Colleges' Open Minds
Close Door On Sense
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 4, 2006
By Mary Grabar
University of Georgia Professor Betty Jean Craige surely
must know the rules of good writing as taught in freshman composition: One needs to back up points with
specific evidence and support. But
this professor of comparative literature gets an F due to obfuscation and PR-speak
for her Aug. 2 opinion column "New ideas must flourish at colleges" (@issue).
Most parents who send their children off to college have no
idea of what is being taught in the humanities classes: pornography
appreciation, analyses of the clothing of transvestites, Native American scalp
dances, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
I am not kidding.
The journals considered prestigious publish papers like an
analysis of abortion as 'performance art' and bondage in lesbian sex acts. I came across this type of
"scholarship" while writing my dissertation.
Dr. Craige claims that "New ideas about nature and society
will always threaten traditional ways of understanding the world" and implies
that those of us who object to the radicalism on college campuses are
creationist Neanderthals. But
let's see if providing some support by way of specific examples will contradict
Dr. Craige's thesis.
Let's look at the American Literature Association conference,
which I attended May. I sat in on
such panels: "La Reconquista: The Application of Latina/o Studies to U.S.
Literature(s) & Criticism" (where an up-and-coming young Latina professor
gave instructions and sample syllabi on how to make a survey class on American literature into a class devoted to Latina/o
literature and issues), "Teaching the Arts of American Protest" on social
protest literature (yes, a how-to on teaching literature as a form of social
protest), and a film and literature
panel, where the intellectually challenging paper "Female Sexualities Revised
in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and Anita Blake Series" was delivered. (The Anita Blake Series is a series of
graphic novels, i.e., with pictures).
A perusal of Literary Calls for Papers from the University
of Pennsylvania in 2006 reveals:
to Swallow: Reading Pornography on Screen
anthology of essays on Brokeback Mountain
- Michael Moore: The Documentary Tradition
for a roundtable discussion on Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth
- "Sexing the Text": The description
reads, "Do we consider Britney Spears kissing Madonna subversive? What about Transgendered
narratives? Dustin Hoffman as
Tootsie? Slash fiction?..."
Imagine these instructions from a college professor and you
will understand what we "conservative activists" object to:
"Okay, class, let's look at our worldviews. What do you think of Britney Spears
kissing Madonna? What does that act
say about gender roles? Write a
three-page paper and remember: Papers that do not display an open-mindedness