A University of Georgia professor of comparative literature, Betty Jean Craige, recently denounced higher education critics for speaking out about “liberal bias” in higher education. Craige maintains that what these critics call liberal bias is in fact the hoary academic “quest for truth, which always involves the questioning of established worldviews.”
In particular, she portrays critics of the current-day college studies as troglodytes who quake in face of the “globalized curriculum” because they fear “new ideas.”
The very purpose of the university, she believes, is to expose students to “critiques of what they have previously considered true” – this of course implying that students couldn’t have arrived on the campus doorstep possessed of any truth garnered from family, church, school, or other of our benighted institutions (“New ideas must flourish at colleges,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 08/02/06, log-in required).
There ensued a robust and evocative rebuttal by Mary Grabar, a professor of English at Clayton State University, who gave Craige “an F due to obfuscation and PR-speak.” In her aptly named op ed, “Colleges’ open minds close door on sense,” Grabar then went on to list the kinds of courses actually being taught in humanities departments today, such as:
· pornography appreciation
· analyses of the clothing of transvestites
· Native American scalp dances
· And “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Grabar writes of what passes for “scholarship” in prominent journals, for example, investigation into “abortion as ‘performance art’ and bondage in lesbian sex acts.”
She gives examples of panels she attended at a recent conference of the American Literature Association (ALA):
· “La Reconquista: The Application of Latina/o Studies to U.S. Literature(s) & Criticism” (where an up-and-coming young Latina professor gave instructions and sample syllabi on how to make a survey class on American literature into a class devoted to Latina/o literature and issues) [read: replacing this nation’s classic masterpieces]
· “Teaching the Arts of American Protest” on social protest literature (yes, a how-to on teaching literature as a form of social protest)
· and a film and literature panel, where the intellectually challenging paper “Female Sexualities Revised in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and Anita Blake Series” was delivered. (The Anita Blake Series is a series of graphic novels, i.e., with pictures).
And she offers a sampling of literary calls for papers in 2006 from the University of Pennsylvania:
· Hard to Swallow: Reading Pornography on Screen
· An anthology of essays on “Brokeback Mountain”
· Michael Moore: The Documentary Tradition
· Papers for a roundtable discussion on Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”
· “Sexing the Text”: The description reads, ” Do we consider Britney Spears kissing Madonna subversive? What about transgendered narratives? Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie? Slash fiction? (The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 08/04/06).
What kind of worldview does this blanket rejection of tradition as well as stupidity and trash bespeak? This is sophisticated “globalized new knowledge”? These are the alternatives to “established worldviews”? This is the fruit of the academy’s vaunted “openness”?
Grabar gets an “A” for presenting yet more evidence that major overhaul of the college curriculum is long overdue. Professors such as Craig and professional organizations such as the ALA demonstrate anew that reform will not come from within the higher education establishment. It will have to be imposed from without it.