The Corner

PC Culture

Non-Woke Grad Students Need Help

At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, September 20, 2018 (Rebecca Cook / Reuters)

It is increasingly difficult for tradition-minded grad students in history to find support. Few faculty members are interested in working with students who aren’t enthused about looking at the world through the standard lenses of race, gender, and oppression. Moreover, financial support is drying up for students who don’t want to pursue “progressive” projects.

That is the argument of Harvard history professor James Hankins in today’s Martin Center article. He writes:

Some of us came into history precisely to escape the passions of the moment, to gain the breadth of outlook that comes with a deeper historical perspective. We understand, as many of our contemporaries seem not to, that importing modern agendas into the study of the past makes us worse historians, less able to understand the past in its own terms.

There still are students like that, but the deck is badly stacked against them. Finding a faculty adviser is very difficult. Hankins explains:

Even if someone who came into our program wanting to study the American Founders, for example, could pin down a professor to direct his research, he’d quickly find himself isolated. His fellow graduate students would think his interests outdated and he would have difficulty finding sympathetic people to talk to about his research. He would soon get the message that he should work on a topic that his peers think is cool and compelling, something attuned to climate change, globalization, or social justice, for instance.

As for the funding, that’s also a big problem. Foundations that used to assist students with a wide array of interests have lately turned leftist — the Mellon Foundation, for instance.

Hankins pleads for more support for the few associations that remain friendly toward grad students of all persuasions and for donors who see the problem to create new institutions to support conservatives.

He concludes:

Viewpoint diversity, freedom of conscience, a fair presentation of the achievements of Western civilization, and sound, unbiased historical scholarship will never be restored unless it is possible for traditional and conservative historians to survive and flourish in American graduate schools.

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


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