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The poisonousness of identity studies.
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Then there is a whole discipline of men’s studies, taught at “about a hundred North American colleges and universities.” Bawer quotes Lionel Tiger, who calls men’s studies “‘a wholly owned branch of women’s studies,’ examining maleness through a feminist and social constructionist prism.” Or, as professor David Clemens of Monterey Peninsula College puts it, men’s studies is a “‘camouflage version of Women’s Studies’ in which the ‘operative question’ is, ‘Why are men so awful?’”
There is even whiteness studies. “Just as men’s studies isn’t really about maleness but patriarchal oppression, so whiteness studies isn’t really about whiteness but racial oppression.” Bawer quotes David Horowitz: “Black studies celebrates Blackness, Chicano studies celebrates Chicanos, Women’s studies celebrates women, and white studies attacks white people as evil.”
Then there is fat studies, “to a large extent, a sub-division of Women’s Studies.” At a National Women’s Studies Association meeting in Denver, he attends a session titled “Advancing Fat Feminism,” where one of the participants, a professor who describes herself as “a self-identified queer, fat, vegan,” waxes eloquent on the cow. She refuses to drink milk, not for vegan health reasons, but for feminist principles. “Dairy is a feminist issue. Milk comes from a grieving mother….no human can be free while other species are oppressed.”
But amid all this silliness, Bawer does see a ray of hope. He cites an article appearing in the Daily Beast, in which the author, discussing the rise of fat studies, seems to worry that “identity studies are becoming so far removed from any hint of academic or intellectual legitimacy that even teachers of more established and only moderately asinine disciplines are reacting to the far more extreme asininity of the newer ones.” Perhaps. And it may be that in the end, it’s just a matter of rediscovering some very simple and basic truths. Before diversity became the watchword, we called it the melting pot; E Pluribus Unum, not Ex Uno Plures, was the motto.
In his discussion of Chicano studies, which he characterizes as “a locus for Marxist propaganda”— “Briefly put: Castro and Chavez good; America evil”—he cites Francisco H. Vasquez, the editor of “a major anthology in the field,” who tries to explain why there’s a need for a discipline called Chicano studies, but “not, say, a German-American or an Italian-American Studies.” Says Vasquez: “[T]he U.S. Italian, Irish, and German populations…have in due time become accepted as ‘real’ Americans. They do not need their own ethnic studies at the university.” “
It doesn’t seem to occur to Vasquez,” writes Bawer, “that one reason why those groups have been so successfully integrated is that they didn’t have ‘their own ethnic studies at the university.’ Italian, Irish and German Americans…studied what everybody else studied. They didn’t go to college to be ‘taught’ about the one thing you could be sure they knew something about.…They went to college to learn about things beyond their own experience and to do something useful with that knowledge.”
Bawer sums it up:
We stand on….the shoulders of pioneers and soldiers, entrepreneurs and inventors, factory laborers and farmers, who…transformed a wilderness continent into the freest, most dynamic, and most prosperous nation in the history of the human race [so that] by the late twentieth century virtually every young person in America had the opportunity to acquire a real higher education.…
[T]his noblest of goals was met in America before it was met anywhere else. And it is why the replacement of a true education…by identity studies is a betrayal, in the profoundest sense, of the promise of America.
Photo © Jorge Royan
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