Every once in a while I surf to some websites that deal with higher education policy and how freedom of speech is being handled on college campuses. The website (called Minding the Campus and linked to the left) posted an article the other day regarding a “Loyalty Oath” that professors are being asked to sign on to at Virginia Tech. I did a little bit of digging and the entire text of the loyalty oath can be contrived from the information posted at this link.
Honestly, it’s gratuitously boring and not worth getting into the details on the text itself on this blog. However, the Minding the Campus website did make the following comment in its article:
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) is attempting to force faculty to take an ideological oath to “diversity.” Promotion and tenure will depend on a willingness to embrace the vague but militant ideology dear to the left side of the political spectrum.
And the article goes on a little bit more with a quote from a critic of the policy. From my view – which is admittedly the 10,000 feet above the issue level – I never really liked the concept of a forced diversity in terms of developing a curriculum or a pedagogy. In other words, I think history should be taught as it was, I think the great works of literature that influenced the world should be taught as they are, I think that testing should be provided based on the minimum levels needed to succeed in society and not include any type of cultural or socioeconomic bias.
It’s a tough thing to write about in this type of blog entry format, but maybe an example will help. As an English major in college, I was forced to take a class called African Women’s Literature. That’s cool – I like to study up on new topics within the realm of what I “like” and English was obviously a subject that I liked. However, the class was so far out of sync with the rest of the curriculum that it was truly an awkward (not educational) experience. I know why the course is included in the curriculum at the time – to increase the diversity of study for English majors. However, most if not all of the concepts, readings, and discussions from that class are completely gone from my mind now because they have no bearing on anything around me…and this is coming from a guy who frequently volunteers his time in black communities.
And that’s just it…that’s the point. When a university is trying to integrate “diversity” into its foundation, they generally wind up missing the point entirely. If my alma mater wanted to be sure that its English students received worthy instruction on topics related to the black population or are historically famous in black literature, then there are any number of excellent American authors, politicians, and activists that could have fit that bill, but within the context of non-racially segregated themed courses. To say it another way, why couldn’t we cover W.E.B. DuBois when we talked about early 20th Century literature? Why couldn’t we talk about Frederick Douglass when we studied war-related literature?
As it turns out, my old college canceled the course in African Women’s Literature (thank God). I guess someone with some stroke over there had the same thought that I had and the same thought that Minding the Campus has regarding the situation at Virginia Tech.