Georgia universities to purge “racy” classes like queer theory

Because it’s “not considered higher education.” They’re specifically going after professors and trying to get them fired.

Byrd and her supporters, including state Rep. Calvin Hill, R-Canton, said they will team with the Christian Coalition and other religious groups to pressure fellow lawmakers and the University System Board of Regents to eliminate the jobs.

“Our job is to educate our people in sciences, business, math,” said Hill, a vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. He said professors aren’t going to meet those needs “by teaching a class in queer theory.”

It seems to me that Hill and Byrd don’t really seem to grasp the purpose of higher education. Hint: It’s not Christian Soldier Vocational School.

Thanks to Liz for the link.


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73 comments for “Georgia universities to purge “racy” classes like queer theory

  1. Chris
    February 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    “Our job is to educate our people in sciences, business, math,” said Hill, a vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. He said professors aren’t going to meet those needs “by teaching a class in queer theory.”

    Um, no. There’s also English, Sociology, History…and queer theory would apply to any of those departments. Fucking morons.

  2. AL
    February 11, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    ugh. what idiots.

  3. norbizness
    February 11, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Until I read a few stories from actual students in Georgia in the Feministing thread, I would have thought that trying to take a good queer theory class in the Bible Belt would have been like trying to find a decent bagel in the Antarctic.

  4. Arkady
    February 11, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Wonder if they’d throw behavioural parts of Zoology away in the purge. After all, can’t teach the students what all them darn dirty animals get up to, especially bonobos. And even bacteria can be sluts, how do you think all those antibiotic-resistance genes move around? ;-)

    At least the cuts in UK universities are based on ‘research importance’ ratings rather than ‘moral reasons’ . If a department at a major university drops below ‘international excellence’, it loses a lot of funding and often faces closure or restructuring. Science departments are particularly hard-hit as they cost more to teach than book-based subjects. My old uni came close to shutting Architecture (saved, but downsized), and merged Physiology with Anatomy when the former dropped to ‘nationally important’.

  5. cbrachyrhynchos
    February 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Hrm, how much of the faculty salary budget comes from the Statehouse? At the last big state university I worked at the Statehouse budget was mostly capital funds.

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the bill is dead in committee after two of the faculty challenged testified in hearings. It turns out that the “prostitution expert” works as a consultant for the CDC, and the “oral sex expert’s” research is on adolescent sexual behavior, also with an eye to STD prevention. With Georgia having one of the highest HIV rates in the nation, their work is pretty important.

    @norbizness: Yes, because it’s all bible studies and nascar down here. Yeeehaw!

  6. ipens
    February 11, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    According to the AJC today, the lawmakers in question are blaming the media for blowing it all out of proportion: http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2009/02/11/legsex0211.html%3Fcxntlid%3Dinform_artr

    Ironically, Rep. Calvin Hill, one of the leaders of the movement, said, ““It’s been taken sideways by people who like the titillating words.”

    I suppose these are people unlike him. (He also argued that, in a time of crisis, universities shouldn’t offer classes that don’t help students get jobs. I’m pretty sure none of the math classes that I was made to take helped me get my current job, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. The decision about which classes are deemed important based on their ability to train students for jobs seems to be a round about way of insinuating that there are some jobs – maybe like STD prevention, according to this type of reasoning – that shouldn’t exist in the first place.)

  7. cbrachyrhynchos
    February 11, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Actually, I think this sort of thing could possibly be good for the challenged departments. When a blowhard in the Indiana state legislature started making noise about economically punishing Indiana University for its newly-formed GLBT Support Services (with a yearly budget of $50,000) the office in question quickly found its self the beneficiary of a perpetual endowment.

  8. Sara
    February 11, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    WTF is up with that AP headline? “Steamy sex courses fire GOP’s ire”?!? Objective journalism at its finest folks. These aren’t sex courses. These are academic explorations of issues like sexuality and the queer experience. Acting like these topics aren’t worthy of study is telling people that you don’t count – your sexuality, your gender identity are not worthy of consideration. Wonder how long until post-racial America decides that Pan-African or Asian studies courses are also useless?

  9. exholt
    February 11, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Wonder how long until post-racial America decides that Pan-African or Asian studies courses are also useless?

    FYI, this has already been happening on and off for the last 4 decades.

    What’s more funny is that there has been recent talk of eliminating area studies departments such as East/South Asian Studies despite the fact they have been gaining popularity among the academic and preprofessional undergrads and the fact they were initially set up, in part, to aid US foreign policy/business interests.

