This commentary originally appeared in Forbes on May 31, 2016.
As an academic who spent over three decades working in and with colleges and universities, I thought I had seen it all—the good, the bad, and the downright silly.
I was wrong.
Yesterday, I came across a list of “the craziest academic works, straight from the minds of the Ph.D. candidates and faculty members.” It must be read to be believed. Propriety prevents my listing all the unsavory subjects deemed scholarship-worthy by today’s intellectuals, but what appears below will give you a taste, if not dyspepsia.
The first “academic” work adds insult to the injuries received by the valiant soldiers whose sacrifice our nation honored this past Memorial Day weekend. In a recent doctoral dissertation “Sexy warriors: the politics and pleasures of submission to the state,” we are informed that the author “want[s] to trouble the soldier as an object of desire, not merely as a subject imposing violence.”
It gets worse. The paper analyzes “the fetishism of militarization to argue that the relationship between soldiers’ bodies and the state might be usefully understood using theoretical categories derived from kink communities.”
Why, we might ask, does this subject merit academic inquiry? Because, says the author, “like it or not, war is sexy in contemporary U.S. culture.”
With all apologies to Aphrodite and Ares, be sure to tell the next disabled vet meet that a professor has discovered that courage, self-sacrifice, and principled idealism are, at bottom, really just sex.
Speaking of sex, have you been waiting for someone to publish an academic paper on pornographic animals? If so, your day has come. In “Pornographic Animals,” the author writes that “the interspecies couplings depicted in animal pornography suggest the limit of our biological relationship to other animals.” Why? “Because while we cannot reproduce sexually with them—that is beyond the limit—still, it is possible, physically and representationally, to mimic such a reproductive act.”
Apparently, college math, English, and logic courses are overrated. Studying “human-animal intercourse” is now the way to learn “the limits of the human.” This makes our record-high student-loan debt—which is now $1.3 trillion—worth it.
But numbers like $1.3 trillion are merely creatures of mathematics. And we learn in the next academic magnum opus that “mathematics is not a race-neutral subject.” Titled, “The Nuances and Complexities of Teaching Mathematics for Cultural Relevance and Social Justice,” this paper informs us that underrepresented minorities require a special “pedagogy” (method of instruction) to learn math. Which pedagogy? “Teaching for social justice” is recommended to “motivate marginalized students to learn mathematics.”
Now, of course all teachers need to remember to teach to their audience if they hope to establish common points of reference. But why should minorities require “teaching for social justice” to understand mathematics?
Behind the “social justice” mantra lies the conviction, first voiced by Marx, that all allegedly “natural” differences among individuals are the product, not of human nature, but of the unjust power-relations in society. True to Marx’s economic reductionism, “teaching math for social justice” is required to “raise the consciousness” of the “oppressed,” which is more important for Social Justice Warriors than merely raising students’ ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. For the authors of this academic paper, the deepest purpose of education is drive a national agenda to jettison the capitalist framework on which American democracy operates and which, for these academics, is the ultimate source of inequality and injustice.
If you doubt this interpretation of the intentions behind “teaching for social justice,” consider the life trajectory of Bill Ayers, the ‘60s Weatherman terrorist. Ayers decided that his self-proclaimed war on America would be better prosecuted through shifting from making bombs to making books. Thus he became an academic. How has the intellectual community responded to the fact that, to this day, Ayers refuses to apologize for his prior acts of terrorism? In 2008, he was elected vice president for curriculum studies of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), one of the country’s most prestigious teacher-education groups, with a membership of 25,000. In 2011, the AERA conferred on Ayers its Social Justice in Education Award. Moreover, one of his books on the need for teaching social justice has become a bestseller in education schools.
Speaking of bestsellers, did you know that Girl Scout Cookie sales are conducted “under the veil of market capitalism, neoliberalism, and American nationalism, which seeks to reproduce hegemonic gender roles regarding labor, education, and citizenship”? This mouthful comes from a Ph.D. dissertation titled, “Smart Cookies: The Gendered Spaces of Labor, Citizenship, and Nationalism in the Girl Scout Cookie Sale.”
The next time a Girl Scout shows up at your door, she must be told that, in peddling Thin Mints and Do-si-dos, she is being “manipulate[d] . . . into blindly accepting American society’s expected role for women.” Chew on that.
If you’ve eaten too many cookies and such lately and are looking to get back to the gym, beware: A new academic paper reveals that Pilates is racist. In “The Pilates Pelvis: Racial Implications of the Immobile Hips,” we learn that “the teaching practices of the hips, as commonly explained in Pilates educational manuals, reinforce behaviors of a noble-class and racially ‘white’ aesthetic.” Apparently, Pilates embodies and enforces “white racial superiority and, specifically, the colonizing, prejudicial, and denigrating mentality found in the superiority of whiteness and its embodied behaviors.”
So, contrary to what you always thought, Pilates isn’t simply exercise. Rather, it’s an exercise in racism. No wonder that some of today’s college students cry out for “safe spaces.” They are being taught that racism and oppression are everywhere. In the interest of avoiding racism, please don’t save the last dance for me.
And while you’re at it, cancel that order for a hamburger—unless you’re a sexist. In “The Parallel Lives of Women and Cows: Meat Markets,” a sociology professor writes of the similarities in this country’s treatment of women and cows. Like cows, women are treated like “pieces of meat.” Violence against women and cruelty to animals share a common source. Both reflect the misplaced priorities of a society that values “industrial meat and other industrial food production.”
With the money that you save through swearing off industrial meat, you will be able to afford the $72 price tag for this book on Kindle.
If the preceding academic studies haven’t convinced you to abandon meat, cookies, Pilates, and math for the sake of social justice, have you considered resisting capitalism through engaging in not-for-profit sex with the homeless?
No? Then you must read, “’Hobosexual’- Resisting Capitalism by Having Not-For-Profit Sex with Homeless People.” This academic paper coins the term, “hobosexual” to represent “anti-capitalist practices in both sex and labor.” Engaging in “hobosex” in “urban areas,” we read, is action serving social justice, because it constitutes “an act of protest against the American capitalistic society.”
Evidently, if you are really serious about social justice, be prepared to get your hands dirty.
It would be easy to dismiss these studies as a fringe movement that in no way undermines the solid education offered by the vast majority of professors and colleges. That would be mistaken. Pew survey findings suggest that the growing politicization of higher education has had a marked effect on students: “40 percent of millennials” today approve of censorship, far more than Gen Xers (27 percent), Boomers (24 percent), and Silents (12 percent).
So, while perusing these academic papers can give rise to laughter, this is no occasion for mirth. These studies arise out of an intellectual matrix whose overarching goal is deadly serious—the complete dismantling of the existing social order.