College defends course on ‘How to overthrow the state,’ requiring freshmen write own manifesto

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President Donald J. Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020 (RNC video screenshot)

By Mary Margaret Olohan
Daily Caller News Foundation

Washington and Lee University defended a course offering called “How to Overthrow the State” that requires students write their own manifestos in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

How to Overthrow the State” is a Washington and Lee University writing seminar for first year students only, according to the school’s description of the class. The course will “explore examples of revolutionary thought and action from across the Global South,” including Marxists Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara, and Mohandas Gandhi.

“Like all the seminars, the one in question is focused on the importance of persuasive writing and introduces students to the demands of a W&L education by stressing active reading, argumentation, reflection, the appropriate presentation of evidence, various methods of critical analysis, and clarity of style,” said Drewry Atkins Sackett, associate director of communications and public affairs at Washington and Lee University, in a statement to the DCNF.

“Unfortunately, some people have seized upon the course’s provocative title and mischaracterized the nature of the subject matter,” Sackett added. “One of the first assignments that students have is to examine the Declaration of Independence as an example of an effective and compelling example of persuasive writing.”

The course is taught by Robert M. Gildner, who has not responded to multiple requests for comment from the DCNF.

“This course places each student at the head of a popular revolutionary movement aiming to overthrow a sitting government and forge a better society,” the course description said. “How will you attain power? How will you communicate with the masses? How do you plan on improving the lives of the people? How will you deal with the past?”

The description continues: “Students engage these texts by participating in a variety of writing exercises, such as producing a Manifesto, drafting a white paper that critically analyzes a particular issue, and writing a persuasive essay on rewriting history and confronting memory.”

The university’s president Will Dudley also said that “How To Overthrow The State” has been “distorted, sensationalized, and turned into political fodder on blogs, television, and social media.”

“We are expressly committed to encouraging all to speak their minds freely and to consider carefully alternative points of view,” Dudley said, Fox News reported. “It is incumbent upon us to treat each other with respect and not perpetuate or tolerate personal attacks.”

This story originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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