Monday, July 7, 2008

Studying Women's Studies

I have two children in college, and I work hard to pay the bills. I'm indeed fortunate to be able to do this - I'm sure there are plenty of people in the world who would love to be in my situation, and to have the financial ability to give their children the advantages of a college education. Part of me dreads the monthly bill. Part of me realizes how lucky I am.

Since I have to fund most of this, I'm quite happy that I've never been asked to pay for what I consider "garbage." Thankfully my children have gravitated to areas of study that demand hard measurable learning. The colleges have a core curriculum that is pretty demanding, and the majors they've chosen are areas of study I respect.

Every year with the tuition bill, I take a close look at the courses they've registered for. I know when I was in college (back in the days when the City University of New York was tuition-free) there were a few courses I took because they were known as "easy A's" and there were some I took for scheduling reasons - I wanted at least one day a week off. I wasn't much of a scholar then.

I don’t know what I would do if I got a big bill, and among the courses listed was something like "Feminist and Gender Studies." There is just something about me, a representative of the Patriarchy, forking over dollars so my children can study the nuances of how I've oppressed them and warped their minds during their formative years. There is something about paying for a course in a department so political, so ideological, and so uncertain about the material it teaches that the department has student surveys to decide . . . on the name for the department! Or whose professors, so learned and wise in the ways of gender, have long mailing list discussions about how to teach students of a particular gender. I mean it isn't like biologists studying the million-or-so species, chemists studying the periodic table, or linguists studying the Indo-European language family. For God's sake, there are exactly two genders, and you, the experts, need help in dealing with one of them? Do I want my children taking courses that will teach them how to make arguments like this, found in a comment on Hugo Schwyzer's blog:
Most likely the reason that these women feel this way is becaue we live in a society that allows men to objectify women. Men do this so that they can stay in power. Being with a beautiful women is considred to be a sign of stautus in our society; and because the woment is a status symbol she is treated more like an object than a subject. Also by obejectifying women men don’t have to recognizen them as sujects and take them serioulsly. While it seems like this would be a horrible situation for women and the smart ones would choose not to participate this is not the case; many women feel that by appering beautiful they gain power over men because them man will then want to be in possesion of her. Perhaps teachers who objectify their students are more interested in power than having a relationship with their students. Also I can’t help but notice that many of the comments here are highly hetero-compolsary.

So I don't know what I'd do if I saw a course "Feminist and Gender Studies" on a bill. Perhaps if they took it as an "Easy A" or a schedule filler I'd let it go. I can understand taking some nonsense in college - as long is you know it is nonsense. But if I started to feel that they took this stuff seriously I might well say: "Go for it - but study it on your own dime."

There are always exceptions, however. I came across this Women's Studies professor, answering her Rate My Professor comment that her requirements are "inflexible."

I love the dismissive title she put right on the top of her profile: "Save it for your parents." It sort of appeals to my "Mussolini on the balcony" view that a teacher should have enough confidence in herself, and enough respect for her material that she takes an uncompromising view: I'm the damned expert, learn this stuff the way I teach it, or take a hike!

While I'd question paying for a Womens Studies course, I'd feel like I was getting some value for my money if she was the teacher.


DBB said...

Right now, with a nearly 3 year old and a nearly 5 month old, all I can think about with regards to college is the steep mountain of money I need to start building so they can go to school and graduate without going into debt before they get their first paycheck.

I hope they favor practical classes over nonsense. I think there are too many nonsense classes in school. What the hell is the point of paying for nonsense? Really, if you can graduate with your, what is it, 128 or so credits while taking gobs of nonsense, why not just reduce the graduation requirement to 80 hours or 64 hours and leave the nonsense out of it, spend less on education (while getting just as good an education) and starting in the workforce a few years sooner?

What I loved about my law school was that it had a ton of practical classes - most law schools, particularly the "elite" ones have a ton of fluff, such that you can take one year of real courses then you take two years of bullshit theory and graduate. Me, I had three solid years of practical legal instruction. I always hated to sit in a class where what I was learning was obviously totally useless in the real world.

The Chief said...

This very subject has been on my mind lately, as I'm just wrapping up reading "Until Proven Innocent" by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, a books dissecting the Duke rape case (yes, I know book titles are supposed to be underlined and not put in quotes, but I've never had much luck getting underlining, italicizing, etc, etc to work in blog comments). Anyway, among the many shameful things that occured in conjunction with that ridiculous case were the actions of the Group Of 88, a collection of Duke social sciences professors--gender studies profs, african american studies profs, queer studies profs, one-legged transsexual Albanians with bad breath studies profs, etc, etc--who continually supported Durham D.A. Nifong and villified the defendants, even after it became abundantly clear that no rape occured.

I don't want to support people like that, and I don't want my children being lectured at by them. I have an eight year old daughter who will some day go to college (my autistic son undoubtedly won't go, I sometimes think he's the lucky one). I have no interest in any, say, African American studies teacher trying to make her feel guilty for being born white. And I have almost as little interest in any "wymyn's studies" teacher trying to make her feel the world owes her something because she was born a woman.

I'm seriously considering trying to steer her towards a technical or trade school instead. A registered nurse degree, for example, would only take two years, is comparitively inexpensive and would give her a good paying career she can practice almost anywhere, with little to no "victim's studies" brainwashing in the curriculum.

If she does go to college, my rule will be simple: Seek a major with a clear path to a career after graduation. I'm not supporting you after you have the sheepskin and I'm not spending my money on a "do you want fries with that?" degree. If you insist on a major field of that sort you'll need to stop by the financial aid office first, because I'm not paying for it.

Sweating Through fog said...


I don't object to taking some - not a lot - of nonsense, just because at that age it is a good thing to dabble in some other things. City University when I went had almost no core curriculum - I think the requirement was one English and one Science course, with the other 120 credits up to you and your major department. I lurched from major to major trying to find something that I liked, and also something that I thought might be of value. Some things I took as a schedule fillers, and one of them, Computer Science 101, turned out to be something I absolutely loved. I think I registered for it just because I wanted every Friday off. And - quite to my surprise - that became my profession, a choice I've never regretted.

I'm not sure about every course having "real world" relevance either. We have very little use for higher mathematics in our day to day lives, but the analytical skills and discipline needed to master something hard and unforgiving fosters a maturity that pays dividends elsewhere. Things like that teach us how to learn in general.

Sweating Through fog said...


I think I read that book, and I think the behavior of the Duke 88 was disgraceful. I share your view that the attitudes and "learning" promoted by these various "departments of ideological purity studies" created the atmosphere for that injustice.

I'm going to write more about this. I'm poking around the web, trying to find out just what they "study" in these programs. So far I'm not impressed.

carrot-throne said...

I'm taking a gender studies class right now...I'm seeing a little of what you're saying, but mostly? Nope. In regards to the patriarchy, I'd suggest you do a little research before thinking that it's all about blaming men. It's not.

Feminism is about equality for both sexes (sex and gender are two different things; I suggest you do research on that as well), but, as usual, the most extreme misandrists and whiners get the most publicity. News flash: all feminists are not alike! There is quite a spectrum. But that's not as fun or easy as black or white, right?