United States Studies Centre academics respond to Tim Anderson

USYD academics argue that the US Studies Centre encourages debate rather than indoctrination

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As academics at the United States Studies Centre, we would like to assure students that we do not, as Tim Anderson suggests, operate under the “tight control” of the Centre’s management or external funders. They have no input at all into the units we offer or what we teach in those units. The only approval we require for our offerings is from the Faculty of Arts, much like any other academic department.

Anderson thinks we must be adhering to a slavishly pro-Washington line because we teach “an entire course on the arrogant US doctrine of ‘exceptionalism’”. There is a difference between teaching students about a doctrine and indoctrinating them. You may as well accuse the History Department of being pro-fascist because it teaches a unit on fascism, or Political Economy of promoting neoliberalism. It is not dangerous to learn about things you disagree with.

In multiple undergraduate and postgraduate units—including the American exceptionalism unit—our students read work by writers such as Noam Chomsky, Melanie McAlister and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who argue that the US is engaged in an immoral and unsustainable imperial project. They also read work by people who support continuing American military intervention around the world. This is not the same thing as being a “propaganda tool”. Our students are capable of making up their own minds about the things they read.

In our tutorials we encourage vigorous critical discussion of the role the United States plays in the world, and our students have been happy to provide it. We read excellent critiques of American imperialism by some of our students—critiques that have been sharpened and strengthened by exposure to opposing viewpoints.

David Smith

Brendon O’Connor

Rebecca Sheehan

Adam Lockyer

Rodney Taveira

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