[sixties-l] Campus Culture Wars Flare Anew (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Fri Nov 09 2001 - 20:38:18 EST

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Thu, 08 Nov 2001 15:23:18 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Campus Culture Wars Flare Anew

    Campus Culture Wars Flare Anew

    NYT September 30, 2001

         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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