---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 08 Nov 2001 15:23:18 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Campus Culture Wars Flare Anew
Campus Culture Wars Flare Anew
NYT September 30, 2001
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the nation's prospective
response have begun to reignite the culture wars that divided
university campuses more than a decade ago.
At a forum at Yale University, Paul Kennedy, a history professor,
invited listeners to put themselves in the place of Palestinians
celebrating the attacks and consider, "How do we appear to them, and
what would it be like were our places in the world reversed?" He went
on to say that American military, economic and diplomatic might and
offensive cultural messages understandably provoked hatred.
Professor Kennedy and the six- member panel were excoriated in The
Yale Daily News by Donald Kagan, a Yale classics professor, for the
uniformity of their views. "Was it impossible" to find a professor who
might think differently, Professor Kagan asked in an article, "or was
it thought undesirable?"
In the days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon, Brown University issued a curriculum guide on how to discuss
the attacks in the classroom, a document that called for understanding
why people resent the United States and for a measured military
response. It was promptly attacked by Chester E. Finn Jr., a
conservative cultural critic, as shortchanging patriotism while subtly
blaming the victim.
In the late 1980's and early 1990's, American campuses were bitterly
divided over what should be taught in history and literature classes.
Some professors, generally political liberals, argued that Western
European culture was too central and that the contributions of other
societies and races, and of women, were being diminished. Ancient
literature, they argued, was not inherently better than modern
literature. Others, generally conservatives, argued that universities
were championing causes rather than a fuller view of history or
artistic achievement. Opposing camps dug in and soured the
congeniality at many campuses.
Now, after the terrorist attacks, small shifts have occurred in
curriculum and reading lists. At Bard College, Thomas Keenan, a
professor of literature, has added articles by Henry A. Kissinger to
his reading list, and portrayed the weeping of Euripides' Trojan women
in the context of the fliers listing the names of those missing from
the twin towers.
At Notre Dame, Asma Asfaruddin, a professor of Arabic and Islamic
studies, has begun giving more prominence to Muslim religious doctrine
and how, in her view, the terrorists subverted it.
At a New York University class on press ethics, Todd Gitlin, a
professor of culture, journalism and sociology, talked about the
Pentagon Papers, and asked students whether they would publish
classified evidence against Osama bin Laden. His colleague Robby
Cohen, a social studies professor, predicted a rise in Middle Eastern
studies, recalling that Daniel Ellsberg, who made the Pentagon Papers
public, doubted that anyone in the administration of President Lyndon
B. Johnson could pass a freshman course in Vietnamese culture and
In a kind of point-counterpoint, Professor Cohen said, students at
N.Y.U. wrote opposing messages at an impromptu World Trade Center
memorial near the campus. "Unfortunately, sometimes war is the only
answer," one message said. A competing one said, "Imagine: I pledge
allegiance to the human race and to the love for which it stands."
George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at the University of California
at Berkeley, said he "absolutely" saw a culture war brewing on campus
and in the nation.
And Diane Ravitch, an education historian at N.Y.U., suggested that
support for military action could signal "the end of the 1960's," by
which she meant a decline in leftist politics.
But many other professors said it was too soon to gauge whether
campuses will once again become starkly divided into hawks against
Some compared this period, when the United States has not yet taken
any decisive military action, to the years before the 1968 Tet
offensive, when the anti-Vietnam War movement had not solidified. They
said that Americans always unite in times of crisis, and that beyond
condemning the attacks, many thoughtful people were still unsure how
to react to the events of Sept. 11.
Mr. Finn, the conservative commentator, characterized the
determination to avoid judgment, and to promote tolerance and
diversity instead, as morally bankrupt.
A professor at Haverford College, who asked not to be named, described
a Quaker meeting on Sept. 14, the national day of mourning and
remembrance, that she said was too one-sided to be a culture war. The
first speaker, she recalled, was an emeritus professor who agonized
over why the United States was the most violent nation on earth and
ended by saying, "We are complicit."
When a student asked that they spend the meeting not in political
debate but in commemorating the deaths, the professor recalled,
another demurred, "No matter how desolate the World Trade Center site
was, there was a place even more desolate Afghanistan."
In the Yale contretemps, Professor Kennedy said his criticism of
"poisonous religious fundamentalism" had been overshadowed by the
hypothetical course of events he put forward: "Suppose that there
existed today a powerful, unified Arab- Muslim state that stretched
from Algeria to Turkey and Arabia." He concluded: "In those
conditions, would not many Americans steadily grow to loathe that
His antagonist, Professor Kagan, said that to rationalize was to
justify. He said a number of students had come to him complaining that
they did not like the tone of the Yale forum, but that they felt too
intimidated to speak out.
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