“The Problem of Whiteness”

 

Radical academia strikes again at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and an angry Republican state assemblyman has had enough.

We are all aware that the curriculum of many universities has little to do with education, and everything to do with Leftist propaganda. This course is part of a long list of attacks on undergraduate education, and yet little has been done to stop the damage.

Damon Sanjani designed this course called “The Problem of Whiteness” as part of the African Studies Department curriculum:

The course explores “how race is experienced by white people.” But it also looks at how white people “consciously and unconsciously perpetuate institutional racism. The description reads, “Have you ever wondered what it really means to be white? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably ‘no.’ But here is your chance! Critical Whiteness Studies aims to understand how whiteness is socially constructed and experienced in order to help dismantle white supremacy.”

David Murphy is a state assemblyman and is furious about the university’s including this course, saying that taxpayers “are expected to pay for this garbage.” Murphy chairs the assembly’s committee on colleges and universities, and criticized the premise of the course, that people are racist. He also stated that the university should discontinue the class to protect taxpayer funds. Gov. Scott Walker disagreed with Murphy’s idea to withhold funds if the class isn’t discontinued.

To provide further context for Sanjani’s objectives, Murphy included some of Sanjani’s tweets in a news release—

One tweet is a picture of a CNN breaking news report about police officers being shot in Dallas. “Is the uprising finally starting?” Sanjani said. “Is this style of protest gonna go viral?”

Sanjani is a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University. The Washington Post says, “In a statement, the university defended the course and stressed that it was elective, not required, and that it was not designed to offend individuals or single out an ethnic group.’”

Really?

The current state of academia is disheartening. We aren’t teaching college students about the great ideas, the history of our nation or critical thinking. We have acquiesced to an agenda of propaganda, hand-wringing, the racism of the left, and refusing to empower students to follow lives of independent thinking, service and productivity. These are the country’s future leaders.

So what do you think of this course? What do you think about Mr. Murphy’s protest and proposal for action? What about Gov. Scott Walker? What’s your reaction to whether Sanjani should be teaching this course after reading his tweets? Do you have any bright light to shine on the future of college education?

There are 53 comments.

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  1. JustinMcClinton Inactive

    I’d say take it out back and shoot it…I had a hard enough time breaking the prejudices I grew up with having spent most of my life only around other Black Americans. Once I learned racism was being taught at the very colleges/universities that I’d never imagined myself capable of attending, I quickly realized how blessed I truly was that god gave me an appetite for reading on my own. What passes for empiricism these days is laughable, we need more folks advocating for pragmatic educational pursuits.

    • #1
    • December 30, 2016, at 11:51 AM PDT
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  2. Seawriter Member

    I tend to agree with @justinmcclinton. I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to one of the great liberal (in the classical meaning of the word) educational institutions in the world. By the time I attended the University of Michigan you could begin to see the influence of the Frankfurt school and the Port Huron Statement begin to poison the intellectual atmosphere there. By the time my sons were old enough to attend I discouraged them from going to Michigan because it had become a swamp of political correctness.

    I stopped giving to the University of Michigan in the mid 1990s. When they call up for a contribution I tell them I will again give when the content of an individual’s character counts more than the color of their skin to the university, and I don’t see a difference between apartheid when it is used against blacks or against whites.

    Seawriter

    • #2
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:00 PM PDT
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  3. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    This course doesn’t sound too different than the garbage I was subjected to every autumn prior to the start of classes in Seattle Public Schools. Workshops that covered this kind of propaganda had required attendance and participation in all buildings.

    It is very disappointing to hear that Scott Walker failed to respond appropriately. I suppose it is not such a bad thing that he dropped out of the primaries. If he lacks the conviction to act on such a blatantly wasteful use of state funds, he definitely puts his conservative bona fides in question. Personally, I have zero patience for political correctness and cowardice on the part of elected officials. It would appear that he may feel comfortable attacking unions, but out of bounds, racist rhetoric is too chancy to go after.

    • #3
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:00 PM PDT
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  4. Trink Coolidge

    Susan Quinn: So what do you think of this course?

    Makes me want to vomit. If I were queen THIS would be required viewing for all college students, The Great Courses’ –Curiously – in 48 lectures there’s not one emphasizing the “problem” of whiteness.

