HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: U.C. Berkeley Students Complain About Having To Read Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault. In course on classic social theory. And if that makes it hard for you to focus on the course material, cupcakes, you don’t belong in college.I thought that sounded like a pretty good syllabus, really. You could quibble a bit -- I'm not sure Hegel's comments on social theory are at all useful except as a prelude to Marx, and I might substitute out Foucault for Rousseau (since allegedly this is about "classic" social theory). So what could be the problem?
Well, of course, I should have known.
...a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color. We have major concerns about social theory courses in which white men are the only authors assigned.I am glad that the students didn't try to rope Plato and Aristotle into the category of "white men." That's a category that wouldn't have made sense to them, and which they would have rejected once it was explained to them. All those "white men" are from the category they would have referred to as "barbarians."
This reminds me of an attempt by Georgia State University, a couple of years back, to introduce a quota of 20% female authors in philosophy courses. If you're teaching a course on contemporary philosophy, that's not at all hard to do. If you're teaching a course on "classic social theory," it's pretty hard. You could grab something from Christine de Pizan, who had some social commentary. But it's more commentary than theory, as she was accepting a Christian framework and challenging members of society to live up to it better than they did.
So that's probably what you'd do here: grab works by contemporary women who are commenting on the classical authors. You could fold them in side-by-side with the original authors as a kind of running critique by contemporary female thinkers of what the classical tradition has to say. Maybe that would be interesting to do.
It would be done at the expense of at least some of the classical authors, though. That means students will be less prepared to do novel work of their own, as they will be less aware of and engaged in the great questions. That's where I finished when talking about the 20% experiment:
I would think the way to draw women into philosophy would be to engage them with the great problems, and get them excited about wrestling with them. (It might not hurt to suggest, which is actually true, that any university will be especially considerate of a female philosopher who wants a job -- you can be sure the academy is aware of the disparity, and will bend over backwards to help ensure their numbers reflect a devotion to doing something about it.) Engaging them is what will really qualify them to do the work, as it is only someone genuinely engaged with the questions who will perform at the level at which real contributions are made -- the kind of contributions that would justify your inclusion in a class reading list.I wonder how that 20% experiment worked out? Looking around Google, I only find the fanfare that accompanied its beginning, and no further comment on whether it has been continued or what the results were.
That's also the way you'd do best by your female students as students, which is the right way for you to relate to them if you are a professor or a teaching assistant. It is, perhaps, the only way you ought to engage them.
UPDATE: In terms of "people of color," Charles Mills has a thoroughgoing criticism of this whole tradition. Of course, he's a man, so if you read him you'd have to also separately include female critiques. The more of these things you do, the less of the tradition itself you can read.