Eight Ways To Ignore Academic Problems

Rob Weir, at Inside Higher Ed, offers a list of academic squabbles worth giving up. Any worthy dead horses to clamber out of? Well, no, it’s mainly a list of disputes in which he feels the other side ought to give up.
Consider “Are Campus Conservatives Victims of Discrimination”

Does anyone have any spare crocodile tears for the group that pretty much runs the country? What a silly debate. There’s a difference between being a minority and being a victim, just as there’s a difference between free speech and the guarantee that others will agree with you. When stripped to its basics the brief is that neo-cons feel uncomfortable in places like Amherst, Berkeley, Cambridge, and Madison. Well, duh! That’s like a vegetarian complaining about the menu at a Ponderosa Steakhouse. Oddly enough, one seldom hears pleas for more feminists at faith-based institutions, pacifists at military academies, or evolutionary scientists on the Mike Huckabee campaign staff.

We’ve seen exactly this thought many times before – it’s a frank argument for the necessary liberalism of the universities (which merely takes slightly different forms under liberal administrations). Weir’s mode of argument is a perfect example of the proudly left conception of the university that Mark Bauerlein offered here last month in “The Adversarial Campus“:

We might call this the Adversarial Campus Argument. It says that the campus must contest the mainstream, that higher education must critique U.S. culture and society because they have drifted rightward. For the intellectual and moral health of the nation, the professoriate must drift leftward. Kids come into college awash in the three idols that, in the eyes of the teaching liberal, make up the American trinity: God, country, and family. Instruction meets its mind-opening duty by dislodging their acculturation, dismantling the dangerous corollaries of each one, namely, fundamentalism, patriotism, and patriarchy/homophobia.


similar attitude pervades his next tired squabble point – “Ward Churchill or David Horowitz.” He charitably suggests “neither please” and asks that “if nothing else, can we resolve that in 2008 we will uphold the principle that propaganda of any sort has no place in the college classroom?” He proposes exiling both to obscurity. I can’t recall ever seeing David Horowitz at the head of a classroom, while Churchill occupied that place for years. This is flip equivalency of a ridiculous sort.

What else does he find silly? Arguments over “Great Books versus Multicultural Readings.” That’s another “tired horse ready for pasturage.” He states “If they want to declare Neil Gaiman graphic novels part of the canon, that’s fine with me if it helps talk about myth, archetypes, and culture.” The books read don’t matter? That’s about the only theme that traditionalists and multiculturalists can unite on – it’s a bad idea that trivializes the idea of a curriculum, and the university mission in general.

Fortunately, Weir’s proposals seem to be attracting little support from any dimension – read the full list, and take encouragement from the skeptical comments.

Anthony Paletta

Anthony Paletta is a freelance writer.

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