That’s right. Colleges and universities have gone so far off the deep end in their class offerings that at Duke University, students can get credit for a course entitled “Campus Culture and Drinking,” according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).
Other courses, also offered for credit, promise about as much substance, ACTA found.
For example, Indiana University offers a course in the “History of Comic Book Art” while Texas Tech offers a humanities class in the “History and Philosophy of Dress.”
These courses, according to ACTA, fulfill requirements in subject areas that students need to fill in order to graduate. The ACTA study surveyed 50 colleges. Among some of the other innovative courses that students can take along with the subject requirements that they fulfill:
—“Love and Money” at Bryn Mawr College (Humanities requirement)
— “Survey of World Cinema” at the University of Illinois (Literature and Arts)
— “Ghosts, Demons, and Monsters” at Dartmouth College (Literature)
— “Rock Music from 1970 to Present” at the University of Minnesota (Arts and Humanities)
— “American Popular Culture and Folklife” at Penn State (Humanities)
While these courses are not as psychologically twisted as the courses in pedophilia at Cornell and Temple nor as poisonous as most of the Middle East studies at New York University and Columbia, the academic value of learning about drinking, dress and demons remains dubious. The lack of rigor in the course offerings, moreover, coincides with a trend in which today’s college students cannot pass tests that high school graduates half a century ago got high marks in, Barry Latzer of ACTA, who compiled the survey, points out.
“In 30 years, we have gone from a core curriculum to a distribution system,” Latzer said at a recent conference. The old curriculum emphasized Western Civilization, hard sciences and hard disciplines such as mathematics, while the new course offerings are more nebulous, according to Latzer. On leave from John Jay College in New York City, Latzer heads ACTA’s newly-formed Institute of Effective Governance.
Latzer said he lived a rather monastic life while working on ACTA’s college curriculum study and poring over university catalogues here in Washington, D. C., but the monk-like analogy did not end there. “The language and the structure of these catalogues is so obscure that I felt like a monk reading Sanskrit,” Latzer said at the conference, which was sponsored by The Objectivist Center.
Latzer, a professor of government, has experienced political correctness and the academic ambivalence that greets it first hand. The president of his college cancelled a reading of Salman Rushdie’s book in the face of a protest by Muslim students.
“Let’s be clear about why this bien-pensant anti-American onslaught is such appalling rubbish,” Rushdie himself wrote of the prevailing attitude among academics in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
“Terrorism is the murder of the innocent; this time, it was mass murder,” he wrote in that same article in The New York Times, one month after the attacks. “To excuse such an atrocity by blaming U.S. government policies is to deny the basic idea of all morality: that individuals are responsible for their actions. Furthermore, terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate complaints by illegitimate means. The terrorist wraps himself in the world’s grievances to cloak his true motives. Whatever the killers were trying to achieve, it seems improbable that building a better world was part of it.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.