U.S. Constitution Class Cancelled Due To UM Teacher ‘Feeling Uncomfortable’

It has recently been announced that History 387, “The Making of the United States Constitution,” has been cancelled due to the teacher, assistant professor Dexter Perkins, having reported that he found the course material ‘offensive’ and ‘not suitable for teaching.’

On his personal blog, Perkins said that “I just cannot do it. To be completely honest, I feel really uncomfortable teaching the course. One can always teach it in a way that makes it subservient to social justice. But the material is just unalterable. Some of the stuff I got to teach I just find really offensive.” When asked by the Michigan Daily why the material was found to be unteachable, Perkins is quoted as saying: “slavery is okay and some people count as three fifth persons? I do not want to have to talk about the bigots who would write this document.” Perkins continues that “the so-called Bill of “Rights” is guilty by omission. It doesn’t mention women’s rights to vote and to have an abortion. Even the stuff it mentions is used for oppression: religious exercise is just a ‘Feeling Uncomfortable’ label today to excuse discriminating against gay rights. These “Founding Fathers” really are just that: the first heads of American patriarchy.”

Reportedly, the cancellation went unnoticed for some time as the class was not publicized much and unnoticed by most of the faculty members. It only became known when an editorial in the Daily by student and history major Paulina Johnson ’16 in her piece, “A Victory for Affirmative History: A Professor Breaking the Making of the Constitution.” She writes, “I applaud Prof. Perkins for his courage to not teach this course. I can learn from The History Department this upcoming semester about how meats and vegetables have been eaten (History 197: The Omnivore’s Past), how witchcraft has been a tool for fear of the other (History 375: A History of Witchcraft), or the last hundred years of Black Feminism (History 388: Black Feminist Thought and Practice). Dead White Male fields are passé and beyond help. Prof Perkins says he is uncomfortable with Constitutional History. I feel uncomfortable with Military History, Diplomatic History, and Economic History. All these fields are mainly about dead white males. We barely have any classes on them, and for good reason. UM does not have any military historians. Perkins’ decision only continues this move for the social justice of underrepresented fields against the “traditional” fields that, by being taught, offend us now.”

Perkins, when this decision became publicized, faced criticism from reactionary bloggers. The His- tory Department defended Perkins in a public statement, writing that “with our support of Professor Perkins’ deci- sion to not teach this course, we are not saying that the making of the U.S. Constitution should not be taught nor that it be taught that it did not happen. We are only saying professors are not going to have to teach that it did happen.”

This statement by the History Department confirms earlier precedents. According to one report, in 2012 the department had 29 professors “whose research focuses on U.S. history after 1789” including those “whose research, according to their department profiles, focuses on issues of race; and eight Americanists whose research focuses on issues of gender. The department has more specialists in the history of Native Americans than U.S. foreign relations.”

In an email exchange with this reporter, Perkins confessed that “as a student, there was a lot I had to learn that I did not like. There were some things I did not feel comfortable having to learn. It’s cliché to say it but as a teacher I want to be the change I can believe in: my students should not have to learn what I do not want to teach. If they should not have to take a class because it might offend their views and experiences, I should not have to teach it if the class offends my views and experiences.”

When asked about his critics, he replied, “Sure, some say this move (like so many others) infantilizes students. But if that’s the case, it is doing that to me too.”

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  • Joe Schmoe

    The guy has the maturity of an eight year old

  • Bob

    Professor Perkins should be fired for allowing his feelz to override his academic responsibilities. What a pussy.