The Corner

How a Once-Serious Academic Discipline Turned into a Joke

American studies began as an academic field more than half a century ago, as the interdisciplinary study of the cultural roots of American society. The idea was to explain why we are the way we are.

But for the last 20 years or so, American studies has drifted further and further into trendy anti-American politicization. That’s the argument of Penn State–Harrisburg American-studies professor Charles Kupfer in this Pope Center article. (I should mention that the Pope Center has been renamed the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.)

Whereas American-studies professors used to try to understand the nation, as Kupfer explains, now all the energy goes into denouncing it for the litany of sins the leftists assume everyone wants to hear about all the time: racism, sexism, and every kind of social injustice.

Recently, the American Studies Association voted in favor of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions because most members dislike the policies of the Israeli government. What does that have to do with the association’s mission? Nothing — it’s virtue-signaling pure and simple, which is why Kupfer and several other members have filed a suit against the ASA for this ultra vires act, which could endanger its tax-exempt status.

Sadly, American studies has lots of company in academic disciplines that have been largely taken over by people who want a cozy college position from which they can pontificate about their views.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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