by Latoya Peterson
Readers Fatima and Karla both pointed us toward an article that appeared in a student run, conservative paper run by Harvard University students. Sadly, this one doesn’t even pretend to be satirical. Patrick T. Brennan just lets the racism fly:
When the University agrees that its curriculum needs to change to address “the growing diversity of our campus” or any other imaginary concern of its students, it opens itself up to politically motivated efforts like ethnic studies. Tragically, worthwhile academic subjects like Egyptology have also been subsumed into the larger effort of emphasizing diversity and ascribing significance to the insignificant, as demonstrated by Professor Christopher P. Jones’s comments that “Egypt is a major African civilization,” and that “it is very important that Africa should be a part of what everyone thinks about the modern world.”
Egypt is a worthwhile subject not because it is an African civilization, but because it represents an incredibly sophisticated and important ancient civilization that happens to be African—let alone the fact that the Egyptians pharaohs, with the exception of 75 years of Nubian rule, were about as “African” as Ian Smith. Harvard should have an Egyptology department, or at least devote some of its resources to the study of a civilization which has had such profound influence on the world. It need not offer a course on African civilizations if there is none worthy of study. The progressive priorities of Harvard’s curriculum usually do not coincide, however, with the promotion of meaningful areas of study.
He also says:
Americans of color have undoubtedly done some things of note, but their “encounters” and “experiences” are not of paramount importance to a university education. The ethnic studies movement is motivated by an attempt to direct more attention to a topic that deserves no more attention than it already gets, and probably a good deal less. Other similarly useless departments, like Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality serve similar purposes—no one would deny that Macbeth’s wife is an interesting study in the construction of femininity, but such occasional instances of relevance do not justify an entire academic field.
The problem is that studying literature is not better than studying accounting if one is allowed, or even encouraged, to allot as much time to Latin American writers as to Latin ones. The standard work of ethics for nearly two millennia was Cicero’s De Officiis. The world has not changed enough in the past hundred years to justify its replacement with whatever pablum Michael Sandel wants to feed PBS viewers.
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