I just got the opportunity to teach at new university located in a major metropolitan area that contains a very diverse population. I’d like to create a composition class that acknowledges and incorporates that diversity as part of our course content, and so I’m considering theming my course around the idea that we have lots of definitions of what it means to be an American.

This idea came to me because Dave’s dad was sharing how worried he was by what he termed the turn to “nativism” here in the United States. He cited the Arizona immigration law, the discussions about repealing the 14th Amendment to exclude some people born on U.S. soil from citizenship, and the raging debate about the location of a Mosque in lower Manhattan. He was quite worried about these developments, comparing them to the Red Scare under Joseph McCarthy. He’s a passionate man, but I had never seen him quite this disturbed.

While I do actively try to present all sides of issues in my composition classes, of course my own prejudices and beliefs play in. (For the record, I hate the AZ law, would wholeheartedly oppose a repeal, and think people have a right to build their houses of worship where they wish – although like President Obama, I am not commenting on whether or not this particular Mosque should be built). So I’m in a place where I need to make a quick decision (classes start the 30th), and I’m not sure what to do. Will I be able to teach this class with enough diversity of opinion to make it a worthwhile academic endeavor? Will I be able to structure the assignments, readings, and discussion to allow for a multiplicity of perspectives?

What do you guys think? Would you want to participate (or have your children participate) in discussions about these issues and others like them? Would you be interested in talking about what it means to be an American? Would you feel like a professor was trying to press her agenda on you if you were in this course? Would a professor having an honest agenda – but still being willing to hear other perspectives and viewpoints – be a negative thing; is a totally neutral perspective possible or desired?

I could really use insight, folks. Please do share. Thanks.