  10. exholt
    February 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    I suppose these are people unlike him. (He also argued that, in a time of crisis, universities shouldn’t offer classes that don’t help students get jobs. I’m pretty sure none of the math classes that I was made to take helped me get my current job, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. The decision about which classes are deemed important based on their ability to train students for jobs seems to be a round about way of insinuating that there are some jobs – maybe like STD prevention, according to this type of reasoning – that shouldn’t exist in the first place.)

    This mentality of reducing public education to “practical basics” is one factor in causing most upper/middle-class families to send their kids to expensive private/boarding schools…..a development that doesn’t help public school systems……or the great racial/class educational divide that results from such decisions…..

  11. exholt
    February 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    agg…forgot to mention that this divide is in the context of states with extremely poor public education systems due to decades of neglect…..such as Mississippi’s or Hawaii’s…..where there seems to be a common upper/middle class perception that one’s kids are doomed to struggling/flunking out of college if they don’t attend a fancy expensive private school in-state or better yet, in the Northeast……

  12. SEK
    February 11, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Looks like it’s not happening now. Score one for sunlight!

  13. Alex, FCD
    February 11, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    They’re specifically going after professors and trying to get them fired.

    Leaving the rest of the issues aside, don’t these people have tenure? You can’t just fire full professors at a whim.

  14. cathy
    February 11, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    It is my experience that Professors who teach queer studies classes usually teach something else too. The teacher teaching the queer theory class I’m in this semester also teaches History classes (Yup, history, specializing in the Early Middle Ages) there’s another class taught by a Broadcasting and Journalism Professor and a couple of Women’s Studies Professors. But then again, they probably want to eliminate all of those other fields too (Damn you history! Someone might learn that the way things are isn’t the way things have always been! (BTW did you know gay marriage was legal in
    Ancient Rome?))…I’m a philosophy major, they probably want to kill that off too.

  15. Ellen
    February 11, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    I attend this university, 2 of the teacher’s are in my department. This was quite the soap opera this week. One of my teachers was really pissed she wasn’t targeted. There is an update, although poorly written:

    http://www.ajc.com/services/content/metro/stories/2009/02/10/legislature_sex_experts.html

    The legislator was from rural GA. And he really fucked up. He ended up looking like a huge jackass. One of the professors he wanted to fire brings millions of dollars of grant money into the university.

    By the way, Exholt, We are not all that back assed in GA.

  16. Kristin
    February 11, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Yeah, this kind of thing has been happening to public institutions for *years.* Since we’re supported by taxpayer dollars, we’re also the most susceptible to bigoted assaults on academic freedom.

  17. February 11, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    I have to say that the feminist blogosphere sort of missed the boat on this one. The issue has largely been dropped.

  18. Kristin
    February 11, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    norbizness:

    “Until I read a few stories from actual students in Georgia in the Feministing thread, I would have thought that trying to take a good queer theory class in the Bible Belt would have been like trying to find a decent bagel in the Antarctic.”

    Um… I could *so* live with out this kind of backhanded, classist, superior posturing about the South. I’m from the South. I’m from a place that counts as the Bible Belt.

    In my adult life, I’ve lived in Montreal, the District of Columbia, and a suburban town in Pennsylvania. Guess where I felt safest as an out queer person? That’s right… Down South, in the progressive and very queer-friendly community where I went to college. I am so sick of the grandstanding and sick of progressives who think they’re better and smarter than us “backwoods Southern rednecks.” Seriously. Not. Appreciated.

  19. Ellen
    February 11, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    I actually get more pissed at the people who think they can tell if research is worthwhile, and if government grant money should pay for it, after they have read the title, while never having read the lit review.

  20. exholt
    February 11, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    By the way, Exholt, We are not all that back assed in GA

    I was speaking more to the mentality of the “legistator” who was advocating cuts in classes such as Queer Theory or others of his ilk who have called for the same cuts in any field ending with “Studies”.

    As for my citing Mississippi and Hawaii, my info is from relatives and undergrad classmates who witnessed/experienced this upper/middle-class mentality while growing up in those states.

  21. Ellen
    February 11, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    I read your post rather quickly. It wasn’t actually that offensive. sorry. I should have directed that to norbizness. But I do actually disagree a bit. I think the move to private schools is mostly due to white flight, which happened in every major city in the country. If you ask any parent who has moved their child to a suburban or private school (because of the quality) about the curriculum, they usually know very little. They do however, know the racial make-up.

  22. February 12, 2009 at 5:16 am

    The idea of anyone finding Queer Theory “racy” is absolutely hilarious to me.

  23. Marianne
    February 12, 2009 at 8:12 am

    good thing I didn’t go to Georgia to get my women’s studies degree, or else they might throw the whole thing out due to its teaching me to be aware of race, class, and gender issues. completely unnecessary, obviously!

