Tag Archives: ethnic

How the Colleges Skew U.S. History

American history has been radically transformed on our campuses. Traditional topics are now not only marginalized but “re-visioned” to become more compatible with the dominant race/class/gender paradigm.

In two posts last fall, I took a look at U.S. history offerings at Bowdoin College. The liberal arts college, one of the nation’s finest, long enjoyed a reputation as a training ground of Maine politicians, at both the state and federal level. The staffing of its History Department suggests that the college has abandoned that mission, with the intent to exclude significant portions of the American past. (Two of the department’s five Americanists specialize in U.S. environmental history; the department’s only non-environmental 20th century U.S. historian has a Ph.D. in the history of science.)

The department’s own U.S. offerings featured a heavy course emphasis on Western U.S. history, including a history of California, seemingly odd choices for a school in Maine but a subfield that heavily stresses such
trendy themes as environmental degradation, exploitation of Native Americans, and discrimination against Hispanics and Asians. In the previous semester, the department’s token “traditional” course topic, a class on the Cold War, was taught by the school’s historian of science and featured heavy use of film.

What about the situation at a larger–and more nationally renowned–History Department? To find out, I turned to the fall 2012 offerings at UCLA.

The department’s webpage excitedly announces three new course clusters in which undergraduates can specialize. Two of the topics raise eyebrows: “Gender, Sexuality, Women” (tailored to those, apparently, for whom the department’s more general race/class/gender approach isn’t enough) and “History in Practice,” which seems to invite politicization. “This cluster,” the
department indicates, “aims to provide an organizational footing for the
Department’s commitment to applying history in the service of the larger
community.” The third new cluster is oral history.

At the class level, this semester the UCLA department website lists 16 courses in U.S. history since 1789. No courses deal with the Early Republic or the early 19th century. The only coverage of the Civil War comes in the form of small portions of thematic courses dealing either with race or gender (Slavery: Narrative, Novel, and Film, History of Women in the U.S., 1860-1980).It offers no classes on U.S. military history or U.S. constitutional history. The only standard survey comes in the class dealing with the New Deal, World War II, and the immediate postwar period.

Look what the department emphasizes. A quarter of the classes deal with race. Another two courses focus on ethnicity–including Asian-American cuisine; another two focus on gender. Fifteen or twenty years ago, students might encounter these courses in an ethnic studies department, not a history department at one of the nation’s leading public universities.

Consider, moreover, what students receive from two of the few UCLA courses whose topics, at first glance, appear to be “traditional.” One course, on social movements in the 1960s and 1970s, is hopelessly slanted toward the left. We might expect some treatment of significant right-wing social movements, including the grassroots conservative activists profiled in Rick
Perlstein’s Before the Storm; the conservative women mobilized by Phyllis Schlafly to oppose the ERA; the pro-life activists mobilized by Roe; and perhaps most broadly, the emergence of a powerful grassroots movement of
conservative Christians who played a critical role in American society for the
next three decades.  But these are not covered. Whom does the course profile? African-Americans, Mexican Americans,  Native Americans, “At Large Advocates,” and “Radical Women and Gay Women.”

Continue reading How the Colleges Skew U.S. History

Literature Professors Discover Animals

English professors have long been straying far afield from literary studies, expanding into women’s studies, disability studies, ethnic studies, even fat studies.  Recently they have migrated into animal studies.

An ambitious professor might be working on a paper for “Cultivating Human-Animal Relations Through  Poetic Form,.” a panel scheduled for  the November South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) meeting.  She may have been inspired by the quotation by Alice Walker that opens the panel description: “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons.  They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”

Continue reading Literature Professors Discover Animals

Ethnic Studies: ”White Studies” in Black and Brown?

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education on July 4 (“Who Gets to Define Ethnic Studies?”), Kenneth P. Monteiro, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State, criticizes what he calls “a piece of legislative hubris from Arizona that purports to ban ethnic studies in public schools.”
Monteiro was referring to Arizona House Bill 2281, passed in May, a month after Arizona’s controversial immigration legislation. It prohibits school districts or charter schools in the state from offering any classes that

1. Promote the overthrow of the united states government.
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

Continue reading Ethnic Studies: ”White Studies” in Black and Brown?

