PC Zombie

Sep 22, 2010 |  David Clemens

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PC Zombie

Sep 22, 2010 | 

David Clemens

Former student “Lamar” transferred to a University of California campus this semester and was surprised to find himself ordered to attend two mandatory “workshops,” one on alcohol abuse and the other on sexual assault.  “Lamar,” an adult in his 30s, Iraq War veteran, and parent, bridled at the paternalism/maternalism.  “State law,” explained the school, referring him to AB 1088 (a compilation of cooked data, murky definitions, and propaganda which does not mandate "workshops").

What next?” asked “Lamar.”  “An anti-tobacco workshop, a recycling workshop, an obesity workshop, a vegetarianism workshop?  Already PETA made the college dining halls start a `Meatless Monday.’”

It may come to that.  One neighboring community college just took an institutional position condemning the immigration law in another state.  Apparently, embedding the progressive agenda in textbooks and curriculum is not enough in our postmodern world.  Walter Truett Anderson says, “In education, postmodernism rejects the notion that the purpose of education is primarily to train a child’s cognitive capacity for reason . . . .  [Instead, postmodern education] is to take an essentially indeterminate being and give it a social identity.”  Mandatory workshops, it seems, are intended to bring that “indeterminate being” into conformance with “the campus culture” and “principles of community.”  The sign on this clubhouse reads “No Unprogressives Allowed.” Just yesterday, “Jennifer” came to me desperate to get out of her Women’s History class.  “I admit, I thought it would be an easy A,” she said, “but I also wanted to learn about the Enlightenment, and all I heard was how the Enlightenment  oppressed women.  Help!” Sorry, “Lamar” and “Jennifer;” you might have thought it died with the millennium but the baleful Political Correctness Zombie still stalks the halls of academe.

Taylor Moore

| September 24, 2010 - 3:57 AM

Is this blog serious, or is it a satire of conservative thought à la Stephen Colbert? Either way, I do hope there will be more of the perils of “Lamar.”

If (as I suspect) he is a marvelous creature of fiction, then I suggest—for a future episode—that the tortured youth should eventually succumb to the evil seductions of the liberal, social constructionist material being rammed down his throat. Feeling vaguely anemic after too many “meatless Mondays,” he could fall prey to a dewy-eyed Genders Studies GSI—leading to a torrid interlude during her “office hours” and a subsequent fascination with Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift. After this treacherous debacle, you and the other righteous NAS bloggers would have to stage an intervention and send him to a re-education camp, so that he can learn, once again, how to vehemently resent being forced to read too many books written by female or minority authors. Having proven his unfortunate susceptibility to the lures of the heaving feminist bosom, he must now leave the deviant University of California for some less dangerous (and conveniently conservative) institution. His re-education camp should require intensive reading of Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon—he should even sleep to a loop recording of it—until he can be returned to his “normal” scholarly identity and purged of the deadly contamination of multiculturalism.

David Clemens

| September 24, 2010 - 2:02 PM

Hi, Taylor,

I’m glad you enjoyed my post and were inspired to create such a clever and entertaining fairy tale.  Unfortunately, “Lamar” and “Jennifer” are real, their quotes are accurate, and what I describe transpired this week.

I make two points in the posting.  The first point is that the campus remains the host of offices, programs, and services of high cost and dubious value which promote and enforce pc interpretations of the world.  The second point is that more and more students are angry and frustrated taking aprioristic classes in which they don’t learn anything of substance.  Perhaps that is not your experience but it is theirs, and I hear it all the time.

Joshua Converse

| September 24, 2010 - 3:02 PM

Hi, I’m “Lamar”. I am a veteran and a father of two. I am attending UCSC to major in Literature.
I’m afraid it’s not a dream; the nanny state is alive and well and broadcasting from your campus. Rather than churches, charities, nonprofits and (God forbid) families educating the next generation about sexual mores and pitfalls or the dangers of alcohol and drugs the state has decided to do it for us. Isn’t that nice? I, for one, am glad that legislators (those notoriously scrupulous and moral choir boys) have the power to instruct me on how best to treat my liver and what to put in my body. Also, it’s a good thing they demand we attend a workshop or I might not have known that rape is a crime. Who knew?
Today was my first day at UC Santa Cruz and I’ve just gotten out of my first class which is entitled “US Canon 1900-Present”. This is the reading list:
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
My Antonia by Willa Cather
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Native Son by Richard Wright
Howl by Allen Ginsberg
Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez
Ironweed by William Kennedy
Beloved by Toni Morrison
And while I had hoped when I signed up for a heterogeneous discussion of important works by Fitzgerald, Emerson, Hemingway, Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Thornton Wilder, Hunter Thompson, and many influential others I’m saddled with a feminist postmodern litany condemning “the Patriarchy”.  I know because I read the syllabus and sat through a lecture that did not engage the first text “The Awakening” except in the last 5 minutes and only to point out the parallels between the author and the protagonist.  We heard talk of feminism and racism, but neither hide nor hair of what made this text “great” or what qualified it for consideration in the “American Canon” except that it was embraced in the late 60’s (as was Kate Chopin) by the feminist community which apparently felt she was a proto-feminist writer.
Oh, and we heard about critical reception being viciously opposed to an adulterous, feckless and amoral protagonist (all of which, we were assured in class, would be just fine in our modern “enlightened” age of discourse where women aren’t property and therefore free to commit adultery without anyone batting an eyelash.) 
So, that’s day one. Class one. I’m sure there’s worth and merit to some of these texts and I’m going to try to find it, but if we’re beating the “women and nonwhites have been terribly put upon” drum it’s going to be a long quarter; turns out it’s the only song that certain teachers know how to sing.


