The company offers a treasure trove of traditional academic content that undergraduates paying $50,000 a year may find nowhere on their Club Med–like campuses. This past academic year, for example, a Bowdoin College student interested in American history courses could have taken Black Women in Atlantic New Orleans, Women in American History, 1600–1900, or Lawn Boy Meets Valley Girl: Gender and the Suburbs, but if he wanted a course in American political history, the colonial and revolutionary periods, or the Civil War, he would have been out of luck. A Great Courses customer, by contrast, can choose from a cornucopia of American history not yet divvied up into the fiefdoms of race, gender, and sexual orientation, with multiple offerings in the American Revolution, the constitutional period, the Civil War, the Bill of Rights, and the intellectual influences on the country’s founding. There are lessons here for the academy, if it will only pay them heed. […]
So totalitarian is the contemporary university that professors have written to Tom Rollins [founder of Great Courses], complaining that his courses are too canonical in content and do not include enough of the requisite “silenced” voices. It is not enough, apparently, that identity politics dominate college humanities departments; they must also rule outside the academy. Of course, outside the academy, theory encounters a little something called the marketplace, where it turns out that courses like Queering the Alamo, say, can’t compete with Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition.
At which point, readers may wish to revisit the mighty works of Duke’s Professor Pete Sigal - among them, Ethnopornography: Sexuality, Colonialism and Anthropological Knowing and Transsexuality and the Floating Phallus.
Scarier than Obama’s style, however, is his thinking. A neophyte race-hustler after his three years in Chicago, Obama is keen to browbeat those who would “even insinuate” that affirmative action rewards the undeserving, results in inappropriate job placements, or stigmatises its presumed beneficiaries.
In the case of Michelle Obama, affirmative action did all three. The partners at Sidley Austin learned this the hard way. In 1988, they hired her out of Harvard Law under the impression that the degree meant something. It did not. By 1991, Michelle was working in the public sector as an assistant to the mayor. By 1993, she had given up her law license. Had the partners investigated Michelle’s background, they would have foreseen the disaster to come. Sympathetic biographer Liza Mundy writes, “Michelle frequently deplores the modern reliance on test scores, describing herself as a person who did not test well.” She did not write well, either. Mundy charitably describes her senior thesis at Princeton as “dense and turgid.” The less charitable Christopher Hitchens observes, “To describe [the thesis] as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be ‘read’ at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn’t written in any known language.”
Mrs Obama’s exercise in eye-watering narcissism can be puzzled over here.
Also vaguely related: I’ve been listening to Radio 4’s rural soap The Archers, in which teen eco-warrior and grand enunciator Pip has just received her A-level results – “a B and two Cs.” She is therefore, naturally, going to university.
Health experts blame passive overeating for global pandemic, warning in the Lancet that governments must tackle obesity now.
One more time.
Health experts blame passive overeating…
Much as I hate to question the wisdom of “health experts,” let alone the even greater wisdom of Guardian contributors, I am tempted to ask how exactly passive overeating works. Is it, as the term implies, like passive smoking? Is such a thing physically possible? Mr Walker seems to believe so, as does Lancet contributor Professor Boyd Swinburn:
Swinburn’s paper comes up with a clear primary culprit: a powerful global food industry “which is producing more processed, affordable, and effectively-marketed food than ever before.”
Yes, those utter bastards are making available cheap and tasty food. And – and - you can actually go out and buy it. Will the madness never end?
He said an “increased supply of cheap, palatable, energy-dense foods,” coupled with better distribution and marketing, had led to “passive overconsumption.”
Again, the mind reels at the implied physics of it. Passivity alone has yet to make that extra slice of blackberry cheesecake merge with my good self. So far as I’m aware, tasty cheesecake molecules can’t be absorbed by osmosis or accidental inhalation in sufficient concentrations to add to my mass. Maybe it’s based on some kind of quantum spooky action – someone in Derbyshire scarfs a doughnut and – somehow, miraculously - my cells metabolise it.
Nevertheless – clearly - something must be done:
The journal begins with a strongly-worded editorial arguing that voluntary food industry codes are ineffective and ministers must intervene more directly.
In case there’s any doubt as to what direct intervention means, Professor Swinburn has already made his ambitions clear:
“They [the government] have to look to how other epidemics, like road injuries and tobacco, have been handled and almost always it has been through taxes and regulation.”
According to our crusading professor, the issue of obesity should not be left to the individual, who is at best a victim and simply can’t be trusted. Family attractions should be “junk food-free zones” and the advertising of such food is, he says, “unethical.” Foodstuffs of which the professor disapproves should be taxed heavily. Making food more expensive is, we’re told, “a benefit.” Provided, that is, raising the cost of popular foods “does not cause disadvantage to poorer people.”
