February 01, 2007

Syllabic Self-Justification

Over on the Durham in Wonderland blog, KC Johnson has posted a lengthy description of a course being offered this spring by one of the faculty members who signed the "Group of 88 Listening Statement" last April. The course is called "Hook-up Culture at Duke," and is fairly representative as far as these things go; i.e. it's largely a useless conglomeration of specious cultural studies that are conducted through the almighty lenses of PC culture: race, gender, sexuality and power.

The interesting thing about this class isn't so much the fact that it exists primarily to condemn Duke lacrosse players (read KC's post for those examples), but that it seems to serve as more of a vanity project for a professor who wants her personal viewpoints validated than as an opportunity for critical inquiry.

See, here's the thing - it isn't that you CAN'T have valid discussion and analysis about power relations and how groups of people interact with one another, it's just that professors like Anne Allison WON'T do it--reading her syllabus, it's pretty apparent that her arguments are one-sided, which I think gives me legitimate cause to believe that her discussions won't be much more balanced. And I blame that on a campus culture that not-so-subtly teaches its PhD candidates that it's okay to use scholarship for personal vindication--as a means to a political end.

No, I'm not saying that you should separate politics and scholarship. But when the approach to scholarship is taken from a political angle, rather than from a starting point of apolitical inquiry, what you end up with reams of inaccurate scholarship (Bellesiles, anyone? Churchill, anyone?), and departments filled with crusaders for whom the truth is what is most politically expedient.

And they should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at February 1, 2007 11:46 AM | TrackBack

The link doesn't work. some sort of error. However, simply go to
and read the (at this time) top story. I'll try to get back to comments when I've stopped shaking and can type again.

Posted by: middleagedhousewife at February 1, 2007 12:28 PM

middleagedhousewife -

I think it was a blogger problem - the link is working for me.

Posted by: BAW at February 1, 2007 03:39 PM

"...for whom the truth is what is most politically expedient."

Or: "The groves of Academe are thronged with people for whom a *fact* is any assertion that supports a Higher Truth."

Posted by: PersonFromPorlock at February 1, 2007 03:51 PM

Peter dropped his Eng class for this semester. The instructor made it clear that she would being her feminist agenda to class and sincerely hoped that the students would bring theirs as well so as to have livley class discussions. Of the 20 or so students in the class, only 3 were not in their first semester. None of the remaining 17 were older that 18. How many of them could possibly have an opinion about 'Abortion Clinic Shootings'? How about 'Date Rape'? We decided ahead of time that the date rape discussion would jump quickly to the lacrosse team rape and then disintegrate from there. We left a better topic would have been 'Cell Phones While Driving: Legal or Not'? Were we too picky, too quick to jump to a conclusion? Did we judge too harshly? Doens't matter, we weren't about to take the risk. We bailed. Is it too much to ask for a simple education, one that doesn't come with agendas or trapdoors? At a community college, no less!

Posted by: middleagedhousewife at February 4, 2007 12:04 PM
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