It isn't that I have never had conservative students before, nor that I have a problem with them. Last semester, I had several who argued with me about the role of government and socialism and those kinds of right wing issues. We got along just fine, and I have no idea if my lectures changed their minds or not. In other words, they certainly were not punished for being conservative and we had some nice conversations along the way.
But this semester, I have a guy who is really bugging me. Turns out he is ex military, for what that is worth. But I knew he was a little different on the first day when I had them do an exercise on recent history and he said that Obama had signed an executive order that gave "Cass Sunstein unprecedented power over the American people, including citizenship and stuff like that." I looked it up when I got home and the EO was about reviewing regulations to make sure that they were still useful. I have no clue where he got the conspiracy part.
Part of the other variable, I must say, is that his class is the second in a row in the same room. His is the Post-civil war, but the one before is the Pre. I don't get much room to gather my thoughts between the two, and have been, at least so far, jumping from Columbus and Cortez to Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction. That has made dealing with this student more difficult.
So earlier, I made my argument that the Civil War was about slavery. I stand by that interpretation and made that clear. I noted that for all the talk about state's rights, South Carolina was angry that Northern states had banned slavery, and even that Northern states didn't allow the Southerners to bring their slaves north. State's rights, it appears, was only for Southerners.
When I made that argument, he raised some secessionist reference to some 98 "principles" (I could have the number wrong) and "self-determination." I noted that self-determination did not extend to the people being enslaved. Duh.
Yesterday, at the beginning of class, he returned to this topic and said that he had written a paper on "nullification" and was pleased to see that 11 states had signed on to push for nullification today. I said that was a complete refutation of federalism, and further that if nullification were in place, we would not have integration and would most likely still have states with segregation. He dismissed that as "already settled" and said that John Calhoun was a brilliant man, who was only wrong on slavery. Later, driving home, I realized I should have pointed out that slavery was the entire basis for Calhoun's nullification argument.
Not sure quite how to deal with this guy. He bugs me. During our discussion, he referenced the "individual mandate" as justification for nullification, and then said (when I objected) that we couldn't afford to cover all these people. Or words to that effect. He made the analogy of the lifeboat that can only hold a limited number of people.
Fuck. By this time, I am just pissed, and can see that many in the class are rather annoyed with the discussion, so I moved on. But I was thinking about the poor thinking skills of this student. How quickly he jumped from the mandate to some discussion about what we can afford. I had just heard a story about the 700 billion that we spend each year in military spending, and remembering that these fuckwads never talk about nullification or secession over paying for that (or as it was under Bush--not paying for that). But dare to talk about finding away to give people healthcare and they want to take their ball and go home.
But in all seriousness, I am open to any suggestions about how to deal with this guy. He bugs me. I think he has a partial understanding of the past, and is a good example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. I have never really struggled with this before, because I have always been able to at least get them to listen to me. Not sure what to do here.