Phi Beta Cons

Coarse Work

Here’s a story in the Los Angeles Times on an annual poll of “most bizarre pc course offerings.” A sample:

Its No. 1 slot this year for bizarre class offerings went to Occidental, for a course called “The Phallus.”
No, it’s not a biology course. It’s a survey, offered by Oxy’s department of critical theory and social justice, of “feminist and queer takings-on of the phallus.” Topics include “the relation between the phallus and the penis, the meaning of the phallus, phallologocentrism, the lesbian phallus, the Jewish phallus, the Latino phallus, and the relation of the phallus and fetishism.”

Now, it’s easy to take potshots at these titles, but often the provocation is just designed to boost enrollments. I think most undergrads look over these headings and roll their eyes, and we shouldn’t take the actual practice of these sessions too seriously. It isn’t the active effects of these teachings that are the problem. The problem is the time spent in these classes that takes away from time spent in serious studies. The end of the article puts it well:

The bigger problem is that too much of American higher education has lost any notion of what its students ought to know about the ideas and people and movements that created the civilization in which they live: Who Plato was or what happened at Appomattox.

College is a unique period in people’s lives, and most of them will never have the chance to study great ideas, events, and art works ever again. It’s a shame to waste it on pseudo-provocative fluff.