  24. CBrachyrhynchos
    February 12, 2009 at 8:13 am

    @Alex, FCD: Certainly, and its a pretty standard cultural conservative argument that tenure is how the anti-American ivory tower liberal institutions protect their own. After 9-11, there was a lot of noise about purging U.S. faculty of “anti-American” faculty.

  25. ROXIE
    February 12, 2009 at 8:27 am

    woo-hoo Stombler is an AWESOME professor. I’m surprised Kubala wasn’t there.

  26. norbizness
    February 12, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Kristin: I’ve lived all my life in either East or Central Texas. Nowhere in my comment did I insinuate that one couldn’t find a queer-friendly community in Georgia, but where college funding is dependent on the majority of Georgian legislators (not the most queer-friendly community, just like I’d classify Texas’ legislators), I was somewhat surprised to see that any sort of queer studies programs existed at public universities in a political climate.

  27. Ellen
    February 12, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Ironically, one of the professors in the debacle used to teach in TX. College funding isn’t solely dependent on the legislators, if it were, you wouldn’t have queer theory classes in any public school in any state. There are closed minded conservative legislators all over this country.

  28. piny
    February 12, 2009 at 11:00 am

    This mentality of reducing public education to “practical basics” is one factor in causing most upper/middle-class families to send their kids to expensive private/boarding schools…..a development that doesn’t help public school systems……or the great racial/class educational divide that results from such decisions…..

    Well, and why not? It’s telling them that the plebes don’t have any right to learn anything outside of a vocational curricula. No liberal arts, no deep thinking, no study of the wider world: that’s not the upwardly-mobile track. It’s not how you become a legislator, for example. Wealthier parents never insist that their kids aren’t profiting from a comprehensive education.

  29. Kristin
    February 12, 2009 at 11:24 am

    “Kristin: I’ve lived all my life in either East or Central Texas. Nowhere in my comment did I insinuate that one couldn’t find a queer-friendly community in Georgia, but where college funding is dependent on the majority of Georgian legislators (not the most queer-friendly community, just like I’d classify Texas’ legislators), I was somewhat surprised to see that any sort of queer studies programs existed at public universities in a political climate.”

    norbizness: I’ve no problem with this statement. Thank you for clarifying.

  30. CTD
    February 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I have no problem shutting down these silly pseudo-disciplines. (And it has nothing to do with sex.) In my experience these Whatever-Studies programs are of highly dubious academic merit, taught by faculty who skate by largely on their political views and activism instead of their scholarship, and taught to middling-to-bottom-tier students who aren’t able to hack it in an actual, grown-up field. They end up costing students tens of thousands of dollars to obtain a near-worthless degree and giving them no marketable skills.

    Flame on. I’ll get you started: I hate women. And probably gays, too. Definitely brown people. I’m a repressed sexual prude as well, possibly even a fundy…

  31. exholt
    February 12, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    But I do actually disagree a bit. I think the move to private schools is mostly due to white flight, which happened in every major city in the country. If you ask any parent who has moved their child to a suburban or private school (because of the quality) about the curriculum, they usually know very little. They do however, know the racial make-up.

    I mentioned that the reduction of public school curriculum to “practical basics” was a factor…not the definitive one.

    I agree that White flight and the racism/classism is the main factor.

    I will disagree that most parents don’t know about the curriculum as IME…most upper/middle class Americans who automatically assume private schools are always better than public counterparts tend to brag endlessly about the “superior curriculum” compared to the local high schools in their region…….forgetting to realize that a major reason for the poor state of the public schools was because they done things like voted down taxes to support local schools or effectively encouraged their neglect through their inaction as they didn’t have as much of a stake in the issue.

    In so doing, they also forget that 1). Not all public schools are necessarily inferior to their private counterparts…especially if you examine those in other regions/states and 2.) There are plenty of crappy private schools whose curriculums wouldn’t fulfill the minimal graduation requirements of public schools in many states.

    From hearing some of the braggings from most of those socio-economically privileged parents and undergrad classmates…..I was floored to find there were many private schools whose graduation requirements would be considered a complete joke by those set by my NYC area public urban magnet high school. 2 years of “rocks for jocks” type science classes without lab, 3 or less years of English, Social Studies/History, or being able to graduate without at least fulfilling the prereqs to take precalculus were some of the private school requirements my private school educated undergrad classmates were allowed to get away with. Attempting to pull that at my public magnet high school…or most NYC area public high schools’ I know of would mean you simply wouldn’t be allowed to graduate.

    Of course, the fact that there are many private schools with such mediocre “college-prep” curricula unfortunately underscores just how far K-12 education has deteriorated in the US, public or private.

