Heather Mac Donald on a company filling the knowledge gaps left by modern academia:
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.
By all means add your own.