| September 24, 2010 - 4:21 PM

Given the constant publicity in conservative and other circles about the plague of binge-drinking on campuses, I should think that a little alcohol indoctrination would be welcome, however ineffective it is likely to be.  Certainly, the kids who smash glass all over my neighborhood after their drunken parties could use a little more.  Ditto with the sexual abuse stuff. It might not be appropriate for (most?) real adults, but we have to put up with a lot of things that don’t really fit our individual circumstances, don’t we?

The curriculum of the English program is another matter, and a separate one, in my opinion.  I doubt that a conservative English major who is an Iraq veteran to boot is likely to find what he wants at UC Santa Cruz.  What surprises me is that he’d be surprised.

Taylor Moore

| September 24, 2010 - 10:31 PM

“Lamar” lives!

From the books you mention, the teacher seems to be pursuing a chronological framework from just before 1900 to roughly late 80s. Emerson died in 1882, and was most prolific during the 1830s to mid-1840s, so he would be unlikely to appear in a class on “The US Canon from 1900-Present.”

In my personal opinion, I think Thornton Wilder would be an amazing addition, but I absolutely can’t stand Stein. Ever since a bad experience with Tender Buttons, I’ve had to avoid her entirely. “Food” provoked a nearly overwhelming wave of nausea during one classroom reading. For the first time since watching Red Asphalt in Driver’s Ed., I had to leave the class or risk an unfortunate physical reaction to the material. “What is a loving tongue and pepper and more fish than there is when tears many tears are necessary. The tongue and the salmon, there is not salmon when brown is a color, there is salmon when there is no meaning to an early morning being pleasanter.” Yuck, there are so many unfortunate ways to interpret it, and yet I wish that I had never read it at all. Thompson is too druggy and gets on my nerves. Hey, but I’m not drawing up your course list! Bwahaha, consider yourself lucky!

Anyway, “Lamar,” back to your suffering at the hands of the liberals: there’s certainly an apparent attempt on your prof’s part to avoid focusing exclusively on the “Great White Males,” but you’ve still got Faulkner (generally not the multicultis favorite man) and frankly misogynistic Ginsberg to balance it out a bit. It sounds like—with the exception of Thompson and Emerson—you were looking for a class on American literature that focused on the 20s through 40s and emphasized Modernism. You’re not likely to get that signing up for such a wide topic as the American Canon from 1900-Present.

@ Pr. Clemens: Thank you again for a most entertaining read. I confess to still hoping for more installments of the saga (from an unbiased viewpoint, of course).

Joshua Converse

| September 25, 2010 - 12:17 PM

It’s not the topic of alcohol or even the good intentions of the trainers that bother me, nor the fact that it doesn’t necessarily apply to me. What bothers me is that whatever topic is deemed fit can be made mandatory without any preview or information up front. Today it’s alcohol and sex, in future it could be…? If you don’t raise your voice when the state intrudes then there is no chance the state will stop intruding.

Also, in a class called “US Canon 1900-present” one would hope that even in a “liberal school” there would be more of a marketplace of ideas, not one PC drum. If we’re talking about something that all citizens should be universally intelligible about then having ideas of race and feminism in place of a presentation of various texts that are genuinely revelatory of 20th century literature just makes sense.

I brought up both up because the nanny state and the politically correct revisionist school are equally trying to control behavior instead of present material. Danger, Will Robinson!

Joshua Converse

| September 25, 2010 - 12:19 PM

Correction: Doesn’t make sense. Sorry.

Joshua Converse

| September 25, 2010 - 12:22 PM

I look forward to reading for the rest of my life and drawing my own conclusions. My concern is someone trying to present a world-view (any world view) as the only one.
It’s dangerous, I think, saying “These are the only texts you need.” And doubly so when each is marked by issues of sex, race and oppression. Surely, surely, there is more to Literature than that.

David Clemens

| September 25, 2010 - 2:23 PM

I think part of Joshua/Lamar’s complaint is that literary works are being treated not as products of the imagination but as sociological artifacts and pretexts for sociopoliical commentary.  I believe it was Denis Donoghue who said something to the effect that today professors “use literature to talk about things that interest them apart from literature.”  That American Canon reading list seems less literary and more a multicultural checklist.  Female: check.  Black: check.  Black female: check.  Gay: check.  Hispanic: check.  What else could explain Zoot Suit?

I’m against quotas but I would even argue that you could fill multiculti slots with better choices in terms of literary art such as Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison.  I will wait, fascinated, to see how As I Lay Dying will be handled.