With a dull inevitability and a scandalous absence of shame, New York University announced Thursday that next semester it will offer two for-credit classes on the subject of Occupy Wall Street. The first, for undergraduates, will be entitled, “Why Occupy Wall Street? The History and Politics of Debt and Finance” and taught by Lisa Duggan, a professor of social and cultural analysis, whose long list of “teaching interests” is a veritable masterpiece of satire, including such gems as Gender and Cultural History, Social Theories of Citizenship, Critical Historiographies/Queer Historiographies, Constructions of Whiteness in the United States, Studying Sex, Studying Gender, and the indispensable Introduction to Lesbian/Gay Studies: Queer Critique.
The second course will be a “graduate-level seminar” about the demonstrations, which, with any luck, will investigate the movement deeply enough to inform its participants why they are there. Keeping faith with the inchoate and shambolic nature of the Occupy movement, the courses will have a “rotating focus.” Look for an expanded focus on the new evils of government power in both offerings if a Republican wins the White House in November, 2012.
Aside from anything else, the class seems brilliantly designed to ensure the maintenance of a vicious cycle. A significant portion of the “occupiers” are graduates who are understandably vexed at having been bamboozled into running up crippling debts in exchange for being educated in useless fields by an academic class so richly marinated in a culture of relativism and casuistry that it can no longer distinguish between the valuable and the worthless. By offering a class in Occupy Wall Street, NYU — the most expensive college in the United States — is effectively guaranteeing that there will be a steady supply of graduates with enough free time to hang about in parks complaining that their education has failed them long into the future. And better than that, it is training them how to do it.
The students will thus become the studied, providing a terrible feedback loop that would make for hilarious reading if it weren’t all so depressingly real. And around and around it will go, ad nauseam, until someone has the courage to point out that the emperor has no clothes and that “Queer Musicology” and “The Culture of Burlesque” have no place in an academic environment that is already pullulating with graduates who lack the basic ability to reason. Not since Marcel Duchamp and his fellow Dadaists realized that modernity had so deprived its denizens of basic cultural standards that they could ingeniously recast art in such a way as to overcome their painful lack of talent have those in positions of authority and influence abnegated their responsibilities both to the young and to the future of civilization as those who currently inhabit faculties across the Republic.
As of next semester, we will live in a country in which Harvard — the second most expensive college in the United States — doesn’t consider it necessary to offer a course about the American Revolution, but NYU offers two in Occupy Wall Street. If there were any lingering doubt about the need for conservatives to take the academy from those who have occupied it for far too long, it should by that fact alone be dispelled.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate for National Review.