Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On College Curriculum Rebellion & Other Thoughts

I really did not want to discuss the on-going rebellion against learning on college campuses these days, but after reading an article on the most recent demands from Yale student, I can't help myself. Yes, that Ivy-league Yale University that has spawned some of the great (and not so great) thinkers and leaders of the free world and beyond for generations.

Let's just start here - Yale Daily News - Student Petition Urges English Department To Diversify.

Here are some key cuts from this article that jumped out at me:
"The petition calls for the abolishment of this prerequisite and for the pre-1800/1900 requirements to refocus and include literature relating to gender, race and sexuality."
And then this -
"The petition claims it is “unacceptable” for prospective ENGLISH LITERATURE MAJORS [emphasis added] to study only white male authors in the Major English Poets sequence, adding that the lack of diversity in the curriculum drives away talented students."

It is a curriculum designed for ENGLISH LITERATURE MAJORS. The operative words there is ENGLISH and LITERATURE. But they don't want to have to study actual "English literature". Sorry that they were mostly old white guys, but, hey, it is ENGLISH LITERATURE brought to them by ENGLISH people who just happened to be WHITE and mostly wrote in ENGLISH. Oh, that includes pretty much the entire canon of "Euro-centric" literature as well - the white-guy part anyway. It could be worse, those Major English Poets probably had to start their education by studying the Latin and Greek poets in Latin and Greek!

I can understand not wanting to have to study the Major English Poets, but then I was not an ENGLISH LITERATURE MAJOR either. But I suffered through because it broadened my mind, taught me how to analyze text, and stretched my intellect so that I could understand OTHER STUFF! I was committed to learning how to learn.

And it is not just in our prestigous universities that there is the movement to not teach English literature in English literature classes. There is the High School ENGLISH LITERATURE teacher named Dana Dusbiber, who embarrassed herself last year by pronouncing that she no longer thought it relevant to subject her students to the rantings of an "a long-dead, British guy". Oh, that "long-dead British guy" was William Shakespeare. Of course, Ms Dusbiber also admitted that she could not understand and, therefore did not like Shakespeare, so why should she teach it. I ask why was/is she allowed to teach ENGLISH LITERATURE, if she did not understand it! She further exclaimed that "it might now be appropriate for us to acknowledge [Shakespeare] as chronicler of life as he saw it 450 years ago and leave it at that". Thinking about that statement for a minute, one can only conclude why teach anything that might be more than last week's news cycle? And might I also add, why is this woman allowed to continue to teach at all if she has no affinity for the subject she is teaching, but I will leave that for another long-standing issue I have had with public school education.

Of course, there is a simple solution to all of this that does not include changing the curriculum that has worked for generations. If you don't want to study English Literature...DON'T BE AN ENGLISH LITERATURE MAJOR! Oh, and then there is something that these students may not have thought of...you are allowed to read and study outside of a structured environment. There are these places called "libraries" that contain all sorts of books and stuff not written by long-dead white guys and they are free. But "TRIGGER WARNING": libraries cannot and should not double as "safe spaces" because, well, there might be some stuff on the shelves that might upset or challenge one to, as we used to say "think outside the box"! But if all else fails, there's always Amazon.com!

Other thoughts on a completely unrelated topic:

This sums up this election cycle in a Twitter nutshell (pun intended)

Okay, now feel free to free-associate freely on other topics with all Constitution Rights protected (as deemed appropriate by The Management of CommentaramaPolitics whoever they are...we haven't heard from them in awhile)...


tryanmax said...

Don't be so glum, Bev. This could be advantageous. If English Lit. Majors don't have to read white male authors, maybe Womyn's Sudies majors can demand no feminist authors, African-American Studies majors can reject black authors, and LGBTQRSUVCR Studies majors can refuse to read...whatever the hell they'd be reading.

ScottDS said...

Once or twice a week... that's how often I see news stories on Facebook (usually The Daily Beast or Reason) about this stuff. It annoys the hell out of me and I have nearly no sympathy for these whiny-ass students.

I mean, there are only so many black transgendered poets from the 18th century!! (I'm not saying there were none but not enough to fill an entire curriculum!)

And I'm glad we as a country finally cured cancer and landed people on Mars... now we can finally worry about whether the Asian cuisine in the cafeteria is cultural appropriation or not!

Of course, I look on the opposite end and see guys like Milo and Crowder and I say to myself, "I'm not a delicate flower, but I'm not a f---ing a--hole either. What's a 'normal' to do?" :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Sadly, this stuff started in the 1960s, and I actually started meeting English majors in the early 1990s who had gone through all of college without ever reading anything classical. They were morons who became jobless.

I think the counter to this is that (1) there is really an emphasis in the public for a return to classical studies and you are seeing it in K-12 everywhere... so it will creep back up slowly to college and (2) the number of students who join these protests is tiny.

Most people are in college to learn their area of emphasis and get the hell out. That wastes the opportunity for learning something more enriching, but at the same time it means they are immune to this garbage.

Also, if you look at the sales rank of the classics at Amazon, it's pretty clear that a LOT of people do read them apart from college.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, My racial gender feels oppressed by your use of the trigger phrase "whiny ass" rather than the more inclusive "tearful rectums." Hate crime hate crime!

Commentarama needs a saferoom... where we can eat junk food! :D

ScottDS said...

Tearful Rectums was the name of my band in high school.


And it's nice to read that people want a return to classical studies. Maybe civics will be next. (That was the one subject my dad wished for when he was a teacher.)

