Sneer at me too!

The Weekly Standard has included a course taught by my fellow Cliopat Tim Burke in a list of courses it decided have “ridiculous content.” You can read Tim’s syllabus and judge for yourself what you think of the content; calling it ridiculous seems, well, ridiculous. Tim has posted several critiques of the Horowitzian position on the contemporary university, and the Weekly Standard’s foolish editorial seems to prove Tim’s point. Conservatives criticize academia, especially postmodern theory and philosophy, queer studies, and women’s and gender studies, for example, but they do so without engaging with the content or methodologies of actual courses taught. It’s easy, I suppose, to sneer at something without attempting to understand it.

So, I ask the Weekly Standard to sneer at me too. I’m teaching a course next semester called “Sex, Lies, and Depositions.” Like Tim’s course (which is titled “The Whole Enchilada”) I suppose a Weekly Standard editor with an axe to grind might conclude, without seeing the syllabus, that such a course will amount to mindless fluff.

Actually, the class is a research and writing intensive seminar for juniors and seniors that focuses on Virginia’s seventeenth-century county court records. I’m finishing the syllabus this week (in preparation for next semester’s book orders, which have to be in in a few weeks). I’ll post the syllabus then. In the mean time, though, please, WS: sneer at me! I could use the entertainment.


3 thoughts on “

  1. Apparently my course on ‘”Historical” Films, Mass Media, and Popular Perception’ was not juicy enough to be sneered at. Perhaps I should have gone with ‘Gender, Race, and Class on the Silver Screen: Deconstructing the Metanarratives’. Any other suggestions? 8-)Cheers,Mike Davidson

  2. The opposite holds as well: my courses tend to have titles that would no doubt please a traditionalist conservative–“Shakespeare,” “Milton,” things like that. But if they sat in on the courses themselves, I’m sure they’d find plenty to fulminate about. For one thing, I tend to critique the sort of dilettantism that articles like this one epitomize.

  3. Dearest Professors, we can’t have these young, maleable minds learning how to think for themselves can we? I mean really! How dare colleges offer courses that are both interesting and give student intellectual tools for questioning the world? What anarchy will result!!!Seriously, do people heap this same disdain upon scholars in the hard sciences? Would an article appear questioning the course content in, for instance, physics? Would a popular science writer be so dismissive of Einstein or Hawking? These are not rhetorical questions.

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