This seems too long as a response to the comment questioning my dislike of Prof. Villa to leave in that entry
itself, so I've decided it'll be a new post entirely. To Anonymous:
I'm not questioning Villa's credentials. I don't really care about his credentials, actually. It would seem empirical experience of his demeanour in class seems far more informative in this case. That he's respected in his academic field also means little to me; so's Noam Chomsky, or Edward Said, or Howard Zinn, or Cornel West, but I freely cast aspersions on their respective cases of moral equivocation as well. (I trust a "People's History" about as much as I trust a "People's Republic" - which is to say, not in the slightest. And don't even get me started
on Chomsky or Said.)
I've long since resigned myself to the fact that there are many people I wouldn't trust with real power who have taken up residence in academia. Credentials "beyond reproach" don't pull much weight with me. Likewise his military service. I suppose you might think that I can respect that, and I do - but only insofar as he used
to be that decent person with mainstream ideas about history, and doesn't seem to be today. Denouncing all war as unjust after honourably participating in one is the same quantum trick of logic John Kerry tried to pull; you can't both rest on your medals and
disrespect fellow-soldiers without offending somebody.
I would also suggest it irresponsible of him to engage in commentary on current events in a way that reflects faulty parallelism. To convince the average Canadian student of George Bush's perfidy isn't terribly hard. To use such innuendo as a means of reinforcing similar accusations about Roosevelt (and vice versa) takes advantage of his bully pulpit in a way that I expect more from a professor of political science than one of history, and I don't mean that in a kind way.
As for his methods, I simply don't care to spend an entire term enduring such "thought experiments," no matter how informative and broadening you or he think they may be. I'm just not that masochistic. I also think whether or not he consciously pressures students into accepting his opinions is immaterial; such a class is bound to be a hostile environment for non-revisionists regardless.
As for a favourable mention in a given text, well, I can play that game too; In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage
lists him as one of many willing dupes
aiding the whitewashing of communism's bloody contribution to history.
I did not suggest he has no place teaching. As noted above, I'd much rather he be teaching than somehow influencing actual foreign policy; he can do much less damage teaching. He can engage in the nuances of conspiracy theory all he likes, and continue furthering the notion that thinking in such a way is essential to the study of history. I happen to disagree, as, apparently, do other instructors of 3000-level history courses I've experienced. The fact that there are such differences of opinion in teaching method and process suggest to me that Villa's are neither essential nor even particularly necessary. I assure you I've misrepresented nothing; if anything, I may have missed minor details to his "thought experiments" simply because they were too incomprehensible to quickly jot down in a coherent manner.
The bottom line is that I found Villa's theories grating enough that no amount of personal charisma nor counterpoint from the textbook would make his class worth three hours of my time every week. I don't need to fight any battles over this, and I certainly don't need the added stress. I transferred out, and I think Prof. Villa would likely be happier that I did, if he's noticed or cared. I certainly am.