Time to Flunk Biased ‘Ethnic Studies’
By STAN BRIN
Imagine you are a visitor from another planet, and you read the words “Ethnic Studies” on the side of a university building.
You would consult your translation implant and you would conclude that the two words implied a sort of interdisciplinary approach to the study of ethnic and immigrant communities. Like American Studies, or Russian Studies, a combination of anthropology, sociology, history and other social-sciences good stuff that universities traditionally teach.
But if you were that alien visitor from another planet, a tour of a tax-supported university anywhere in California might confuse you. If you entered the building that housed the Ethnic Studies department, you would find a lot of people who looked like scholars, and certainly quarreled and backstabbed the way scholars do everywhere. But they would be doing very little real studying. Their efforts would be directed not at anything existing in the real world, but at attacking a single horrific enemy with as many names as it had tentacles: White people, white males, the United States, racism, capitalism, imperialism, patriotism, Zionism — somehow all the same interlocking enemy.
You might be tempted to believe that this enemy existed, too, at least at first. The purveyors of Ethnic Studies tend to appear very sincere.
But if you were an intelligent visitor from another planet, you might ask the Ethnic Studies people how they were paying their bills. You would learn that the multi-headed hydra that oppresses them so horribly actually pays for everything — for the professors’ salaries, their classrooms, and their offices — and that these funds are acquired by means of taxes and fees paid in large part by families that make up this nefarious monster.
You might be tempted to ask a few questions, and suspect underlying assumptions.
For example, you might ask why the Satanic State Legislature would devote $3,459,176 this year on my alma mater’s College of Ethnic Studies and $689,986 on its twin sister, Women’s Studies.
That’s at one campus, and one campus alone, in a single year, at my dear, dear alma mater, San Francisco State, according to campus spokesperson Ellen Griffin. A total of $4,149,162, and that’s not counting the Arab Studies program, which appears to be cut from a similar cloth.
That this money is wasted is hardly questionable. There is little demand for Raza Studies, or Africana Studies or Women’s Studies in the workforce. The “SFSU Women [sic] and Gender Studies Department” obliquely admits this fact on its web site that there is little chance of employment for its students. A master’s degree in Women and Gender Studies, the site states:
“will enhance students’ ability to participate professionally in a range of organizations and businesses in the public and private sector, particularly those addressing women’s issues.”
In other words, the master’s degree will lead virtually nowhere. Why would a potential employer hire someone whose thesis is titled, “The Neo-Imperial Harem: Race, Gender, Sexuality and Nation in American Belly Dance”?
I’m not making this up. I swear. A student by the name of Rebecca Prather won a master’s degree at an accredited, state-supported university for writing this daring, innovative and scholarly bit of hee-haw. The department’s website has a “Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase” devoted to similar gems, apparently accepted with straight-faces all around.
Perhaps, right now, someone at SFSU is working on another thesis titled, “Multicultural Polygamy in Transgendered Mormon Conjoined Triplet Acrobats.” I wouldn’t be surprised. Perhaps someone with a knowledge of programming might create a Women’s Studies thesis topic generator, like the famous Chomskybot jargon website.
Which leads one to ask: If a subject leads to nothing and produces twaddle, why should taxpayers pay for it?
Taxpayers traditionally fund scholarship because it advances knowledge. Astrophysics professors uncover the history of the universe, archeologists find and decode ancient civilizations and English professors discover new meaning in very old books. More to the point, professors of a variety of subjects are needed to provide students with a general education outside their majors: history, science, creative arts and how to enjoy a good book.
No problem there, at least not for me. Students need general education, dead authors should be remembered, and it’s nice to know that there are a lot of very weird planets out there; at least I think so. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have loads of Nobel Prize winners working here in California. The taxpayers have always agreed, although they might think that their public universities have gone overboard, hiring a lot of highly paid academic celebrities who don’t spend much time in the classroom.