AndrewPrice said...

Oh... and the lack of diversity never drives away talented students. It drives away the slugs, like the morons who wrote the petition.

AndrewPrice said...

Great name for a band, Scott. Have a lot of wind instruments, did you? ;-)

Civics seems to have been turned into a couple week lesson.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine actually had a band called Prolapsed Anus. Go figure.

BevfromNYC said...

Rich Lowry, who just happened to publish an op/ed this morning on this very same subject, Rich Lowry's Op/Ed is more detailed, but I am proud to say we come to the same conclusion.

And this is a very good point:
"It is as if chemistry students objected to learning the periodic table of elements or math students rose up against the teaching of differential calculus."

BevfromNYC said...

There was also a late '80's grunge band called "The Butthole Surfers". Ironically, the leader of the band's father had a morning children's TV show in Dallas for 30 yrs playing the "Mr. Peppermint"....

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I actually know of the Butthole Surfers. I dated a girl who was a big fan of punkish bands. She liked the Dead Kennedy's too.

AndrewPrice said...

And this is a very good point:
"It is as if chemistry students objected to learning the periodic table of elements or math students rose up against the teaching of differential calculus."


This isn't to excuse the idiocy, it is only to explain it.... what this analogy above (which is excellent) misses is that these people are NOT literature students. They are doctrinaire leftist/racists/feminists who are looking to change American minds by changing the teaching of literature to indoctrinate others in the writings of black/female leftists.

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - Of course it is a small group of idiots who actually should not be an institution of higher learning anyway. But the fact that these demands are being taken even the least tiny bit seriously, is insane.

The demanders are so devoid of any historical context that they don't even realize what they are really demanding is full out censorship and the reinstatement of institution/systemic segregation.

I expect that if these idiots were to get their way, the large bonfires will be lit to make sure that there is no remnants of Old white guy writings to taint their feeble minds. So thank goodness for the electronic age, right?

Critch said...

They don't teach English, literature or civics anymore. It's terrible. Hell, they don't really teach history, they've afraid someone will get offended and cry.

ArgentGale said...

With the way colleges have been for the past few years I can't say this is surprising,though it's always exasperating to see. I know the public outside the campus isn't sympathetic to these delicates in the least but you'd think there would be some kind of on-campus pushback against these whiners soon. I wonder how long this idiocy's going to drag on before something like that happens...

- Daniel

Anthony said...

Much ado about nothing. Yale has 12 thousand students. At the time of the writing of the article 160 people had signed the petition.

This is just the two fringes playing footsie with each other.

BevfromNYC said...

But Anthony, it's not just at Yale. It is at at least 79+ college campuses around the country. The Demands
All of these grievances and demands committees from all the campuses (not just university/college level either) across the country have an alliance so it's not just the "fringes playing footsie" anymore.

Yeah, I know, it may seem small, but then I am sure that the numbers that follow any totalitarian wannabe were small in the beginning too. And it's always the squishy Middle that doesn't take these things seriously or, in the converse, so seriously that they immediately cave to the demands for fear of ousting like is happening at more and more campuses around the country, where the real trouble starts...

Anthony said...


160 signers (though I'm sure there are more now) out of 12K doesn't even rise to the level of drop in a bucket.

For me the relevant point is how representative those groups are of the wider student bodies. Based on past experience I'd say not very. I believe the greatest enemy of educators is indifference rather than willful idiocy.

I used to argue with professors a lot in class (not about reading choice, but about interpretation), but despite or perhaps because of that they tended to like me, because I was a change of pace from many of the rest of the students, who read just enough of the assigned material to get by and then told professors whatever they thought they wanted to hear.

Also, its practically a rite of passage for young people to try to change the world. Sometimes their demands are well thought out, often not. No point freaking out about the phenomena.

tryanmax said...

AP: BREAKING: Moisture appears in bucket thought to be empty.

Washington Post: Damp scene as drops move into bucket

NY Times: Trend seen in bucket droplet activity

LA Times: Moisture prompts more drops to form in buckets

BuzzFeed: Meet the brave drops that are taking the buckets by storm!

Breitbart: Buckets shamelessly carry lazy droplets

HuffPo: What's going on with the droplets in buckets?

The Daily Beast: Drops are taking over all the buckets!

NPR: Drops in buckets are just the beginning.

Reason: Buckets literally can't contain all the droplets

Fortune: Inside the drops' plan to conquer the bucket-verse

The Atlantic: The necessary wetness of drops in buckets

Vox: Drops in buckets are long overdue, and why more are neeeded.

Quartz: Droplet critics don't understand how liquid works

Salon: Buckets have a dryness problem

Raw Story: Cult deprogramming expert explains how to talk to moisture deniers

tryanmax said...

Point being: I'm less freaked out by the crazies than I am by the folks cheering them on.

Anthony said...


One part of the fringe cheers them on, the other part damns them.

BevfromNYC said...

Tryanmax -
#2: But with on clarification - It's not JUST the crazies, it's the folks "enabling" them.

BevfromNYC said...

But Anthony, it is also the squishy middle that either ignores them or the other side that enables them by caving without a struggle...

Koshcat said...

These students are idiots but the shame is on the professors and deans. It shouldn't be this hard to explain why it will never happen. To better understand non-England based, white-guy literature you have to understand English based white-guy literature. Toni Morrison was an English major and her master's thesis was "Virginia Wolf's and William Faulkner's Treatment of the Alienated". Those authors are kinda white.

Kit said...

It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

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