    • #4
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:04 PM PDT
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  5. Lady Randolph Inactive

    That course description is so condescending I want to vomit.

    There’s no room for nuance anymore when race enters the conversation. Apparently being white (without perpetual navel-gazing about the sins of our fathers) leads to white supremacy, and that’s all there is to it.

    (Edit: I guess Trink and I have the same visceral reaction. Ha!)

    • #5
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:11 PM PDT
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  6. Ansonia Member

    Scott Walker should leave it alone. It’s the wrong battle.

    Thank you, Trink (comment # 4). When I get some money again, those lectures would be perfect for me and for the people raising my grandchildren, especially my blue eyed son.

    • #6
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:19 PM PDT
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  7. DialMforMurder Inactive

    I just can’t believe a “problem of whiteness” course makes no mention of sunburn

    • #7
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:23 PM PDT
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  8. Paul Erickson Member

    Susan Quinn:“In a statement, the university defended the course and stressed that it was elective, not required, and that it was not designed to offend individuals or single out an ethnic group.’”

    Really?

    Yes, really. Don’t you know that “whites” are not an ethnic group? We’re the opposite of an ethnic group. In fact, I am personally quite proud of my anti-ethnicity: white, Christian, middle-age straight male.

    <sarcasm off>

    • #8
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:31 PM PDT
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  9. drlorentz Member

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    Scott Walker should leave it alone. It’s the wrong battle.

    Thank you, Trink (comment # 4). When I get some money again, those lectures would be perfect for me and for the people raising my grandchildren, especially my blue eyed son.

    Odious as the course and professor are, ‘pick your battles’ is excellent advice. I speculate that Mr Walker’s response was informed by that advice.

    • #9
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:32 PM PDT
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  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    JustinMcClinton (View Comment):
    I’d say take it out back and shoot it…I had a hard enough time breaking the prejudices I grew up with having spent most of my life only around other Black Americans. Once I learned racism was being taught at the very colleges/universities that I’d never imagined myself capable of attending, I quickly realized how blessed I truly was that god gave me an appetite for reading on my own. What passes for empiricism these days is laughable, we need more folks advocating for pragmatic educational pursuits.

    Well said, Justin! I wish more black Americans could see what is happening!

    • #10
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:36 PM PDT
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  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    By the time my sons were old enough to attend I discouraged them from going to Michigan because it had become a swamp of political correctness.

    Good things your kids have such a wise dad. It must have been maddening to see the distortion of values and character in that setting. Thanks, Seawriter.

    • #11
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:37 PM PDT
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  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    It is very disappointing to hear that Scott Walker failed to respond appropriately.

    I’m hoping that was just his initial reaction, and that he reconsiders. He’s shown a lot of courage in tackling difficult issues, and would be great for him to speak out against this trashing of the university’s curriculum.

    • #12
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:39 PM PDT
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  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Paul Erickson (View Comment):
    Yes, really. Don’t you know that “whites” are not an ethnic group?

    OMG–what was I thinking??!! (forehead slap)

    • #13
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:41 PM PDT
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  14. Postmodern Hoplite Member

    Susan Quinn:The current state of academia is disheartening…Do you have any bright light to shine on the future of college education?

    I can’t claim any particular bright light to shine on the future of college education. I do believe we face a generational effort (think 40+ years) to correct what is wrong with Academia today. Fixing it will take multiple lines of effort across the educational spectrum.

    Me? I’m working to re-introduce the meaningful teaching of America’s founding documents back into Middle School curriculum. Also, I hope one day to teach at the college level. There I would be an insurgent, a saboteur in the machinery of the Left’s academic regime.

    • #14
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:41 PM PDT
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  15. Quake Voter Inactive

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    Scott Walker should leave it alone. It’s the wrong battle.

    Thank you, Trink (comment # 4). When I get some money again, those lectures would be perfect for me and for the people raising my grandchildren, especially my blue eyed son.

    Odious as the course and professor are, ‘pick your battles’ is excellent advice. I speculate that Mr Walker’s response was informed by that advice.

    I would suggest that Mr. Walker’s better-part-of-valor instincts are why he is making these decisions (or indecisions) in Madison rather than preparing an inaugural address.