Yes, of course. Consumers must once again be saved from themselves.
In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of “15, 20 million people might have been justified” in establishing a Marxist paradise. “Yes,” Mr. Hobsbawm replied. Asked the same question the following year, he reiterated his support for the “sacrifice of millions of lives” in pursuit of a vague egalitarianism. That such comments caused surprise is itself surprising; Mr. Hobsbawm’s lifelong commitment to the Party testified to his approval of the Soviet experience, whatever its crimes. It’s not that he didn’t know what was going on in the dank basements of the Lubyanka and on the frozen steppes of Siberia. It’s that he didn't much care.
Readers of How to Change the World will be treated to explications of synarchism, a dozen mentions of the Russian Narodniks, and countless digressions on justly forgotten Marxist thinkers and politicians. But there is remarkably little discussion of the way communist regimes actually governed. There is virtually nothing on the vast Soviet concentration-camp system, unless one counts a complaint that “Marx was typecast as the inspirer of terror and gulag, and communists as essentially defenders of, if not participators in, terror and the KGB.” Also missing is any mention of the more than 40 million Chinese murdered in Mao’s Great Leap Forward or the almost two million Cambodians murdered by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.
The contemporary academic majority worships the trinity of race, class, and gender. Class is clearly the third wheel - unsurprisingly given that most tenured professors are well-off financially and secure in employment, and therefore don’t have a personal connection to the preferred ideological viewpoints on the issue. The competition for primacy between race and gender, however, is less clear-cut. In a matter like the lacrosse case, where the preferred viewpoint on class, race, and gender all dictated a rush to embrace false accuser Crystal Mangum’s wild claims, the result - as we all saw with the Group of 88’s activities - can be vicious. But the rape of Katie Rouse, a white Duke student, by a local black man was met with utter silence from the Group. As I noted at the time, they seemed desperate to avoid making a politically difficult choice.
Ravel could not even have imagined the cellphones the musicians used for coordination; our capacity to transvaluate old forms – and our willingness to do so – is unparalleled in human history. What I saw in that video is that embracing this process of perpetual reinvention is what being “Western” means. We have developed more than any previous or competing civilisation the knack of using our past without being limited by it. I looked at those musicians and that audience, and what I didn’t see was decadence or exhaustion or self-hating multiculturalism. I felt like pumping my fist in the air and yelling “This is my civilisation!” It lives, and it’s beautiful, and it’s worth defending.
From time to time, I fly to Stockholm from Manchester. On arriving at Arlanda, I’m greeted by giant posters of Stockholmers saying (in English), “Welcome to my town!” On return to Ringway, I’m greeted by posters warning me not to assault airport staff. A few months ago I flew to Munich for the first time. On arrival I was greeted by a Bluetooth message from BMW, promoting their cars. Returning to Manchester, I was greeted at luggage reclaim by a giant poster offering me a test for chlamydia.
Gender activist Jos Truitt tells us about reality and how it really is.
Jos Truitt can be seen here educating an audience with tremendously deep and radical thought, thereby confirming Hampshire College’s status as a “radical space.” We learn, shockingly, that sex change surgery from female to male typically entails the patient losing the ability to bear children. This is described by Ms Truitt as “an issue of eugenics” and an affront to “reproductive justice.” Rather than, say, an obvious consequence of choosing to have the necessary organs removed in order to become more like the gender that, by definition, doesn’t bear children. Presumably a woman who feels male and wishes to undergo extreme surgery to gain some semblance of physical maleness should also retain a functional uterus and associated organs, perhaps cleverly connected to a decorative penis. An intriguing challenge for any ambitious surgeon.
Alexander Vasudevan says radical people are entitled to “seize” your property.
Readers who wish to reclaim the belongings of Mr Vasudevan – say, his laptop or his phone – should head for the University of Nottingham. As Mr Vasudevan is keen to excuse the “seizure and reclamation” of other people’s belongings as a “potent symbol of protest,” it seems only fair – and important – to bring that sentiment back to his own doorstep, or that of his employers, if only rhetorically. Of course our academic radical has little to worry about. Readers of this blog are likely to have strong inhibitions regarding the invasion or theft of other people’s property, unlike some enthusiasts of the “radical politics” that Mr Vasudevan finds so exciting.
Zoe Williams objects to philanthropy by people richer than herself. Because giving money away “creates inequality.”
Normal salaries won’t of course cut much ice at an Ark Gala, where ticket sales alone raise millions of pounds. Even Zoe, whose former school sends well-heeled little socialists on trips to Rome, Morocco and Barbados, would be out of her league. Still, Zoe’s personal resentments are the important thing and these “obscenely” rich people should stop “creating inequality” while giving money away. Given time, the orphans of Romania will doubtless learn to do without while sharing in Ms Williams’ moral satisfaction.