Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bias on Campus: The Lingering Sixties

Alan Charles Kors, professor of history, examines what has happened to the universities. An excerpt:

Those often kindly teachers, however, do have a sense of urgent mission. Even if we put them on truth-serum, the academics who dominate the humanities and social sciences on our campuses today would state that K-12 education essentially has been one long celebration of America and the West, as if our students were intimately familiar with the Federalist Papers and had never heard of slavery or empire. Having convinced themselves that the students whom they inherit have been immersed in American and Western traditions without critical perspective—they do believe that—contemporary academics see themselves as having merely four brief years in which to demystify students, and somehow to get them to look up from their Madison and Hamilton long enough to gaze upon the darker side of American and Western life. In their view, our K-12 students know all about Aristotle, John Milton and Adam Smith, have studied for twelve years how America created bounty and integrated score after score of millions of immigrants, but have never heard of the Great Depression or segregation.


pawnking said...

How true! One of my history professors (whom I now realize was a communist - I'm not kidding) told us in the beginning lecture "Everything you learned in grade school is wrong!"

All I learned in grade school I could fit into a thimble. It wasn’t wrong, it was non-existent! It was only long after I left college that I learned anything about American or world history. That’s when I realized that everything I learned in college was basically wrong.

Kind of makes me want to send my kids to private school, one where I'm sure they will actually learn history.

Jeff said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here. I realize that my comments may not be politically correct - but I believe that our (U.S.)view of the world as taught in our schools and in the media is quite stunted.
Many of us still believe that the US leads the world in education, science, industry, and wealth. It's a view that is closer to that of the immediate post WWII era. And it is a "corrupting" view that prevents us from improving our current positions which are far from the above at this point in history. I think we need to start being honest with ourselves - and spending our time, efforts and money in regaining our position in the world other than maintaining it as a military power.
But maybe I'm just too 60's!

Michael Wade said...

Thanks for two interesting comments.


On the whole, I had pretty good teachers in grade school, high school, and college. Judging from what I've heard from today's college students, the professors in my time (The Sixties) were more tolerant and I had fine profs from all across the ideological spectrum. You could argue with them and not worry about it affecting your grade and I never heard political opinions injected into Spanish or Shakespeare classes.


I'm in favor of improving the competitive positions in all areas while still maintaining military power. The students at universities are hardly getting a rosy view of the United States. The news media routinely run stories about how poor our schools are and the depiction of American business is often derogatory. As for the U.S. position in the world, the debate always revolves around where to set the benchmark. I don't think our rank is lowered simply because we've failed to please the Russian oligarchs, the Chinese dictatorship, the Security Council's latest additions of oppressive regimes, or the editorial board of The Guardian or Le Monde. I quickly confess to being a Sixties skeptic although I've got a lot of good friends from the other side of that divide.