Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Lot of Inspiration

Over at Phi Beta Cons, a gaggle of third-string conservative buffoons continues to lock horns with the "crisis" in higher education. On this fine sparkling morning, George Leef applauds Larry Summers for "saying no" to a Harvard course in Latino Studies. Why is this worthy of admiration (beyond the fact that it's yet another miracle worked by this Christlike martyr)? Perhaps because unlike Neoplatonism, fracture mechanics or the polyphonic motets of Lassus, Latino Studies are of no conceivable interest to anyone but nonwhites and their pathetic courtiers.

But Summers can't be everywhere at once, sad to say. Leef notes that the University of North Carolina does have a minor in Latino Studies...only they call it "Latina/o Studies." More proof that political correctness is running amok! Are we to tolerate such crimes against typographical norms, simply in order to recognize the distinction between men and women in a language with gendered nouns?

Leef has a number of complaints with "Latina/o Studies." This one is particularly revealing:

Whatever generalizations a student might draw from having taken courses in the Latina/o minor are apt to be inapplicable to many individual Latinos they might encounter.
Because after all, that's the purpose of courses like these, isn't it? To help white students make pat, facile generalizations and apply them to an entire culture? I must say, that's exactly the sort of nonsense I'd expect from the sort of patchouli-drenched, queer-coddling Marxists who teach at colleges.

I also like being lectured about higher education by someone who uses "they" to refer to "a student." If William F. Buckley Jr. saw this, he'd be spinning in his grave, if he were dead.

The subtext of all this, of course, is that college students are mere vessels to be filled with whatever flavor of Kool-Aid the teacher prefers. To be a vessel for the theories of F.A. Hayek is to be educated; to be a vessel for "Latino Studies" is to be indoctrinated. As usual, the same lack of character that makes the average conservative a hapless toady to authority makes him or her unable to imagine that other people aren't hapless toadies to authority.

But perhaps I'm being too theoretical here. The teachers I know may secretly long to indoctrinate their students, but most of them would settle for getting students to read assigned books and turn in homework. Or at the very least, to stop talking on cell phones during class. Even if participating in the Revolution earned students an automatic A+, I fear the barricades might be substantially underpersonned.

Meanwhile, Carol Iannone, stylishly decked out in a black ski mask and a camouflage jumpsuit, with her Kalishnikov slung over one shoulder, reads her manifesto to the world:
I would also want an acknowledgement that men and women are different.
Something tells me that this "acknowledgement" of difference doesn't include making any distinction between Latinos and Latinas. But perhaps I'm making an unfair assumption about Iannone, based on nothing more concrete than the hardwired irrationalism of her sex.

Iannone has other earnest (if ungrammatical) ideas for fixing higher education:
I think a return to single sex dorms might be considered. I think a kind of coarsening toward the opposite sex occurs with that, making women too available and too ordinary....If you look back on old college rules, or just see some old movies, you get a lot of inspiration.
Old movies, eh? Fair enough. Is Rope old enough? Or should we go all the way back to Horsefeathers?

And really...old movies give Iannone "a lot of inspiration" to do what, exactly? To write ahistorical, semiliterate gibberish on NRO? To prattle irresponsibly about the need to keep women from seeming "too ordinary," while wondering why on earth those pesky feminists would have concerns about issues of agency and representation?

Never mind that the punitive morality of these movies was, as often as not, the spoonful of medicine that helped the sugar of exploitative onscreen sexuality go down. To know-nothing hysterics like Iannone, yesterday's cynical, market-based pandering to hypocrisy is today's dewy-eyed innocence.

Iannone also wants to see an end to "interracial antagonism" at American colleges. It just may be that old college rules, and old movies, have a solution for that postmodern woe, too...if only we have the courage to heed them. Where's Larry Summers when you need him?

2 comments:

James said...

Well Phila, you've certainly raised the intellectual bar of that particular discussion. But why? Whats your thesis here?

As for myself, I'll sum up what I think of this debate with a few points.

1. Conservatives have a valid point, there is too much groupthink and political correctness on campus, and this stifles real debate.

2. As usual, conservatives go completely over the top with their accusations, claims, and demands. But perhaps this is the only way they can make some change. It would help however if they were more articulate and did less choir-preaching.

3. I have no problem with Latina/o studies, as long as it is presented as a humanities class, and not some kind of "Latino science". At my school, there are some lame classes in sociology like "Sociology of latin america". I don't support those kinds of classes. Cultural studies is about history and appreciation, not science.

4. Conservatives are correct that work in "insert culture" studies is usually sub-par, but that goes for many other disciplines as well. Quality of work depends on the people doing it, not the subject, and those disciplines tend not to attract top talent.

5. In my experience, I haven't met too many indoctrination agenda professors. I beleive that academic freedom includes the right to espouse radical views to your students, but not the right to grade them on how much they agree with you. But from the three campuses I've been on, I haven't seen much of that. Frankly, aside from the negative effects, its NICE when a professor cares that much about their students.

6. I think Dr. Summers was perfectly justified in bringing up gender differences in his speeches. The problem with hard-liberal professors isn't so much that they indoctrinate students, its that they are resistant to any research that could concevably support right-wing agendas. But here again, its a trade off, you don't want professors who are completely uncaring about politics and ethics, but you also don't want professors who willfully ignore good research for the sake of ideology.

Phila said...

Well Phila, you've certainly raised the intellectual bar of that particular discussion. But why? Whats your thesis here?

No thesis. I just enjoy kicking cripples.

1. Conservatives have a valid point, there is too much groupthink and political correctness on campus, and this stifles real debate.

Not just on campus, but pretty much everywhere. But so what? One has a solution, or one doesn't. The conservative issue is simply to substitute one form of PC groupthink for another. And since colleges, to the limited extent that they really are hotbeds of liberalism, stand in opposition both to official culture, and to some of the private firms whose money corrupts certain campuses, I think a liberal bias is probably the lesser of two evils.

2. As usual, conservatives go completely over the top with their accusations, claims, and demands. But perhaps this is the only way they can make some change.

I'm sure there conservatives whose vision of "balance" I could respect, even if I didn't agree with it. But at the level of nationwide activism and polemics a la Horowitz and NRO, it's not about making things more balanced. It's about seizing power.

3. I have no problem with Latina/o studies, as long as it is presented as a humanities class, and not some kind of "Latino science".

My understanding was that the classes in question were humanities classes.

4. Conservatives are correct that work in "insert culture" studies is usually sub-par, but that goes for many other disciplines as well.

Agreed. In regards to your point about attracting top talent, it's not impossible that the ideological demonization of "multiculturalism" plays some role in this, both in terms of ghettoizing the field, and calling attention to its excesses.

I beleive that academic freedom includes the right to espouse radical views to your students, but not the right to grade them on how much they agree with you.

Agreed.

6. I think Dr. Summers was perfectly justified in bringing up gender differences in his speeches.

Well, I think this is kind of a misrepresentation of the problem. Or at least, my problem. My issue with Summers isn't that he brought up an uncomfortable or controversial issue. There've been plenty of responses to Summers, by scientists, that addressed the scientific side of his statements, and I think they make an extremely good case that he's dead wrong.

But regardless, there's enough uncertainty about his claims that he had, I think, a moral responsibility not to jump to conclusions. The unsavory history of speculations like his kind of mandates it, IMO.

Thanks for your comments.