    There is a tide…

    • #15
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:43 PM PDT
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  16. Stina Member

    I’m torn. I want something done NOW about this, but Scott Walker is right in the long run to leave it be.

    These institutions are devolving their education and at some point, businesses will cotton on that the university system is not going to guarantee quality workmanship and stop demanding the university credentials on resumes.

    When businesses stop with that requirement, our university system should implode and reform itself.

    I think I’m up for the wait. I’ll just have my kids do Dirty Jobs for now.

    • #16
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:44 PM PDT
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  17. Aaron Miller Member

    Susan Quinn: What do you think about Mr. Murphy’s protest and proposal for action?

    It’s too specific. Eliminate all taxpayer funding of all universities.

    Let colleges return to the purpose of specialized education for only those who require it. Private scholarship funds can help the few who received sufficient primary education to benefit from advanced education yet cannot afford the next step… which is a privilege and not a right.

    • #17
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:51 PM PDT
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  18. Postmodern Hoplite Member

    Paul Erickson (View Comment):
    In fact, I am personally quite proud of my anti-ethnicity: white, Christian, middle-age straight male.

    Well said. For years, when asked of my ethnic background, I’ve replied, “American Mutt – here’s proof: my nose is cold!”

    I think what the Left really resents (and has been sadly successful in destroying) is our shared foundation in the Canon of Western Civilization. These foundations are more easily undermined if one only focuses on ethnic divisions.

    • #18
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:54 PM PDT
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  19. Ansonia Member

    Re comment 16

    I agree with you that businesses should stop demanding degrees and start demanding skills and a knowledge base. There’s got to be a way they can test people applying for a job.

    • #19
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:55 PM PDT
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  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    Me? I’m working to re-introduce the meaningful teaching of America’s founding documents back into Middle School curriculum. Also, I hope one day to teach at the college level. There I would be an insurgent, a saboteur in the machinery of the Left’s academic regime.

    You are the bright light, Hoplite!!! You’re trying to do good work and we all celebrate your efforts now and in the future!

    • #20
    • December 30, 2016, at 12:58 PM PDT
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  21. Seawriter Member

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    There’s got to be a way they can test people applying for a job.

    That horse left the barn years ago. See GRIGGS v. DUKE POWER CO., (1971)

    Seawriter

    • #21
    • December 30, 2016, at 1:00 PM PDT
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  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    What disturbs me is that this instructor is a PhD candidate. Doesn’t that mean he doesn’t have tenure? There was a time when teaching a “risky” course wasn’t done until a person had tenure. Either this wasn’t considered a “risky” course to teach or this guy didn’t feel he was at risk. And from the comments from the university, he is supported. I understand that University of Wisconsin, Madison has a reputation for doing this kind of inappropriate curriculum.

    • #22
    • December 30, 2016, at 1:09 PM PDT
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  23. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    @aaronmiller beat me to it. I don’t like the idea of politicians choosing what classes can and cannot be taught at universities. I want the colleges and universities to be independent from political concerns and if that means that they have to make their way in the world strictly through tuition fees and private donations with no taxpayer subsidies, then so be it.

    • #23
    • December 30, 2016, at 1:25 PM PDT
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  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    It’s too specific. Eliminate all taxpayer funding of all universities.

    Agreed. I’d also like to see the trade schools preparing more people for life. It would be so much better for the students and even for society to have people who can do hands-on work.

    • #24
    • December 30, 2016, at 1:28 PM PDT
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  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    The Fifth Estate podcast interviewed Mike Rowe, who is working to build the trade school opportunities–the website appears to be a clearing house. He’s doing great work.

    • #25
    • December 30, 2016, at 1:35 PM PDT
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  26. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):
    @aaronmiller beat me to it. I don’t like the idea of politicians choosing what classes can and cannot be taught at universities. I want the colleges and universities to be independent from political concerns and if that means that they have to make their way in the world strictly through tuition fees and private donations with no taxpayer subsidies, then so be it.

    This. Leave it up to free markets. I’ve been reading that alumni donations are down. When the Melissa Clicks of the world start costing actual dollars, and apparently they are, schools will start doing what University of Chicago correctly did.

