Monday, September 30, 2013

Power to the People -- The Right People, I Mean

Here's another useful bit from Lawrence W. Levine's The Opening of the American Mind, which I'm very glad I decided to reread:
Critics of the contemporary university have maintained that for too many professors there is no longer any "objective" truth; everything has become subjective.  "An increasingly influential view," Lynn Cheney charged in 1992, "is that there is no truth to tell.  What we think of as truth is merely a cultural construct, serving to empower some and oppress others.  Since power and politics are part of every quest for knowledge -- so it is argued -- professors are perfectly justified in using the classroom to advance political agendas" [158].
Levine has his own answer to Cheney's accusation, but I want to go off in another direction.  I thought that conservatives (which means not only people like the Cheney crime family but academics like Arthur Schlesinger Jr.) thought -- hell, insisted -- that it's not only perfectly correct but highly desirable to use the classroom to advance political agendas, as long as the agenda advanced is the celebration of American might, righteousness, and exceptionalism.  I'm almost tempted to find a copy of Cheney's screed (Telling the Truth: A Report on the State of the Humanities in Higher Education [Washington DC: National Endowment for the Humanities, September 1992) and read Cheney's complaint in context.  Surely she wouldn't want our students to be denied proper indoctrination -- oops, I mean "instruction," of course! -- in Our Country's greatness?  That is what our schools are for, isn't it?