A Competing View: Political Correctness Defends Against Anti-Intellectualism

'Academic book bannings' has a wicked ring to it.
The anti-ethnic studies law passed by the state prohibits teachings that "promote the overthrow of the United States government," "promote resentment toward a race or class of people," "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," and/or "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."... I invite you to take on as your summer reading the astonishingly lengthy list of books that have been removed from the Tucson public school system as part of this wholesale elimination of the Mexican-American studies curriculum....

There are a number of factors at play in the current rash of controversies. One is a rather stunning sense of privilege, the confident sense of superiority that allows someone to pass sweeping judgment on a body of work without having done any study at all.... This is not mere arrogance; it is the same cocooned "white ghetto" narrow-mindedness that allows someone like Michael Hicks to be in charge of a major American school system yet not know "Rosa Clark's" correct name.
OK, so, not knowing Rosa Parks' name is a pretty embarrassing lapse. Perhaps, we may hope, he misspoke. In perfect fairness, as I get older I find that I often misremember things.

On the other hand, how much scholarship must I undertake to be allowed to criticize these specialty "studies" curricula? I'm willing to join the author in asserting that the answer is not "none at all," but I also don't think it requires obtaining a degree in the study being criticized.

The people being labeled here as anti-intellectual are a school board member, the school board in general, and a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education. It would be very strange to pursue those opportunities if you really hated intellectual life and wanted no part of it. In fact, the writer mentioned -- Naomi Schaefer Riley -- is the author of several books herself, including a number on education and college! She has a Magna cum laude degree from Harvard in English and Government. This sounds like someone who is probably very well placed to judge the relative value of these studies compared to the humanities or sciences.

She doesn't sound especially intolerant, either, having written a book on interfaith marriages. It turns out she's in one herself, which is also an interracial marriage.

So an alternative theory: while it is possible to find cranks in any political movement, perhaps at least some of the criticism against these 'studies' fields is justified.

1 comment:

Eric Blair said...

Oh, all sorts of criticism of those fields is justified.