Weekend Reading: William Freehling: Secessionists at Bay
The Lighting Budget of Thomas Jefferson: DeLong's Morning Coffee

Mark Bauerlein (2006): On Michael Bérubé: Weekend Reading

Clowns (ICP)

I wonder if Mark Bauerlein has become a Trumpist? Yes indeedee, he has—not anti-anti-Trump, but the Full Monty: "President Trump is the only one who can stop the left now": Mark Bauerlein (2006): On Michael Bérubé: "An assigned essay topic that was claimed by a conservative student to be anti-American, a claim rightly judged by Bérubé a silly exaggeration. Still, the tendentiousness of the question is plain. Here is the final sentence: 'Analyze the U.S. constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded [the] majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interest'...

...And here is Bérubé’s comment:

If students of American political science are not introduced to the contradictions underlying the foundation of a revolutionary democratic nation that practiced slavery and restricted the vote to landowning men, they are being miseducated.

What Bérubé considers good history registers with conservatives quite differently. They note the emphasis on exploitation and hypocrisy, along with no chance to argue otherwise. The Founding’s positive side is glossed over as if it were false ornament. And as for miseducation, the historical significance of the Constitution isn’t primarily that it legalized “exclusion” and “class domination,” but rather that a group of men acculturated to exclusion and domination should have conceived a system of government and a set of rights from which free and oppressed people have drawn inspiration for two centuries. The assignment, then, asks undergraduates to take a partial and politically loaded viewpoint on the Founding. If we want full historical context, by all means bring in the inequalities and injustices of the time, but let’s not obscure the extraordinary moral and political breakthrough represented by the document.

That Bérubé accepts such assignments as straightforward history goes a long way toward explaining why conservative criticisms appear unbalanced or cynical. The liberal outlook, especially regarding race and gender, has seeped into and saturated the curriculum so much that questioning it looks not like a new venture into the marketplace of ideas but like a violation of civility. This makes it almost impossible for conservative reformers in higher education to question, much less alter, the curriculum.... When substantive points are recast as lapses in decency, outsiders have no chance of gaining a seat at the table.... Here, he overlooks the situation, because, I think, the aggressive actions of David Horowitz and others have raised the threat level.

What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?, the major statement on the issue by a major academic voice, never outlines the most important aspect of any educational program, its curriculum. On the evidence of its arguments, we may safely assume that in spite of all the publicized assaults from the outside (such as the Academic Bill of Rights) and all the humiliating episodes on the inside (such as Ward Churchill), the humanities remain tied to a liberal outlook—not to liberal personnel, but more deeply to liberal values and pedagogies...

#weekendreadings #orangehairedbaboons #moralresponsibility