Friday, January 28, 2011

Politely Looking Away: Wikileaks and Sneaky Peaks

I just read an article about ROTC students not being allowed to read Wikileaks material.  According  Col. Charles M. Evans, commanding officer of the 8th Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command "using the classified information found on WikiLeaks for research papers, presentations, etc. is prohibited."

As a Professor -- an exceptionally curious one who teaches US Foreign Policy -- I thought I would wildly and vehemently disagree with Col. Evans. 

I mean, who is HE to tell students what resources they can use? Who is ANYONE to limit academic inquiry? 

Then I turned the question on myself.

When I first heard of Wikileaks, I drooled at the idea of so many raw primary sources waiting to be picked, read, analyzed, contextualized and (insert joyful sigh) synthesized. 

I decided I would dive into Wikileaks documents and find a way to make an assignment so that my students (too many of whom think the Taliban, lead by Saddam Hussein, attacked us on 9/11/2001) could dive into the current wars and understand them better.

But despite my early enthusiasm, I still haven't created that assignment, mostly because I can't bring myself to read Wikileaks.  

Why? The material there isn't for me.

It isn't for public consumption.

The documents on Wikileaks were stolen from my country, and I feel like reading it would be akin to poking through a neighbor's drawers or going through a student's purse when they leave the room. 

Perhaps I'm waiting for the feeling that reading classified state documents is "wrong" to pass.

Until then,  I will steadfastly and politely and patriotically continue to  avert my eyes.