  32. Ellen
    February 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    That might be another issue entirely. Many people get into Ivy league schools that come from the top 16 private boarding schools with SAT scores under 1050. You couldn’t get in with those scores coming from a public school, even a selective NYC magnet school. In fact you couldn’t get into many state schools with that score. But at that level they are accepting you on the chances of you giving to their endowments, not on the probability of your academic success.

  33. ohcomeon
    February 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Can someone tell me what “queer theory” even is? It sounds like a self-esteem class for gay people. You want to know why academia is being attacked constantly? Over-indulgence in feelings-oriented, everyone-gets-an-A, liberals arts departments and majors. Ironically, the “enlightened” denizens of these subjects tend to be ignorant of all subjects without the buzzwords “oppression”, “power structure”, and “post-colonial” in them.

    Meanwhile, the US drowns in ignorance. Creationism, anti-vaccine mania, climate change denial, all have experienced massive increases in popularity. Our science and engineering departments take more overseas students than ever; the total fraction of college graduates with technical degree is shrinking even as more Americans graduate from universities than ever before. Still the best in the world, American technical education. But it isn’t sexy. It’s hard. Not everyone gets an A. No one cares if you’ve been oppressed.

    So these foreign students come and get educated, well, by our universities. Then they go home and make their country more competitive versus our own. We’re losing our ability to compete. But, hey, queer theory or whatever. Oppression. White people. Etc. This is what is important – grievance. Screw actually learning something. You go to college to find yourself, experiment with sex, and so on. Hopefully get famous as a performance artist.

    Reason is dead.

  34. Kristin
    February 12, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Ellen at 31: Isn’t that usually about legacy admissions? That’s how Bush became an Ivy graduate, as I recall.

    Yeah, no one from my public high school got into Ivy Leagues without a perfect SAT score, actually. And I went to a damned good public school.

  35. Ellen
    February 12, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    It’s both.

  36. exholt
    February 12, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Ellen at 31: Isn’t that usually about legacy admissions? That’s how Bush became an Ivy graduate, as I recall.

    Though one cannot completely ignore the boarding school name factor, the main factor in those kids gaining admission was their family’s socio-economic privilege/legacy status….at least according to friends/relatives who worked Ivy admissions and friends/relatives who attended Ivys. If you have the money/fame/legacy status….you’re in…name of school is more of an incidental factor.

    Yeah, no one from my public high school got into Ivy Leagues without a perfect SAT score, actually. And I went to a damned good public school.

    Most in my urban public magnet high school senior class who were admitted to at least one Ivy did not score anywhere near perfect(1150-1400/1600) and from my recollection…between 20-30% of my senior class of around 700 gained admission to at least one Ivy or Ivy-level school like MIT or Stanford.

    Also….I gained admission as a scholarship student to a well-respected private liberal arts college despite having graduated high school with a class standing not too far removed from the undergrad rankings of Senator John S. McCain or VP Joe Biden….though my SATs were a few points higher than 1050….

  37. February 12, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    In defense of the Ivies–I went to a public school, didn’t have perfect SAT scores, and was given a sizable scholarship to go to one of ’em. I was the first person in my family to attend college, no legacy. They also give anyone below a certain income level a full scholarship now. Ivy bashing annoys the hell out of me.

  38. February 12, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Sure, ocomeon, I’ll tell you EXACTLY what queer theory is:

    Queer theory encompasses several fields: history, law, cultural studies, and literature, to name four. Professors who sub-specialize in queer theory focus on the ways in which, for example, literature has historically dealt with homosexuality, transgendered people, and the concept of sexuality in general (although this is blurring a little with Women’s Studies). Some new departments are calling themselves’ simply “Gender Studies.”

    The entire concept of how “gender” is not linked directly to biological “sex” comes out of these fields. As does the de-pathologization of homosexuality.

    I am totally pro more more more science education. I am also against grade inflation in the humanities. Better science education has to start in high school, however, to be effective in college. And women and/or the whole LGBT spectrum wouldn’t think it was “ok” for them to major in it without Queer Studies/Women’s Studies. And men would still think it was just dandy to exclude them. This shit is IMPORTANT, you moron.

  39. Kristin
    February 12, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    chava: We’re “legacy system” bashing, not Ivy bashing. And you’re a minority among Ivy graduates.

  40. Kristin
    February 12, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Well, we know from that other thread that ohcomeon is a fucking troll.

