Back in mid-January, Pennsylvania State University found itself in hot water in the wake of a professor forcing his students to “explain why the Taliban is not a terrorist organization.”
Recently, a spokesman for the university has issued a statement to The College Fix that stated that the assignment had been taken out of context and misunderstood.
“Penn State does not align with such violent groups whose values are so disparate from ours,” stated the director of strategic communications at Penn State, Bill Hessert, to the Fix.
“This class, which is part of the political science major and can be used for the homeland security minor, was developed to understand and analyze world views,” he claimed.
Hessert then stated to the outlet that the “Politics of Terrorism” class professor, Christopher Cook, thinks that the Taliban is “a horrible and vicious group that has committed atrocities” while making note that the group has, as of yet, not been officially marked as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. As of writing, the Tehrik-e Taliban from Pakistan has been marked as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, but the various other Taliban groups have yet to be classified as such.
In a statement to the Fix, Hessert stated that the overall purpose of the assignment from Cook was for the students to use the definition of terrorism, from the State Department, to give an explanation as to why the Taliban was not on its list and that the assignment was not a statement of the professor’s political views.
The complete assignment asked students to “In one page, explain why the Taliban is have not [sic] and are still not a terrorist organization.”
“You are not allowed to answer this question in any other way,” read the assignment. “Any attempt to avoid the [sic] answering this prompt as written; or trying to argue otherwise will result in a failing grade. If you have any questions on the pedagogy behind this assignment — please contact me.”
“Remember to try and use the readings and definitions from this lesson to support your paper, not your feelings on the issue,” stated the professor.
As stated by the Fix, the assignment was posted via Twitter by a student, who stated, as part of a Fox News interview, that she thought the assignment was “completely unacceptable.”
“I’ve had assignments in which they ask me to argue both sides, I love doing that kind of stuff. I think it’s beneficial to every student — but that’s not what this assignment was,” she stated to Fox.
The student in question has since transferred out of the class.
In a tweet put out this past January, Professor Cook mentioned the assignment.
“I am going to guess there is a Venn Diagram between the people who struggled understanding why the Taliban were not terrorists for the [last] 20 years and those who think there can be justified violence against the American government,” he stated in one tweet.