The intellectual and moral decline of American universities in the last 40 years is one of the saddest chapters in modern American history.
Take UCLA, long renowned for its excellence in the humanities as well as in the natural sciences (which do remain largely excellent).
As reported in the Wall Street Journal by Heather MacDonald on Jan. 3:
“The school’s English department was one of the last champions of the historically informed study of great literature, uncorrupted by an ideological overlay. Precisely for that reason, it was the most popular English major in the country, enrolling a whopping 1,400 undergraduates. … Until 2011, students majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton — the cornerstones of English literature.”
What happened in 2011?
“Following a revolt of the junior faculty … it was announced that Shakespeare was part of the ‘Empire,’ [and] UCLA junked these individual author requirements.”
In other words, as of two years ago, in order to obtain a degree in English at UCLA, a student does not have to take a single course in Chaucer, Milton or even Shakespeare.
But that doesn’t mean that there are no longer any required courses for a degree in English. There are. Instead of the aforementioned three courses, one is now obligated to take three other courses:
“All English majors take a total of three courses in the following four areas: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing.”
Please read that list again. What does any of them have to do with getting a degree in English?
The answer is, of course, nothing. Except for “creative writing,” every one of them is a course in political indoctrination.
Why has this happened?
Because at most American universities, few professors in the humanities teach that there is excellence, beauty or greatness in literature or the arts. Instead there is:
a) A belief that everything is subjective to the individual. I like comic books; you like Shakespeare. Neither is better nor worse. I like rap; you like Beethoven. Neither is better nor worse. It is narcissism masquerading as education.
b) Group affirmation. The purpose of the humanities is to make women, gays, blacks, Latinos and all other minorities feel affirmed, and feel victimized by rich, white, heterosexual males.
c) The deconstructionist view that all of art, music and literature is merely a product of race, gender and class. Thus, one no longer asks, “What does ‘Hamlet’ have to say about the human condition?” Rather, one asks, “What did Shakespeare have to say from his White European Christian Male perspective?”
d) A substitution of indoctrination for education. Most university classes in the humanities are dedicated to inculcating left-wing values in students. These include the race-gender-class prism.
This was well illustrated just this past Sunday, when C-SPAN’s “Book TV” featured a University of Washington “professor of social justice and political science” named Christopher Parker.
After his lecture at a college in Maine, a listener made a comment about the Constitution.
“Who wrote the Constitution?” the professor responded.
He then answered his own question:
“Wealthy white men.”
It took the professor three words to express exactly how the university had indoctrinated him to look at life — through race (“white”), gender (“men”) and class (“wealthy”). For him, the Constitution is meaningless at best and offensive at worst to non-whites, to women or to the non-affluent.
The professor’s very title, “professor of social justice” is a giveaway as to the University of Washington’s intention of indoctrinating rather than educating, just as a “professor of gun rights” would obviously intend to advocate a right-wing or libertarian position rather than merely educate.
And in his prefatory remarks, professor Parker warned the college audience that in his talk he would periodically “drop the f-bomb.” Acceptance of profanity in public is another part of the left’s deconstruction of culture described above. Since there is no such thing as beauty, let alone the holy, the f-word is no different from any another.
Although the University of California has lost more than a billion dollars in state funding since 2007, it has spent tens of millions of dollars on administrators who teach nothing. They are only there to further move the university system to the left — for example, the new quarter-of-a-million-dollar position at UCLA: vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion.
Had there been such a position when UCLA was founded, there would never have been an English department requirement of Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer. Each one was, after all, a white male. And wealthy, too.
Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book is the New York Times best seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).