Thursday, August 28, 2008

And returning to the topic of college dogma...

Just in time for the new semester, Townhall has published an article on College Classes for Conservatives to Avoid. I looked for something on the site about what courses conservatives would actually want to study, but I couldn't find anything; maybe that's not where their heads are at.

Anyway, to clarify things here, the article explains that teenage conservatives don't want to take Queer Theory, which I'd imagine that they would avoid anyway. Also on the shit-list would be Lit courses on Women Writers, unless they feature the Bronte sisters or Jane Austen, who most people have already read in High School. Conservatives also want to avoid anything to do with Sociology and courses with the words "Multicultural" or "Non-Western" in the title. I've never actually seen a course with the word "Non-Western" in the title; would Chinese History count? Is the Eastern Hemisphere now officially liberal? Also they should avoid American History courses, "that teach American history not as it actually happened, but as the professor thinks it should have happened"- something impossible to tell from the course catalog, but the tip here is to avoid courses that teach Howard Zinn. Lastly, avoid "classes in pop culture, drugs, sex, and the entertainment industry."

Just a note: clearly these kids aren't "conservatives", are they? They're Republicans, which is something different now. Hell, I'm old enough to remember when the so-called "progressive" students were protesting to get courses that upset them dropped from college catalogs. Now it's the so-called "conservatives" who are politically correct. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I know the article will upset some people. Sara Gwin makes the excellent point: "College is supposed to be about challenging our understanding, not picking and choosing what one wants to hear and ridiculing the reality of other peoples lives." And, personally, I wouldn't want to imagine the sort of dogmatic being that couldn't take an introductory Sociology course without it upsetting her mental equilibrium.

But, I don't care. Really I don't. People have the right to avoid whatever courses they want to. And is it really so bad to have these junior ideologues avoiding your courses? It sort of sounds like a blessing.

Yes, there's something morbid about this article- "conservatism" for these people is now about avoiding certain ideas, ignoring entire groups of people, and working hard not to be exposed to any information from the outside world- it's cliquish and in decay. This is definitely not the article of a healthy movement. It's a guide to what not to think, totally devoid of ideas. Again, there's nothing here about what a conservative might want to study, what topics might interest them, what parts of the world they might actually be curious about. But, again, that's just not where their heads are at. And, yes, these people are missing out on the joy of college, which for me was taking courses that I didn't know a thing about- Ancient Chinese Philosophy 202, for example.

But, it's their right, isn't it? I mean, I'm already at a university whose attitude towards its "consumers" seems to be "give 'em what they want!" And that attitude is widespread in academia. This would just seem to be the logical extension of that.

8 comments:

gregvw said...

I probably would have avoided most of those courses anyway but not for the reasons the author states.

Perhaps my memory is failing me, but I don't recall the part in Zinn's book where he accuses the government of orchestrating the Civil war to prevent socialism. I did, however, enjoy the thoroughly asinine comment about what courses liberals should avoid (math and engineering).

rufus said...

I never read Zinn. Probably because I have a good idea what he says without reading it. I tend to avoid books where you can tell before you read them the jist of what they're going to say.

It's funny they would skew engineering towards conservatives, since so many terrorists seem to have been former engineers.

Hiromi said...

Rufus, how do you find these things?

But, I don't care. Really I don't. People have the right to avoid whatever courses they want to.

I kind of find this comment puzzling, though, given other posts you've written about how it's important to be cultured. Or perhaps I misunderstood you...

Rufus said...

Oh this one I got from Feministing.

I'm not really apathetic- just exhausted right now. The first week of the semester involves answering a lot of questions and gripes from undergrads. So the thought that the ones who are terrified by having to read something from outside of the west will just avoid the courses doesn't really bother me.

I do think it's important to be cultured, and I'll probably change my mind about this article. But, from the sound of it, acculturation would be like pulling teeth for these kids. It's their loss.

gregvw said...

I went through a period where I read a fair amount of Zinn and Chomsky as well as others from the Z-magazine crowd. At first I was shocked to read about various outrageous things the US government has done, but eventually I remembered that I thought those people were a bunch of hateful twats in the first place so all that I had really accomplished was taking a thousand pages of accounting specific incidents to verify my preexisting hypothesis: these are the sorts of things that people like that are going to do.

Since I came to terms with the fact that I'm not going to do anything about these injustices, except for the odd rant in a message forum, I have pretty much stopped reading about them.

Rufus said...

I think my problem with that stuff is that it's okay for what it is, but it tends to be really incomplete as history. They include all the bastardry, which is good, but then they leave out a lot of the historical context, which bothers me, since I'm a big historical context nerd. It's like reading the description of a boxing match in which you only hear about one guy throwing punches.

gregvw said...

There is actually a lengthy disclaimer in the introduction to The People's History of the United States which addresses this issue in some detail. The book does not claim to be comprehensive and serves primarily to either present material which is left out of most texts or to present accounts from a different viewpoint. I think, if anything, these revisionist books are to supplement the mainstream texts, not to replace them.

Rufus said...

Well, I'll look at it- if I ever have free time again. But this is sort of my problem with Chomsky as well. And I'd say that our textbooks are probably a lot more balanced than they were when Zinn wrote his book. Their main problem now seems to be that they've shrunk greatly in size.