Shh ... Fred Thompson has caught on
Fred Thompson has been making statements about the academy for the last few months. These statements make me wonder if he's ever actually been on a college campus. And if it's 1995.
Back in June, Thompson noted that a PhD student at Marquette University was forced to take down a quip from a Dave Barry column. The student had posted this quip on his office door. Thompson explains:
It read, "As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government." Of course, anybody who has ever heard of Dave Barry would know that he wasn't exactly suggesting insurrection.
The chair of the philosophy department felt that this was inappropriate content for an office door and issued a statement denouncing the Barry comments. Whether or not the chair of the department has a sense of humor, you can decide. But there's a point at which a chair at a private university probably has a right to tell his graduate students what is and is not appropriate to post on their office doors.
In his post about this, Thompson laments that " political correctness has crept into the halls of academia."
Huh? First of all. Well, um. First of all.
I can't even really respond to this all that well. I thought we were well past the days when being PC was creeping in. I thought that the BillO's and the David Horowitzes of the country were telling us that we're so far gone into political correctness that it's flooded the academy to the point that we can't have rational discourse. I think I'm having flashbacks to my first year of college (but I wouldn't know, really, being one of the PC junkies who can't use reason). The other thing that strikes me as odd about this -- and identifying this as PC -- is the fact that the event doesn't seem all that PC, given the usual complaint that PCers try to squelch a Republican point of view. Which the Barry quotation doesn't seem to be. The department chair described the words as "patently offensive" -- and any liberal worth her or his salt right now definitely doesn't trust the government.
The other thing that has me scratching my head about Thompson is his continued insistence that the Virginia Tech tragedy could have been avoided if only responsible adults (including students) would be permitted to carry guns on campuses. In April, he described the pro-gun-control people (like me) as being basically senseless. He explains that we who want gun control believe that
Some people think that power should exist only at the top, and everybody else should rely on "the authorities" for protection.
Yes, that's it indeed. I am a stand in for the patriarchy because I don't want people toting guns around.
Thompson has clearly never been in a room with a lot of angry undergraduates. I always hated the day I returned papers to my students. I would basically fling them at my students and run away to hide in my office. Now I use Blackboard to return everything to my students, but they're still sort of grumpy the next class. I've had students attempt to intimidate me. Nothing violent, of course, but that sort of posturing that a young man with a sense of entitlement goes through. I'm a relatively small, blonde woman. And I'm still relatively young. This is improving as I age, but I still have the student who clearly thinks he (sorry ... it's almost always he) can intimidate me.
They can't. But still. I've had enough moments as an instructor (and as a high school teacher) when I momentarily feared for my own safety that I don't want to even think about the possibility of students having weapons.
I admit it. I am afraid of guns. I lost many high school classmates to gun violence. I, like many people who have spent most of their lives in cities, am uncomfortable with the idea that people would run around with their guns, permits or not.
Thompson does point to some things that I'm more amenable to. I don't really think we need all that much "military history," but I understand that some people feel that we should have more of it (for crying out loud, I write about the most banal of the banal -- the middle class family that doesn't have too many problems). I'm at least willing to listen to such an argument.
But when he talks about it, he works to get that dig in against higher education in its current form. Which is just not going to persuade me. He explains that colleges and universities these days are different:
At Vanderbilt, where I got my law degree, I hear you can take courses in third wave feminism or colonial governmentality.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Well, perhaps I understand what those words mean because I am an academic. Or because I went to college in the 1990s and I learned about those things. But I also learned American History from the Civil War to World War I. And about the New Testament (ELCA school). While I agree that it's a shame that our students don't always know about important moments in warfare (um ... the dropping of the atomic bomb comes to mind. You know, the most important thing that happened on August 6th?). But to assume that courses in women's studies have taken the place of all other topics doesn't follow. Nor does the fact that those topics are not very, very relevant to the current state of the world. Because they are.
The other thing that Thompson has discussed is the impending shortage of nurses. He has, of course, some digs to get in:
You might think that, with nursing jobs going unfilled, our universities would be recruiting nurses as fast as they could. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has reported more than 42,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing schools last year because of lack of capacity. More will be turned down every year -- unless we can rapidly expand our nurse training programs.
Okay. I understand that we might be facing a shortage of nurses with the aging of the boomers. But don't we want them to be qualified? And really, this seems like something we've been talking about for years.
I realize that this is taking up too much space in my brain (and quite likely, this blog), but I can't help it. I can't help becoming annoyed with this stuff.
So now you can be annoyed too.
I'm going to go and be PC now. And have a vagina. That's all I know, because that's when I went to college.