Cold in Chicago
Even Her Buttocks Feel Guilty (and Other Agonies)

Old School Thinking

Following this piece on the self-destruction of the humanities, Heather Mac Donald responds to accusations of “neoconservative pearl-clutching” by Slate’s education columnist Rebecca Schuman:

Is Schuman content with a situation in which a Columbia student rails against having been asked merely to listen to Mozart because Mozart is a dead white male? Where might that student have picked up that attitude if not from the academy and its offshoots? Whiteness studies, black studies, feminist studies, and queer studies are not a fever dream of the “neocons.” For decades now, students have been taught to search for an echo of their own “voices” in the books they read and to reject those works that they believe “exclude” them, a remarkably narrow approach to the arts. I don’t want to hear my own “voice” in what I read; it bores me.

As noted previously, you do have to marvel at a humanities student whose decisive criteria for music appreciation – criteria affirmed by her lecturers - are the composer’s pigmentation and the configuration of his genitals. As with many articles by Ms Mac Donald, there are several quotable passages, of which the following is a taste: 

Schuman concludes by revealing the unbridgeable abyss between the academic hothouse and the outside world. Purporting to turn the tables on academia’s critics, she maintains that it is they who are playing the victim card: “Their gesture [of criticism] is itself a triumphant co-opting of the very manufactured, hyperbolic narratives of oppression they oppose.” Huh? Is Schuman admitting that academic “oppression narratives” are “manufactured” and “hyperbolic”? Who knows? Moreover, her purported gotcha is without any logical grounding: To criticise a trend is not, in itself, a claim of victimisation. Schuman then suggests the real motive for concern about the humanistic tradition: “It’s the [conservative] Manhattan Institute against a rising tide of literate poors who dare question the politics of privilege.” Schuman thus confirms the adolescent political pretensions that she claims conservatives are simply making up.

Readers who doubt the existence of self-destructive tendencies in the modern humanities may wish to consider our own Dr Nina Power, a philosophy lecturer, Guardian regular and champion of “social justice,” and whose deep thoughts have entertained us on more than one occasion. As, for instance, when our self-described Marxist railed against cuts in public funding for philosophy lecturers and what she regards as the “ideological devastation of the education system,” while claiming that she and her peers no longer need to be knowledgeable or competent in any conventional sense

Heather Mac Donald is interviewed about her article in this Ricochet podcast. You may want to skip the first four minutes of gushing introduction.

Via Franklin at Artblog