However, the taxpayers have never agreed that it is their duty to spend millions on academic departments whose published mission statements are overtly political, hostile, sexist, and even racist — not to mention incoherent. Here is the first paragraph of the mission statement of the SFSU College of Ethnic Studies:
The mission of the College of Ethnic Studies is to provide safe academic spaces and resources for all to learn the histories and contexts in which to practice the theories of resistance and liberation in order to eliminate racism and other forms of oppression; and to study in the first person voice the cultural and intellectual traditions of these peoples that are often ignored or misrepresented in the current U.S. academic canons.
And that’s just the first paragraph: one sentence, 72 words long. Someone needs to retake Dumbbell English. Translated into Standard English, this snippet appears to mean that the College of Ethnic Studies is a school for terrorism and totalitarianism, here and abroad, under the guise of opposing racism. This, in an age when the president of the United States is a black man and his chief opponent for the nomination in 2008 was a woman. And for a while this fall, it looked as if a black sitting president would face another black man in the general election.
It’s also a lie. “Current academic canons” are slanted outrageously in the direction of Ethnic Studies ideology. Just take a course in Middle Eastern history, virtually anywhere, and you will find out.
On the other hand, what does one expect of an academic program founded in paranoid racism, terrorism, and extortion?
The Sore That Won’t Heal
To help our alien visitor understand Ethnic Studies, we must introduce him, her or both-at-the-same-time, to another age, the late 1960s, the era in which Ethnic Studies, as it is still understood, was born.
This was the era of the Vietnam War, during which children of leftist families formed what they called the “New Left.” Unlike the Old Left, these Red Diaper Babies weren’t on anybody’s payroll, or so they said, and they weren’t interested in espionage or parroting a party line, or so they said.
Instead, they simply attacked the Great Satan, the Biologically Evil Racist Warmonger.
That this relentless, poisonous aspersion suited the interests of the Cold War enemy was beside the point. Obviously Castro was not a tyrant, Che Guevara was not a mass murderer but a bike-riding poet and the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge were liberators. They were willing to admit that, maybe the Czechs didn’t want Soviet tanks on the streets of Prague in 1968, but that was about it. The Soviet Union was simply unhappy because U.S. interventionist forces occupied Vladivostok from 1918 to 1920.
So when a southern-born Democratic president stamped out official racism with a series of laws and political reforms from 1964 to 1968, it hardly mattered. Leftists demanded that universities host pseudo-academic departments that would “study” racism, ethnocentrism and, starting in the 1970s, alleged sexism as well.
The cost of these departments swelled as society outgrew racism and sexism. The Cold War ended with Marxist totalitarianism utterly discredited, but Ethnic Studies, like all bureaucracies, went on teaching its trope as if nothing had happened, and their employees and students were forced to study minutiae, e.g., the aforementioned Neo-Imperialist Belly Dancing, as real causes disappeared.
The field received a bit of a shock in 2005 when the chairman of the University of Colorado’s Ethnic Studies department, Ward Churchill, was revealed to be a forger and a plagiarist, aside from being an outright ethnic imposter. The man was so narcissistic and venal that even his colleagues appear to have given up trying to defend him.
In fact, the only attribute of Ethnic Studies that has substantially changed is that it seems to have added Arab Studies to its list of oppressed Ethnics. And apparently looking for things to do, Ethnic Studies took on an even more Biologically Evil Racist Warmonger, that monstrous mini-Satan, Israel — where gays are free to live as they please, and women serve in combat units.
The dean of SFSU’s College of Ethnic Studies, Kenneth Monteiro (oddly, I really like him), put an al-Fatah terrorist scarf around his neck at the dedication of a huge, and monstrously kitschy mural honoring the late Egyptian-Palestinian-American intellectual, Edward Said. Dr. Said was, naturally, an anti-Semitic bigot and a literary forger who spent much of the last years of his life concocting and defending a bogus autobiography. How fitting.
(Dr. Said’s Al-Fatah was behind Black September, the Munich Massacre, and the slaughter of an estimated 100,000 Lebanese. But Dr. Monteiro was unaware this and was shocked when I told him that the patterned scarf isn’t Palestinian at all, but actually a Beduin tradition.)
