Monday, July 14, 2008

Nettlesome question 


When universities open their for-profit, cash-garnering campuses in the oil-rich Middle East, do they extend their “oppression studies” curriculum as well. I mean does a Saudi petroleum engineering major, like his American counterpart, take a gender studies requirement, mutatis mutandis, learning how his gender-apartheid society harms women? Do Dubai pre-medical students in US overseas campuses learn about the evils of slavery in an African-experience course, especially how 11 million African slaves were shipped to the Arab, Muslim world? Or is such instruction left behind at the American shore, money trumping the gospel of multi-culturalism? If you think about it, a certain sort of truth emerges—that such oppression studies are felt even by those who peddle them to be unserious, since they wouldn’t dare offer them to those who in theory might need them the most. Business trumps PC?

This paragraph rocked me, because I did not know that there was anybody who considered oppression studies to be serious. The wisdom of my decision not to go into academia remains intact!

That said, I would have thought that the main purpose of oppression studies in the United States was to cater to the demand for it. Americans who teach at or attend our great universities are virtually by definition among the very luckiest human beings ever born, but they have a great personal and political interest in believing otherwise. Who, after all, wants to believe that they were born on third base, or (in the case of less fortunate Americans who work hard as teenagers to earn college on their own) at least rounding first? Our universities are meeting the demand for that particular form of self-delusion, and therefore would not offer these programs in places where there is no demand.

If you thought that was cynical, try this: VDH's implicit assumption -- that universities exist to solve some sort of social problem -- is invalid. If that were true, universities would not devote so much time and attention to running down American-style market capitalism, which has solved far more problems, social and otherwise, than academia ever has, or ever will. No, most universities exist for the benefit of their faculty, who live a professional life of extraordinary personal freedom in return for lower cash compensation than they might have earned in another profession and a few hours a week of instruction. We support these institutions because (1) they have done a good job of promoting much wider emotional ties (think Princeton or Yale at the high end and the University of Texas or Michigan by dint of state loyalty magnified through the athletic programs), (2) some of the research produced by the faculty and their students is of enormous value, and the benefits of the blockbuster scholarship far outweighs the worthlessness of most of it, and (3) they are the only institutions in our society "allowed" to sort people by their intelligence and other factors that predict success.

Finally, I am generally in favor of any business, allegedly academic or otherwise, that repatriates the dollars we spend on oil. If in the process we make Arabs and others studying in the Gulf more competent and give them a reason to make their economies more fundamentally productive, all the better.

MORE: Evidence, perhaps, that the faculties of great American universities believe that the institutions exist for them.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


By Blogger Diane Wilson, at Mon Jul 14, 10:08:00 AM:

A friend, who happens to be a full professor at a state university, once told me that the university system is designed to produce medieval German professors.

On the one hand, that sounds about right. If you think about it, how else would a medieval German professor approach oppression studies, other than by being oppressive about it?

On the other hand, how did we ever miss that oppressed minority?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 14, 10:18:00 AM:

Of course the middle eastern Muslim nations are concerned about oppression studies, that's why they pay to have top US universities build campuses in the middle east. Then, they don't have to worry about students in the US learning anything positive about women, Jews, blacks or infidels. Middle-eastern students get the education/credential without any of the silly acculturation.
Those in US higher education have always been motivated by one thing, tenure, which enables them to get out of the classroom and do the things that make additional bucks/reputation, e.g., journal articles, conferences, foreign campuses, etc.
No, oppression studies don't follow to foreign campuses; those campuses were specifically built to exclude silly political correctness and victims' studies.  

By Blogger antithaca, at Mon Jul 14, 01:33:00 PM:

Cornell's Medical colleges are physically and intellectually distinct from...everything else:



Neither college requires the type of curriculum 4 years of study in Ithaca does.  

By Blogger TGGP, at Tue Jul 15, 01:52:00 AM:

An account of how the Grievance Studies began and was sustained.  

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