  41. ohcomeon
    February 12, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    “I am totally pro more more more science education. I am also against grade inflation in the humanities. Better science education has to start in high school, however, to be effective in college. And women and/or the whole LGBT spectrum wouldn’t think it was “ok” for them to major in it without Queer Studies/Women’s Studies. And men would still think it was just dandy to exclude them. This shit is IMPORTANT, you moron.”

    chava thank you for the clarification and I agree with very much with this last paragraph (except for maybe that moron part). I totally agree that there is a need for Women’s Studies – especially in how it helps get women involved in substantive fields. But my larger point stands – science education is important. Most important, I’d say since technical education, unlike the humanities, requires more than simply reading a book one could read on his/her own time. It’s hard. it isn’t sexy. One does not achieve self actualization. One does learn though. And innumeracy and scientific ignorance are rife in this nation and getting worse, and the emphasis on the humanities, especially the most feelings-oriented of them, is a mistake. This doesn’t even address the horrendous “Nobody’s wrong, reality is what you make of it” everyone-gets-an-A aspects of the disciplines.

    We’re losing our competitive edge despite being home to the best universities in the world for technical education. The weakness of high school science education is no excuse to not emphasize ir in university. But that is what’s happening. Science is expensive. And scientists are dorky. Not cool like postmodernism professors. But they’re smarter and harder to come by. And what they do is IMPORTANT, you moron (TIC).

    PS – Kristin has quite the mouth.

  42. February 12, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    I’m married to a scientist and hence a nice chunk of our friends are bench scientists (he’s a statistics/systems guy and an MD), so yes, I know ALL about that “not cool” part, lol. I still maintain that we have to start with better science education in high school. I am continually amazed at my colleagues in the humanities than need me to explain basic calc to them.

    However, I really don’t see the contradiction here. Why can’t we have bench scientists AND Queer studies profs. Last time I look Penn was building new biomedical buildings, not new Humanities buildings. They have billions of dollars in new research money and construction–we got ONE English building rehabbed. And that’s as it should be! But don’t make it out like we are stealing all the scientist’s monies, for heaven’s sake. Auburn U in AL offers a material engineering scholarship, not an English one, etc, etc. If you want to build up interest in science you’ve got to get ’em young. In large part college is too late to develop numeracy.

  43. February 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Quite the mouth? Seriously? Aaaand this is why I called you a moron. Rest of your last post was just dandy. Thanks for trying to have a civil discussion.

  44. cbrachyrhynchos
    February 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Well, I don’t know that the sciences are not getting any love. And the research in queer studies is, among other things, critically important to the state of Georgia because we have a mostly uncontrolled HIV epidemic on our hands. The costs of a faculty salary in those fields (even assuming that it comes from the Statehouse to begin with) are much less than the healthcare costs we are facing, and understanding the socio-cultural landscape around homosexuality and sexuality is essential to creating prevention programs that work.

  45. RonDavis
    February 12, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Why did “Jill” post this headline:
    “Georgia universities to purge “racy” classes like queer theory” and then go to post a bit from a news story that says a bunch of right-wing extremists WANT to purge certain classes?
    It doesn’t say Georgia universities are going to do anything.
    It says the usual right-wing nutbags want to do the things right-wing nutbags usually do, not a thing about the universities doing anything. I take it “Jill” was not a journalism major, or in her rush to foment outrage she just skipped really reading important parts of it, such as, “The regents, who oversee the state’s colleges and universities, has bristled at attempts by legislators to dictate who they should hire.”

    Are we in such a mad rush for clicks we throw the truth out the window?

  46. ohcomeon
    February 12, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    “Quite the mouth? Seriously? Aaaand this is why I called you a moron. Rest of your last post was just dandy. Thanks for trying to have a civil discussion.”

    Kristin has been using quite a bit of foul language in reference to me because I am unwilling to play the “north as bad as south” game. But that’s cool. I think my larger point stands – too much emphasis on humanities subjects is damaging the US in two ways. First, it makes the US less competitive vis a vis other developed and rapidly developing nations. Second, it encourages innumeracy and scientific irrationality. That last one is at least partly responsible for the rise in creationism, ant-vaccine mania, climate change denial, and so on.

    And I lay it at the feet of collegiate administrators who want to emphasize the humanities over science. I think this is bad. I mean, I see value in (we’ll use the umbrella term) Gender Studies as a *discipline*. It is in my view senseless for anyone to get a degree in such a field (except for that fraction of individuals intent on becoming an academic in that field), or most humanities subjects, and that hurts our nation. Just because it’s good to have a philosophy department does not mean it’s good to pump out philosophy majors at the expense of chemical engineers, or biochemists. What a waste.

    Thanks for trying to be civil(?), moron(???).

  47. Kristin
    February 12, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    “Quite the mouth? Seriously? Aaaand this is why I called you a moron.”

    Let me second that. It’s awesome to come to a feminist blog and be greeted by a homophobic, sexist asshat. It really is. Anyway, let me get back to prepping for my Self Esteem for Gay People class. /snark

  48. ohcomeon
    February 12, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    “It’s awesome to come to a feminist blog and be greeted by a homophobic, sexist asshat. It really is. Anyway, let me get back to prepping for my Self Esteem for Gay People class. /snark”

    It’s just a shame, that’s all. Newton, Tesla, Darwin, out the door. Gimme that post modern deconstruction!

