss possible alternative perspectives. She did not, however, comment on whether these alternative perspectives ought to be assigned as readings or if it is sufficient to rely on the integrity of the professors to bring up the perspectives in class."

She tells The Stanford Review, "Our mission is to give Stanford students the opportunity to undertake a serious piece of research and to learn how to deploy that research in a pretty sophisticated argument."

The article goes on to note that the PWR program typically offers about 35 classes per quarter, which are organized around specific themes. "Just as students have a lot of flexibility in choosing a PWR class, PWR professors are given great freedom in constructing their courses. When asked if there is some kind of process that a professor has to go through to get a topic certified for a prospective PWR I course, Dr. Lunsford replied, ‘Only an informal one.’ She described the approval procedure as a kind of peer-review process."

Dr. Lunsford tells the Review that a "similar peer-review process" is used for approving course readings.

The student newspaper also states that Dr. Lunsford "seemed to believe in the importance of intellectual diversity."


Sign Up