Obama Wants More Preferences

The Obama administration has weighed in on behalf of the University of Texas’s use of racial and ethnic preferences in its undergraduate admissions, filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, as reported here. This is unfortunate if not surprising, but the scope of the brief is noteworthy in three respects.
First, it goes out of its way to endorse the use of preferences to achieve diversity not just in this particular case at this particular school, but in all “educational institutions”—K-12, undergraduate, and graduate. The Supreme Court has never found there to be a compelling interest in the former instance—nor, for example, in post-doctorates for chemistry—and it is aggressive and wrong to argue that, because the Court found there to be compelling educational benefits in diversity at the University of Michigan law school, therefore any educational institution can make that claim.
Second, the University of Texas is arguing not just for campus-wide diversity but for classroom-by-classroom diversity. To achieve this, needless to say, the use of racial and ethnic preferences will be increased significantly.
Third, the University of Texas had—through its use of the state’s Ten Percent Plan—already achieved significant diversity, prior to re-instituting racial and ethnic preferences. That was the purpose of the Plan (which allows any student graduating in the top ten percent of his or her high-school class to go to the flagship campus), and indeed the school’s president had bragged about its success in that regard. Now, the Supreme Court had ruled in the University of Michigan cases that one element of constitutional “narrow tailoring” is to give consideration to means other than overt preferences to achieving diversity—and here those means had not only been considered, but had been adopted and with success. How then can the use of preferences here be “narrowly tailored”?
One suspects that the Obama administration’s Justice Department will never meet a racial preference it doesn’t like. This case, meanwhile, is likely headed to the Supreme Court, whatever the Fifth Circuit does.
Postscript re other amici: The Chronicle of Education reports that the administration has company: “Fourteen national higher-education associations have filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to uphold the use of race-conscious admission policies by the University of Texas at Austin,” including “the American Council on Education, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.” Our Center for Equal Opportunity, by the way, has—along with the National Association of Scholars and the American Civil Rights Institute—joined an amicus brief filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation opposing the admissions discrimination.

How To Set Up A Politicized Ethnic Studies Department

1) Hold and publicize discussions on how your ethnic group is under-represented, ignored and invisible on campus. (“Students, faculty, and Native American scholars discussed introducing an indigenous studies program as part of Friday’s Faculty House workshop on the under-representation of Native Americans in Columbia’s curriculum and faculty. …This is our homeland and being invisible is part of the problem…,” said Dawn Martin-Hill, a professor at McMaster University in Ontario – The Columbia Spectator, Feb. 25).

2) If, in fact, your ethnic group isn’t invisible and is already the subject of a variety of courses on campus, belittle those courses as woefully insufficient. (“Although the University offers some courses relating to Native Americans, some feel that the courses are too scattered across disciplines and schools to comprise a cohesive program” – The Spectator).

3) Make sure everyone knows you want an activist political group, not just an academic program (“It should be study to empower native people” said keynote speaker Michael Yellow Bird, a professor at the University of Kansas). On some campuses, working for the cause is required. At Carleton College, students who take a course on Native American religious freedom are expected to undertake “service projects” that get them involved in “matters of particular concern to contemporary native communities.”

4) Make clear that your program will not include any white professors who may be specialists in Indian cultures. (“Native American studies need to be coupled with Native scholars,” said JoAnn Kintz ’08, president of the Columbia Native American Council.”)

5) Pick a keynote speaker radical enough to show that you mean business and that your activist ethnic department will be a muscular one (Professor Yellow Bird thinks the disgraced fabulist Ward Churchill was railroaded and believes that “our traditional indigenous forms of morality” may be a corrective to “the U.S. addiction to greed, war, power and colonization.”)

6) Sit back and wait an hour or so until the campus diversity czar falls in line with your program (“We started to bring scholars to see what questions we should be asking and about creating a center,” said Geraldine Downey, vice-provost for diversity initiatives at Columbia. “The university is committed.”)

No To Lawrence Summers, Yes To Ward Churchill

Recently, former University of Colorado ethnic studies professor and documented academic fraud Ward Churchill spoke to a crowd of 500 at UC Davis. Preceded by protests, Churchill delivered a talk comparing nineteenth-century American westward expansion to the Holocaust. He then took questions from audience members who challenged his credentials and his version of history.

The student newspaper’s coverage included a staff editorial that underscored the importance of inviting controversial speakers to campus. “It impinges on academic freedom when the university rejects or creates an uncomfortable environment for dialogue on differing opinions, positive or negative,” the Aggie opined. “Students have a right to hear different viewpoints and decide for themselves.”
The Aggie editors are right. It’s too bad that Davis’ faculty and the UC Regents don’t share their grasp of free speech.

Continue reading No To Lawrence Summers, Yes To Ward Churchill

Columbia Hunger Striker Yields To Lure of Food, Imperialism, Racism…

Alas, one of the intrepid Columbia hunger strikers has given in. How will they ever force Columbia to stop expanding, increase resources for minority centers, require more ethnic study courses, and make January sunnier with such lazy tactics. Especially now that a gourmand opposition group has mobilized – “Why We Act, Why We Eat,” whose mission is to “eat against a group that seems not to care for the well-being of its students or itself.”

All is not lost though. Several students continue the herculean fight and, in proof that no student idea is so foolish to fail to draw faculty enthusiasts, a professor has joined the strikers. The Sun reports:

On Thursday, a professor of Political Science at Barnard, Dennis Dalton, joined the strike. Mr. Dalton, 69, who studies Gandhi, said he would continue to teach classes while subsisting on orange juice and water, according to the student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator. “I want the core curriculum supplemented by writings on Gandhi, King, Malcolm X,” he said.

And you thought the hunger strike couldn’t become more ridiculous. I’d suggest the nutritive benefits of solar healing for the intrepid strikers. The practice promises “that after 9 months, one can eventually win a victory over hunger” simply by subsisting on the sun. If only the strikers had found out earlier. Their set of demands is sufficiently incoherent that they could easily additionally demand that the dining halls be replaced with a nutritive sun observatory. No one would bat an eye.