  49. February 12, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    *shrug* Ohcomeon–I had a comment a few posts ago that responded to your comments, but it’s “awaiting moderation.”

    cbrach: I didn’t know that about Georgia. Hopefully Obama will cease the Bush policy of restricting funds to AIDS research. Would point out that you need QS profs alongside hard science and policy people all working together in the face of the modern AIDS epidemic.

  50. Kristin
    February 12, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    “And I lay it at the feet of collegiate administrators who want to emphasize the humanities over science.”

    Who *are* these people? Obviously, everyone I know all over the humanities is *way* the fuck out of the loop. But, you know, feel free to tip me off on who these humanities people are with such a Shit Load of Money. It would rock if they could fund me a little better…

  51. February 12, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    sigh, ok, it seems to have been eaten by the system so I’ll re-post it, apologies to anyone if this is inappropriate or gets a double post:

    I’m married to a scientist and hence a nice chunk of our friends are bench scientists (he’s a statistics/systems guy and an MD), so yes, I know ALL about that “not cool” part, lol. I still maintain that we have to start with better science education in high school. I am continually amazed at my colleagues in the humanities than need me to explain basic calc to them.

    However, I really don’t see the contradiction here. Why can’t we have bench scientists AND Queer studies profs. Last time I look Penn was building new biomedical buildings, not new Humanities buildings. They have billions of dollars in new research money and construction–we got ONE English building rehabbed. And that’s as it should be! But don’t make it out like we are stealing all the scientist’s monies, for heaven’s sake. Auburn U in AL offers a material engineering scholarship, not an English one, etc, etc. If you want to build up interest in science you’ve got to get ‘em young. In large part college is too late to develop numeracy.

  52. Kristin
    February 12, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    I mean, I’m gettin’ my PhD at the Top American School for Postmodern Deconstruction ‘n’ everything… *sigh*

  53. cbrachyrhynchos
    February 12, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Second, it encourages innumeracy and scientific irrationality. That last one is at least partly responsible for the rise in creationism, ant-vaccine mania, climate change denial, and so on.

    I find the argument that a phantom (because IME it doesn’t exist) emphasis on the humanities promotes pseudoscience to be rather weak. Because the last I checked, a liberal arts education required basic coursework in the natural sciences and math.

    It is in my view senseless for anyone to get a degree in such a field (except for that fraction of individuals intent on becoming an academic in that field), or most humanities subjects, and that hurts our nation. Just because it’s good to have a philosophy department does not mean it’s good to pump out philosophy majors at the expense of chemical engineers, or biochemists.

    Except that we also need people who work as educators, designers, business managers, writers, doctors, and lawyers, all of whom can benefit from the interdisciplinary background of the humanities. Lets take for example the world of business which is increasingly under pressure to adopt a stronger ethical way of operating, or the world of medicine where education, communication, and the ability to reach underserved populations are critical problems.

  54. ohcomeon
    February 12, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    “Who *are* these people? Obviously, everyone I know all over the humanities is *way* the fuck out of the loop. But, you know, feel free to tip me off on who these humanities people are with such a Shit Load of Money. It would rock if they could fund me a little better…”

    Kristin, you don’t like having your opinion challenged, do you?

    Technical education isn’t Christian Soldier Vocational Training, or whatever. It teaches a person to think. And those departments have to reach out around the world to find qualified faculty and grad students. Why? More people than ever want their humanities and arts degrees. These, Kristin, cost less for the university to pump than a degree that requires lab time and highly qualified, sought after (read: expensive) faculty. And their research, actually being about finding things out, not advancing a point of view, costs.

    And to the Queer Theory/AIDS connection – you know how you defeat a retrovirus, especially one as insidiously evil as HIV? With scientific research, not dissertations on whether Alexander the Great or Lincoln or Jesus or whoever was gay.

  55. February 12, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    or…gasp…bioethics! Those pesky ethics people!

  56. Kristin
    February 12, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    PUH-LEEEASE can someone tell me how to enter this alternate universe wherein philosophy PhDs are faring better than engineers?

  57. ohcomeon
    February 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    “Because the last I checked, a liberal arts education required basic coursework in the natural sciences and math”

    OK, there are core general education classes. But you know what? They’re science classes “for non-science majors”. That is usually mentioned in the coursebooks. And the difference in depth, difficulty, and sheer mass of information is stark.

    chava:

    Thanks for the reply. They aren’t mutually exclusive, no. But, it seems to me that there is a de-emphasis on science going on at all levels of education. And no, numeracy cannot be taught at the college level. But if A’s parents don’t have science degrees, and they’re trending to be less likely to have them, then A is less likely to develop an interest in things technical. This is a big problem, in my opinion, and ever more departments dedicated to Oppression! doesn’t help. Learning about oppression is important; but, man, so is learning about physics, or DNA. And we do less and less of that. Science isn’t cool. Science isn’t MTV. Science doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, etc.

