Can what is morally wrong be politically correct? Doug Forrester, the 2005 Republican candidate in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, hopes to answer that question in his freshman seminar that bears the same name.
The College announced Forrester’s decision to teach a section of the Freshman Seminar Program (FSP) in a press release on Aug. 9, 2006. The document contained a brief synopsis of the course as well as some excited remarks from College President R. Barbara Gitenstein.
“As an experienced public servant and prominent New Jersey businessman, we are grateful for the insight that Mr. Forrester will bring to class discussions,” Gitenstein said. “His course promises to be intellectually stimulating and academically challenging.”
Forrester’s class will cover a wide breadth of topics including ethical theory, the definition of a moral theory, the structure of New Jersey’s government, political campaigning and cynicism.
“We will also be discussing several hot button items such as drugs, ethnicity, and gender and sex conflicts,” Forrester said. “The class will choose the fourth and final hot button topic.”
Forrester attended Harvard, where he graduated cum laude in 1975 with degrees in both philosophy and government. He went on to study at the Princeton Theological Seminary, where he obtained a master’s degree in divinity and debated entering the ministry.
“I began to draw on that background (during class),” Forrester said. “The class filled out anonymous surveys discussing both their relationships with religion and their thoughts on competing religious issues. I believe these points have a real bearing on politics and should be discussed.”
While his knowledge of both divinity and the political machine make Forrester a well-rounded professor for this course, he also brings corporate experience to the table. In 1990, Forrester founded BeneCard Services, a pharmaceutical benefits management firm. He also started Heartland Fidelity, an insurance company, in 2003.
“I come to this class a whole person, so any and all experience I’ve had will be drawn upon, especially those I’ve had in business and ethics,” Forrester said.
For the most part, most people do not have the multi-faceted background that Forrester has. It was this apparent lack of knowledge that caused Forrester to design the syllabus.
“I’ve frequently seen some bumper stickers saying ‘Morally wrong can’t be politically correct!'” Forrester said. “It got me thinking – there are topics where there may be things we see are morally wrong but can be politically correct. When I presented the topic to the College they thought it would be a good idea for an FSP.”
The idea of an established political figure like Forrester teaching this course to freshmen has set off some alarms. A course like this is designed to open up complex avenues of discussion, the kind that could sail over the heads of freshmen who may not have experienced enough in their lives to comprehend the serious gravity of such issues.
“Political struggle has everything to do with this moral-political tension, with the idea that people’s political lives should be guided by a certain morality,” Forrester said. “I believe this is a great topic for first-year students to discuss. They have very strong feelings already, and there is serious in-class diversity. One student tonight said that politics and morality absolutely go together.”
Many of Forrester’s students were eager to praise the politician’s fairness and in-class prowess.
“He’s a lecturer, he emphasizes discussion and he constantly asks for our opinion. He’s exactly what I expected a college professor to be,” Josephine Ng, freshman pre-med and finance major, said. “He’s neutral (about the issues) in the sense that he lets us discuss the issues. He seems to ask questions that would lean towards his opinion, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. He’s trying to get us to see things outside our usual perspective.”
Alexandra Gregorek, freshman secondary education/math major, also applauded Forrester’s ability to facilitate class discussion.
“He’s completely unbiased. He’s always playing devil’s advocate, forcing us to see sides of the issues we may have never seen before.”
Forrester says that the class can be summed up by the topic of the final paper: What is the most grave immorality which you believe should be legalized and why should it be protected?