Historically, Ethnic Studies professors have been addicted to publicity and headline grabbing. They are now extremely media-shy, apparently feeling the budgetary heat. Of roughly 20 professors contacted on campuses throughout California, repeatedly, only one, a UCLA professor, agreed to address the issues raised by this story, and he didn’t want go on the record. I gave up looking for quotes after SFSU’s program chair in “Race and Resistance Studies” promised to call me right back — and never did.
There are two reasons why these pseudo-academics act this way. Obviously, ideologically motivated professors don’t like to talk to people who might disagree with them. The more pressing reason is also obvious: everyone feels the threat of a budgetary axe.
Should Ethnic Studies Be Axed?
Should Ethnic Studies be axed? I think so. Even if the field was of value, and there is little evidence that it is, it duplicates the work of history, sociology and anthropology departments.
More important, at least to me, is that Ethnic Studies consumes resources needed elsewhere. California’s young people need practical education, and our economy needs a professionally trained workforce.
Although some libertarians believe that higher education is a waste of time, and there is no doubt that it can be — Ethnic Studies being a case in point — there is also no doubt that California’s economy depends on a vast corps of trained professionals that can only come from existing public universities. The success of Israel’s high-tech economy in the face of a horrific tax burden is a testament to the importance practical higher education.
Imagine what $4.15 million could do for the struggling students of SFSU if used for purposes other than teaching racism, sexism and Marxist dogma. For one thing, it could be easily used to ease one of the most pressing problems that students have — the unavailability of classes.
The Eight-Year Degree
Every year, hundreds of thousands of students fail to graduate because they can’t fit into that one last required class, or two required classes are taught simultaneously, or during hours in which they have to work. Many thousands simply give up.
The traditional four-year degree has largely disappeared from California and the rest of the United States, a victim not only of class shortages, but of tuition hikes and resulting student work hours.
It now normally takes, on average, six to eight years to put on a cap and gown. During this time, a student isn’t buying a house, a new car, saving money or starting a business. She — 60 percent of state post-secondary students are female — puts her life on hold, or she drops out because she runs out of money and patience.
If one were to hire 50 full time professors in practical subjects, at, say a modest average of $75,000 a year — leaving some extra for electricity and floor sweeping — 200 additional class sections in necessary subjects could be reopened. Engineering, business, nursing, computer science — wherever the jobs are. Even history courses for those who plan to become high school teachers.
Thousands of students would be able to shave a semester or even a year off their studies and begin their careers, saving countless millions in student loans and lost income. Employers would benefit, taxes would be paid, housing purchased and responsible, adult lives begun.
Everyone would benefit, except Ethnic Studies professors, who would find themselves either driving cabs, or teaching Dumbbell English courses to incoming freshmen because they aren’t qualified to do anything else, certainly nothing that anyone really needs to know to earn a living. Unless, that is, one can make a living performing Neo-Imperialist Belly Dancing.
But don’t expect this to happen, certainly not without a fight.
Last April, SFSU’s President Robert Corrigan announced that his campus faced a $32 million budget shortfall, but the Ethnic Studies program would retain its $4.15 million.
Is Ethnic Studies Legal?
Probably not. It certainly appears to be a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and both federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
After all, there aren’t any “Men’s Studies” departments on tax-supported university campuses, despite the rather obvious fact that male students are rapidly disappearing. And no one, anywhere, is trying to figure out why. If the real purpose of Ethnic Studies and Women Studies were to end discrimination and sexism, as they claim, they wouldn’t ignore the problem.
More to the point, it is absurd that taxpayer funds can be used for organized political advocacy as a matter of institutional policy.
SFSU’s President Corrigan has since announced his retirement at the end of the academic career. Perhaps his successor will be of another mind, but I wouldn’t count on it. It will take a vote of the state Legislature to make the necessary adjustments, and perhaps a court ruling, to outlaw Ethnic Studies altogether.
May 22, 2013