What are they teaching in college today? Unfortunately, we all know the answer
to that. Weve seen the classes in our course catalogues, weve heard the stories
through the grapevine, and some of us may even have taken them, even though we may
not like to admit it.
These are the classes we delicately refer to as "politicized," which usually means
a radical professor trying to impose his freakish philosophies on hapless students
like us. It is a dire problem, indeed.
At Yale, classes are offered in topics such as womens studies, homosexual
studies, and ethnic studies. Credit can be earned in courses ranging from
"Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Cinema" to "Race, Class, and the Urban Crisis."
Other courses include "Alcohol and Other Drugs in American Culture" and "Feminist
Theory," and there have even been offerings such as "Piracy and Prostitution on
Asias Pacific Rim."
Each of these crazy classes is merely a manifestation of an even more frightening
phenomenon overpowering academia. This is the specter known as "multiculturalism,"
though it has little -- if anything -- to do with "culture." In reality, the
schools that bow to this agenda do next to nothing to strengthen their foreign
language requirements, expand their exchange programs, or offer courses in ancient
civilizations. Indeed, just as the leftists claim that the "Western canon" is
merely a codeword for "dead white males," "multiculturalism" seems to be code for
"oppressed diverse minorities."
Yale (along with every college in the Ivy League save one) now offers more courses
in womens studies than in economics -- if the curriculum can be called economics.
With titles like "Labor Economics" and "Economics of Natural Resources," it is no
surprise that one-third of graduating seniors cannot identify Adam Smith as the
individual who coined the term "invisible hand."
Meanwhile, the English department offers courses in "Gay and Lesbian Literature
and Literary Theory" and "Ethnicity and Dissent in American Literature and Art."
I could go on, but the list of courses is just too depressing.
As if this werent enough, entire departments are being dedicated to the pursuit
of this nonsense. While Yale administrators were fumbling around with Lee Basss
20-million-dollar gift, they were secretly setting up a new major in "Ethnicity,
Race, and Migration." While interested students are being turned away from the
supposedly uncapped major in the humanities, they are encouraged to peruse the
"Pink Book" delineating gay-friendly courses. Traditional fields of study are
being replaced by ethnic playpens and cults of sensitivity.
In regard to the demands of the multiculturalists: If one is truly that
fascinated by deviant sexual practices, then this topic should be studied under
the auspices of a legitimate academic field, such as psychology. If one wants to
explore the roots of poverty of a given race, then he should major in economics.
But this creation of entire departments to suit every passing whim in departments
devoid of established scholarship, intellectual rigor, and academic substance, is
Still more insidious are the cases in which these courses masquerade as legitimate
classes within otherwise sound departments. Innocent students are bamboozled by
seemngly normal course titles and descriptions that turn out to be classes driven
by militants trying to push through their ideological agenda. Sometimes students
select these courses out of ignorance, but in other instances the courses are
required for graduation or for a particular major.
Let me share an example from my own academic career. For the most part, the Yale
Spanish literature department is excellent, and I have had opportunities to study
with some tremendous scholars. Unfortunately, I discovered that serious
scholarship is not always the rule. Last semester, I took a class on modern Latin
American writers. It sounds innocuous enough, but the course was politicized from
the start, concentrating more time on obscure slave poets and homosexual fiction
than on respected authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Then, shortly after
midterm, I discovered that one could substitute the final paper with a "group
project." I spent the last several class periods of the course listening to
presentations on topics as diverse as the tango and Latin rap. The Spanish class
developed into a dance class, with even the professor twirling about. Now, I like
the tango as much as anybody else, but I am convinced that courses in an
accredited university should concentrate on more substantial material.
It is this sort of curriculum that is jeopardizing education as we know it.
Regardless of what the multiculturalists claim, education is a process that should
conform to a certain standard. Some material is simply more relevant and valid
than other topics. Yet, to a great extent present-day academia either prioritizes
its own agenda ahead of traditional learning or denies entirely the existence of
any objective criterion. As students in the 90s, we are being deprived of the
opportunity to learn about the great works our predecessors took for granted.
It is one thing to supplement your learning with contemporary material; it is
entirely another to fill your transcript with a litany of inane courses. Every
time a student is permitted to graduate as an English major without having read
Shakespeare, or as an economics major without knowing who Adam Smith is, it
devalues the diploma and the name of the school written on the document.
What can you do about this crisis? As tempting as the easy grade may be, dont
take these crackerjack courses. Not only will you find yourself intellectually
unfulfilled, but the opportunity cost of not taking a real class will affect you
in the long run.
Jeffrey Hart suggested in his article in the National Review that students ought
to avoid courses with what he calls "flashy come-ons." He warned against enrolling
in those classes listed under "studies," classes that mention keeping a diary, and
courses whose descriptions include the words "interdisciplinary," "hegemonic," or
"empowerment." He adds that any male professor who comes to class without a jacket
and tie should be regarded with extreme prejudice unless he has won a Nobel prize.
From personal experience, I would say the same in regard to any female professor
wearing knee-high boots of any sort.
If you find yourself forced to enroll in a politicized class, either directly or
due to complex distributional requirements, ask your professors why. Go to your
department heads and tell them that you wish they offered more courses on Plato
or Federalism or Milton or whatever it is that they are lacking. If you have the
courage, report the trend in a campus publication, contact alumni, or do whatever
it takes to instigate improvement in college courses.
Your diploma will identify you to institutions of higher learning and to
prospective employers for the rest of your life. Endeavor to make sure the
diploma actually means something.
Lila Arzua is editor-in-chief of Light and Truth magazine at Yale University.
This speech was given at the Fourth Annual Eagle Forum Collegians Summit on June
27 on Capitol Hill.