    It’s very sad.

  58. February 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    me too! me too! I want in! Can I have their magical ability to never have to defend what they do at dinner parties too?

  59. Kristin
    February 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    chava:

    “me too! me too! I want in! Can I have their magical ability to never have to defend what they do at dinner parties too?”

    That would indeed kick ass.

  60. GallingGalla
    February 12, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    “Quite the mouth”? ohcomeon, you haven’t heard from my mouth until now. Wanna see how much of a bitch I can be, when people like you come onto a feminist blog and throw around sexist shit like this, not to mention racist and classist shit on the other thread?

    Hey mods, I think we need a ban here? like now? this dude’s hijacked two threads and blatantly attacked a whole bunch of women. enough’s enough.

  61. piny
    February 12, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Ohcomeon, you came onto this thread asking what queer theory “even is.” In other words, you have no idea what you’re talking about. You obviously haven’t used any of your own time to read or glance at any of those stupid, frivolous books, despite your deep reserves of intelligence and scholarly discipline. So why do you feel qualified to comment on the worth of queer theory or to tell queer theorists what they can and cannot demand from academia? Are you a casualty of the war against critical thinking? Stunted child of a post-empirical age? Because you don’t make much sense.

  62. exholt
    February 12, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    As for the science vs arts/humanities/social sciences wars that a few commentators referenced, I don’t know where ohcomeon is getting his/her info from….but nearly every major college/university I’ve visited/attended has promoted pure and technical sciences just as much as…if not more than their arts/humanities/social sciences counterpart.

    This is including the private liberal arts college I attended as an undergrad which has been renowned for its strengths in arts, humanities, and social sciences…but also in pure scientific fields such as biology, chemistry, and most notably….neuroscience. Several classmates I knew who were science majors or *shudder* double majored in a science and arts/humanities/social science field such as East Asian Studies/Neuroscience or Violin/Biology are now pursuing science PhDs at topflight programs at places such as Stanford, MIT, and Harvard. I’ve even known classmates who did the 3-2 Liberal Arts/Engineering program which meant they had the options to pursue their subsequent engineering education at places like Case Western U, Columbia Engineering, or Caltech.

    And speaking for myself…though I majored in history, I have been working in the IT field since I was an still an undergrad. What’s more funny is that I’ve witnessed too many instances where people with Engineering/CS or other “hard science” degrees were so clueless with using computers/operating systems to the point they had to be helped out by those of us with “useless degrees” such as myself or a few colleagues with English lit, Poli-sci, and Anthropology degrees.

  63. piny
    February 12, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    As for the science vs arts/humanities/social sciences wars that a few commentators referenced, I don’t know where ohcomeon is getting his/her info from….but nearly every major college/university I’ve visited/attended has promoted pure and technical sciences just as much as…if not more than their arts/humanities/social sciences counterpart.

    No shit. “Well, you can always teach,” isn’t something you hear if you decide to become a chemist or an engineer, is it?

    There’s also the issue of empiricism without context. In order to think clearly, you have to develop some theoretical acquaintance with your own unexamined assumptions. You have to know how reasoning can fail, and you need to learn in a personal way. That’s what queer theory–and postmodernism–are about. They examine our common prejudice.

  64. February 12, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    I went to a school that specializes mostly in engineering, and I went for their equivalent of Middle Eastern Studies. I took one class with a group of engineers, a Critical Thinking class. Basic stuff, like logical fallacies, misuse of statistics, things that essentially taught you how to read research and extract actual data from persuasive or illogical fluff. I and the three other students pursuing “useless” degree were the only ones who didn’t need to be hand held through the process of THINKING CRITICALLY. Because of my degree, once I’m ready to go to grad school I have a list of scholarships waiting for me from the federal government because they want people who can do what I do to work for them.

    Does someone need to explain the term “multidisciplinary” to ohcomeon? I’m sure one of us has a basic troll to english dictionary.

  65. exholt
    February 13, 2009 at 12:39 am

    I took one class with a group of engineers, a Critical Thinking class. Basic stuff, like logical fallacies, misuse of statistics, things that essentially taught you how to read research and extract actual data from persuasive or illogical fluff. I and the three other students pursuing “useless” degree were the only ones who didn’t need to be hand held through the process of THINKING CRITICALLY.

