A variety of news sites have begun to cover the case of US Army LtCol Matthew Dooley, formerly an instructor at the Joint Forces Staff College where he taught entitled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism.” The course was judged as poor by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey excoriated Dooley during a Pentagon press conference in May, characterizing his course, “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism” as objectionable, unprofessional, and “against our values…”
The class was canceled, and Dooley was removed “for cause,” meaning the course not only ended, but Dooley received a negative evaluation as well. That effectively ends his Army career.
Some are blaming governmental political correctness (with the Washington Times noting its apparently ok to be offensive to “stereotyp[e] white people as racists”), or a propensity of the US military to bend to its critics (in this case, groups like CAIR).
There is the possibility that some of the critics have valid points. It is also possible they’re completely off base. This is not he first time someone has tried to characterize military officers’ conduct based on print-outs of PowerPoint slides. As noted even then, context matters — and here, there is no context.
Actually, there is a little context. Reports note the course had been surveyed once before and no issues were found. The course and its materials were also approved by military education system that encouraged academic freedom.
Still, contrary to apparent perceptions, it is a rare class in any academic institution that has the instructor reading the bullets off PowerPoint slides in a monotone, Ben Stein voice. Most students could attest that some “bullets on slides” are meant to spur discussion, others to advocate a point, and others merely to think about. Instructors themselves are varied in their techniques, with some glued to a podium, others animated in their delivery style, and some even dressing to role-play a part in the lesson.
In short, it is difficult to characterize an instructional course based on slides and one complaint. (The same is even true for the ‘offensive’ “Power and Privilege” class cited by the Washington Times.)
That said, the military is within its rights to cancel, suspend, or alter any class it instructs — as has been noted before. Still, two US Congressmen — US Rep Thomas Rooney (R-FL) and US Rep Duncan Hunter (R-CA) – have asked why the military didn’t stop there — and instead set out to end the career of the instructor who apparently followed the rules:
Since DoD had already directed NDU to cancel the [class]…, we would like to know why the DoD was compelled to further discipline LTC Dooley by jeopardizing his reputation and his future in the service. It is our understanding that LTC Dooley did not violate any established University practices, policies or DoD regulations to merit a negative [evaluation].
For its part, the DoD has said LtCol Dooley was disciplined for “poor judgment.”