Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How to write a conservative article about education

Don't forget:

A statement, or paragraph, about "hook-up culture," preferably with no statistics to back it up, but if you must, you must. General statements about what "students do today," no individual campus or students referred to, are best. If you must specify, a lurid story will suffice.

A condemnation of all academic subjects that include the word "Studies" in the field name. Include the silliest-sounding title of a queer-studies workshop that you can find. Bonus points if the title includes something about people "of color" or Arabs. A discussion of how well-received this workshop was by the campus community is of course unnecessary. If you wish, however, you may mention this. If the event was well-attended, that's evidence that higher education, across the board, is in shambles. If it was poorly attended, that's evidence that students have heard the conservative message, while administrators fight the good fight for PC.

Lip service must be paid to the Great Books. It's best to say as little about any particular books as possible. Revealing the specifics means a) having read them, and b) articulating why Aristotle matters more than Toni Morrison. This is not necessary, because for your audience this is already assumed. Neither you, the author, nor your audience need read either.

Kids today are dumber than ever before. No one will dispute this, it's flattering to your 40-plus readership, so nothing is lost by tossing it in.

Marriage, military service, and how liberal arts colleges are the enemies of both. Fear not, to write this you need not be married nor have served in the military.

A condemnation of "diversity" and "multiculturalism," preferably one that lumps together everything from professors' putting out hip-hop albums to the study of any sort of non-Western history. If the words "South America" or "women" appear in a course name at any school, urge students to apply elsewhere.

Redeeming features of higher education today are limited to: College Republicans; high-profile student-led attempts to return to a world of chivalrous dating, complete with trips to the drugstore for a 5-cent milkshake; low enrollment for a postcolonial studies class. If you see none of these things, then you need not provide a counterargument praising American universities. That students worldwide wish to study here is not, definitely not, an argument for higher ed being not so bad actually. It is, however, an argument about America being, to paraphrase Borat, greatest country in the world.

Professors: still voting Democrat. College can thus be ruled a waste of time.

Final advice: Extra credit if you come up with a new argument tying together as many of the above as you can.


Anonymous said...

I'm hearing your strong aversion to reactionary, dismissive thought here. However, and I'm certain you know this, you're expressing the same dismissive spirit here in your post. Clearly American universities are not above reproach, nor criticism from right or left. The essence of the conservative criticism of contemporary academia is about the absence of intellectual diversity, the privileging of of pseudo-scholars (i.e. those who have gone decades without subjecting their work to peer reviewed journals like Cornell West), and the embrace of Marxist social critique. Perhaps you disagree with the conservative points of view, but please explore them with rational responses. I think those are points and worth exploring and writing about. You, as a graduate student at a major university, must have experience with such issues, no?

FLG said...

Did something in particular prompt this post?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

-I do share some of the 'conservative' criticisms of academia. My problem is how these criticisms are typically expressed in conservative publications. Nearly every time I start reading a conservative article about American university life, I find myself nodding along fine until it goes off the conserva-rant deep end in one of the ways mentioned in this post. It's apparently impossible to bemoan the loss of the Great Books without complaining about coed dorms and promiscuity. Sensible criticisms degenerate into mindless Archie Bunker blather.

-Too many things prompted this post for links. But my "conserva-rants" tag will provide examples.

Withywindle said...

Is there an article or book describing and critiquing the modern university that you do admire?

Anonymous said...

"With today's young people wearing their pants around their ankles, it's no wonder that the charming rituals of courtship are as rare as finding Shakespeare on a required reading list. The whole sordid hook-up culture - 'rainbow' parties, oral sex, New Kids on the Block, oral sex - are all symptoms of an illness that sprang full-blown from the PC police that turned our halls of academe into halls of aca-shame. Nowadays it's 27% more likely to find students attending a performance of The Vagina Monologues than a performance of Aeschylus: liberal academics would shun any scholar that prefers the work of a "Dead White Male."

This is too easy. I can haz wingnut welfare?

Anonymous said...

How about the Illiad - The deception and seduction of Zeus, on the part of Hera,

Plato worries that about this - He does not want future leaders to be exposed to such cyncial gamesmanship and sexual immorality among the gods.

Here you have Homer and Plato - two classics that would presumably rankle the rightis calling for more classics classes.

Todd Olsen said...

A close friend of mine, and a very devout Christian who goes to a very highly ranked liberal arts college, told me that the professor of his REQUIRED "Beastiality-Studies" class is a militant lesbian who requires every student, in order to pass, to "hook-up" with at least one same-sex member of a non-human species - preferably in front of a fire fueled by classics written by "dead white men".

The horror. The horror.

Anonymous said...

"...and this, via LG&M, is one of the best posts I've read this year. So good, in fact, that your time is better spent there than here.

So, just like a Seinfeld episode, there are no hugs and no lessons at the end.

Go away."

TBogg said so!

Most excellent Phoebe. I suggest you copyright the template and sue the hell out of everyone who writes the piece without sending you your fee....

/GWPDA, yclept Irate Historian

Steve Muhlberger said...

I remember, about 1965 or 66, a big article in Newsweek about promiscuous campus sex, documenting the decline and fall during recent decades. Question: when did campus morality "recover" before its more recent fall? Or has it simply been downhill all the way?

Jim said...

Hayden, the problem you face is that "intellectual diversity" is a code word for creationism and other forms of, well, bullshit. Conservatives had their chance to be honest about their crusade for "diversity" and they blew it.

Nobody wants to be forced to hear lies interspersed with the truth in their curriculum. If you think they should be, please, start your own colleges.

C. Hedges said...

What ever happened to all of the hand wringing about "beer and circuses" and how college sports were ruining collegiate life?

I say let the colleges be run by the liberals. Most students graduate and lead normal productive lives without being affected too badly by being exposed to academia. The most radical professors end up being negative examples for students.

A lot of people I knew went into college being fairly liberal and ending up graduating into more moderate and tolerant positions.