    This reminds me of an older friend who mentioned one of the reasons why his engineering school required their students to take writing intensive humanities/social science courses was because the academic dean became fed up with hearing frequent complaints from local NYC area employers that most engineering/science graduates had such atrocious writing skills that they weren’t able to communicate their ideas effectively. He’s also one of the few engineering/CS people I know who despise and will argue vociferously against the commonplace tendency among his fellow engineers/programmers/software engineers to denigrate the arts, humanities, and the social sciences.

    Speaking of use/misuse of statistics…..I took a summer stats course post-undergrad while working full-time a few years back at a certain Charles River based institution. The course was heavily populated by mathematically inclined econ majors, a few engineering majors, and even a few math majors with a sprinkling of arts/humanities/social science majors such as myself. Guess who had the most problems with that summer stats course…sometimes to the point many were actually worried about failing??

  66. February 13, 2009 at 4:24 am

    ohcomeon, can you play “Melancholy Baby?”

  67. February 13, 2009 at 4:26 am

    “I’m the master of this college;
    What I don’t know isn’t knowledge…”

    I do love the smell of self-important, entitled, pompous fuckhead in the evening.

  68. February 13, 2009 at 4:30 am

    and actually, ohcomeon, you’re quite wrong: what we -actually- learn in queer theory classes is how to dissect smug homophobic douchebags, joint by joint. It -is- more of a science than an art, in a way. although what we do with the remains, well, one’s artistic side does come into play. me, I’ve gotten a great performance art piece, two decent stews, and some interestingly textured macrame, and that’s just this semester.

  69. February 13, 2009 at 4:37 am

    “quite the mouth on her”

    Rim me, baby.

  70. February 13, 2009 at 9:39 am

    If you’re pissed about the de-emphasis on science in this country, your best bet is not to attack interdisciplinary college-level studies but the power-hungry retrofuck (gasp! profanity!) Christian Taliban members who want everyone to be less educated in EVERY subject. Sounds like you’re the one who could use a course in critical thinking, ohcomeon.

  71. ipens
    February 13, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Though #45 made his/her point in a kind of pissy way, it’s still a good point. Georgia universities weren’t the ones leading this charge – a few right-wingers were, and they got summarily shut down. Accuracy here is important. Don’t lay the blame for this at the feet of the institutions who, as I under stand it, vociferously defended their faculty. I’ve seen revisions to blog post titles before. I think this calls for one as well.

  72. exholt
    February 13, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    OK, there are core general education classes. But you know what? They’re science classes “for non-science majors”. That is usually mentioned in the coursebooks. And the difference in depth, difficulty, and sheer mass of information is stark.

    FYI, there are also plenty of colleges which offer arts/humanities/social-science courses for science/engineer majors with mostly multiple choice/fill in the blank exams, light reading loads(Less than 300-500 pages/week) using textbooks/readings which would be considered far below the standards of my public high school, 3-10 page papers over the entire semester, and/or emphasis on scientific and technical subject matter (i.e. History of Computers).

    Some of the reasons why so many math/engineering/science majors perceive arts/humanities/social science courses as easy or “gut” courses is because:

    1. They only take courses which could guarantee them an “easy A” meaning no intermediate or upper-level courses with 600-1200+ page weekly reading loads per class, 20-40+ page research paper requirement, or any serious theory/methodology course. I’ve only seen one science major in the senior-level Chinese politics/history seminars I took…..and that was mainly because she was also doing a second-major in Politics.

    2. With the exception of a few schools, most introductory arts/humanities/social-science courses are actually taught as introductory courses. This is quite different from many science and engineering fields where intro courses are often deliberately made harder so they could be used as “weed-out” courses. A bio-major friend at Tufts recalled that over 60% failed in his intro to bio class….and the Prof mentioned later that it was by design to test the seriousness of aspiring bio majors. He also recounted that was the hardest bio-class he took in his entire undergrad career. Though my experience in taking two introductory CS programming classes for majors was not that extreme…flunkout rates of 30-60% were not unheard of.

    3. The commonplace mentality that any mathematically intensive field is always more rigorous/harder than the non-mathematically intensive counterparts. Something many classmates who double/triple majored in a science and an arts/humanities/social science field would vigorously dispute.

    I’ve even had a few science/engineering/math majors tell me they chose their fields because they felt it was much easier dealing with the relative certainties of quantitative and scientific methods than to deal with what they perceived as the “great blinding uncertainties” of studying the arts/humanities/social-sciences.

  73. February 13, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Ohcomeon has been banned. I put him/her in moderation last night after strongly suspecting that s/he was the problem. And after going through the comments that built up there, it was more than clear that s/he was not commenting in good faith, attacking other commenters and not worth keeping around. Sorry to all who had to deal with the nonsense.

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