    • #26
    • December 30, 2016, at 1:53 PM PDT
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  27. Sabrdance Member

    As an academic, I have conflicted views. Let’s start with why “an elective, not required” is a meaningful statement. For a variety of reasons, a university education is 90 hours, usually split 60 general, 30 specialized. There is some overlap, for example a 3 hour American Government Course could count for either the general hours (for a non-government degree) or a specialized course. At my institution, it’s 40/36. The remaining 30 hours (or in our case, 44) are electives that have to be split in some way between general courses and specialist courses (we require I believe half of them to be 300 or above, that is, 3rd year or greater, courses).

    Those general elective courses are areas where a student can take applications -such as an internship or a specialist course on a particular use of a body of knowledge -or they can be exploratory (Film Appreciation, much mocked, is an important course for introducing non-artists to why film is an art form, with particular parts and activities that make it up). They are not, strictly speaking, part of the curriculum so much as part of providing a place for playing with the tools. A sandbox, so to speak.

    There are several arguments surrounding this practice. (cont)

    • #27
    • December 30, 2016, at 2:13 PM PDT
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  28. Sabrdance Member

    1.) Should students have free electives in the first place? They are a relatively new concept. In the old days, the Baccalaureate requirements would have run much longer (70, 80, even 90 hours), with much less choice in what courses were taken. The argument for the curriculum is that colleges are a place of preserving and passing on knowledge and culture -thus students should take a curriculum unique to the college (Great Books, for example). On the other hand, the many electives and shorter curricula make it much easier for students to transfer from one institution to another, and the electives allow for more self-exploration and, so the argument goes, creation of new knowledge. It also gives the university itself some opportunity to experiment with the curriculum.

    2.) OK, if we allow the electives to exist, what should be the limits on them? At my institution, departments have to sign off on the electives offered (by vote of the faculty). But there is a real question as to whether, for example, the studies courses are actually a subject matter, or more of an activist airing of grievances. Are these electives actually studyingsubject. Which leads into larger arguments about multi-disciplinary knowledge.

    3.) In this context, the only question that can be laid on the Whiteness Studies course is whether it is a real class studying a real subject and promulgating a real method of thought. If so, then like or not, it belongs in the catalog.

    • #28
    • December 30, 2016, at 2:21 PM PDT
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  29. Sabrdance Member

    However, the question of whether the types of classes this represents remains, regardless of whether the course itself is a real subject or way of thinking. There are many ways of thinking that are not worth spending state money on, or not worth a general university education. (A lot of art, for example, which is why dedicated conservatories exist for it.)

    ___

    OK, so I’m inclined towards the “we shouldn’t have so many free electives in the first place” view to begin with, but if we allow the existence of the electives, I wonder if something like “Whiteness Studies” is actually a subject. The description of the course is actually positive -how do people perceive, either in themselves or others, the dominant race in the USA? That is a question that we can apply a bunch of different modes of thought to answering, and generating new knowledge is probably pretty likely. It’s the last sentence that derails it. The purpose of an elective class is to explore interesting questions using rigorous methods, scientific, artistic, or otherwise. “End white supremacy” is not our job.

    I’m not sure I want non-academics making this call, even though I’m also not sure I trust academics to make it either. So I probably fall on Dave Sussman’s position -let the faculty offer the course, and see if the students bite. Hope they have enough sense not to.

    • #29
    • December 30, 2016, at 2:23 PM PDT
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  30. Flagg Taylor Member

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):
    @aaronmiller beat me to it. I don’t like the idea of politicians choosing what classes can and cannot be taught at universities. I want the colleges and universities to be independent from political concerns and if that means that they have to make their way in the world strictly through tuition fees and private donations with no taxpayer subsidies, then so be it.

    This. Leave it up to free markets. I’ve been reading that alumni donations are down. When the Melissa Clicks of the world start costing actual dollars, and apparently they are, schools will start doing what University of Chicago correctly did.

    I agree with both of the above sentiments. There are also great courses being talk by great professors at Madison. And hopefully someone is teaching race in a sensible way. I taught African American political thought at Skidmore this fall. Hopefully students will notice that this subject matter can be handled quite differently and it need not be politicized. I’ll write something about my experience teaching this fall. It was revealing.

    • #30
    • December 30, 2016, at 2:28 PM PDT
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